"Still, it was freedom, as it had been practised for hundreds of years, and no man on the Field of Mars that day would have dreamed that he might live to see it taken away."

The First Emperor of Rome - Augustus
Public DomainThe First Emperor of Rome - Augustus - Credit: Bibi Saint-Pol/Wikimedia Commons
This is one of several ominous references throughout Robert Harris’ book to the political turmoil of the last years of the Republic. These chaotic years saw the emergence of powerful military leaders with ‘special commands’ and too much influence, the breakdown of traditional Republican systems and values, civil war and bloodshed, a dictator setting himself up in charge of Rome, and finally the change from Republic to Empire.