In defence of Cicero

I watched the first part of the second series of Rome on BBC last night. As I’ve mentioned before, my favourite Roman (there’s a question they never ask pop stars or footballers – favourite meal ‘Spaghetti bolognaise’, ‘Favourite Roman’ ‘errrm’) is Cicero. I think the series does him a disservice and portrays him as rather slimy, and driven only by ambition (Paul Levinson agrees). Now, admittedly he was ambitious and rather ambiguous too in some of his actions, but I’ve always interpreted him as having the Republic as a concept as his main driving belief. This sometimes forced him in to some uncomfortable alliances, but he was willing to compromise for the good of the republic overall. I admired that, and the fact that he was the academic amongst the great Romans.

I’m probably reading too much in to this, but I’ll try it out as a hypothesis – I wonder if the portrayal of the academic rather than the military as slimy has anything to do with it being an HBO joint production. In the current political climate in the US, it seems that academics are rather mistrusted. Making some dodgy connections here, but my feeling of why the neo-cons went to war in Iraq was borne partly out of their inherent distrust of academics, hence they didn’t trust or want to hear the complex picture painted by Hans Blix, but instead wanted a simple, decisive strategy. This rather ignored the complexities of the situation in Iraq as is now all too apparent. I’m guessing Bush is more of a Mark Antony kind of guy…

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