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HARRIS, Robert



Imperium
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Sometimes it is foolish to articulate an ambition too early--exposing it prematurely to the laughter and skepticism of the world can destroy it before it is even properly born. But sometimes the opposite occurs, and the very act of mentioning a thing makes it suddenly seem possible, even plausible.

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Sometimes," he said, summing up the discussion with an aphorism I have never forgotten, "if you find yourself stuck in politics, the thing to do is start a fight--start a fight, even if you do not know how you are going to win it, because it is only when a fight is on, and everything is in motion, that you can hope to see your way through.
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It is perseverance, and not genius that takes a man to the top. Rome is full of unrecognized geniuses. Only perseverance enables you to move forward in the world.
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No one can really claim to know politics properly until he has stayed up all night writing a speech for delivery the following day. While the world sleeps, the orator paces by lamplight, wondering what madness ever brought him to this occupation in the first place. Arguments are prepared and discarded. The exhausted mind ceases to have any coherent grip upon the purpose of the enterprise, so that often--usually an hour or two after midnight--there comes a point where failing to turn up, feigning illness, and hiding at home seem the only realistic options. And then, somehow, just asa panic and humiliation beckon, the parts cohere, and there it is: a speech. A second-rate orator now retires gratefully to bed. A Cicero stays up and commits it to memory.
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It had been my intention to describe in detail the trial of Gaius Verres, but now I come to set it down, I see there is no point. After Cicero's tactical masterstroke on that first day, Verres and his advocates resembled nothing so much as the victims of a siege: holed up in their little fortress, surrounded by their enemies, battered day after day by a rain of missiles, and their crumbling walls undermined by tunnels. They had no means of fighting back. Their only hope was somehow to withstand the onslaught for the nine days remaining, and then try to regroup during the lull enforced by Pompey's games. Cicero's objective was equally clear: to obliterate Verres's defenses so completely that by the time he had finished laying out his case, not even the most corrupt senatorial jury in Rome would dare to acquit him.
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He set about this mission with his usual discipline. The prosecution team would gather before dawn. While Cicero performed his exercises, was shaved and dressed, I would read out the testimony of the witnesses he would be calling that day and run through our schedule of evidence. He would then dictate to me the rough outline of what he intended to say. For an hour or two he would familiarize himself with the day's brief and thoroughly memorize his remarks, while Quintus, Frugi, and I ensured that all his witnesses and evidence boxes were ready. We would then parade down the hill to the Forum -- and parades they were, for the general view around Rome was that Cicero's performance in the extortion court was the greatest show in town. The crowds were as large on the second and third days as they had been on the first, and the witnesses' performances were often heartbreaking, as they collapsed in tears recounting their ill treatment. I remember in particular Dio of Halaesa, swindled out of ten thousand sesterces, and two brothers from Agyrium forced to hand over their entire inheritance of four thousand. There would have been more, but Lucius Metellus had actually refused to let a dozen witnesses leave the island to testify, among them the chief priest of Jupiter, Heraclius of Syracuse -- an outrage against justice which Cicero neatly turned to his advantage. "Our allies' rights," he boomed, "do not even include permission to complain of their sufferings!" Throughout all this, Hortensius, amazing to relate, never said a word. Cicero would finish his examination of a witness, Glabrio would offer the King of the Law Courts his chance to cross-examine, and His Majesty would regally shake his head, or declare grandly, "No questions for this witness." On the fourth day, Verres pleaded illness and tried to be excused from attending, but Glabrio was having none of it, and told him he would be carried down to the Forum on his bed if necessary.

It was on the following afternoon that Cicero's cousin Lucius at last returned to Rome, his mission in Sicily accomplished. Cicero was overjoyed to find him waiting at the house when we got back from court, and he embraced him tearfully. Without Lucius's support in dispatching witnesses and boxes of evidence back to the mainland, Cicero's case would not have been half as strong. But the seven-month effort had clearly exhausted Lucius, who had not been a strong man to begin with. He was now alarmingly thin and had developed a painful, racking cough. Even so, his commitment to bringing Verres to justice was unwavering -- so much so that he had missed the opening of the trial in order to take a detour on his journey back to Rome. He had stayed in Puteoli and tracked down two more witnesses: the Roman knight, Gaius Numitorius, who had witnessed the crucifixion of Gavius in Messana; and a friend of his, a merchant named Marcus Annius, who had been in Syracuse when the Roman banker Herennius had been judicially murdered.

"And where are these gentlemen?" asked Cicero eagerly.

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Lustrum
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Surely the greatest mercy granted us by Providence is our ignorance of the future. Imagine if we knew the outcome of our hopes and plans, or could see the manner in which we are doomed to die - how ruined our lives would be! Instead we live on dumbly from day to day as happily as animals. But all things must come to dust eventually. No human being, no system, no age is impervious to this law; everything beneath the stars will perish; the hardest rock will be worn away. Nothing endures but words.

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Pompeii
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Men mistook measurement for understanding. And they always had to put themselves at the center of everything. That was their greatest conceit. The earth is becoming warmer-it must be our fault! The mountain is destroying us-we have not propitiated the gods! It rains too much, it rains too little-a comfort to think that these things are somehow connected to our behavior, that if only we lived a little better, a little more frugally, our virtue would be rewarded. But here was nature, sweeping toward him-unknowable, all-conquering, indifferent-and he saw in her fires the futility of human pretensions.

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Conclave
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All three cardinals were known to have factions of supporters inside the electoral college: Bellini, the great intellectual hope of the liberals for as long as Lomeli could remember, a former Rector of the Gregorian University and former Archbishop of Milan; Tremblay, who as well as serving as Camerlengo was Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, a candidate therefore with links to the Third World, who had the advantage of seeming to be an American without the disadvantage of actually being one; and Adeyemi, who carried within him like a divine spark the revolutionary possibility, endlessly fascinating to the media, that he might one day become ‘the first black Pope’.

It was a duty he had never expected to perform. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer a few years earlier and although he was supposed to have been cured, he had always assumed he would die before the Pope.

And slowly, as he observed the manoeuvring begin in the Casa Santa Marta, the realisation came upon Lomeli that it would fall to him, as Dean of the College of Cardinals, to manage the election. It was a duty he had never expected to perform. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer a few years earlier and although he was supposed to have been cured, he had always assumed he would die before the Pope. He had only ever thought of himself as a stop-gap. He had tried to resign. But now it seemed he would be responsible for the organisation of a Conclave in the most difficult of circumstances.

He closed his eyes. If it is your will, O Lord, that I should have to discharge this duty, I pray that you will give me the wisdom to perform it in a manner that will strengthen our Mother, the Church…

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Fatherland
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The Rhine slid beneath them, a wide curve of molten metal in the dying sun. March had never see it from the air. “Dear Fatherland, no danger thine: Firm stands thy watch along the Rhine.” Lines from his childhood, hammered out on an untuned piano in a draughty gymnasium. Who had written them? He could not remember.

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Document Two. A photostat of a photostat, almost illegible in places, the words rubbed away like an ancient inscription on a tomb. Hermann Goering’s directive to Heydrich, dated 31 July 1941:


To supplement the task that was assigned to you on 24 January 1939, which dealt with the solution of the Jewish problem by emigration and evacuation in the most suitable way, I hereby charge you with making all necessary preparations with regard to organisational, technical and material matters for bringing about a complete solution of the Jewish question within the German sphere of influence in Europe.

Wherever other governmental agencies are involved, these are to co-operate with you.

I request you further to send me, in the near future, an overall plan covering the organisational, technical and material measures necessary for the accomplishment of the final solution of the Jewish question which we desire.

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A small thing, it had passed unnoticed during the afternoon; one of a dozen or so scraps of paper stuffed at random into a torn folder. It was a circular from SS-Gruppenfuhrer Richard Glucks, Chief of Amtsgruppe D in the SS Economic Administration Main Office. It was dated 6 August 1942.


Re: the utilisation of cut hair.


In response to a report, the Chief of the SS Economic Administration Main Office, SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Pohl, has ordered that all human hair cut off in concentration camps should be utilised. Human hair will be processed for industrial felt and spun into thread. Female hair which has been cut and combed out will be used as thread to make socks for U-boat crews and felt stockings for the railways.

You are instructed, therefore, to store the hair of female prisoners after it has been disinfected. Cut hair from male prisoners can only be utilised if it is at least 20 mm. in length.

The amounts of hair collected each month, separated into female and male hair, must be reported on the 5th of each month to this office, beginning with the 5th September 1942.

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