December 7: The Life Of Cicero, by Anne Hathaway

I got this image from a blog called "World Haircuts." Because I am a scholar.

Okay, here's what we do: We sneak the character-building lessons of Plutarch to the young by taking Plutarch's name off the book and putting a celebrity's name on it. That way the book is no longer a classic, which we all know is the kiss of death; instead it would be a celebrity writing a book for young people, which these days is the highest form of literature next to the memoir! I feel this plan is 100% brilliant and incapable of failure, and we would be building characters in bulk, like they were McMansions and this was 2005.

We would, however, have to pay a graduate student $500 to re-translate Plutarch, because this one stinks. And we should probably skip today's excerpt, which has a lot to do with Cicero and the Cataline conspiracy -- unless the dicey political situation of the late Roman Republic is of special interest to Keira Knightly or whoever. However, there are a couple of things worth pointing out while we wait for this book proposal to percolate:

• Even the Romans made jokes about keeping kosher:
When a man named Cæcilius, one of the freed slaves, who was said to be given to Jewish practices, would have put by the Sicilians, and undertaken the prosecution of Verres himself, Cicero asked, “What has a Jew to do with swine?” verres being the Roman word for boar.
No, that's not a particularly good joke, but when you're the judge in this case, as Cicero was, you can be sure that everyone will laugh.

• Those of us who have worked hard on obscure cable shows, and coasted on network primetime shows, will enjoy this story Cicero tells on himself, after he returned from working his ass off in Sicily:
Meeting an eminent citizen in Campania, whom he accounted his friend, he asked him what the Romans said and thought of his actions, as if the whole city had been filled with the glory of what he had done. His friend asked him in reply, “Where is it you have been, Cicero?”
• If this book idea works, the next one is Roman Diet and Health Secrets:
He rarely, if at any time, sat down to meat till sunset, and that not so much on account of business, as for his health and the weakness of his stomach. He was otherwise in the care of his body nice and delicate, appointing himself, for example, a set number of walks and rubbings.
Walk and rub your way to fitness! Actually, maybe we should do that book first. The Classics are indeed thought-provoking.