Marcus Tullius Cicero was the ancient master of the ‘save’ key. He composed more letters, speeches and philosophy books than most writers of any epoch; but more important than any particular work was that so much survived to define his time. He had a secretary, Tiro, who can reasonably be given the credit for researching, correcting, copying and casting out his master’s words. In Robert Harris’s three novels of Cicero’s life, Marcus Tullius Tiro, the freed slave who took his name as well as dictation from his boss, gets his full reward. Over more than 1,000 pages, the secretary is the narrator of how the world’s first great republic slipped into empire, a story that, thanks to the luck of literary survival, centres on Cicero as so many histories have before.