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The Dream of Scipio

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  2,612 ratings  ·  275 reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review

Confirming Ian Pears's prodigious talent, The Dream of Scipio is a stunning meditation on history and moral philosophy that rises to the standard established in his highly acclaimed 1998 novel An Instance of the Fingerpost, the massive, intricate historical mystery that evoked comparisons to Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose.

In The Dream of Sc

Hardcover, 400 pages
Published June 4th 2002 by Riverhead Books (first published 2002)
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Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 3.5* of five

The Publisher Says: In The Dream of Scipio, the acclaimed author of An Instance of the Fingerpost intertwines three intellectual mysteries, three love stories�and three of the darkest moments in human history. United by a classical text called "The Dream of Scipio," three men struggle to find refuge for their hearts and minds from the madness that surrounds the final days of the Roman Empire, in the grim years of the Black Death, and in the direst hours of World War
I bought and read The Dream of Scipio because I really enjoyed Pears's An Instance of the Fingerpost, which was a thoroughly engaging, immersive historical mystery. In comparison, The Dream of Scipio - while ambitious just like its predecessor - falls a little short.

The Dream of Scipio follows the life of three very different men, all of whom lived in Provence in three different centuries, during various times of great and important historical change: Manlius Hippomanes, a wealthy Roman aristocr
Erin Casey
Oct 09, 2007 Erin Casey rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
This book tells the three most tragic and beautiful stories I have ever read. Each takes place in Avignon, but in a different era of crisis - the loss of Gaul from the Roman Empire, the Black Death arriving during the split in the Roman Church, and the Occupation in WWII. Each successive narrator is aware of his predecessor(s), respects them and wishes to understand them, to better handle themselves in their own time of crisis and to better serve the incredible women they love. I think only one ...more
Jane Niehaus
Some books we read for pleasure, some for intrigue, some for thought-provoking stimulus. Given the nature of this book--three interwoven stories across three time periods--fall of the roman empire, the black plague in 1350s, and WWII France--I find it required a lot of concentration--especially during my early morning commute and late at night. Occasionally, I'd have to back track a few pages to figure out where some character or detail first appeared--not easy to do when the stories change ever ...more
Some interesting facts concerning this booK:

1- According to Wikipedia, "The Dream of Scipio (Latin, Somnium Scipionis), written by Cicero, is the sixth book of De re publica, and describes a fictional dream vision of the Roman general Scipio Aemilianus, set two years before he commanded at the destruction of Carthage in 146 BCE."

2-Some critics consider Raphael's painting Vision of a Knight to be a depiction of Scipio's Dream.

Themis-Athena wrote a great review about this book.
Lissa Notreallywolf
This was one of the most remarkable novels I have ever read. The theme introduced is how one participates in epochs of change. Set in three different time periods in Provence, France, the novel explores how three different men make decisions about the preservation of culture. They are Manlius Hippomanes, living in the decline of the Roman empire; Olivier de Noyen living during the Italian Renaissance with the exiled papacy and Julien Barneuve a scholar during the Nazi occupation. I am familiar w ...more
I'm only about half way through this book and have so far been less than impressed. Pears' hooks you early by setting an impressively convoluted plot spanning three parallel lives in three seperate centuries in motion right away, and then manages to spend the vast majority of the book detailing the least interesting of them. Maybe this is just me and my unusual proclivities talking, but when you have a fifth century minor Dux turned Bishop-savior of lower Gaul, a late-medieval clerical assistant ...more
Suzanne Vrieze
Beautiful book that deals mainly with the question of how to preserve civilisation set in various times of great trouble, disease, war and stress. The conclusion or essence of the book, and an excerpt that stuck with me, I found on page 370-371, when Julien talks to Marcel during WWII:

I thought in this simple contrast between the civilised and the barbaric, but I was wrong. It is the civilised wo are truly barbaric, and the Germans are merely the supreme expression of it. They are our greatest a
Stephanie Butland
This is that rare thing - a book I gave up on. I realised after 100 pages or so that I was actually dreading reading it.... a disappointment, as I loved An Instance of the Fingerpost A Novelby the same author.
Kathryn Bashaar
This book has an interesting premise. Three different characters who live in Provence at three different points in history, are faced with the same moral dilemna: in times of chaos and uncertainty, how much should a good man compromise with evil, in the attempt to protect something or someone that he values? Manlius Hippomanes lives at the time of the fall of the Roman Empire, and has to decide how much he will compromise with the barbarians and the rising Christian church, to protect the classi ...more
Jesse Bullington
Some time ago I finished The Dream of Scipio by Iain Pears and it has continued to drift around my mind ever since. Simply put, it is a wonderful book that, if you are anything like me, you will savor as the rare delicacy that it is. I literally forced myself to put it down several times in order to prolong the pleasure of reading it. My first Pears novel and already I am in awe of the fellow.

I cannot think of the last book I read where parallels among characters were drawn with such subtlety an
I started my summer with the hugely distasteful, "Angels and Demons," by Dan Brown, his precursor to, "The Da Vinci Code;" and then, thankfully, strode into midsummer with the perfect antidote, "The Dream of Scipio," by Iain Pears. Where the former ripped through a fantasy-land of paranoia, the latter provides a deep exploration of wisdom, love, friendship, bigotry, betrayal, relative morality - and, well, a whole existential landscape.
Mr. Pears uses the common literary device of telling three s
Pears delivered an excellent novel, but I expected this when I picked it up.

The dream of Scipio is a novel about three men living in three separate times whose only connection to each other is a manuscript, that was written by a philosopher years before. The manuscript is inspired by a female philosopher, and in each subsequent time, each man is inspired to understand her teachings and the manuscript itself through their own work, their own love lives, and the political upheaval in each of thei
Oct 09, 2008 Carol rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dad, for the interesting interweaving of history
Recommended to Carol by: Sandy
I can't remember the last time I was so happy to be finished reading a book! This took what felt like an eternity to read. The beginning is so slow, that I set it down and read two other books before picking it back up (which I did because I love the person that recommended it to me and respected that he wanted me to read it).

About halfway through it did pick up, but with difficulty. It is a trio of interwoven stories following academic Julien in the 20th century (WWII) who is studying the poet
UNCLE. I give up. I love Iain Pears, and I can tell this is an interesting book, well-written with interesting characters. If I were on vacation and could read the whole thing with 100 percent concentration, in one or two sittings, I'm sure I would have finished it and loved it, which is why I gave it four stars. But I'm not on vacation and am reading it in little bits, at the end of the day, half asleep, in bed. I just can't follow the plot. There are three characters/story lines that each get ...more
Shelley Schanfield
Everything a good historical novel should be. Ideas clothed in real people, real people clothed in the ideas of ancient Rome as perceived by three men who live at different times in Provence. Manlius is the 6th century heir of the dying Roman empire, Olivier a 14th century poet during the time of the plague, Julien an historian living under the Vichy government, who discovers the truth about Olivier's death and the key to his poetry. It's all strung together by a manuscript of Cicero's Dream of ...more
Judy Chessin
Three different tales of coping with impending societal change... one at the decline of the Roman empire, one during the black plague and one during the Nazi occupation in France. I, unlike so many reviewers, had no trouble moving from time to time period, but the philosophical connection was what eluded me. What was the philosophical underpining which tied the three protagonists together? For this, I will have to re-read. What stood out to me, is how in the decline of every civilization, societ ...more
This is a book that I read slowly and carefully. I will most likely reread The Dream of Scipio, not so much because I feel that I missed something, although I probably did, but to revisit a perpetual dilemma well presented.

Three stories overlap and intertwine, one set during the fall of the Roman Empire, the second during the years of the black plague and the removal of the papacy to Avignon and the third takes place in the years of the Second World War. The stories have in common the setting in
Tony Taylor
The Dream of Scipio is an inventive, gloriously detailed historical novel told from multiple viewpoints. But Pears has set himself an additional challenge by spreading his narrators over several centuries: there's the fifth century French nobleman and bishop, Manlius, a civilized man who has embraced the uncouth Christian faith in order to protect what he holds dear; an 11th-century scholar and troubadour named Olivier de Noyen, the famously ill-fated admirer of a married girl; and Julien Barneu ...more
Not as spectacular as "An Instance of the Fingerpost", but nonetheless a tremendous book offering the most convincing illustration of neo-platonicism since Rossetti. Three couples, three times in history, from Rome to WWII, but of course with a common thread. Souls in constant search for each other through time and death. The magic here lies in the fact that Iain Pears could have fallen into the trap of producing something old fashioned, corny or pompously scholarly, instead of which he instills ...more

Although a worthwhile undertaking, this book feels more like tackling a case study than reading great literature, or perhaps tackling three case studies woven into one morality play. But therein lies the strength of this remarkable piece of historical fiction - the skill with which Iain Pears is able to tie into a nice, neat knot the tales of three protagonists, each struggling with powerful forces of good and evil. The choice of historic periods is superb: each presents the protagonist with a d
The best way to describe "The Dream of Scipio" is to call it an historical novel with a philosophical bent. In the beginning, the three intertwined stories, set in Provence during the 5th, 14th, and 20th centuries, move rather slowly. Pears has set himself the task of sketching three historical periods when the world seems to be coming undone---the twilight of the Roman Empire, the period of the papal schism and the black death, the Nazi occupation of France. The necessity of establishing each o ...more
The title of the book comes from a section of Cicero's Republic bearing that title. A couple of excerpts from Cicero's text may hint at why Iain Pears chose to entitle his work that way:

First, from the beginning of Cicero's text, "‘Do you see that city there? It was I who made its people submit to Rome. But now they are starting up the old conflicts once again; they refuse to remain at peace!’" Ah yes, "they are starting up the old conflicts once again," indeed!

Pears actually tells three storie
What a perfect book.

The Dream of Scipio opens with the death of one of the main characters, Julien, an academic who has spent much of his life studying one of the other main characters, Oliverio, who in turn had during his life a hunger for learning which drew him to study the third main character, Manlius. Julien was a soldier in WWI and becomes a bureaucrat in occupied France during WWII. Oliverio is a poet and a secretery for a Cardinal in Avignon during the time of Pope Clement before and a
Juan Pablo
El sueño de Escipión trata el clásico y apasionante tema del papel de la cultura en tiempos de guerra. A partir de tres personajes similares, hombres de letras representativos de su tiempo, el autor desarrolla otras tantas historias paralelas ambientadas en Provenza durante momentos históricos de crisis de la civilización europea: caída del Imperio romano (siglo V); la peste negra durante el exilio de la sede pontificia en Aviñón (siglo XIV), y la segunda guerra mundial. A partir de su investiga ...more
My husband loved this book, but I've just had a very hard time getting into it. I've been reading it all summer and have still not finished...sigh.

It's not that it is not well written, but I am not engaging in the characters or the plot. Well--that's not exactly true. One set of characters I love reading about, one set is interesting and the third bugs the crap out of me. What to do? Such a dilemma. I shall struggle on, or not, depending onhow the tide turns.
Difficult book to get through, long and confusing at points but worth the effort for the last 30 pages or so. We know how each of the character's stories will end and still Pears manages to turn everything on its head. Enjoyable historical fiction and contemplation on civilisation.
Note: see the other reviews for plot outline and description.

This was a five rating for me until the end. I enjoyed all three stories in the book, all of which could stand on their own. Once I got passed the first couple of chapters, I did not have a problem with the transitions. The main link among the three stories--the philosophical treatise referred to as The Dream of Scipio--and the historical parallels all added to my enjoyment.

Where the book fell short for me was the ending. I wasn't ex
Thom Dunn
John McCall subscribed to the relatively new notion that Manlius's original Dream of Scipio was actually written by John of Salisbury in the 12th century,
A wonderful historical novel about a brilliant woman fighting for her place among the brilliant men of her time.
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Iain Pears is an English art historian, novelist and journalist. He was educated at Warwick School, Warwick, Wadham College and Wolfson College, Oxford. Before writing, he worked as a reporter for the BBC, Channel 4 (UK) and ZDF (Germany) and correspondent for Reuters from 1982 to 1990 in Italy, France, UK and US. In 1987 he became a Getty Fellow in the Arts and Humanities at Yale University. His ...more
More about Iain Pears...
An Instance of the Fingerpost Stone's Fall The Raphael Affair (Jonathan Argyll, #1) The Portrait The Titian Committee (Jonathan Argyll, #2)

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“For the first time, she did want more. She did not know what she wanted, knew that it was dangerous and that she should rest content with what she had, but she knew an emptiness deep inside her, which began to ache.” 127 likes
“Was not Hypatia the greatest philosopher of Alexandria, and a true martyr to the old values of learning? She was torn to pieces by a mob of incensed Christians not because she was a woman, but because her learning was so profound, her skills at dialectic so extensive that she reduced all who queried her to embarrassed silence. They could not argue with her, so they murdered her.” 34 likes
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