7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2005
All fans af historical fiction need look no further for an intersesting read. The book chronicles the reigns of the Roman Emperors Augustus, Tiberius and Caligula as seen through the eyes of Tiberius Claudius. The book reads in true roman fashion, with characters droping like flies from the very start. The odd thing is how the book makes you not cry but chuckle. The combination of ridiculusly evil characters and humerously unfourtunate events make for a story so tragic you just have to laugh. This is only added to by the way that Claudius records things like murder,war,assasination,divorce and mass executions in a trivial way. Claudius, who is considerd as an idiot due to his stutter and limp, plays up his stupidity in order to stay out of the constant political intrigues, while in fact he is one of the smartest romans of the lot and in the end, I couldn't help but feeling somewhat attached to Claudius.
This book is truley marvelous and succeeds perfectly in retelling an ancient tale. And as a plus, I am now extremly knowledgeable on this time of history after reading this book.
on July 7, 2004
I, Claudius has just made its way onto my Netlfix queue, and I can only hope that the mini-series based on the Robert Graves novels are played as a black comedy! Robert Graves has managed to write a wickedly funny portrayal of the "royal family" from the reign of Augustus Ceaser through the wanton debauchery of Caligula. All three reigns are told through the eyes of the seemingly idiotic Claudius, whom ends the book on the shoulders of his countrymen as their new Ceaser.
Graves, who is a true literary giant in his own right, colorfully fills in the blanks of the historical Roman record. Whether his interpretations of events are factual or not is left up for debate, but the genius of his narrative through Claudius is not. You'll need to draw a map of how all the various characters are related since marriage, divorce and adoption within the same family is rampant. Claudius' grandmother Livia is a real force whose product ends up being the sordid reign of Caligula. Augustus and Tiberius are "interesting" in their own way, and the stories attached to each Ceaser's reign or one part tragic and 10 parts black comedy. That Claudius is able to survive by playing the embicile shows his true genius. Can't want to see what the DVDs have in store!
on June 1, 2004
I, Claudius: From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius is an account of the life of Tiberius Claudius and, as the title has stated in a self-explanatory manner, is written in the form of Claudius's autobiography. Claudius narrates events relevant to the Roman Empire and his family from about 4 BC all the way to his crowning in 41 AD. While the book stands as one of the modern classics of historical fiction, references to characters, events, places, and architectural structure are factual.
Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus (10 BC-54 AD) was a member of the royal Julian House: son of Drusus and Antonia, grandson of Augustus (Octavian) and Lavia, down the line of Julius Caesar. Fate had destined Claudius to be a loner in the Julian House, alienated and was deprived of all opportunities for advancement. His family, even his mother Atonia, who only took care of his practical needs but did not love him, despised him as a weakling and dismissed him as an idiot. Not only was the family ashamed of his stammering, it consistently feared of Claudius's committing a solecism upon which the public would comment. Claudius's closest companions included his tutor Athenodorus who encouraged him to become a historian and his own brother Germanius, who never stopped defending his brother .
Though eventually Claudius became the family priest, Claudius still felt most keenly the family's disappointment in him and the slights he met everywhere. Under the tutelage of Pollio and encouragement of Athenodorus, Claudius gathered materials for a life of his father and grandfather, the poisoning of whom had greatly perplexed and haunted Claudius.
Pollio's advice to Claudius had been proved sound and perspicacious throughout the tempestuous years as Claudius survived the intrigues, manipulation, bitter contention for power, lampoons, caprices and poisonings that marked the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius (uncle of Claudius whom Livia contrived to enthrone at the expense of ridding her great-grandsons), and the mad, capricious Caligula. Always a great disappointment to his mother, ironically, it was Claudius's half-wit, feebleness, temerity, and outward incompetence that saved him from the conspiracy, murder, the wickedness, the sufferings, and the wrath that had so ineluctably befallen his brother Germanicus, his nephews Nero, Drusus, and Gemellas.
I, Claudius tells the amazing tale of one man's exaltation from a historian to the emperor, a tale that magnifies Claudius's loyalty to his friends, his loyalty to his cruel family, his loyalty to Rome, and his loyalty to the truth (and defending of the truth) and how the virtue had rewarded him with the greatest honor and done him justice for the slights he had met all his life. The account celebrates Claudius's untroubled spirit and power of discernment in all his duties, both human and sacred. The characters are delineated to the full etch and nuance which lend verisimilitude of the historical period. The book is one of the most fun, interesting, behuiling book I have read that I almost reads like history.
2004 (37) © MY
on December 23, 2003
While Robert Graves' second story on Emperor Claudius, called 'Claudius the God', is full of historical facts, this tale is not as trustworthy. I wouldn't deny that almost every event in the story had really happened, but the way everything is explained by Graves is rather fictional. Most important example is the role of Empress Livia (Augustus' wife). She is presented as an evil, poisonous snake that puts all enemies out of her way by poisoning them. Many members of the Imperial Family become victim of Livia's practices in this story. However, there is not much proof that Livia was really dealing with poison so often. The greatest part of Livia's image comes from Graves' creative mind.
But, even if it's not true, I don't really care. This is a great story about a most interesting person in Roman history: the Emperor Claudius, who ruled from 41 to 54 AD. This book deals with the period before Claudius becomes Emperor, and it's the most interesting part as well. Like another reviewer remarked on this page, the Imperial family had some real Mafioso-characteristics. Many, many members died very early and unexpectedly, and it's this fact that probably inspired Graves to create the image of the evil Livia. The young Claudius was also part of the family, but not a common one. He was handicapped from his youth, and stammered a lot. Hence he was regarded as the fool of the family. No one took him serious, except his brother and his friend Postumus, and so he wasn't regarded as a danger by anyone. At last, Claudius' image of a stupid fool made him the only member of the family who survived the terror reigns of both Tiberius and Caligula. So this 'fool' finally became the ruler of the largest empire the world ever saw, while the people that had always mocked with him had all been killed before they got the chance to become emperor. What a story!
Robert Graves tells you every detail of it, and although he may have spiced it here and there a bit, the main line of the story is history. You'll get great insight in the reigns of the Emperors Augustus (just, fair), Tiberius (cruel, curmudgeon), and Caligula (insane). All characters in the story are not just some boring persons: they come to life at every page, and there are even some great surprises. For example, Claudius' prostitute Calpurnia turns out to be more intelligent than any other woman in the story, except Livia maybe. Speaking about Livia: although she is presented as a tyrant, Graves also tells that in fact the whole Imperial regime depended on this woman. It was not Augustus who ruled, but Livia. And the final pages of the book offer some new information on this woman... go read it I would say. This is a story more unbelievable than many 'American dream', but still it's true. 'I Claudius' is one of my absolutely favourite books.
on December 11, 2003
I had been meaning to read this book for many years, and having just completed it, I wish I had never put it off. This is a superb work of historical fiction. Robert Graves manages to recreate the personalities, customs, and idioms of ancient Rome in a way that makes it perfectly understandable. Reading the history of Rome in a textbook, one has a hard time sorting out the differences and the family relationships of the Julians and the Claudians; reading "I, Claudius" you have no trouble keeping them all straight -- the stern but virtuous Augustus, the cruel and paranoid Tiberius, and the deranged, amoral Caligula veritably leap off the page.
One sympathizes with Claudius, who, alone of the family, is left to live his life without fear of being poisoned or assassinated by his family rivals because of his physical disabilities. Claudius, who wants nothing more than to be left to his books and who secretly pines for a return to the Republic, ends up becoming the emperor who rebuilds the empire after Caligula's disastrous rule.
Graves has a remarkable gift in the book for imagery and anecdote -- the book is a compendium of small tales about Rome that add up to a large and marvelous mosaic.
Don't hesitate to buy the book and read it. It is a remarkable work.
on October 6, 2003
This by far the best of Robert Grave's fictional works. A convincing portrayal of what life was like at the core of the early Roman empire.
Graves masterfully develops the character of Claudius as he ponders his life and impresses his thoughts on to his "autobiography." The reader is then taken through the ambitions and intrigues of the Julio-Claudian dynasty from the reign of Augustus to Nero's. Through the eyes of Claudius, the reader is given a bird's eye view into the dynastic contests with wit and humor as well as the evolution of the empire from the remnants of a crumbled republic. With this insight, Claudius is soon appreciated by the reader as having a keen intellect as opposed to being dull and slow of wit. His desire for truth and his loathing of the imperial struggle gives his story clarity and impartiality. All of the characters are well developed; their actions and motivations all come to light in the course of the story.
Along with Gore Vidal's "Julian" this is one of the greatest works in historical fiction in this genre or any genre. A must read for anyone who enjoys history or just a good story full of intrigue and suspense.
on August 17, 2003
Robert Graves, next to Joseph Campbell, is certainly one of the great mythographers of the twentieth century. I,Claudius, and the sequel Claudius, the God, offers a kind of parabolic historical romance. I was drawn to read these literary masterpieces because of my fascination with myth and history. There's an undeniable psychological component to myth and history, as Freud and Jung have shown; and moreover, as Graves and Campbell subsequently conveyed as such individually. Roman perfidy towards an oath of "friendship and protection" to the Phoenicians apparently set the so-called "Punic Curse" in motion, with a "money-madness that has choked Rome ever since," as Claudius, our narrator of the books stated. The disgusting excesses of a Roman Empire, as opposed to its halcyon period of the Roman Republic, soon follow. The "curse" is, apparently, a pervasive though invisible cause, attacking both hereditary and environmental factors. Born into nobility, yet sickly and lame, Claudius is shunned as an Idiot and a Stammer. His character wins our sympathy, nevertheless, because of his sincerity, wit and intelligence. Claudius plays the underdog in a fragmenting political world replete with perversion, duplicity, assassination, murder, sadism, and clinical insanity. Reminiscent of Dante's "Divine Comedy," Claudius take us on a grand tour of the Roman Empire circa the first millennium. As we climb to the zenith of political power with our heroic participant, observer, you could recall that, in and about the same space of time, the Devil is tempting Jesus with "all the kingdoms of the world." The lives of Herod, Jesus, and the prophecy of the Messiah are dutifully reported by our narrative "tour guide," Claudius, evoking an associative parable within parable. "For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world at the price of his own soul?" is the moral question one could rhetorically harmonize in tune with the synchronous events of the tale and era. The "Punic Curse," like "Original Sin" tries to address the religious causation behind the "disintegration of civilization" (Toynbee). It's a terrifying notion, I think, to play around with, suggesting a chronic form of evil karma, the root cause behind the "schism of the soul" (Toynbee) within the collective unconscious (Jung). "One of the cruelest aspects of the White Goddess," Graves stated elsewhere, is the "Night Mare." The Hellenic world of Claudius seemed to choke on its own cursed actions within a living nightmare. The cursed and dreaded nightmare plaguing our dreams and waking reality, reminds me of the famous passage from James Joyce's Ulysses, "History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake."
on August 8, 2003
A wonderful book. _I, Claudius_ chronicles the reign of the Caesars in Rome from the perspective of the 4th Caesar. Julius is dead by the time Claudius is born, but our hero is intimately acquainted with Augustus and his wife Livia, Tiberius, and finally Caligula. Claudius plays the fool and manages to survive these turbulent years of Rome's history, filled with poisonings, treachery, and the deaths of many honest men and women. Especially during Caligula's reign, Claudius lives on a knife's edge, fearful everyday for his life, playing along with the mad emperor and trying to prevent him from doing Rome irreversible damage.
Stunted from birth, Claudius is a sickly, stuttering child and young man. Ironically, this is the only thing that saves him. Most of his family believes he is an imbecile too unimportant to kill. Ignored by Augustus and Tiberius, tormented by his mother and by Livia, Claudius managed his last hurdle by entertaining Caligula with pert quotes from Homer and flattery. Claudius is a scholar-the only pastime he can manage in his crippled body. His knowledge of history serves him well during this period, providing him with examples from the past to guide his actions during a frightening childhood and youth.
The book follows him up to the point of Caligula's death when Claudius finds himself suddenly the only surviving Caesar, hurled into the office by a dangerous mob of soldiers. He makes his peace with the senate and begins his long reign.
Robert Graves tells the story in first person and provides the necessary guesswork details of Claudius's thoughts and feelings. However, the story is historical in its facts and details. This is a wonderful interdiction to the early history of the Roman empire.
on December 16, 2002
There isn't a single negative comment that can be raised against Robert Graves' magnum opus, the "I, Claudius" series. The work is sublime, transcendent, spectacularly well-written...and always engaging. Every page is dripping with humor and intrigue, kings and pretenders, savages and aesthetes. This is the quintessential work by an amazing classicist, scholar and man.
"I, Claudius" recounts Imperial Rome (from Augustus to Nero) from the perspective of a stuttering, half-lamed, studied dim-wit, the Emperor Claudius. Using Suetonius and Tacitus as his main sources, Graves constructs a marvelous narrative of the precocious and turbulent time that was Rome's imperial birth, childhood and adolescence. Certainly, Octavian (later Augustus) was the father of Imperial Rome, but it is with plots and debauches of subsequent rulers that Graves' story really comes alive.
At the close of the first book, we're presented with the death of the completely deranged, self-styled god, Caligula, and the rise to power, as long prophesied, of Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus (Claudius), the "fool" of the ancient Claudian family, the stammerer...and, at long last, the Emperor of Rome!
Reading Tacitus and Suetonius, it's easy to see why Graves would be inspired to fictionalize such a history. The pages...these so-called histories read like tabloid sensations, military annals and superstitious prayer books all rolled into one. Graves does a marvelous job of capturing the essence of one of the most famous periods in Western history.
Livy, Tacitus, Suetonius, Pollio: eat your heart out. Graves wins the day!
on September 15, 2002
I, Claudius is definitely my favorite book of all time. I read this book last spring as a 12 year old and I understood everything perfectly! It is a clear concise book about Tiberius Claudius, Emperor of the Roman Empire.
This book is sure to capture anyone's interest. It is part thriller, part history. It keeps you on your toes and makes you ask for more.
You should not judge this book by its cover. The book and its cover may seem boring, just like Claudius himself, but you'll find out that there's more than one story behind him. I really believe you'll find his grandmother and uncle quite interesting, along with the well known Caligula to add to the twists and turns of the plot. Claudius is definitely the hero, even though he is crippled and a known studderer, he shines like no one else does and you'll feel sorry and happy for him as you read.
So if you are looking for a book to satisfy more than one urge in reading (hopefully history and mystery), then I, Claudius by Robert Graves is the book for you!