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4.4 out of 5 stars
Claudius the God: And His Wife Messalina
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on September 25, 2000
Rightfully, this book has around 20% of the number of reviews as does the first half of the life of the same man by the same author. This is not nearly as good of a book as 'I, Claudius', I doubt that anyone reading this would be much surprised at this. 'I, Claudius' is considered as a classic of the English language whereas this is just a fairly strong 'good' book.
There are a number of reasons for this. First, the first half (well, chronologically more...) of Claudius's life provides a better ground for Graves to do his job; he also seems to identify more with the character before he became emperor. When Claudius loses his humor and perspective, the whole of the series loses it's brilliance....
Setting this aside, this is still a highly entertaining and worthwhile book. I loved the first work better; I'd read it first. If you have read it, I am assuming, you liked it enough to come back to this page looking for more. And there is more here: it's just that it is slightly.... ever so slightly.... less....
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on August 30, 2000
I was wondering how they were going to handle the final half of the Claudius series, because the narrator dies (historical fact, not spoiling.) How he ends up like his predecessors, most notably Augustus, is very captivating. Tragic, ironic, dramtic and very interesting, I found it to be great, but read the first book first, it will help you understand it better.
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on July 27, 2000
Graves' portrait of Claudius may be a little generous, given the records of the actual man by his contemporaries, but he can make his case well, I think, with the sources he chooses to utilize. But who cares anyway! Any lover of ancient Rome or epic stories in general will love this book. The details of the exploits of Claudius are mind-boggling; by the end of it, you'll feel as though you spent time in the ancient Medditerranean. If he had written this story in fifteen volumes, I would read them all. And while it's a great book on it's own, I'd suggest reading 'I, Claudius' first.
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on April 26, 2000
This is a great sequel and a must read, though it is a very different book from the one it follows. Where 'I, Claudius' was introverted and historical centered, Claudius the God moves into the wider circles of the Empire. This should by no means perturb the reader who came to hunger for the political machinations of Livia or the tawdry depravity of Tiberius in the first novel, this one presents new hurdles and struggles through which Claudius must muddle in order to survive: a wicked nephew, a military uprising, war against Boadicea and two caniving wives.
This is the better of the two books, no matter what your interest in them is, and it builds to a truly profound ending.
Like other reviewers before me, I urge that anyone who read and enjoyed the characters as represented in these two books: see the miniseries. It may be 12+ hours in length but it is worth it!
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on February 23, 2000
"Claudius the God" is a great book, but it is noticeably worse than its predecessor. For one, it is more somber than "I, Claudius". This would have been fine if the account was more truthful to history, but it is still quite preposterous, so the lack of humor takes something away from the narrative.
I liked the characters, such as Herod Agrippa and Messalina, but felt that their complexities were not all revealed. Herod Agrippa is interesting as a rascal with the heart of gold, but his plotting to take over the East is told through the dispatches of a personal enemy to Claudius. Although this is how Claudius found out about his actions, I feel that his story should have been told in a story-like fashion, and then Claudius could have pointed out how he came by such information.
Messalina was an intriguing character but Graves made her evil without any further explaination. Nobody becomes evil overnight. He also failed in excusing Claudius for not seeing Messalina's faults. Although he is supposed to have loved her beyond distraction, you can't really feel it throughout the book. This is a great mystery of why Claudius was so inept when dealing with his wives. Graves makes his conduct smart in "I, Claudius", while in "Claudius the God" he is completely blind to Messalina's ways. If he truly was that blind, then Graves should have concentrated in making Claudius' love for her seem more real and all encompassing. Otherwise, he should have come up with another reason for Claudius' folly.
Overlooking this weakness in his storytelling, the book takes a wonderfully tragic turn when Claudius discovers Messalina's betrayal. His pain is so poignantly written that the readers cannot help but feel for him. Afterwards, when he made the decision to retain a passive role in the government, which stemmed from the pain of Messalina's duplicity, the readers feel acutely the loss of his will to live.
This book could have become comparable to "I, Claudius" if the relationship between Claudius and Messalina was better examined.
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on January 24, 2000
The historical conceptions of the rule of Claudius have changed since olden times, and I think Graves might have had a hand in this. Previously, Claudius was considered a deceitful and inept ruler but is now thought of as shrewd and honest.
Regardless of which school is correct, this two book series is incredible. I found the sequel more entertaining than the first, because we finally get to see Claudius at the head of the Roman state-something that I, Claudius led up to for its entirety.
These are great books with both powerful, endearing and repulsive characters. I look forward to my next Graves book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 1999
Taking up where "I, Claudius" left off, "Claudius the God" chronicles the reign of one of the most unlikely Emperors in Roman history: the lame, stuttering, and hardly stupid Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus. Having spent his entire life trying to *avoid* any political office, mostly by letting his family think he's a hopeless idiot (intelligence tends to get weeded out rather rapidly among the Julio-Claudians, usually with the help of some poison), Claudius finds himself catapulted to the throne at the age of fifty-one when his nephew, the mad Emperor Caligula, is assassinated. He doesn't want to be Emperor-he is in fact a staunch believer in restoring the Roman Republic-but eventually is forced to accept the job and thus begins the ill-fated rule of one of the most interesting Emperors of all time.
Of course he's doomed from the start-there's hardly an Emperor who *wasn't* murdered, and poison probably qualifies as death by natural causes when you're Roman aristocracy-and his wife Messalina is quite a piece of work, but that doesn't stop the book from being a good read, especially in the earlier parts of the story where Claudius shows an unexpected capacity for efficient administration. The same wry humor and political intrigue that characterized "I, Claudius" are present here as well, and the cast-of-thousands are all distinguished quite well from each other. While "Claudius the God" is not as captivating as its predecessor, and is in fact quite a bit more depressing, it's a book worth reading. There is only one drawback to reading these two tales of intrigue and Imperial families: you'll find yourself wanting to go out and get a food taster afterwards...
Footnote: While this may be the wrong place to recommend videos, I strongly suggest that anyone who read and enjoyed "I, Claudius" and "Claudius the God" should see the BBC miniseries. Derek Jacobi is perfect as Claudius, both as the aging Emperor and the young and gawky historian, and Sian Phillips brings the character of Livia to malevolent life with her portrayal of the woman behind the throne. A must-see for any fan of Roman history-or Rome in general!
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on July 28, 1999
if you are considering reading this book, make sure you read I, CLaudius first, that is a must. Then read Claudius the God. You will be so amazed at the lives of these people, real living people. I love to read historical fiction written in the first person. You really get involved in that person. You will be glad you read it.
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An excellent narrative of Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius, _I, Claudius_ captured my senses from its very first sentence. Murder, treachery, poisonings, loves-gone-wrong . . . all written in smart prose. How does a stammering and seemingly-idiotic fool become Emperor of Rome? Easily - by chance. Or not so easily, as you'll read! This book will entertain AND teach the reader at the same time. What a bargain!
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on May 8, 1999
When I finished "I, Claudius" I HAD to go out and get "Claudius the God", because I had to find out what was going to happen to Claudius. Mr. Graves draws the reader in from the start, and both "I, Claudius" and "Claudius the God" helped me in my Roman tests!
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