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.
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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.
This book has it all from intrigue, interesting characters, great pace, storyline and yes a whole lot of history. This book is the ultimate revenge of the nerd story. Claudius considered a buffoon and taken advantage his whole life, has the last laugh in the end when he is made emperor of the mightiest nation on Earth! Claudius, born with some physical deformities that hamper his walking, make his mouth dribble at times, and to constantly stutter is considered to be an idiot by most. With Graves telling in the first person we see that Claudius is in fact a great intellectual with amazing insight into the world. He deals with so many interesting personalities (Livia, Tiberius, Caligula, and Herod to name a few). He is used badly by the evil ones and he watches as one-by-one the good ones meet very untimely deaths. Claudius meets with someone wise to the ways of the empire who gives Claudius the best advice, which is that as long as the power seeker feel Claudius is no threat they will keep him alive. Therefore, Claudius should exagerate his informaties and make those evil doers feel he is dumber than they think and therefore no threat. This ultimately keeps him alive and after Rome has gone through two of the most corrupt Emperors of all-time (Caligula and Tiberius), Rome is eager to have an emperor who can be controlled easily and thus, the job of emperor is thrust upon Claudius. Claudius has his own ideas though and that includes restoring Rome to a Republic. But that is left for the sequel book which I highly recommend too. I have read this book three times and it never gets boring.
Robert Graves's fictionalized autobiography of Claudius, the fourth Emperor of Rome, is so phenomenally fascinating that any review I write can hardly do it justice. Claudius writes that he was born prematurely and afflicted with many physical infirmities that make his life difficult and uncomfortable. Most of his relatives consider him an idiot due to his stammering and twitching and treat him with derision and condescension. However, he was a bright, studious boy who used his time to better his mind in the subjects of history and politics, and he becomes a dedicated historian and accomplished writer. As a member of the Imperial family, Claudius has an insider's perspective of Roman politics at the beginning of the Empire and the Pax Romana. The novel begins with an account of the end of the Republic around 40 B.C., how Claudius's wickedly scheming grandmother Livia masterminded much of the politics which led to the formation of the Empire, and how her husband and Claudius's great-uncle Augustus Caesar became the first Emperor. The reigns of Claudius's depraved uncle Tiberius and insane nephew Caligula follow, and Claudius finally becomes Emperor, somewhat reluctantly, upon Caligula's death in 41 A.D. What I found extremely interesting about the book is that it explains the complications of maintaining, defending, and expanding an empire. The detailed descriptions of the military campaigns show how the frontiers of the Empire (especially Germany) were in constant danger of disruption by barbarians and mutinous, undisciplined soldiers. Back home in the Senate and within the Imperial family, petty squabbles and indignities were often resolved with scandalously drastic measures. This book could have been a dry recounting of history, but Claudius tells his story in a conversational, often humorous, tone. (What he writes about Caligula, in particular, is unbelievable but highly entertaining.) Another thing that strikes me as the mark of a great book: Even though Livia is a thoroughly despicable human being, I actually felt a little sad when she died. Not too many writers can achieve that kind of dichotomy in their characters.
Tiberius Claudius Drusas Nero Germanicus lived 2000 years ago, but his story brought to life by Robert Graves in such a way that he feels like a contemporary without losing the reality of his time. Graves has a great sense of history and the character of Claudius does as well. Of course Claudius was a historian in reality and also a man of his times. Graves brings both the times and the man out for us to celebrate and enjoy. The entire book feels like a conversation between us and Claudius and an interesting conversation it is. The best character in the book of course is Livia the wife of Augustus Caesar. She is the leader, the mover and shaker. She is the kingmaker who determines the fate of the empire for years to come. Chris Hitchens would call her the Kissinger of her era, or more properly as the book was written far before his time Kissinger is the Livia of his era. This book has something for everyone, and should not be missed. Its sequal was just as good. Both shoud be required reading. This one is a keeper
Robert Graves is a superb writer but his topic is what really takes this book over the top. Nothing in this book could really be made up. Based on ancient Roman history, the twists and turns of the plot, the antics of the main characters, the beliefs and behavior of the Roman citizens, the irony of history, and the absolute impossibility of what is clearly happening right before your eyes will keep you turning the pages of this book so fast your head will spin. My favorite scene: when the mad Emperor dresses like the goddess Aurora and dances in dead earnest to bring in the dawn. The scenes describing the Pythian oracle would be hard to match anywhere in world literature. Just two of a hundred of the most amazing scenes you'll ever find in any book. Graves has truly written a masterpiece.
"I Claudius." The name conjurs intrigue, violence, good emperors, evil emperors, and above them all an individual who rose to become emperor of Rome in spite of physical handicaps and prejudices. Robert Graves' classic is an insight into the history of the Claudian family and in particular Claudius, the despised idiot and stutterer who outlives all of his relatives to ascend to the throne, a position which he assumes with reluctance. If you thought classical history is dull, read this book and find out that the ancients were just as corrupt and venal as our modern day politicians. I suppose the movie Gladiator will rekindle some interest in Rome. Read I Claudius and forget Gladiator. The book is historically accurate, well written (I am of the opinion that Robert Graves is the only decent modern English writer-why did he never win the Nobel in literature?) and despite its length, is a pretty quick lead. Take your time though, and savor the characters: Claudius' brother Germanicus, a brilliant general and noble spirit who probably would have been an emperor the equal of Augustus had he lived, Agrippa Posthumous, Augustus' grandson who was another possible pretender to the throne (who Graves portrays in a positive light- Suetonius and other Roman writers considered Posthumous a boor), the Emperor Tiberius, who was both ruthless and capable, and Livia, Augustus' wife and the true power behind the throne. Livia is the glue which holds the story together and conjures up images of powerful women who are the real powers (and this book was written in the 1930s!). Marie Antoinette, Imelda Marcos, and the present First Lady couldn't compare with Livia, who is self assured, ruthless, calculating and cared only for the survival of Rome and the Imperial succession. Sort of an ancient Catherine the Great. And finally, who can forget Caligula, that insane, perverted maniac who did nasty things to others and attempted to make his horse First Consul of Rome. With a cast like that, who needs soap operas or the WWF?