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I, Claudius

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From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius, Born 10 B.C., Murdered and Deified A.D. 54. Set in the first century A.D. in Rome and written as an autobiographical memoir, this colorful story of the life of the Roman emperor Claudius stands as one of the modern classics of historical fiction. Physically weak and afflicted with stuttering, Claudius is initially despised and di From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius, Born 10 B.C., Murdered and Deified A.D. 54. Set in the first century A.D. in Rome and written as an autobiographical memoir, this colorful story of the life of the Roman emperor Claudius stands as one of the modern classics of historical fiction. Physically weak and afflicted with stuttering, Claudius is initially despised and dismissed as an idiot. Shunted to the background of imperial affairs by his embarrassed royal family, he becomes a scholar and historian, while palace intrigues and murders surround him. Observing these dramas from beyond the public eye, Claudius escapes the cruelties inflicted on the rest of the royal family by its own members and survives to become emperor of Rome in A.D. 41.

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30 review for I, Claudius

  1. 4 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus (Claudius to his embarrassed family), born in Lyon, in what is now France, a sickly, lame, twitching, stutterer, a nonentity, thought an idiot by his relatives, the most prominent in ancient Rome, Julius Caesar began their more than century long reign, as the rulers of the vast, expanding, Roman Empire. But he survives the treacherous, deadly, byzantine atmosphere, where killing an enemy is common, all for power, influence and money, nothing else matters, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus (Claudius to his embarrassed family), born in Lyon, in what is now France, a sickly, lame, twitching, stutterer, a nonentity, thought an idiot by his relatives, the most prominent in ancient Rome, Julius Caesar began their more than century long reign, as the rulers of the vast, expanding, Roman Empire. But he survives the treacherous, deadly, byzantine atmosphere, where killing an enemy is common, all for power, influence and money, nothing else matters, destroy your opponent before they eliminate you ( he was too insignificant, to be murdered). Claudius father was a famous Roman general, Germanicus, gaining glory in Germany, winning battle after battle, until dying in a mysterious way, his mother Antonia, a very influential woman, daughter of Livia, the wife of the Emperor Augustus Caesar, Julius's great- nephew. He preaches family values, as his daughter Julia, breaks them all, but his relatives suffers greatly, constant, early, strange deaths, to its members, unexplained, there is a curse, a menacing unseen force , that is always ready to strike them down, everyone is quite vulnerable...To pass the time, Claudius, becomes a historian, talking to Titus Livy, and other famous authors, writing many books, that his scornful family doesn't read, sadly, they have not survived, his best, about the mysterious Etruscans, the first history of these prosperous people. Poor Claudius, made by others, more powerful, to marry women, he loathes, for political reasons, to reluctant wives, that detest the unattractive man, but still from the most important family in Rome, divorce soon follows, and frequently, insolvency, he prefers undemanding, kind prostitutes . Tiberius becomes Emperor, his grandmother's Livia's son, and his father's brother, a paranoid ruler, who kills anyone that remotely threatens him , or so alleges Sejanus, his most trusted, ruthless, and ambitious servant, the captain of the potent Praetorian Guards, who protects the sovereign of Rome, of course they're innocent. But how would Tiberius know, he lives in luxury, on the beautiful island of Capri, off the coast of Italy, near Naples, away from danger and prying eyes and his evil, dominating mother, Livia, yet rumors of perverse sexual habits filter back to the disgusted capital. When his uncle at last dies, the even worse (his nephew), Caligula, becomes the mad Emperor of the world, committing incest with his three sisters, telling the astonished Senate, that he is a god (throwing poor Claudius into a river, he abides, and floats back up), everyone must worship, butchering at will, the citizens, from the highest, to the lowest, seeking revenge against the Germans because of his father's untimely death, but while Julius Caesar wrote, "I came, I saw , I conquered", Caligula saw and ran... A brilliant novel, more gossip, than history maybe, but an enormously entertaining read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kemper

    Things had to have been boring in ancient Rome with no TV, internet or video games. But after reading I, Claudius, I think that the average Roman citizen’s chief entertainment probably came from watching what the imperial family did to each other. There was the crime and intrigue of a show like The Sopranos. All the narcissism and betrayal of a season of a reality TV show. More sex than cable on-demand porn channels and enough family dysfunction to make Jerry Springer’s guests look classy. You Things had to have been boring in ancient Rome with no TV, internet or video games. But after reading I, Claudius, I think that the average Roman citizen’s chief entertainment probably came from watching what the imperial family did to each other. There was the crime and intrigue of a show like The Sopranos. All the narcissism and betrayal of a season of a reality TV show. More sex than cable on-demand porn channels and enough family dysfunction to make Jerry Springer’s guests look classy. You could have kicked off your sandals, put your feet up and watched out the window as all kinds of people got married, divorced, betrayed, robbed, disgraced, exiled and murdered. You can’t put a dollar value on entertainment like that. The story is told from the perspective of Claudius, a member of the royal family who managed to survive because he was widely considered to be an idiot due to his stammer and bad leg, and because he never had enough money for anyone to bother killing him for his estate. Shunned and forgotten by most of the family, Claudius becomes a historian and scholar who documents the terrible things that happen around him as everyone seeks to gain and keep power. Over his life, Claudius will have to deal with three emperors; the noble Augustus, the sullen and paranoid Tiberius and the crazy Caligula. His grandmother Livia, who married Augustus, would ruthlessly manipulate and destroy generations of her own family through various schemes and murders to make sure that her son, Tiberius, would one day inherit the throne. Great book that really makes Roman history come alive. Claudius is a sympathetic narrator and there’s a streak of hilarious deadpan humor along with all the palace intrigue.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    Compelling, humorous, entertaining and even at time times deeply disturbing, this traces the peripheral rise of an unlikely Caeser. Historical fiction at its best, Graves provides an in-depth, behind the scenes look at early Roman Imperial intrigue. First published in 1934, this has been selected as one of the finest English language works in the twentieth century.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    I Claudius reviewed by Manny : - Claudius, come here, sit down right by me, don't be shy. - O o o o o oh, M-m-m-m-m- - Yes? - essalina! I Claudius reviewed by Mariel : All i can dream about is rabbits every day. every day rabbits. i can't tell you why. I Claudius reviewed by Ian Graye : You've seen The Sopranos, so you think you know about gangsters. But Imperial Rome didn't get its reputation by organising knitting circles. No, it didn't. Claudius became emperor accidentally. They found him cowering in a I Claudius reviewed by Manny : - Claudius, come here, sit down right by me, don't be shy. - O o o o o oh, M-m-m-m-m- - Yes? - essalina! I Claudius reviewed by Mariel : All i can dream about is rabbits every day. every day rabbits. i can't tell you why. I Claudius reviewed by Ian Graye : You've seen The Sopranos, so you think you know about gangsters. But Imperial Rome didn't get its reputation by organising knitting circles. No, it didn't. Claudius became emperor accidentally. They found him cowering in a cupboard and they dragged him kicking and screaming to the throne. That might be a metaphor. Or not. I Claudius reviewed by Bird Brian : THE HARD CORE TRUTH Graves dishes up nothing less than the most incisive deconstruction of the Bush regime and by extension the entire ediface of oppression which perpetuates from one administration to the next. If Hilary Clinton had beat Obama in the primaries in 2008 and had then won a second term this year America would have had two dynastic families running the whole shooting match from 1989 onwards - do you see any difference with Ancient Rome? I sure don't. I Claudius reviewed by Karen Brissette: YOU GUYS, IT IS FINISHED! I HAVE MADE FIFTY GRILLED CHEESES!! WHAT A FUN CHEESY TIME I HAVE HAD!! okay, i know you have all been waiting on the edge of your seat for "what will karen do this summer to follow up her extraordinary summer of 23 pasta salads??" here is your answer, friends. i claudius. or i clavidvs if you check out the cover of the copy i have . wooh. here we go, eviscerations, deflorations and probably pasta fazool. I Claudius reviewed by Praj Prolonged use of both valium and absolute power may do unusual things to people's libido but who is going to draw such a moral from the romping morass which we can tinopen here in the untangleble tale of the nincompoop emperor. Kings and lords and high spastic rulers and their horrid affairs, filthy fate, covetousness, allegiance, brutalities, treachery and chastisements metamorphosing from the coccoon of mighty power and disgusting love, such as it may be so-called. I not however. Discordant waves of love and nastiness like bad songs sung loudly by good singers dangerously destabilizing romantic notions; overwhelming morality and raison d'être; all is destroyed where it is not altered beyond you ever noticing it was something that you loved. A book for everyone that lives. You got it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jr Bacdayan

    Game of Romes History is the lie of the victors. Or so that’s what they say. But in the case of I, Claudius hailed as one of the best pieces of historical fiction written to date, the so-called lie is either heightened or degraded, depends on how you see it, into a dramatic tale of cunning, deceit, depravity and the glories of ancient Rome chalked with enough back-stabbing, affairs, incest, assassinations, and debauchery you’d doubt whether you’ve unearthed an ancient tabloid. Granted there are c Game of Romes History is the lie of the victors. Or so that’s what they say. But in the case of I, Claudius hailed as one of the best pieces of historical fiction written to date, the so-called lie is either heightened or degraded, depends on how you see it, into a dramatic tale of cunning, deceit, depravity and the glories of ancient Rome chalked with enough back-stabbing, affairs, incest, assassinations, and debauchery you’d doubt whether you’ve unearthed an ancient tabloid. Granted there are certain truths that only a tabloid can tell. Of course, in this case it is idiotic to look for historical accuracy in fiction but certain things that happen are just so wicked that you have to wonder whether these lies are just that. This review aims to take on the impossible task of diluting the deceitful mixture to separate the lies of the writer from the more essential lies of the victors. There's actually very little in I, Claudius that's entirely unattested. But the thing is Robert Graves based on historical works that are biased and unreliable and he portrays the characters in a way to fit his underlying narrative. Graves relied most heavily on Suetonius and Tacitus. He drew on Suetonius and a host of late Roman authors who are inaccurate at best, particularly for his narration of the earlier emperors to provide all sorts of juicy gossip that those works are full of. But then he had a problem. There was a sharp division among writers of the 1st and 2nd Centuries, A.D. as regards Claudius. Many of his contemporaries, and particularly the Neronians, saw Claudius as the bumbling old idiot that you can find in the pages of Seneca and Suetonius. However, under the Flavians Claudius became a model emperor, who was a struggling intellectual and who expanded Roman power militarily and through his public works, rather than the idiot who let everyone else do all the work for him and eventually had to rely on his wife so much that he fell into her trap easily. Graves chooses the Flavian view of Claudius, and attempts to explain away the aspects of his character seen negatively by Suetonius and Seneca by various means. Graves claimed that it occurred to him while reading through Suetonius and Tacitus that perhaps Claudius was not really as stupid as everyone else thought and that he was cleverly trying to stay alive in a time of intrigue and plotting that undoubtedly would have killed him otherwise. As a result, the works are highly sifted and selected to provide particular, no matter how unlikely, versions of the events that took place. There's nothing to suggest that Claudius, Livia, Augustus, or any of the other characters thought many of the things that Graves puts in their minds. We know they did certain things, and there are a number of reasons why they might have done so. Graves picks the reasons he particularly likes and crafts a very good story from it, imagining that it is true, whether it is or not. The other thing that Graves fabricates is holes in the record. Graves is very fond of linking events together that probably didn't have any connection--the famous example is the important character of Cassius Chaerea, who appears all over the place and is a major plot-driver. The historical Cassius Chaerea is only known as the prefect of the Praetorian Guard who was hated and teased by Caligula and eventually was one of the leaders of the plot to murder him. Whenever Chaerea appears elsewhere in I, Claudius Graves is in fact imposing his character on a historical person. Basically, whenever Chaerea appears before then he's actually playing someone who the record says was named Cassius, and that Graves assumes or pretends was Chaerea, for plot purposes. There's no reason to suggest, for example, that the same Cassius who led the survivors out of the Teutoburg was the guy who killed Caligula--Cassius was, after all, the name of one of the largest families in Rome. As I end, let me entertain you a bit. If you’ve ever watched Game of Thrones then you should know never to underestimate the weak, repulsive ones. What they lack in strength or in beauty, they make up for in cunning and intelligence. Permit me to say this but I do think Grave’s version of Claudius is, in a certain sense, the true Tyrion. Of course he’s not a dwarf, but he’s deformed in his own way. He’s lame, bowlegged, and a chronic stammerer. He comes from a family that comes to power because of a deceitful but nevertheless remarkable woman Livia aka Cersei then becomes the steward of sorts to his insane nephew Geoffrey or Caligula rather. Not that I’m trying to say Game of Thrones is based on I, Claudius or Roman history, or that Tyrion will become king of the seven realms. I’m just saying that they’re both entertaining, they’re both fiction, but that doesn’t mean they’re both trash. Sometimes you need a lie to get to the truth. Immediately after the book was published the classical community exploded, with some denouncing the book and condemning Graves (who explicitly states that he was not attempting any sort of historical or professional publication with the book, merely his own fancy), but it also initiated scholars to go back and revisit the textual material. In general the book prompted a mass re-reading of all the material on Claudius, if only to fact-check Graves, and a great deal of things that were overlooked until then popped out. This coincided with a revisiting of the emperors in general. So it did have some sort of significance for academics, and it did and continues to awaken the layman’s curiosity about roman emperors and consequently about ancient roman history. And for Game of Thrones, well the truth is, it’s just awesome.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sarah (Presto agitato)

    Poor Clau-Clau-Claudius. He stuttered, had a limp, and was deaf in one ear. Considered the family idiot, he had the misfortune to be born into a family that suffered from a congenital lack of compassion. Robert Graves’s choice of the hapless Claudius as the narrator for this work of historical fiction was ingenious. Seen as dull-witted and harmless by his ruthless relatives, Claudius managed to avoid (view spoiler)[almost (hide spoiler)] the poisoning, banishment, starvation, stabbing, and suici Poor Clau-Clau-Claudius. He stuttered, had a limp, and was deaf in one ear. Considered the family idiot, he had the misfortune to be born into a family that suffered from a congenital lack of compassion. Robert Graves’s choice of the hapless Claudius as the narrator for this work of historical fiction was ingenious. Seen as dull-witted and harmless by his ruthless relatives, Claudius managed to avoid (view spoiler)[almost (hide spoiler)] the poisoning, banishment, starvation, stabbing, and suicide to which many of his more prominent associates fell victim. He was the family outcast, but innocuous enough to be left alone to observe the antics of those around him, and, as a historian, he recorded it all to share with us. Claudius, Emperor of Rome from 41 to 54 AD Graves does an excellent job of taking us into Claudius’s mind, despite the 2,000 year gap in time. Claudius would have considered himself a “good Claudian” (compared to most of his relatives), but he had his flaws, including a cold indifference to slaves and conquered nations and a fondness for drink and gambling. Still, compared to his nephew Caligula, who made his horse a Senator and had entire sections of the crowd thrown to the lions out of boredom, Claudius can not help but seem refreshingly sane and humane. Claudius’s grandmother, Livia, is depicted as a devious schemer and poisoner, but Claudius even managed to be fair to her. Though he disliked her as much as she disliked him and had the good sense to be afraid of her, he tells us, “...however criminal the means used by Livia to win the direction of affairs for herself...she was an exceptionally able and just ruler” (p. 228). Livia, the real power behind Caesar Augustus Graves occasionally allows himself to give commentary through Claudius. I, Claudius was published in 1934, on the eve of World War II, and Graves doesn’t miss the opportunity to stick it to the Germans. He has Claudius’s brother, Germanicus, say, “The Germans...are the most insolent and boastful nation in the world when things go well with them, but once they are defeated they are the most cowardly and abject. Never trust a German out of your sight, but never be afraid of him when you have him face to face” (p. 249). He gives a plug to the English, too, when he lists as one of three impossible things the idea of subduing the island of Britain (p. 232). Historical fiction is always a bit risky; when it’s bad, it can be really bad, particularly when characters from hundreds of years ago talk like they’re on an MTV special. I, Claudius, however, is excellent historical fiction. The characters are believable, depicted with wit and even a touch of modern relevance. There is the added bonus that modern taxation doesn’t seem nearly so onerous when compared to Caligula’s, when he imposed “a tax...on all married men for the privilege of sleeping with their wives” (p. 425). This is the kind of story that lets you imagine what it would have been like to live in a different age, and then to feel very grateful that you don’t.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    Yo, Claudio The review I really have in mind will be attempted for this book only after I finish reading Claudius the God (to quench the burning curiosity of how this ‘Clau-Clau-Claudius’, a man, who in the first shock of being made emperor had this outrageous thought come rushing to his mind - "So, I'm Emperor, am I? What nonsense! But at least I'll be able to make people read my books now.”, will conduct himself as a God-Emperor), The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Rubicon: The Last Y Yo, Claudio The review I really have in mind will be attempted for this book only after I finish reading Claudius the God (to quench the burning curiosity of how this ‘Clau-Clau-Claudius’, a man, who in the first shock of being made emperor had this outrageous thought come rushing to his mind - "So, I'm Emperor, am I? What nonsense! But at least I'll be able to make people read my books now.”, will conduct himself as a God-Emperor), The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic, so that I can apply the same criteria for reviewing any work of history, as suggested by Claudius (original source for much of Pliny's work) himself, through Livius and Pollio (all works unfortunately lost). Meanwhile, have a short and enjoyable snapshot sampling of the book by going through the-easy-to-follow family tree given below. Ah, the tales that can be told while tracing those lines…

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    I was going to write that Graves having translated The Twelve Caesars recycled the Suetonius with a dash of Tacitus and some added murders to create I Claudius - ostensibly the memoirs of the Emperor Claudius. This, however, seems to be entirely false as Graves wrote I, Claudius more than twenty years before he made that translation. He was though living on Majorca, which is not quite Capri and if isolated and obsessing over his muse not quite in Tiberian style. In my imagination then I have to p I was going to write that Graves having translated The Twelve Caesars recycled the Suetonius with a dash of Tacitus and some added murders to create I Claudius - ostensibly the memoirs of the Emperor Claudius. This, however, seems to be entirely false as Graves wrote I, Claudius more than twenty years before he made that translation. He was though living on Majorca, which is not quite Capri and if isolated and obsessing over his muse not quite in Tiberian style. In my imagination then I have to place I, Claudius back in the 1930s, a few years after this memoir of the First World War Goodbye to all that and put this portrait of an imagined secret life of an Imperial family with its incest, non-normative elective sexual activities some of which remain illegal in various countries, and family murders to gain or maintain power mentally in the context of the official rigid Victorianism of the Britain of George V. Is I, Claudius just a fictional interpretation of the really already quite turbulent Julio-Claudian dynasty, or is it worth thinking about it as the continuation of Goodbye to all that? Is this Graves drawing back the Imperial curtain and showing us the archetypal family life of all Emperors? Don't be fooled by the noble faces on the coins he says, they may not smell (view spoiler)[as Vespasian said to Titus about the money raised by a urine tax (hide spoiler)] but their daily reality is sordid all the same. Alternatively this is just some whimsy on my part and the genesis of I, Claudius was simply Graves' need to earn some pennies while living on Majorca so that he could continue to obsess over his muse in decent isolation. Anyhow this is a fun bit of historical fiction even if the reality may well have been slightly less murderous than Graves' novel since the Romans seem to have been the least shy of all earthly empires to date when it came to prematurely terminating the reigns of Emperors.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    - Ave, Imperator! - A-a-a-a-ave Manny. Heri o-o-o-ccurabamus? - Parodis Paulii Bryantii erat. - A-a-a-absit invidia. Latinam loquitis? - Googlam Translatam utiliso. - Non i-i-i-intelligo. - Malefice! Logicus coprae est. - P-p-parodis Bryantii melius erat. - Bastarde!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    There have been multiple periods of time in my life during which I developed a fascination for different historical families, usually of infamous repute. Elementary school was devoted to the Tudors, focusing heavily on the Princess Elizabeth, while middle through high school was preoccupied with the Borgias, an interest more balanced between its equally intriguing members. Every so often those fascinations will spark up again, and I will find myself consuming relevant impressively rendered ficti There have been multiple periods of time in my life during which I developed a fascination for different historical families, usually of infamous repute. Elementary school was devoted to the Tudors, focusing heavily on the Princess Elizabeth, while middle through high school was preoccupied with the Borgias, an interest more balanced between its equally intriguing members. Every so often those fascinations will spark up again, and I will find myself consuming relevant impressively rendered fiction and biographically accurate nonfiction with equal fervor. I would not be able to tell you why these subjects had attracted me while I was young, but I do have a hypothesis as to why they continue to interest me today. Both the Tudors and the Borgias were at the center of major confluences in their day, and both rested in the eyes of storms largely fueled by religion. While the Borgias clawed their way to the top of the papal throne amidst vicious rumors of debauched blasphemy, the Tudors with Henry VIII as their figurehead rejected that system of belief completely in favor of one that would serve their own ends. And it is this intersection of human figures in places of immense power with religious forces, and what results, that makes for truly spellbinding tales, fictional or no. I, Claudius is an example of this theological maelstrom, but is even more striking when taken into consideration that the Emperors of Rome could be deified, whether by popular plea by the public or by the crazed hysterics of the ruler himself. Not a king in consultation with powerful people both religious and otherwise, nor a pope equipped with papal infallibility in the spiritual sense. A god. The effect that this mentality must have had on its believers is not fully explored, as Claudius is not one for psychological profiles or sociocultural analysis. His two interests throughout the story are largely restricted to the realms of historical recountal and simple survival, as his family discredits, banishes, poisons, and pushes to suicide any member they deem in their way. I do not blame him in the slightest, but I cannot help but wish that there was more to the story than the bare facts and occasional personal inputs that Claudius limited himself to. Or I suppose the matter would have fallen to Graves, seeing as this for all its evidence of substantial research is a work of fiction. For the potential of deification works its way into the heart of every major player, beginning with Augustus' boasts of his relations to the deified Julius Caeser, and ending with Caligula's assumption of the role of any god or goddess, a decision dictated only by his increasingly errant and murderous behavior. Of special note is Livia Drusilla, the wife of Augustus, who of all the characters proved to be the most controversially engaging. Her first manipulation on a grand scale removes her from her first husband and places her at the side of Augustus, then called Octavian, an enemy of her family that drove her father to suicide. From thereon out she is strongly present in the ruling of the Roman Empire, a time when women were banned from the senate and widowed mothers were placed under the guardianship of their own sons. She goes to any lengths without any seeming sentiment in order to ensure the health of the Empire, a health that she believes can be maintained only by her line. When considering her considerable prowess in ruling through Augustus, this was not a bad assumption to make at all. (view spoiler)[However, despite all her seemingly monstrous disregard for the members of her family, she calls the previously reviled and ignored Claudius to her deathbed and makes him promise that she, like her husband, will be deified upon her death. She spent nearly her entire life working to bring the Empire out of bloody civil war and into an age of Emperor ruled peace and prosperity, but she does not believe that this will save her from the fires of the underworld. The only thing that can save her from punishment for poisoning and banishing multitudes, many of them members of her own family, is to make her a god. (hide spoiler)] In fact, I would have preferred reading the story from her point of view, if it were not for that fact Claudius survived her and lived to see the tumultuous reigns of her son Tiberius and her grandson Caligula. It is through his eyes that one is able to see that, while Livia was a masterful player at the game of all-powerful leadership, she did not give much thought to the psychological damage she was wreaking on those she expected to continue her rule, or how they would manage to cope without her complete control of the realm. If she had, it is hard to say how the history of Western Roman Empire would have evolved. My bets are on that it would not have ended with Nero, and maybe would even have continued for far longer than it ended up doing. That is pure conjecture, though. What is not is that the book ends with Claudius becoming Emperor, whose story is continued in Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina. Based on the brief insights into his character that he chose to insert into his historical account, within the academically inclined soul of his there lies some small worms of grandeur, lofty views of himself that so far his career of pandering and pretending have not substantiated. It will be interesting to see whether these worms grow any, and how they express themselves when his hands grasp the reins of the Empire and they are let loose on a much wider field of play. He is the newest member of this train of deified royalty, and how he chooses to handles this powerful mantle remains to be seen.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Luke Peterson

    Best book I'd read in years. I, Claudius is a brilliantly written piece of historical fiction from the perspective of a hapless-yet-intelligent black sheep of the Julio-Claudian house during the Augustan era of the Roman Empire who stumbles his way through to survive the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, and Caligula only to be made emperor himself. At times hilarious, others disturbing, very interesting all the way through, Robert Graves wrote a masterpiece with this. I challenge anyone to read 'I, Best book I'd read in years. I, Claudius is a brilliantly written piece of historical fiction from the perspective of a hapless-yet-intelligent black sheep of the Julio-Claudian house during the Augustan era of the Roman Empire who stumbles his way through to survive the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, and Caligula only to be made emperor himself. At times hilarious, others disturbing, very interesting all the way through, Robert Graves wrote a masterpiece with this. I challenge anyone to read 'I, Claudius' who doesn't at least begin the less-favored sequel (Claudius the God) at its conclusion. In my opinion, this book should be required reading in high school world history courses. It is dirty and violent enough to hold the interest of any hormonal teenage boys, has enough intrigue and behind-closed-doors politicking to trap the attention of young women. I finished this book and began a year-long dive into all the Roman history I could find, culminating in a vacation to the Eternal City in November '06.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    I like I, Claudius a lot, but what is it? It's a slow character study of subtle, canny Claudius, who's one of the most likable protagonists I've read recently. Self-deprecating and brilliant, he's more proactive than he chooses to mention. It's a history lesson, but not a trustworthy one. This is a good example of something I think of as the Nero Rule. Nero, see, put cages on poles and set Christians on fire in them and used them as streetlights. He probably didn't, actually, but that's a cool sto I like I, Claudius a lot, but what is it? It's a slow character study of subtle, canny Claudius, who's one of the most likable protagonists I've read recently. Self-deprecating and brilliant, he's more proactive than he chooses to mention. It's a history lesson, but not a trustworthy one. This is a good example of something I think of as the Nero Rule. Nero, see, put cages on poles and set Christians on fire in them and used them as streetlights. He probably didn't, actually, but that's a cool story. There are lots of cool stories in history - did you know how Alexander the Great died? Aristotle poisoned him! - and most of them aren't true or at least can't be verified. So responsible history tends to be a little more boring, but if you want to be sure about what happened, there you go. I, Claudius is like a master class in Nero Rule History: if it probably didn't happen, it's in here. It's basically impossible to keep all the characters straight, and after trying really hard to do so I guess my advice to you would be don't bother. You'll learn the major characters - Livia, Tiberius, Germanicus, Claudius himself - and the rest...whatever. Here's a chart I referred to constantly, but it did me no good. I found it best to enjoy it without overthinking it. Loads of exciting things happen. Claudius is a master of the soft approach - redirecting attacks instead of countering them. It's not great history, but it's great fun.

  13. 4 out of 5

    David Sarkies

    A fictional autobiography of a Roman Emperor 23 February 2015 Well, here is another historical novel that I actually quite enjoyed, but that may be because, unlike most historical novels that deal with fictional characters placed in an historical time period, this deals with real characters, namely the Imperial Family from the establishment of the empire to the ascension of Claudius to the throne. As can be seen by the title, the main character is the emperor Claudius before he became emperor (th A fictional autobiography of a Roman Emperor 23 February 2015 Well, here is another historical novel that I actually quite enjoyed, but that may be because, unlike most historical novels that deal with fictional characters placed in an historical time period, this deals with real characters, namely the Imperial Family from the establishment of the empire to the ascension of Claudius to the throne. As can be seen by the title, the main character is the emperor Claudius before he became emperor (the story of when he was emperor is the subject of the sequel Claudius the God). I appears that Graves stuck quite close to the two major sources we have on this time period, namely Suetonius and Tacitus, though he also used a lot of poetic license since a much of the book deals with the interactions of Claudius with many of the other major figures at the time (though he does footnote a couple of things, such a Nero, since we are likely to think he is the emperor Nero when he isn't). Okay, the book did drag a bit in the middle, but it began to pick up again when Caligula ascended the throne and we begin to see how the power went to his head. Claudius is an interesting character, which is why Graves chose him as the subject of the novel. He suggests it is because he gives us a good sweep of the early imperial period, something that Augustus and Tiberius don't, and Nero and Calligula are simply too obsessed with power to be able to adequately write from their point of view. Also, Graves suggests, since Claudius was also a writer (then again most Emperors were), he felt that writing a history from his point of view would be the most plausible. This, of course, is despite the fact that he is a cripple and a stutterer, however that does not necessarily mean that he is neither unaware of the world around him, nor eloquent in the use of the written word. One of the things that struck me as I read this book was the idea of how the transition of an empire from a non-functional democracy to a dictatorship does not necessarily bring about better times for the subjects. I decided that instead of discussing that to a large extent here it would be better to have a look at a couple of case studies – namely France and Rome – in my blog (and I will link the two posts below). However, I will say a few things about the period after the fall of the Republic here because it does relate closely to this book. Now I, and probably many others, would consider Augustus to be a benevolent dictator. At the time of his ascension the Republic had effectively collapsed into warring factions and Augustus, after dispatching his enemies, brought about stability and peace to the empire under his rule. While he remained in control the ancient historians seem to hold him in high regard and do not indicate that he ever abused his power. From what it appears Rome once again began to prosper under his rule and the average person on the street got a pretty good deal. However that all changed when he died because while Tiberius began as a reasonably benevolent ruler he did not remain that way. As it is suggested, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. As Graves points out, Tiberius became a sexual deviant and in fact pretty much had sex with whomever he chose, and because he was emperor nobody could actually say no. It is even suggested that women committed suicide rather than living with the thought of having been violated by him. Calligula went one step worse – he was outright insane. In a way he was like a spoilt brat that never grew up (much like a certain King Joffrey whom I believe nobody actually likes). In Calligua's mind, the Roman Empire was his and his alone to do with what he wished. All property belonged to him, and if anybody even showed a hint of wanting to do away with him, they would be executed (and Tiberius was much the same – he quite enjoyed throwing people off of the Tarpeian Rock). Calligula did end up meeting a rather sticky end, and since he had pretty much dispatched all of his rivals, there was only one person left to rule – poor old Claudius. In a way Graves does very really in crafting his character, and in many ways to begin to empathise with them. He is born a cripple and treated like an idiot, yet manages to survive two brutal dictatorships to find himself inheriting the throne by default. It is also interesting that despite Caligula being put to the sword, his assassins decide that returning to the Republic would not be the best for the future of Rome and instead decide to put what they consider to be a harmless, and mailable, person on the throne. My case study on the French Revolution can be found here. My case study on the Fall of the Roman Republic can be found here.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Raul Bimenyimana

    This was fun reading! It reminded me of the 'A Song of Fire and Ice' series. Claudius, is a stammering lame fellow whose disabilities and weaknesses bring him both mockery and his salvation in a family plagued with scheming, deceit, betrayal, poisoning, the lust for power and the like. The humour and action in the book makes it a great page turner and Livia has become one of my favourite villains of all time.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sara Jesus

    Uma narrativa histórica que aborda o período contrurbado do Império Romano. Roma descrita por Cláudio, desprezada e visto pela sua família como um bobo e imbecil. Através dos seus olhos exploramos o reinado dos imperadores Augusto, Tibério e Calígula. Deslumbra-nos com os episódios sanguinários e de extrema crueldade estimulados de intrigas palacianas. Germânico, o sábio imperador Augusto e a sua malvada mulher Lívia nos supreendem com a sua audácia. Cláudio torna-se muito mais do que a caricat Uma narrativa histórica que aborda o período contrurbado do Império Romano. Roma descrita por Cláudio, desprezada e visto pela sua família como um bobo e imbecil. Através dos seus olhos exploramos o reinado dos imperadores Augusto, Tibério e Calígula. Deslumbra-nos com os episódios sanguinários e de extrema crueldade estimulados de intrigas palacianas. Germânico, o sábio imperador Augusto e a sua malvada mulher Lívia nos supreendem com a sua audácia. Cláudio torna-se muito mais do que a caricatura que fazem dele, sobrevive ao sadismo de Tibério e a loucura de Calígula por saber manobrar magnificamente o jogo do poder. A sua cultura, o seu conhecimento e seu sentido de humor faz dele a figura mais trascendente da época dos imperadores. Eu, Cláudio representa a luta audaz pelo poder supremo. Demonstra que um grande império é sustendado não de riquezas mas de sangue dos inocentes.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sinem A.

    Tarih kitabı olmasına rağmen öğretici ama sıkıcı değil ve kurgu olmasına rağmen yavan bir kitap değil. Kitap boyunca - özellikle konuya merakı olanların ilgisini ayakta tutmayı başarıyor. Yazarın mizahi anlatımı da oldukça etkileyici.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    It's generally accepted that I, Claudius is one of best Roman historical novels ever written. Given this, it has to be assumed that amount of research that Robert Graves did for this book would have to have been prodigious. Now, this is a novel and not an historical textbook. And if only half of it is accurate it's still a miracle that the Romans were able to create an Empire that would, to this very day, influence world history. The life of Claudius is told by Claudius, himself, as he reads his m It's generally accepted that I, Claudius is one of best Roman historical novels ever written. Given this, it has to be assumed that amount of research that Robert Graves did for this book would have to have been prodigious. Now, this is a novel and not an historical textbook. And if only half of it is accurate it's still a miracle that the Romans were able to create an Empire that would, to this very day, influence world history. The life of Claudius is told by Claudius, himself, as he reads his memoirs to the reader. And what a story it is. Being born into either the Julian or Claudian families was not something you would wish on your worst enemy. Ninety percent of either family usually ended up being brutally murdered or poisoned at a young age. The ruling families were despotic to the extreme. Every cide known to man was committed by them. Patricide, matricide, infanticide. Their sexual proclivities were only limited by their imaginations. They were either all mad or psychopaths, or both. Claudius was considered to be an idiot by the rest of his family because he was lame and had a speech impediment. Ironically Claudius was probably the most normal member of his family. There's not much here about military campagnes, the topic is touched but not in any detail. This is more about the hunger of power and the excesses that people are prepared to go to achieve it. Achieving power is only half of the battle. Holding on to it is the other half. Prepare for a blood bath. Highly recommended for lovers of historical fiction.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Carlos Bazzano

    "Al fin y al cabo no existe la historia; no hay más que la descripción de la vida." (Ralph Waldo Emerson). Pocas veces me encontré con un libro que me haya apasionado tanto como esta magnífica obra de Robert Graves que he tenido el gusto y el placer de leer, lo que resulta inaceptable es que este maravilloso libro haya quedado tanto tiempo relegado en mi estantería sin que le prestara la atención que se merece. Desde siempre, cuando escuchaba hablar de ficción histórica (o novela histórica) recue "Al fin y al cabo no existe la historia; no hay más que la descripción de la vida." (Ralph Waldo Emerson). Pocas veces me encontré con un libro que me haya apasionado tanto como esta magnífica obra de Robert Graves que he tenido el gusto y el placer de leer, lo que resulta inaceptable es que este maravilloso libro haya quedado tanto tiempo relegado en mi estantería sin que le prestara la atención que se merece. Desde siempre, cuando escuchaba hablar de ficción histórica (o novela histórica) recuerdo haber oído hablar sobre un Señor Libro titulado Yo, Claudio, que era, según decían, un deleite. Lo encontré en una librería, lo compré y ahí quedó olvidado en mi estantería, hasta que este año impulsado por el disfrute que me produjo la lectura de la novela Juliano el Apóstata de Gore Vidal, libro que el mismo autor reconoce estar escrito tomando como referencia al de Robert Graves, resolví desempolvarlo y leerlo. No pude haber tomado una mejor decisión al respecto. En esta magnífica novela Robert Graves nos traslada a la primera época del Imperio Romano, si bien los inicios de la época imperial ya han pasado, estamos en el germen de aquello que llegó a ser el mismo con posterioridad. Claudio, relegado por la familia a un segundo plano a causa de su cojera y su tartamudeo, se toma el trabajo de contarnos su vida, desde su nacimiento hasta el momento en que, inesperadamente, es elevado al trono imperial. Robert Graves se sirve así de una voz autorizada, al tratarse de un testigo de primera mano, para relatarnos los avatares y pormenores de los reinados de Augusto, Tiberio y Calígula, relatándonos tanto la situación general y política del imperio (a veces con demasiados detalles), los pormenores de la vida doméstica y sus quehaceres personales. En este punto debo señalar que no han de confundirse las cosas. Esta es una novela no una obra histórica, pero ello no impidió a Robert Graves documentarse exhaustivamente para escribir tanto esta obra como su secuela, por ello debe entenderse que ciertos hechos pudieran ser ficticios. En puridad, salvo por las crónicas que han sobrevivido de ese tiempo, no tenemos forma de conocer muchas cosas, imagínense si ya resulta difícil la escritura de un libro bien documentado sobre eventos ocurridos cincuenta años atrás cuanto más lo será respecto a una época tan remota como la del Imperio Romano. Así pues, el diario del emperador Claudio, es en realidad una construcción maravillosa derivada de la imaginación portentosa de Robert Graves y del hábil trabajo de documentación que éste realizó. Aunado a lo expuesto al final del párrafo anterior he de decir que, si bien esta es una obra de ficción y muchos hechos pueden ser ficticios, el autor nos los relata con altas dosis de realismo, ya que mucho de lo expuesto ha sido corroborado en otras excelentes obras de no ficción, como la biografía de Augusto escrita por Anthony Everitt (Augusto: el primer emperador, reseña aquí), como ser por ejemplo, el divorcio de Tiberio y Vipsania y el hecho de que éste siguiera enamorado de la misma mucho después de su divorcio y el exilio voluntario de éste. Resulta extraordinaria la habilidad de Graves para trabajar con datos históricos y sobreponerlos a los ficticios, para trabajar el carácter y la complejidad de cada personaje (si bien ya contaba con apoyo de obras históricas para tal menester) y, por sobre todo, para relatar evento tras evento en un libro de casi 600 páginas sin abrumar con la cantidad de datos, ni aburrir tan solo un instante. Ciertamente loor a quien loor se merese: Robert Graves fue portento. Por otra parte, la caracterización de Claudio es magnífica, su personalidad es tan rica, tan compleja, y todo ello está tan bien trabajado que incluso nosotros que vivimos 2000 años después, tras leer este libro podemos decir que conocemos a Claudio como quien lo ha tratado toda la vida. Más allá de la historia del Imperio Romano que se nos cuenta, considero que Claudio es un ejemplo de perseverancia y superación de las adversidades. Su cojera, su tartamudez, el desprecio de su familia que lo consideraba un ser abyecto, afectado de epilepsia, las burlas hacia su persona de parte de su propia madre cuando no era más que un niño, no le impidieron llegar a ser un estudiante brillante, un gran estadista, un buen estratega militar, y un emperador razonablemente bueno, las fuentes que he consultado le reconocen diversos logros al frente de la administración de un estado tan colosal como lo era el romano. Si dejamos de lado su azarosa vida privada (se casó en cuatro ocasiones), puede decirse que fue un buen gobernante, mejor que muchos de la actualidad. En ciertas partes he de decir el libro se torna un tanto pesado y la lectura cansa un poquito, pero no me malentiendan, de ninguna manera resulta aburrida, sino que en partes pareciera como que estamos leyendo una antigua crónica repleta de detalles y nombres más que el relato de los hechos acontecidos, pero pienso que es parte de la riqueza de la obra. Como soy un romanófilo empedernido esta obra me permitió conocer más de cerca a un emperador del que siempre había oído hablar bien, ahora iré en busca de buenas obras de no ficción acerca del mismo a fin de profundizar dicho conocimiento. Más allá de todo, es la primera vez que veo a un emperador romano retratado como un simple ser humano, olvidado, relegado, afectado de diversas taras y sin ese carácter todopoderoso con que la figura sería tratada a posteriori, Gore Vidal procede de manera similar con Juliano, pero el mismo exagera ciertas habilidades de su personaje, lo magnifica en ciertos puntos y da a entender que estaba destinado a reinar y por ello todos los caminos se le abrían. No sucedió eso con Claudio a quien su fama de "tonto" le evitó la muerte y llegó a emperador muy a su pesar. Por todo eso, empaticé con Claudio como no lo hice con ningún otro emperador. ¿Quieren conocer como era la vida cotidiana en los primeros tiempos del Imperio? Den una oportunidad a este libro y permitan que Robert Graves y Claudio los guíen en los entresijos del poder romano, conocerán de primera mano las conspiraciones, las tramas ocultas y todo aquello que sucedía de puertas para adentro. Si gustan de la novela histórica este libro, que ha venido a ser un verdadero clásico del siglo XX, es imprescindible. Lectura altamente recomendada.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    In 1977 (oh my, how time flies), Masterpiece Theater presented a BBC production of I, Claudius. The production included the events of both of Graves Claudius novels and featured a cast that would include some of the best actors of the century, among them Derek Jacobi, an unforgettable Claudius. After watching it, I read Robert Graves novel from which its name was derived, but never got around to the second half of the story, Claudius the God. Fast forward to today, and I am at last revisiting th In 1977 (oh my, how time flies), Masterpiece Theater presented a BBC production of I, Claudius. The production included the events of both of Graves Claudius novels and featured a cast that would include some of the best actors of the century, among them Derek Jacobi, an unforgettable Claudius. After watching it, I read Robert Graves novel from which its name was derived, but never got around to the second half of the story, Claudius the God. Fast forward to today, and I am at last revisiting the first novel in anticipation of reading the second. What an amazing piece of historical fiction this is! I do not think bringing this era to life and making it relatable is easy, but Robert Graves makes it seem so. What an unlikely hero is the stammering, crippled Claudius, but what a clear-sighted and good man he is, despite his times. How can you keep your sanity when there is so much arbitrary killing? Was there ever a more villainous villain than Livia? A more reprehensible madman than Caligula? A less insightful dupe than Augustus? No wonder Rome fell. At the end of this novel we have just been introduced to the lady, Messalina. I know what awaits me in volume two and I am looking forward to it. Lord preserve us from ourselves.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kiwi Begs2Differ ✎

    A work of historical fiction as it should be: entertaining but based on solid research, including accurate dates and places. The book narrative is in the first-person, as if Claudius were writing his autobiography, complete with Homeric references and Latin vocabulary. Although its stated purpose is of a biography, the story is rich with many historical figures related to the Julio-Claudian family line. Claudius’ observations on these characters provide interesting behind-the-scene information o A work of historical fiction as it should be: entertaining but based on solid research, including accurate dates and places. The book narrative is in the first-person, as if Claudius were writing his autobiography, complete with Homeric references and Latin vocabulary. Although its stated purpose is of a biography, the story is rich with many historical figures related to the Julio-Claudian family line. Claudius’ observations on these characters provide interesting behind-the-scene information of his family which Claudius divides in apples types: good apples and crab. There are plenty of murders, exiles, political plots, conquest (and defeats), often the tragic events are alternated with comic episodes, all these elements makes history come to life. Graves’ passion for classical history and mythology is clear; he had intended to study Classics at Oxford University and in later years studied and translated a number of classical literary works. He himself was a poet as well as a great novelist. The detailed story can be overwhelming with the number of characters presented and their genealogy, so my recommendation is to have a Julian-Claudian family tree reference handy. Another tip is not to use the audiobook version narrated by Frederick Davidson, the Latin pronunciation is terrible. I recommend this book to anyone with a curiosity or interest into Roman history. Edit October 2015 Upped my rating to 5. This book has become a favourite and, in practice, my paragon for historical fiction, I have yet to find another one quite like it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    I am a fan of anything to do with the Roman Empire. I find it endlessly fascinating how much of their systems of law and politics we continue to use and the amount of their language that is still a part of our lives. As the intention must obviously have been, seeing as the point of view is from Claudius writing a history, this book is heavy on the facts and chronicles of events. Though it is written with a personal opinion on the characters, as Claudius is their contemporary. I found the style o I am a fan of anything to do with the Roman Empire. I find it endlessly fascinating how much of their systems of law and politics we continue to use and the amount of their language that is still a part of our lives. As the intention must obviously have been, seeing as the point of view is from Claudius writing a history, this book is heavy on the facts and chronicles of events. Though it is written with a personal opinion on the characters, as Claudius is their contemporary. I found the style of story very successful. It was engrossing and captivating, however I did find myself getting a little confused about the family tree after a bit. Definitely a great way to soak up a little information about the Romans and while away a few afternoons of summer.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore

    Historical fiction is a genre I quite enjoy and this was a group read I was really looking forward to. Graves tells us, in the voice of Claudius (himself a historian and writer of many books), the story of the Roman civilisation from the days of Augustus to when Claudius himself is appointed Emperor. It doesn’t take long to realise that “civilisation” is rather a misnomer (one sort of knows that already, of course, especially from the gladiators and other “entertainments”), for though there is t Historical fiction is a genre I quite enjoy and this was a group read I was really looking forward to. Graves tells us, in the voice of Claudius (himself a historian and writer of many books), the story of the Roman civilisation from the days of Augustus to when Claudius himself is appointed Emperor. It doesn’t take long to realise that “civilisation” is rather a misnomer (one sort of knows that already, of course, especially from the gladiators and other “entertainments”), for though there is the writing of history, philosophy, theatre, and the arts, there are constant power struggles (from subtler ones to the far more overt), conspiracies, and murders—and these are just the more benign events compared to the complete madness that some of the Emperors—Tiberius once he is freed of Livia’s power, and Caligula, pretty much throughout his life as one comes to realise—unleash on people. Some were good rulers, their targets only being those that were a threat to their authority but with the kind and extent of the depravities and sadism in others, one is pretty much left speechless. I couldn’t decide who was worse, and the “villain” of more than the first half of the book (the cold, calculating kind), seems almost benign compared to some of those we encounter in the latter parts. This was not a time when might necessarily helped one survive (in fact it probably brought one’s end sooner) and for Claudius, some good advice and what he might have found hard to bear for most of his life that ended up saving it. This book definitely horrifies and sends chills down one’s spine more than once, but at the same time is an excellent read because of Claudius’ voice which is of a historian (matter of fact much of the time) but also human, of a person present at most events, and part of them. Especially when one realises (what I did forget when reading it) that Claudius didn’t actually write this!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sine

    hem soyağacındaki isim benzerlikleri, hem de akraba evlilikleri nedeniyle oldukça karmaşık olabilecek bir konuyu çok keyifli ve akıcı anlatmış yazar. yüzyıllık yalnızlık'ta bile soyağacına bir iki kere bakan ben, internetten bulduğum bir soyağacını kendim çizip kitabın arasına koyup sürekli açıp baktım. bu anlamda biraz zorluyor ama zamanla alışıyorsunuz elbette, zaten birkaç imparatorun dönemini kapsayan bir anlatı olduğu için artık o isimde beş kişi de olsa dönem itibariyle hangi isim olduğunu hem soyağacındaki isim benzerlikleri, hem de akraba evlilikleri nedeniyle oldukça karmaşık olabilecek bir konuyu çok keyifli ve akıcı anlatmış yazar. yüzyıllık yalnızlık'ta bile soyağacına bir iki kere bakan ben, internetten bulduğum bir soyağacını kendim çizip kitabın arasına koyup sürekli açıp baktım. bu anlamda biraz zorluyor ama zamanla alışıyorsunuz elbette, zaten birkaç imparatorun dönemini kapsayan bir anlatı olduğu için artık o isimde beş kişi de olsa dönem itibariyle hangi isim olduğunu anlayabiliyorsunuz filan... hem bittiği yer itibariyle bir bütün, hem de devamını oldukça merak ediyorsunuz -500 sayfalık böyle yorucu bir romanın ardından elimde hazır bulunsa devamına hemen başlardım hissini bana her seri vermiyor açıkçası. tarih ve/veya roma severlerin mutlaka okumasını tavsiye ederim diyerek noktalayayım, biraz ucuz roma bileti bakıp kederlenmek istiyorum zira.

  24. 4 out of 5

    awesomatik.de

    Endlich fertig! Ich dachte schon das wird nix mehr. Dieses Buch sollte man auf jeden Fall so gut es geht am Stück lesen, sonst ist es die reine Qual, denn "I,Claudius" ist eigentlich keine Geschichte sondern eher eine endlose Aneinanderreihung von geschichtlichen Anekdoten, die teilweise historisch belegt und teilweise fiktiv sind. Auf knapp 400 Seiten kommen und gehen mehrere hundert Charaktere mit komplizierten lateinischen Namen. Es wird gemeuchelt und vergiftet, intrigiert und gefoltert was Endlich fertig! Ich dachte schon das wird nix mehr. Dieses Buch sollte man auf jeden Fall so gut es geht am Stück lesen, sonst ist es die reine Qual, denn "I,Claudius" ist eigentlich keine Geschichte sondern eher eine endlose Aneinanderreihung von geschichtlichen Anekdoten, die teilweise historisch belegt und teilweise fiktiv sind. Auf knapp 400 Seiten kommen und gehen mehrere hundert Charaktere mit komplizierten lateinischen Namen. Es wird gemeuchelt und vergiftet, intrigiert und gefoltert was das Zeug hält. Das ganze verpackt als Memoiren des Kaisers Claudius, der aber so gut wie gar nicht in Erscheinung tritt. Viel mehr geht es um das Leben und Sterben der gesamten imperialen Familie von Julius Caesar bis zum titelgebenden Claudius. Und das so gut wie ohne wörtliche Rede! Der Horror. Eigentlich wollte ich das Buch nach 50 Seiten wegwerfen, da ich keine Lust hatte mir die drölfhundert Charaktere zu merken aber dann haben mich die Machenschaften der intriganten Livia doch in ihren Bann gezogen. Fortan wurde die Lektüre zu einer Art Hassliebe. Der Mittelteil war die reine Qual das letzte Drittel mit der Herrschaft des wunderbar verrückten und grausamen Caligula schon wieder recht unterhaltsam. Robert Graves hat in jedem Fall eine sensationelle Arbeit abgeliefert, die eigentlich locker fünf Sterne verdient hätte, wenn sie nicht so mühsam zu lesen wäre. Wer hier einen historischen Roman erwartet, wird enttäuscht sein. Wer sich aber auf das Experiment einlassen kann, wird ein historisch fundiertes und gleichzeitig phantasiereiches Werk lesen, das einem das römische Reich mit viel (Galgen)Humor in all seiner Herrlichkeit und Grausamkeit nahe bringt. PS: die Lektüre war für mich Vergleichbar mit Bill Brysons "Eine kurze Geschichte von fast allem", das ich irgendwann aufgegeben hatte, weil es so detailreich war. Super geschrieben und unterhaltsam aber nach dreißig Seiten hatte ich die ersten zehn schon wieder vergessen.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Smitha

    [2.5 stars] Oh, Claudius. I tried to comprehend , but perhaps my 21st century brain is differently wired so as to make sense of the various intrigues, conspiracies, counter-conspiracies, political friendships which suddenly turn into violent enmity,and often vice versa. I also could not fathom your very intricate family tree, which was rife with marriage between relations, incest, polygamy and polyandry. The way you people changed, added or subtracted spouses at the turn of your hats also confuse [2.5 stars] Oh, Claudius. I tried to comprehend , but perhaps my 21st century brain is differently wired so as to make sense of the various intrigues, conspiracies, counter-conspiracies, political friendships which suddenly turn into violent enmity,and often vice versa. I also could not fathom your very intricate family tree, which was rife with marriage between relations, incest, polygamy and polyandry. The way you people changed, added or subtracted spouses at the turn of your hats also confused me. At times I was not sure who was friends with whom, who was plotting against whom, and who was killing whom. I failed to understand the plots in themselves. Still I persevered with your book because I found you a gentle and truthful person, and I wanted to see how you penned the history of the then illustrious Rome. I am impressed by your clarity of mind, loyalty and sharp intellect. But I confess that I am still not much wise about the history of Rome. If anyone asks me to summarise this book, I will just be able to quote names - Augustus, Livia, Claudius, Julia, Germanicus, Drusilla, Urgullania (not sure of this one though), Tiberius, Caligula, Jullilla, and a few others. But who belongs to whom, who hates whom, who fathered/mothered whom, and what is the final tally - my feeble mind remembers not. Some day, I am sure I will again read a book on Rome. And then, if I really wish to learn more, I may come back and read your script. But somehow, I doubt I will do that. Adieu, Claudius

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andy Dowling

    This thing is basically 'The Wire' in togas. It has much of the complex plotting, political positioning, warring and double crossing of that show, with a bit of incest and poisoning thrown in for good measure. A lot of poisoning actually. If the amount of poisoning in this book is at all historically accurate, then the Romans must have experienced the same abject terror sitting down to every meal, which we in modern life are thankfully now only exposed to when faced with no option but to use a K This thing is basically 'The Wire' in togas. It has much of the complex plotting, political positioning, warring and double crossing of that show, with a bit of incest and poisoning thrown in for good measure. A lot of poisoning actually. If the amount of poisoning in this book is at all historically accurate, then the Romans must have experienced the same abject terror sitting down to every meal, which we in modern life are thankfully now only exposed to when faced with no option but to use a KFC drive-thru. Some of the story is a little dry, but more often than not the narrator admits that himself and moves on. Also all the us-es can be confusing to keep track of; himus married herus and gave birth to thisus or thatus but also adopted whatshisfaceus who her son by another guyus (actually that really is one.) It's worth stickin with it I think, just for Caligula who is one of histories great, terrible and I'm ashamed to say, occasionally pretty funny fruit loops. Think Charlie Sheen post meltdown, times a billion, elected President.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Jones

    Absolutely one of the worst books I ever read. I will never understand its popularity. Historical fiction at its worst. No themes, no depth, no undertones. Graves simply regurgitates facts and characters from 1st Century Roman high society.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Maryana Pinchuk

    This is a re-read for me; I found it at my parents' house while visiting over Thanksgiving — the same dog-eared copy I had first read in high school — and just like the first time, despite the heavy subject matter, it was a pretty easy and breezy read. I devoured it in less than 2 days. While it was less of a page-turner knowing all the twists and intrigues that were to come, the second reading gave me a new appreciation for the tension Graves strikes, on the one hand titillating the reader with This is a re-read for me; I found it at my parents' house while visiting over Thanksgiving — the same dog-eared copy I had first read in high school — and just like the first time, despite the heavy subject matter, it was a pretty easy and breezy read. I devoured it in less than 2 days. While it was less of a page-turner knowing all the twists and intrigues that were to come, the second reading gave me a new appreciation for the tension Graves strikes, on the one hand titillating the reader with some of the juiciest (and most disgusting) royal family gossip in all of history, and on the other filtering it through an extremely tiresome, pedantic, and wholly un-gossipy narrator, the bookish Claudius, who prefers to skim prudishly over the excess and drama of his illustrious family and linger instead on long-winded descriptions of obscure battles and historical minutiae. Graves, basically outing Claudius as a stand-in for himself, announces in the preface that his aim was just that — not to entertain the reader, but to educate them on the real history of the period. My dad, who was the reason for the book resurfacing again in my life by leaving it out on the living room coffee table, said he gave up on it for that very reason; for him, Graves succeeded a little too well. For me, though, there was an esoteric pleasure in this technique of withholding. It was fun to try to peek around the corners of Claudius's stuffy worldview and catch glimpses of the really good dirt hiding in the cracks of the narrative. What I didn't like, as much now as the first time I read it, was the sexism and very overt homophobia — the latter not just because it is generally distasteful to me, but because it casts a jarringly anachronistic light into this otherwise reasonably believable immersion into Ancient Rome. Of all the Decidedly Not Very Nice people in the novel, it is the women whom Claudius speaks of with true venom, particularly his grandmother Livia. He also suffers from a serious virgin/whore complex (all the women in the book are either terrible debauched hags or virginal, girlish saints), and Graves even goes so far as to resort to the laziest of literary tropes, the hooker with the heart of gold (actually, there are two of them!), who inexplicably shares a deep connection and bordering-on-magical wisdom with Claudius whenever he is in need. Roman women were indeed subjugated to the men of their society and treated practically as chattel, so Claudius's lack of empathy or connection with women except on a sexual property level isn't too strange. And there is one pathos-ridden passage where the progressive side of Claudius breaks through and he relays just how shitty their end of the stick really was, which makes this all somewhat forgivable. But as for the depiction of homosexuality... in a world where babies' brains are dashed on rocks because of the crimes of their parents, and slaves' eyes are gouged out by live lobsters, Claudius considers consensual sex between two men the most despicable, unmentionable crime of all. (Homosexuality among women is treated so cartoonishly — big manly dyke loves tiny elfish woman, haha — that it's beneath my contempt.) Needless to say, it's incredibly hard to sustain the belief that a real Roman would feel this way, and not a puritanical Victorian — which Graves very clearly was. But I suppose it's in character for a historian to fall prey to his own myopia, and too much to ask for a Classical view from nowhere. Objections aside, this is a fun way to learn about Roman history, the side of it your high school Latin teacher may have been reluctant to linger on...

  29. 4 out of 5

    Karla

    Re-read after 15 years. It wasn't as good as I remember, but the audiobook narrator occasionally irritated me with his delivery so that might have had something to do with it. I'll actually re-read the sequel Claudius the God and see if the written word has a different effect. I also re-read this concurrently with watching the 1976 miniseries for a long long overdue first time ever, enjoying it more than the book version. It's highly doubtful I'll ever unsee Brian Blessed as Augustus & John H Re-read after 15 years. It wasn't as good as I remember, but the audiobook narrator occasionally irritated me with his delivery so that might have had something to do with it. I'll actually re-read the sequel Claudius the God and see if the written word has a different effect. I also re-read this concurrently with watching the 1976 miniseries for a long long overdue first time ever, enjoying it more than the book version. It's highly doubtful I'll ever unsee Brian Blessed as Augustus & John Hurt as Caligula. They are historical canon to me. Despite all this Julio-Claudian gorging, I still can't get enough of those dysfunctional, inbred miscreants. I know some historians get in a snit at Graves' use of Suetonius and other biased & gossipy sources, but it makes for some fantabulously page-turning primetime-soap-in-togas trash. And that's all that matters in my world. Wheeeeeee!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Shyam

    I shouldn’t say this, but it might be the only show where the TV version is better than the original novel. —Mary Beard __________ All I want now is to know the truth. I am a professional historian and the one thing that really interests me is to find out how things happen and why. Finishing my annual summer rewatch of HBO's Rome this year, I decided to follow it by reading Graves' I, Claudius novels, rather than watching the TV adaptation, as I sometimes did. One thing that the original does bett I shouldn’t say this, but it might be the only show where the TV version is better than the original novel. —Mary Beard __________ All I want now is to know the truth. I am a professional historian and the one thing that really interests me is to find out how things happen and why. Finishing my annual summer rewatch of HBO's Rome this year, I decided to follow it by reading Graves' I, Claudius novels, rather than watching the TV adaptation, as I sometimes did. One thing that the original does better than the adaptation is relating events with greater detail, particularly when it comes to the East; but, excepting this (and, perhaps, the fact that my view is bound to be coloured by the fact that I viewed the show first), I think I have to agree with Professor Beard, and favour the series. Where the novels are sometimes dull, the show is nothing of the sort: great acting, by a greater cast; a truly masterful adaptation. __________ I, Claudius She laughed. ‘Well, then, Claudius, tell me what do you do all day if you can’t run about with the other boys.’ ‘I read, mostly, and write. I have read scores of books this year already and it’s only June. This one’s Greek.’ Then Livy saw me. ‘Hullo, my friend, how goes it? Do you know the famous Asinius Pollio?’ I saluted them and Pollio said: ‘What’s that you’re reading, boy? Trash, I’ll be bound, by the shamefaced way you hide it. Young fellows nowadays read only trash.’ He turned to Livy: I bet you ten gold pieces that it’s some wretched “Art of Love”, or Arcadian pastoral nonsense, or something of that sort.’ ‘I’ll take the bet,’ said Livy. ‘Young Claudius is not that sort of young man at all. Well, Claudius, which of us wins?’ I said, stammering, to Pollio: ‘I’m glad to say, sir, that you lose.’ Pollio frowned angrily at me; ‘What’s that you say? Glad that I lose eh? Is that a proper way to speak to an old man like me, and a senator too?’ I said: ‘I said it in all respect, sir. I am glad that you lose. I should not like to hear this book called trash. It’s your own history of the Civil Wars and, if I may venture to praise it, a very fine book indeed.’ Pollio’s face changed. He beamed and chuckled and pulled out his purse, pressing the coins on Livy. Livy, with whom he seemed on terms of friendly animosity — if you know what I mean — refused them with mock-serious insistence. ‘My dear Pollio, I couldn’t possibly take the money. You were quite right: these young fellows now-a-days read the most wretched stuff. Not another word, please: I agree that I’ve lost the bet. Here are ten gold pieces of my own and I’m glad to pay them.’ Pollio appealed to me. ‘Now, sir — I don’t know who you are but you seem to be a lad of sense — have you read our friend Livy’s work? I appeal to you, isn’t that at least trashier writing than mine?’ I smiled. ‘Well, at least it’s easier to read.’ ‘Easier, eh? How’s that?’ ‘He makes the people of Ancient Rome behave and talk as if they were alive now.’ Pollio was delighted. ‘He has you there, Livy, on your weakest spot. You credit the Romans of seven centuries ago with impossibly modern motives and habits and speeches. Yes, it’s readable all right, but it’s not history.’ '[Homer's] a most overrated author. I am going to have his poems called in and burned.' . . . 'Is your sacred majesty going to burn any other poets beside Homer?' 'Oh, indeed, yes. All the overrated ones. Virgil for a start. He's a dull fellow. Tries to be a Homer and can't do it.' 'And any historians?' 'Yes, Livy. Still duller. Tries to be a Virgil and can't do it.’ I was the only one among them past middle-age, and did not understand the ways of the new generation at all. __________ Claudius the God I knew the names of every one of the stars in heaven and could recite all the poems that had ever been written, and had read all the books in all the libraries of the world. Personally, I think very little of the moderns, or indeed of the Augustans: their poetry does not ring true to me. To my mind Catullus was the last of the true poets. For my part, I would exchange all twelve books of Virgil's Aeneid for a single book of Ennius' Annals. Ennius, who lived in Rome's grandest Republican days and counted the great Scipio as his personal friend, was what I would call a true poet: Virgil was merely a remarkable verse-craftsman. I might claim that we Romans understand the Greeks . . . We have conquered them by our superior military strength but we have never felt ourselves their masters. We recognise that they retain the ancient virtues of their race, which goes back much farther in history than ours, and that we have lost our own ancient virtues; and the result is that we feel rather ashamed before them. 'Whenever I ran short of money', [Herod] said, 'in my needy days, I always made a point of spending all the money I had left on personal adornment — rings and cloaks and beautiful new shoes. This sent my credit up and enabled me to borrow again. I would advise you to do much the same. A little gold leaf, for example, goes a long way.’ As for the Jewish hope of the Messiah . . . There have been no subsequent pretenders to the title, though indeed the sect about which Herod wrote to me, the followers of Joshua ben Joseph, or Jesus, seems to have made considerable headway recently, even at Rome. 'Does it matter so much? After all, sex is not essential to love if there is any other strong bond between lovers, such as common idealistic pursuit of Beauty or Perfection . . . I may be an exception, but somehow sex doesn't mean much to me. '. . . I only wish this story could have had a happier ending. I have no more to say. Goodbye.’ __________ Before I forget it, I must record two valuable health hints that I learned from Xenophon. He used to say: 'The man is a fool who puts good manners before health. If you are troubled with wind, never hold it in. It does great injury to the stomach. I knew a man who once nearly killed himself by holding in his wind. If for some reason you cannot conveniently leave the room — say, you are sacrificing or addressing the senate — don't be afraid to belch or break wind downwards where you stand. Better that your company should suffer some slight inconvenience than that you should permanently injure yourself.’

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