I, Claudius

I, Claudius

by Robert Graves

Paperback(Vintage International Edition)

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Overview

Considered an idiot because of his physical infirmities, Claudius survived the intrigues and poisonings of the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, and the Mad Caligula to become emperor in 41 A.D. A masterpiece.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679724773
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/28/1989
Series: Vintage International Series
Edition description: Vintage International Edition
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 65,001
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Robert Graves (1895–1985) was a poet, novelist, and critic. His first volume of poems, Over the Brazier (1916), reflects his experiences in the trenches, and was followed by many works of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction. He is best known for his novel, I, Claudius (1934), which won the Hawthornden and James Tait Black Memorial prizes, and for his influential The White Goddess (1948).

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

[A.D. 41] I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus This-that-and-the-other (for I shall not trouble you yet with all my titles) who was once, and not so long ago either, known to my friends and relatives and associates as "Claudius the Idiot", or "That Claudius", or "Claudius the Stammerer", or "Clau-Clau-Claudius" or at best as "Poor Uncle Claudius", am now about to write this strange history of my life; starting from my earliest childhood and continuing year by year until I reach the fateful point of change where, some eight years ago, at the age of fifty-one, I suddenly found myself caught in what I may call the "golden predicament" from which I have never since become disentangled.

This is not by any means my first book: in fact literature, and especially the writing of history — which as a young man I studied here at Rome under the best contemporary masters — was, until the change came, my sole profession and interest for more than thirty-five years. My readers must not therefore be surprised at my practised style: it is indeed Claudius himself who is writing this book, and no mere secretary of his, and not one of those official annalists, either, to whom public men are in the habit of communicating their recollections, in the hope that elegant writing will eke out meagreness of subject-matter and flattery soften vices. In the present work, I swear by all the Gods, I am my own mere secretary, and my own official annalist: I am writing with my own hand, and what favour can I hope to win from myself by flattery? I may add that this is not the first history of my own life that I have written. I once wrote another, in eight volumes, as a contribution to the City archives. It was a dull affair, by which I set little store, and only written in response to public request. To be frank, I was extremely busy with other matters during its composition, which was two years ago. I dictated most of the first four volumes to a Greek secretary of mine and told him to alter nothing as he wrote (except, where necessary, for the balance of the sentences, or to remove contradictions or repetitions). But I admit that nearly all the second half of the work, and some chapters at least of the first, were composed by this same fellow, Polybius (whom I had named myself, when a slave-boy, after the famous historian) from material that I gave him. And he modelled his style so accurately on mine that, really, when he had done, nobody could have guessed what was mine and what was his.

It was a dull book, I repeat. I was in no position to criticize the Emperor Augustus, who was my maternal grand-uncle, or his third and last wife, Livia Augusta, who was my grandmother, because they had both been officially deified and I was connected in a priestly capacity with their cults; and though I could have pretty sharply criticized Augustus's two unworthy Imperial successors, I refrained for decency's sake. It would have been unjust to exculpate Livia, and Augustus himself in so far as he deferred to that remarkable and — let me say at once — abominable woman, while telling the truth about the other two, whose memories were not similarly protected by religious awe.

I let it be a dull book, recording merely such uncontroversial facts as, for example, that So-and-so married So-and-so, the daughter of Such-and-such who had this or that number of public honours to his credit, but not mentioning the political reasons for the marriage nor the behind-scene bargaining between the families. Or I would write that So-and-so died suddenly, after eating a dish of African figs, but say nothing of poison, or to whose advantage the death proved to be, unless the facts were supported by a verdict of the Criminal Courts. I told no lies, but neither did I tell the truth in the sense that I mean to tell it here. When I consulted this book to-day in the Apollo Library on the Palatine Hill, to refresh my memory for certain particulars of date, I was interested to come across passages in the public chapters which I could have sworn I had written or dictated, the style was so peculiarly my own, and yet which I had no recollection of writing or dictating. If they were by Polybius they were a wonderfully clever piece of mimicry (he had my other histories to study, I admit), but if they were really by myself then my memory is even worse than my enemies declare it to be. Reading over what I have just put down I see that I must be rather exciting than disarming suspicion, first as to my sole authorship of what follows, next as to my integrity as an historian, and finally as to my memory for facts. But I shall let it stand; it is myself writing as I feel, and as the history proceeds the reader will be the more ready to believe that I am hiding nothing — so much being to my discredit.

This is a confidential history. But who, it may be asked, are my confidants? My answer is: it is addressed to posterity. I do not mean my great-grandchildren, or my great-great-grandchildren: I mean an extremely remote posterity. Yet my hope is that you, my eventual readers of a hundred generations ahead, or more, will feel yourselves directly spoken to, as if by a contemporary: as often Herodotus and Thucydides, long dead, seem to speak to me. And why do I specify so extremely remote a posterity as that? I shall explain.

I went to Cumæ, in Campania, a little less than eighteen years ago, and visited the Sibyl in her cliff cavern on Mount Gaurus. There is always a Sibyl at Cumæ, for when one dies her novice-attendant succeeds; but they are not all equally famous. Some of them are never granted a prophecy by Apollo in all the long years of their service. Others prophesy, indeed, but seem more inspired by Bacchus than by Apollo, the drunken nonsense they deliver; which has brought the oracle into discredit. Before the succession of Deiphobë, whom Augustus often consulted, and Amalthea, who is still alive and most famous, there had been a run of very poor Sibyls for nearly three hundred years. The cavern lies behind a pretty little Greek temple sacred to Apollo and Artemis — Cumæ was an Æolian Greek colony. There is an ancient gilt frieze above the portico ascribed to Dædalus, though this is patently absurd, for it is no older than five hundred years, if as old as that, and Dædalus lived at least eleven hundred years ago; it represents the story of Theseus and the Minotaur whom he killed in the Labyrinth of Crete. Before being permitted to visit the Sibyl I had to sacrifice a bullock and a ewe there, to Apollo and Artemis respectively. It was cold December weather. The cavern was a terrifying place, hollowed out from the solid rock, the approach steep, tortuous, pitch-dark and full of bats. I went disguised, but the Sibyl knew me. It must have been my stammer that betrayed me. I stammered badly as a child and though, by following the advice of specialists in elocution, I gradually learned to control my speech on set public occasions, yet on private and unpremeditated ones, I am still, though less so than formerly, liable every now and then to trip nervously over my own tongue: which is what happened to me at Cumæ.

I came into the inner cavern, after groping painfully on all-fours up the stairs, and saw the Sibyl, more like an ape than a woman, sitting on a chair in a cage that hung from the ceiling, her robes red and her unblinking eyes shining red in the single red shaft of light that struck down from somewhere above. Her toothless mouth was grinning. There was a smell of death about me. But I managed to force out the salutation that I had prepared. She gave me no answer. It was only some time afterwards that I learned that this was the mummied body of Deiphobë, the previous Sibyl, who had died recently at the age of one hundred and ten; her eye-lids were propped up with glass marbles silvered behind to make them shine. The reigning Sibyl always lived with her predecessor. Well, I must have stood for some minutes in front of Deiphobë, shivering and making propitiatory grimaces — it seemed a lifetime. At last the living Sibyl, whose name was Amalthea, quite a young woman too, revealed herself. The red shaft of light failed, so that Deiphobë disappeared — somebody, probably the novice, had covered up the tiny red-glass window — and a new shaft, white, struck down and lit up Amalthea seated on an ivory throne in the shadows behind. She had a beautiful, mad-looking face with a high forehead and sat as motionless as Deiphobë. But her eyes were closed. My knees shook and I fell into a stammer from which I could not extricate myself.

"O Sib ... Sib ... Sib ... Sib ... Sib ..." I began. She opened her eyes, frowned and mimicked me: "O Clau ... Clau ... Clau. ..." That shamed me and I managed to remember what I had come to ask. I said with a great effort: "O Sibyl: I have come to question you about Rome's fate and mine."

Gradually her face changed, the prophetic power overcame her, she struggled and gasped, there was a rushing noise through all the galleries, doors banged, wings swished my face, the light vanished, and she uttered a Greek verse in the voice of the God:

Who groans beneath the Punic Curse And strangles in the strings of the purse,
Before she mends must sicken worse.

Her living mouth shall breed blue flies,
And maggots creep about her eyes.
No man shall mark the day she dies.

Then she tossed her arms over her head and began again:

Ten years, fifty days and three,
Clau — Clau — Clau — shall given be A gift that all desire but he.

To a fawning fellowship He shall stammer, cluck and trip,
Dribbling always with his lip.

But when he's dumb and no more here,
Nineteen hundred years or near,
Clau — Clau — Claudius shall speak clear.

The God laughed through her mouth then, a lovely yet terrible sound — ho! ho! ho! I made obeisance, turned hurriedly and went stumbling away, sprawling headlong down the first flight of broken stairs, cutting my forehead and knees, and so painfully out, the tremendous laughter pursuing me.

Speaking now as a practised diviner, a professional historian and a priest who has had opportunities of studying the Sibylline books as regularized by Augustus, I can interpret the verses with some confidence. By the Punic Curse the Sibyl was referring plainly enough to the destruction of Carthage by us Romans. We have long been under a divine curse because of that. We swore friendship and protection to Carthage in the name of our principal Gods, Apollo included, and then, jealous of her quick recovery from the disasters of the Second Punic war, we tricked her into fighting the Third Punic war and utterly destroyed her, massacring her inhabitants and sowing her fields with salt. "The strings of purse" are the chief instruments of this curse — a money-madness that has choked Rome ever since she destroyed her chief trade rival and made herself mistress of all the riches of the Mediterranean. With riches came sloth, greed, cruelty, dishonesty, cowardice, effeminacy and every other un-Roman vice. What the gift was that all desired but myself — and it came exactly ten years and fifty-three days later — you shall read in due course. The lines about Claudius speaking clear puzzled me for years but at last I think that I understand them. They are, I believe, an injunction to write the present work. When it is written, I shall treat it with a preservative fluid, seal it in a lead casket and bury it deep in the ground somewhere for posterity to dig up and read. If my interpretation be correct it will be found again some nineteen hundred years hence. And then, when all other authors of to-day whose works survive will seem to shuffle and stammer, since they have written only for to-day, and guardedly, my story will speak out clearly and boldly. Perhaps on second thoughts, I shall not take the trouble to seal it up in a casket: I shall merely leave it lying about. For my experience as a historian is that more documents survive by chance than by intention. Apollo has made the prophecy, so I shall let Apollo take care of the manuscript. As you see, I have chosen to write in Greek, because Greek, I believe, will always remain the chief literary language of the world, and if Rome rots away as the Sibyl has indicated, will not her language rot away with her? Besides, Greek is Apollo's own language.

I shall be careful with dates (which you see I am putting in the margin) and proper names. In compiling my histories of Etruria and Carthage I have spent more angry hours than I care to recall, puzzling out in what year this or that event happened and whether a man named So-and-so was really So-and-so or whether he was a son or grandson or great-grandson or no relation at all. I intend to spare my successors this sort of irritation. Thus, for example, of the several characters in the present history who have the name of Drusus — my father; myself; a son of mine; my first cousin; my nephew — each will be plainly distinguished wherever mentioned. And, for example again, in speaking of my tutor, Marcus Porcius Cato, I must make it clear that he was neither Marcus Porcius Cato, the Censor, instigator of the Third Panic war; nor his son of the same name, the well-known jurist; nor his grandson, the Consul of the same name, nor his great-grandson of the same name, Julius Cæsar's enemy; nor his great-great-grandson, of the same name, who fell at the Battle of Philippi; but an absolutely undistinguished great-great-great-grandson, still of the same name, who never bore any public dignity and who deserved none. Augustus made him my tutor and afterwards schoolmaster to other young Roman noblemen and sons of foreign kings, for though his name entitled him to a position of the highest dignity, his severe, stupid, pedantic nature qualified him for nothing better than that of elementary schoolmaster.

[10 B.C.] To fix the date to which these events belong I can do no better, I think, than to say that my birth occurred in the 744th year after the foundation of Rome by Romulus, and in the 767th year after the First Olympiad, and that the Emperor Augustus, whose name is unlikely to perish even in nineteen hundred years of history, had by then been ruling for twenty years.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "I, Claudius"
by .
Copyright © 1961 Robert Grave.
Excerpted by permission of RosettaBooks.
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I, Claudius 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 52 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I, Claudius as a book is much like the life of the man it details: it gives a slow appearance to start but comes to a raging climax at the end. Told in the first person, it chronicles the Roman Empire from its conception with the reign of Augustus(who is so frequently overshadowed by Marc Antony and Julius Caesar in our day) through the reigns of Tiberius and Caligula to Claudius' reluctant ascent. What a fun read! Graves, as the voice of 'Poor Uncle Claudius,' is witty and eloquent, and while his tireless attention to detail could border on suffocating in any other story, 'I, Claudius' demands it. Our unassuming title character is more a window to the world that surrounds him than to his own life. Most of the book is devoted to early Roman imperial history, with plenty of anecdotes to take away from the notion that history is boring. Graves, as Claudius, is informal with the reader, allowing us to enter the hearts, minds, and bedrooms of Rome's greatest citizens. Our Claudius, when referring to himself, is modest and dismissive, qualities that add to his charm. The only things that could deter a reader are the exhaustingly detailed military accounts and the Latin character names, which are too numerous to keep track of. This book is a gem; I found myself sneaking away at work just to read a few pages. Anyone who is even mildly interested in ancient history and politics will find 'I, Claudius' a worthwhile and memorable read.
JGolomb More than 1 year ago
As part of my "advance reading" for a trip to Rome this past summer, I read Robert Graves' "I, Claudius". I found Roman history rather intimidating - it's so rich and varied, and the sources are so many, that it was hard to find the right place to jump in. And so I began with history "lite" - historical fiction. I started with "Claudius" to tap into this key period of Roman History - the early Empire and the first emperors. I sought history "lite", though there's nothing particularly light-weight about Graves' masterpiece. Graves' seminal work, which is also well known from its British TV offering, is dense. It's not for those looking for nice light beach reading. "I, Claudius" is an exceedingly well-crafted history of the first four Emperors of the Roman Empire - roughly 30 B.C. when Augustus rose to sole power, through Tiberius and Caligula, to 41 A.D. when Caligula is murdered, and Claudius is declared emperor. Graves gives voice to his story by writing through a series of Claudius' own memoirs. The bulk of the book focuses on the empire's first two emperors - Augustus and Tiberius - and the rather strong willed, smart, and devious Livia, Augustus' wife and Tiberius' mother. Much of the story's perspective is naturally biased however much Claudius (and Graves) posit alternative opinions on who murdered whom, by what method, and whether or not anyone really cared. One must keep in mind how much of the story is "history" and how much is "fiction". I've dug into a good bit of Roman Empire non-fiction and have found many of the stories to be consistent with at least some of the ancient sources. Even in the non-fiction realm, there's plenty of room for debate over facts and details. The book contains an inordinate amount of detail around historic names and relationships, but I realized about half-way through that this was a necessary evil considering the topic. "I, Claudius" is beautifully written, and creatively conveys the nature of lives lived in near omnipotence, as well as fear and paranoia. Claudius comes across as erudite, insightful, rational and caring. His musings on palace intrigue run from humorous to serious to sad. "I, Claudius" is one of those rare epic tales that will drift into your consciousness well after you've finished. It's also one of those stories that will push you into wanting more. And fortunately there is more. Grave's "Claudius the God" covers his reign and unfortunate taste in spouses (Messalina and Agrippina, who ultimately poisoned him). While not as strong as "I, Claudius", it'll feed your need for Roman intrigue.
Awesomeness1 More than 1 year ago
I decided to read this book based off a Sparknotes recommendation. I've always been interested in Ancient Rome and historical-fiction, and this seemed to be a perfect combination. This classic account by Robert Graves takes the form of Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus's autobiography. Claudius is dismissed as a lame simpleton since his birth. Surprisingly, this is why Claudius manages to survive the murders and betrayals that surround him during the reign of three emperors, only to become emperor himself. This is a good book. I realize that and repsect that. It just wasn't for me. The endless lists of characters were confusing, and their relationships to each other were very difficult to keep track of. Since there were so many characters, none of them were very much developed. The whole thing just seemed a little impersonal. My favorite parts were when Claudius actually had a conversation with people instead of just describing distant wars. I did like the humor that was sprinkled in, and some of the characters were delightfully evil (I love you, Livia!). I read this very slowly, only reading around 60 pages a day. I think I absorbed it better that way. I wonder how accurate Graves was. I won't be checking out the sequel to this book, but I'm gonna get the miniseries on Netflix and see if I like it.
EugeneTX More than 1 year ago
This, the first of Robert Graves works about Claudius and the emperors of his time. You will not want to miss Claudius the God and his wife Messalina nor would you want to miss the BBC CD serius titled "I, Claudius," The three are simply outstanding in every way about lives in Rome of the little peop;e up to and including the members of the senate and royal family. This gets into the real grit of family members toward the Imperial seat even through the murder of oppositon family members with a stronger claim. The political intigues against each other are laughable but deadly. This a set for permanent status in any library. Note specifically the gross lack of information coming out of the middle east about and rise of Christians, who Paul or Peter were and what they had accomplished, if anything One must remember that Herod Agrippa and Claudius were good friends. It is highly unlike that Agrippa would have hidden information just to make Claudius feel good about it. Don't miss thesebooks. You will not regret your purchase. Robert Graves passed, I believe, in 1985 or 6. I thought he was one of the greatest writers of all time and that has not been anyone like him since. Weall miss your finest works. Peace be with you
Gothenberg More than 1 year ago
Once one penetrates the geneological thicket that that is the Claudian family and learns who is who (and who did what to whom over two generations of fratricidal family dealings), the story of Claudius' unlikely road to the Roman Imperium is a simply fabulous tale of psychopathy, absurd excess and appetite witnessed by a man who is normal, modest and unambitious. As he posits at the end, the only good thing about being emperor is that he at last has a unique opportunity to become the historian he always wanted to be.
Athena01 More than 1 year ago
Most of the books you're forced to purchase in college are absolutely boring and hardly used! But, I very much enjoyed this read. I found this book interesting and intellectually stimulating.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I, Claudius, along with Claudius the God, are 2 books every student interested in Roman historical culture should read. Insightful and addictive. Also by Graves, his translation of The Golden Ass -
Guest More than 1 year ago
A must have if you are into Roman history or just want to get lost into a great book. This book is pretty much direct to you vey easy to understand.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Robert Grave's I, Claudius is undoubtedly one of the greatest works of literature I have read to date. As a student of both the Latin language and Roman culture, I had a great appreciation for this book. Highly recommended, the action - and sometimes even comedy! - will enthrall you. I loved the character of Caligulia in the beginning, hence the title. READ THIS BOOK!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This by far the best of Robert Grave's fictional works. A convincing portrayal of what life was like at the core of the early Roman empire. Graves masterfully develops the character of Claudius as he ponders his life and impresses his thoughts on to his 'autobiography.' The reader is then taken through the ambitions and intrigues of the Julio-Claudian dynasty from the reign of Augustus to Nero's. Through the eyes of Claudius, the reader is given a bird's eye view into the dynastic contests with wit and humor as well as the evolution of the empire from the remnants of a crumbled republic. With this insight, Claudius is soon appreciated by the reader as having a keen intellect as opposed to being dull and slow of wit. His desire for truth and his loathing of the imperial struggle gives his story clarity and impartiality. All of the characters are well developed; their actions and motivations all come to light in the course of the story. Along with Gore Vidal's 'Julian' this is one of the greatest works in historical fiction in this genre or any genre. A must read for anyone who enjoys history or just a good story full of intrigue and suspense.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i really liked this book. it made me really appreciate the lesser person and roman history
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This isn't just one of my favorite works of historical fiction, but a favorite novel, and it amazes me this was published in 1934 given the frank depictions of themes such as homosexuality, incest, etc. Themes not grafted on for lurid effect but true to the times depicted. After all, this novelized autobiography of Claudius, later Emperor of Rome (a period treated in the sequel, Claudius the God), takes in the reign of the infamous Caligula. Graves was a noted translator of Classical Latin and Ancient Greek texts and a respected poet. It shows in the novel which is first-rate literature. Graves creates a witty, cynical at times gossipy voice for Claudius--there's plenty of leavening humor in this first person narrative of a man of republican sentiments in Imperial Rome who only survived the machinations of his dangerous relatives because for a long time he was ignored because of his lameness and his stutter and was accounted a fool. Graves by the way, wrote a novel, King Jesus, positing a married Jesus in 1948. It is infinitely superior in every way to The Da Vinci Code. When I evaluate historical fiction, the works of Graves, along with Mary Renault, are my gold standard.
HenryGalvan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite books of all times. Having read some of the passages multiple times I can say that this is a true work of art
jeaneva on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I saw the TV series first and for once, I am glad. The title role was portrayed so well that I almost heard that stuttering, slobbering "fool" throughout the book. What a brilliant way to convince those mad despots of his harmlessness!! (I seem to remember David in the Bible surviving among HIS enemies by feigning madness.)Surely the aim of the author of historical fiction is to make the reader forget he/she is reading a novel. This book succeeds magnificently.
chris_grossmann on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A good read, although very long. By the time it ended, I couldn't put it down.
csleh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite books. Love roman historical fiction. Very well written and interesting story.
sgerbic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reviewed October 1999 Wow, what a history this man must have had, to have lived through so many emperors and to have such a lineage to brag about. He was the grandson of Cleopatra and the stepson to Emperor Agustus. this biography has little to do with his life but with the people and events he was a witness to. His grandmother, Livia was the center of the book as she was the most powerful person in Roman history at that time. She controlled everyone's lives but always from behind the scenes. Claudius survives all others and sees the reign of his nephew, Caligula, was was evil and insane. The names and constant deaths and births can make this confusing reading, but Claudius tries to remind you of who's who. For example a person might be introduced again named Cassis and you have forgotten who that is, Caludius will say..."remember he is the guard who faught against the Roman at the games and won." I really enjoyed this type of writing and may other writers could be helped with this style. In the end when Caligula is killing everyone off I was annoyed that people were still left to make Claudius Emperor. But is this fiction or a historical work? This book made it to the top 100 of the "100 best English-Language Novels of the 20th Century" according to the editorial board of the Modern Library.. 40-1999
technodiabla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really love this book-- but I'm a fan of Roman history and have studied this period fairly extensively, including in Latin. The story reads like a soap opera-- love, sex, murder, incest, power politics, you name it. It is an interesting blend of historical facts and fiction (that may well be close to the truth, but we'll never really know). I can imagine that a reader not familiar with the the period or the lineage of the characters would have a hard time keeping the characters straight-- it really should come with a family tree graph (thoguh even that would be complicated eye-sore).
shtove on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Made me feel I could sit down with a Roman emperor and have a good chat over a bottle of wine - then stab him with a gladius and seize power over the civilized world. I've read it many times, and my ambition hasn't changed.Great story.
Awesomeness1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I decided to read this book based off a Sparknotes recommendation. I've always been interested in Ancient Rome and historical-fiction, and this seemed to be a perfect combination. This classic account by Robert Graves takes the form of Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus's autobiography. Claudius is dismissed as a lame simpleton since his birth. Surprisingly, this is why Claudius manages to survive the murders and betrayals that surround him during the reign of three emperors, only to become emperor himself. This is a good book. I realize that and repsect that. It just wasn't for me. The endless lists of characters were confusing, and their relationships to each other were very difficult to keep track of. Since there were so many characters, none of them were very much developed. The whole thing just seemed a little impersonal. My favorite parts were when Claudius actually had a conversation with people instead of just describing distant wars. I did like the humor that was sprinkled in, and some of the characters were delightfully evil (I love you, Livia!). I read this very slowly, only reading around 60 pages a day. I think I absorbed it better that way. I wonder how accurate Graves was. I won't be checking out the sequel to this book, but I'm gonna get the miniseries on Netflix and see if I like it.
mkschoen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This, and the sequel, are on my "all time favorite books ever" and "books I would take on a desert island." Murder, sex, intrigue, conquests -- it's Dynasty with a literary, historical coat.
RogueBelle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my favourite historical novels -- even if Graves does take certain liberties, they're all in the name of telling a more entertaining story. It's very easy to become completely engrossed with the drama of the Julio-Claudians.
mmillet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Whoa. A bloody and intriguing history of Rome from the time of Ceaser Augustus until Claudius becomes emperor told by "pppp-poor Clauidus." A work of fiction based on fact, Claudius is introduced as an honest and reliable narrator who grabs you immediately with all the lurid details of who died and who was sleeping with who. Rome at it's best right?! This book was an amazing way to learn history in a very intimate way. Now I want to go and read "Claudius the God" since that book covers his time as emperor.
JGolomb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As part of my "advance reading" for a trip to Rome this past summer, I read Robert Graves' "I, Claudius". I found Roman history rather intimidating - it's so rich and varied, and the sources are so many, that it was hard to find the right place to jump in. And so I began with history "lite" - historical fiction. I started with "Claudius" to tap into this key period of Roman History - the early Empire and the first emperors. I sought history "lite", though there's nothing particularly light-weight about Graves' masterpiece. Graves' seminal work, which is also well known from its British TV offering, is dense. It's not for those looking for nice light beach reading. "I, Claudius" is an exceedingly well-crafted history of the first four Emperors of the Roman Empire - roughly 30 B.C. when Augustus rose to sole power, through Tiberius and Caligula, to 41 A.D. when Caligula is murdered, and Claudius is declared emperor. Graves gives voice to his story by writing through a series of Claudius' own memoirs. The bulk of the book focuses on the empire's first two emperors - Augustus and Tiberius - and the rather strong willed, smart, and devious Livia, Augustus' wife and Tiberius' mother. Much of the story's perspective is naturally biased however much Claudius (and Graves) posit alternative opinions on who murdered whom, by what method, and whether or not anyone really cared. One must keep in mind how much of the story is "history" and how much is "fiction". I've dug into a good bit of Roman Empire non-fiction and have found many of the stories to be consistent with at least some of the ancient sources. Even in the non-fiction realm, there's plenty of room for debate over facts and details. The book contains an inordinate amount of detail around historic names and relationships, but I realized about half-way through that this was a necessary evil considering the topic. "I, Claudius" is beautifully written, and creatively conveys the nature of lives lived in near omnipotence, as well as fear and paranoia. Claudius comes across as erudite, insightful, rational and caring. His musings on palace intrigue run from humorous to serious to sad. "I, Claudius" is one of those rare epic tales that will drift into your consciousness well after you've finished. It's also one of those stories that will push you into wanting more. And fortunately there is more. Grave's "Claudius the God" covers his reign and unfortunate taste in spouses (Messalina and Agrippina, who ultimately poisoned him). While not as strong as "I, Claudius", it'll feed your need for Roman intrigue.
lyzadanger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Strange how this book seemed such an obvious fit for me but I struggled through the first two-thirds of it. Perhaps the structure chased me off. The narrative is so linear-feeling, with lots of passages about the spawn and incests of various Imperial family members, with scant dialogue or digression. Also challenging was the genealogy: If I can give one bit of advice, it's to let go of trying to follow the family connections too seriously. Remember that someone is related to another character is good enough, no need to remember that they are brothers through a common aunt or whatever.The last hundred or so pages did manage to suck me in, once we got to the debaucheries of Caligula and things got downright bizarre. The evils of various powerful characters are a bit hard to take, though, both in that they do horrible things consistently (braining children against walls, executing someone for mentioning the emperor, slaughtering entire provinces at little provocation) and that their motives seem a bit one-dimensional. The historical research that Graves must have done for this book seems extensive: details seem correct as far as my rudimentary knowledge of Roman history goes. I thought I had him on one point: he consistently talks about the "corn supply" in Rome, even though corn (maize) is a new world plant. But apparently Europeans use the term "corn" to refer to generic grain. So no dice there.In retrospect, I'm surprised I didn't cotton to this book more. It had the elements I like: history, narrative, forward momentum, that I like, but something felt a bit too, dare I say, masculine about it, too brute force, too military history for me.