By John Williams,

Book cover of Augustus

Book description

By the author of Stoner, the surprise international bestseller

After the brutal murder of his great-uncle, Julius Caesar, Octavian, a shy and scholarly youth of nineteen, suddenly finds himself heir to the vast power of Rome. He is destined, despite vicious power struggles, bloody wars and family strife, to transform…

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3 authors picked Augustus as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This enthralling evocation of the long life of Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, uses fictional letters and other invented documents to tell his story, from the point when, as a teenager, he found himself the heir of the assassinated dictator Julius Caesar, to his final days as sole ruler of a vast empire. Emerging as victor from a protracted civil war, Augustus managed to impose a degree of stability across the Roman world, though at a cost. Could the bloodthirsty youth have really turned into the modest statesman? His contemporaries found him hard to read. Williams charts with subtlety and insight…

From Catharine's list on Roman emperors behaving badly.

It is a historical novel about the first Roman emperor who is responsible for formalizing the system of Roman global rule, i.e., the Roman Empire. So not about Roman women front and center, but the story of Augustus' life and career is told through letters, both official and personal. I include it here because Augustus' daughter, Julia, whom he exiled to a remote island in 2 BC, is represented by her (fictional) journal entries. These are sharp, moving, and poignant about the demands of private life vs. public duty.  

Augustus tells the fictionalized life story of the most famous Roman emperor of all, Augustus Caesar, through letters written by the people around him. I like this approach. We see Augustus from multiple, one-step-removed perspectives, just as history presents him, and we also get to see what he is up against.

“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” might be Augustus’s motto, for an exquisite tone of beautiful melancholy haunts his story, as well as the story of his daughter, exiled and imprisoned for life after such great expectations. Augustus is…

From Theodore's list on fiction set in ancient Rome.

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