I, Claudius

By Robert Graves,

Book cover of I, Claudius

Book description

A work of historical fiction which recreates the life and times of Emperor Claudius, who lived from 10 BC to AD 41, a time when poisoning, blasphemy, treachery, incest and unnatural vice were commonplace. From the author of CLAUDIUS THE GOD AND HIS WIFE MESSALINA.

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Why read it?

4 authors picked I, Claudius as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This is the masterclass in the portrayal of the first hundred years or so of the Roman Empire. Graves was a considerable scholar in his own right, providing the translation for the Penguin edition of Suetonius’ “Twelve Caesars”. He was also a poet and novelist, and his picture of the naïve Claudius making his unwitting way to power is probably on most people’s list of all-time great historical novels. What I particularly found striking was just how much work went into running the Roman empire, and one almost has sympathy for Augustus as he tries to mould Roman rule into…

Robert Graves’s novel, I, Claudius, about ancient Roman emperor, Claudius, is not just “historical fiction.” It’s literature. In I, Claudius, Graves defends the capability of Claudius, whom most historians consider a crippled idiot. Claudius’s rise is a classic underdog story: stammering cripple outsmarts and outlives a pack of fratricidal wolves.

A familiar/strange culture, a convulsive, treacherous history, unforgettable characters ̶ easygoing Augustus Caesar; haunted Tiberius; severe Antonia; insane Caligula; noble Germanicus; and above all, arch-conspirator Livia, Claudius’s grandmother  ̶ historical fiction your cup of tea or not, I, Claudius is for anybody who likes style, plot, adventure,…

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

Most of us want to know more about the Roman Empire than Shakespeare gives us in Julius Caesar, though probably not as much as Gibbon offers us in six volumes. Robert Graves’ I, Claudius does what historical fiction does best: it is a brilliant narrative about a complex and important period of history that most of us want to understand. The emperor Claudius is the narrator, brutally honest, marvelously flawed, tragically situated as emperor between Caligula and Nero. Whew, such company!

From James' list on historical fiction to curl up with.

Although fiction, this is an impressive study of the early years of the Roman empire, and was the basis of the popular televisions series of the 1970s. It is well worth reading for a more personal insight into the Roman world. Everything Graves describes is documented in some way in the ancient texts.

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