Robert Graves: I Claudius

Er 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 ust 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 conseuently about ancient roman history And for Game of Thrones well the truth is it s ust awesome 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 essalinaI Claudius reviewed by Mariel All i can dream about is rabbits every day every day rabbits i can t tell you whyI Claudius reviewed by Ian Graye You ve seen The Sopranos so you think you know about gangstersBut Imperial Rome didn t get its reputation by organising knitting circlesNo it didn tClaudius became emperor accidentally They found him cowering in a cupboard and they dragged him kicking and screaming to the throneThat might be a metaphorOr notI 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 tI Claudius reviewed by Karen BrissetteYOU 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 PrajProlonged 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 tre 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 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 than century long reign as the rulers of the vast expanding Roman Empire But he Claudius 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 Drusus gaining glory in Germany winning battle after battle until dying in a mysterious way his mother Antonia a very influential woman daughter of Mark Amthony Livia his grandmother 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 suffer 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 uite vulnerableTo 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 forced by others powerful to marry women he loathes for political reasons to reluctant wives who detest the unattractive man but still from the most important family in Rome divorce soon follows and freuently 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 conuered Caligula saw and ran A brilliant novel gossip than history maybe but an enormously entertaining rea. Claudius and its seuel Claudius the God are among the most celebrated as well the most gripping historical novels ever writtenCover illustration Brian Pik.

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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 balanced between its eually 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 eual 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 todayBoth 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 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 euipped 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 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 fictionFor 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 spoilerHowever 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 Yo ClaudioThe review I really have in mind will be attempted for this book only after I finish reading Claudius the God to uench 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 lostMeanwhile 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 Robert Graves classic I Claudius is a masterpiece of historical fiction about the stuttering lame unlikely emperor Claudius ending ust as he mounts the imperial throne one must read Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina for the rest high on my TBR now It is a mesmerizing text detailing the reigns of Augustus Tiberius and Caligula with all the accompanying betrayals violence and sexual exploits that you would expect from a particularly gruesome early episode in the Game of Thrones Well the sexual exploits are mostly hinted at without gory details but the rest is well rather violent to say the least There are moments of humor too The debate between Livy and Pollio about their various approaches to history with Claudius in the middle was memorable With his typically cutting wit Claudius sums up the two approaches It s not disillusion sir I see now though I hadn t considered it before that there are two different ways of writing history one is to persuade men to virtue and the other is to compel men to truth The first is Livy s way and the other is yours and perhaps they are not irreconciliable p 122 In this book Graves follows Claudius leaning towards Pollio s view because the morals of all the protagonists are certainly not something that would compel any sane person to truthThis same Pollio before passing away gave Claudius the best advice he ever received Then exagerrate your limp stammer deliberately sham sickness freuently let your wits wander erk your head and twich with your hands on all public or semi public occasions If you could see as much as I see you would know that this was your only hope of safety and eventual glory p 125 Fortunately for him Claudius does take this advice to heartGraves seems to speak though his protagonist as he reacts to various pronouncements that occur in the book but doubtless also during his lifetime in early 20th C Britain To recommend a monarchy on account of the prosperity it gives to the provinces seems to me like something that a man should have liberty to treat his children as slaves if at the same time he treats his slaves with reasonable consideration p 163 In another example of dark humor when Drusillus is murdered he is found with a pear shoved down his throat in a lame attempt to excuse the assassination as an accident It is clear that Livia not having been consulted about the marriage of one of her great grandchildren had arranged for the child to be strangled and the pear crammed down his throat afterwards As was the custom for in such cases the pear tree was charged with murder and sentenced to be uprooted and burned p 294 This may sound particularly awful but there are worse fates. Into the 'autobiography' of Clau Clau Claudius the pitiful stammerer who was destined to become Emperor in spite of himself Graves packs the everlasting in.

Awaiting children under Caligula s reignAs for historical fiction this one rates for me nearly as high as Youcenar s M moires d Hadrien which for me is the most beautiful evocation of a Roman emperor s inner life In this book it takes about 75 pages to build a head of steam and then it runs us right over the cliff over and over again with the evil characters of Livia and Caligula in particular the manipulation of Augustus and Tiberius and the foreshortened fates of literally dozens of family members and thousands of Roman citizens A must read And if I may the insanity of Caligula and his particular communication and governing style bears comparison to that of the orange menace at 1600 Penn Ave at the moment 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 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 thatThe 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 powerOver 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 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 spoileralmost hide spoiler 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 than twenty years before he made that translation He was though living on Majorca which is not uite Capri and if isolated and obsessing over his muse not uite in Tiberian styleIn 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 VIs I Claudius ust a fictional interpretation of the really already uite 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 spoileras Vespasian said to Titus about the money raised by a urine tax hide spoiler Game of RomesHistory 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 Sequins and Spurs just so wicked that you have to wonder whether these lies areust that This review aims to take on the impossible task of diluting the deceitful mixture to separate the lies of the writer from the 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 uicy 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 AD 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 placeThere 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 charact. Trigues the depravity the bloody purges and mounting cruelty of the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius soon to culminate in the deified insanity of Caligula

Robert von Ranke Graves born in Wimbledon received his early education at King's College School and Copthorne Prep School Wimbledon & Charterhouse School and won a scholarship to St John's College Oxford While at Charterhouse in 1912 he fell in love with GH Johnstone a boy of fourteen Dick in Goodbye to All That When challenged by the headmaster he defended himself by citing Plato Gr