Has there been a film version of it?
No. A television miniseries version, however.
Who are the main characters?
Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus/Claudius – a member of the Julian family, Livia’s grandson and Uncle to Caligula, he suffered from stuttering, nervous tics, and a limp
Livia – Augustus’ wife and Claudius grandmother, wonderful at running the government behind the Emperor, not so wonderful at keeping her relatives alive
Tiberius – Livia’s son and a wonderful general, also an Emperor
Germanicus – grandson of Livia, a successful general from the Germanic campaigns
Sejanus – Tiberius’ most trusted informant
Caligula – Germanicus’ son, a deeply evil boy who eventually went insane and became a tyrant
What’s it about?
This is the first novel in the two part biography of the Emperor Claudius. It covers the birth and childhood of Claudius, as well as his rise all the way up to the title of Emperor. Graves does an incredible job of providing in depth information about the motives behind the murders by Livia and others – capturing the paranoia and the desire for power. He covers the lives of Germanicus and Postumus, Agrippina and even part of Octavian Augustus. All of it is a wonderful lead in to “Claudius the God.”
Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
The pair of books were an enormous hit in 1934, 1935 when they were released.
Do you recommend I read this book?
Not highly, but if you’re into classics you’ll still probably want to read it.
How did this book make your list?
I think I found it on one of those lists of “to be well-read, read these…”
Has it won any awards?
“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.” – pg 6
I’ll admit, I couldn’t really get into this book until the last 100 or so pages. I just couldn’t be interested with all the bloodshed and debauchery and intrigues. When one person died I figured another person worse would take their place; or if a truly good character was introduced all I thought was “well, they’re toast.” However, Livia absolutely disgusted me. I can’t imagine how someone could slowly poison their own children and grandchildren. Claudius himself stirred a little sympathy in me – mostly because of how he was ignored by everyone in his family – although that saved his life. She was only outdone by Caligula – but the book didn’t go into as much detail about his atrocities. I found I could only laugh at him (mostly because of World Thought and Culture class in college). I’m interested to read the second book of Claudius, but I think I might put it off for a while.`