This is the sequel to Robert Graves's well-known I Claudius. Listen to I Claudius first (I prefer the Nelson Runger performance -- he captures well Graves's portrayal of Claudius as a reluctant and ill-prepared emperor). After listening to I Claudius, you will want to know what happened next -- or at least how Graves portrays it. And yes, it is largely fictional, though based on period sources. Even what we call "history" is, at it's best, a kind of fiction in that it is only as good as the sources and only as reliable as the conjectures we make to stitch the "facts" together. Graves will not mislead you, and I guarantee you'll remember more about the Claudian era from this than from any history book!
I gave this four stars instead of five for story -- it is not quite as compelling as I Claudius, but still quite worthwhile.
Robinson's History of Rome is helpful for acquiring the overall narrative of Rome's history from the early Republic up to Alaric. If all you want is an accessible, non-academic overview of the Republic and the subsequent emperors, this will probably be just fine.If you are a more serious student of classical history, this may not be for you. The work is seriously dated, both in terms of his interpretation of archeological evidence, and in terms of Robinson's assumption that Greek culture and manipulative women are largely to blame for Rome's decline."The History of Ancient Rome," a Great Courses lecture series taught by Prof. Fagan and available on audible.com is a more thorough and up to date resource than Robinson's work.
Prof. Garland makes clear from several perspectives why we cannot understand or appreciate ancient Rome apart from its relationship to ancient Greece. I now appreciate more than ever the concept "Greco-Roman." This course is excellent, but there are some shortcomings the listener should be aware of.
1. Garland occasionally argues from etymologies to support some of his interpretations. This method of argumentation has been discredited for over 50 years. His conclusions may be correct, but when he etymologizes his methodology is suspect.
2. Garland, in spite of his protestations against it, seems unable to resist playing the role of a long-distance armchair psychologist analyzing the interior motives of long-dead ancient persons about whom we know very little.
3. Garland's presentation of the relationship between Christianity and Greco-Roman culture is superficial at best and just plain wrong at worst. He fails to present (or understand?) the essentially Jewish nature of primitive (including Pauline) Christianity. Further, while he argues that Christianity is essentially an amalgamation of elements derived from contemporaneous Mediterranean religions, he also argues that Christianity thoroughly overhauled the ideology and worldview of the Greco-Roman world. How what was essentially a patchwork of existing religious beliefs could have had such a thoroughgoing transformational effect he does not even address or question. He does not appear to be aware of this apparent contradiction.
That being said, the course is well worth it and I will listen to some of Prof. Garland's other presentations.
This series of lectures is packed with information. Prof. Harl works with a couple of overall interpretive positions (e.g., Rome's interactions with its neighbors was far more than combative) and provides voluminous information in support. This course can be a bit overwhelming in the amount of information provided, but well worth it. For me it will require at least a second listen.
Well worth it if only for "Here there by Tygers" and "Frost and Fire." These are two stories that give imaginative language to some of our deepest feelings and fears.
The narrator is a bit too melancholic -- certainly there is an underlying sadness to many of the stories, but the narrator's style overlays the entire collection more despair than the stories naturally elicit.
Even so, Bradbury's storytelling power is so strong that it overcomes the narrator's one-stringed guitar.
The narrator is certainly a gifted linguist, and able to reproduce seemingly authentic accents from a variety of European languages. There are two drawbacks to her narration. The first is that her British accent is so refined that at times it comes across as affected. The second is that a British accent just cannot do justice to Mark Twain, the quintessential American storyteller! These aside, I would still purchase another audiobook with Dobson as the reader.
The collection is a bit unbalanced toward Poe and Twain. I would have liked to have seen a greater variety, including Kafka, Bradbury, and Borges. All in all, though, I had never read most of the stories and enjoyed the selections.
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