Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend us your ears: don't miss the first book, I, Claudius.
©1962 Robert Graves; (P)1987 Recorded Books
"This book, with or without its predecessor, is amusing and illuminating to a high degree." (The New York Times)
This is really I Claudius, Vol II. The story continues. The story moves like that of a good novel. The history is good to learn while enjoying a good read. You realize from reading between the lines and from comparing to what historians believe that this account is quite biased toward Claudius. But, this is after all written in the form of an autobiography, so what would you expect? The subplot of Herod is an interesting one.
The books makes a fine sequel to "I, Claudius," which I've already reviewed as being excellent. If you enjoyed that book, then you will obviously enjoy this fine piece of historical fiction.
This is a fictional autobiography of Claudius, fourth emperor of the Roman Empire. It is a narration of those events which transpired after Claudius became emperor. He has survived the reigns of the expedient Augustus, the perverse Tiberius, and the insane Caligula, where few others in his line have. But how long can he survive his wives?
Claudius is a sympathetic emperor and the narrator is entirely believable as Claudius himself. Attached to the end of this audiobook are readings from translations of Suetonius, Tacitus, and Cassius Dio regarding the death of Claudius as well as all that remains of Seneca's Apocolocyntosis. The translations are somewhat stilted but provide an interesting contrast between Graves' depiction of Claudius and those of the Roman Senators.
"... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^
I, Claudius and Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina are two of the greatest novels of historical fiction EVER. Probably the only writers who come close to Grave's mastery of history and literature are (in no particular order): Gore Vidal (Lincoln, Burr, etc), Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies) and Norman Mailer (The Executioner's Song, Harlot's Ghost).
Obviously, Shakespeare is the master of historical fiction/drama but he is so obviously the deified king of this that the Shakespearian 'sun needs no inscription to distinguish him from darkness'.
Grave's dilogy must be intimidating to a historian of Imperial Rome. The personality of Claudius has been so deeply set by Graves that I'm not sure any tweaking by modern historians will be able to fool with Grave's fool. The Genius of 'I, Claudius' and 'Glaudius the God' is derived from Graves' ability to create such an amazingly rich and deep literary character. The closest I've come across in recent times is Hilary Mantel's Thomas Cromwell. Books like these are rare and seem to grow more amazing with each year.
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
I suppose there was no way Graves could have not written this given the success of the first book and the sense of having broken off in the middle. From the great BBC miniseries, this was the part I best remembered and looked forward to. Somehow the magic wasn't there for me. No longer the observant outsider, Claudius seems reduced to a more pedantic reciting of events. Most of the colorful characters from the first book are dead by now. There's still plenty of intrigue, but Claudius is now the victim of a good deal of it and unable to relate it with the same perspective as when he was just passing on gossip. The naive wonder and delight of the first book is replaced by a kind of gloomy poignancy. Still, I wouldn't have skipped this for the world; not after having read the first one.
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.
In this follow up to the masterpiece I, Claudius, we go through the subsequent history of Claudius as he was essentially appointed Emperor of Rome by the Praetorian Guards. Claudius is apparently the one person in Rome who didn't want to become Emperor. However, the political class in Rome had already been yoked to the loss of the Republic and no one actually had the guts to stand up and say no. The only message from the Senate was one asking him not to take the title until they had voted to give it to him.
Claudius had survived his murderous kin by always staying in the background and acting the idiot. However, he turned out to be a very conscientious and capable ruler. He completed two new aqueducts into the city of Rome and under his personal command the Island of Britain was actually brought into the Roman Empire. Although Julius Caesar had visited the place, Claudius conquered it and began the Romanization process which lasted for almost 400 years.
A lot of the story is how his wife Messalina plotted behind his back, slept with practically everyone in Rome, and eventually launched a comically absurd coup against him. Claudius eventually realized that if the Romans were to have their Republic back, they would need to be ruled by the completely incompetent. Thus he appointed his grand nephew Nero to be his successor, and once this was done his niece (who he had married) had him assassinated.
Robert Graves continues his masterful storytelling with this historical novel. Of course, this one seems a little smaller than I, Claudius because it focuses on the one person and his actions, but this is certainly a great addition to anyone's library.
It is among my top ten
The eponymous Claudius who as the narrator takes us into the privileged but often fatal household of the Julio-Claudian Imperial family.
Claudius' dunking in the Rhone during the reign of Caligula
Yes, but I really couldn't manage it
Poet, Writer, Novice Planetary Scientist, Musician, Hooligan, Former Audience Guy, Protector of Stupid Princesses.
I really enjoyed this novel. I did keep forgetting that it was fiction. It is easy to do that with both novels. Before thinking you learned something, look it up, it may just be the Author's imagination. That isn't a flaw as long as your remember this is Historical Fiction based historical characters.
This ties up some loose ends from I, Claudius and adds new anecdotes from the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius and Caligula. (Graves seems to have had more material than he knew what to do with.) It is also a sad story, as the reader realizes that Claudius, now emperor, has some of the same character flaws as his predecessors did -- trusting the wrong people, for one. The last few chapters are heartbreaking; Claudius comes to see that despite all his efforts, his lifelong dream of restoring the Republic is not going to come true, partly because he has ruled so well but mainly because he has outlived all of the real republicans. The original accounts of the death of Claudius at the end are an appropriate conclusion.
I read the books because of my interest in the subject and they are the ones that I keep coming back to. Claudius the God goes into much more detail of the political, diplomatic and administrative culture of the Roman Empire. It isn't as character-driven as the previous volume. I probably would not have read I Claudius if I had read Claudius the God first but I am glad that I have read them both.
The reading is perfect, very smooth and paced in a way that is easy to follow without having to concentrate. He is also good at rendering conversations, by inflection alone it was clear which character was speaking, even when several of them were talking.
Nothing. I wondered about the pronunciation of some names, but that isn't a big deal.
The tone of this volume is different from that of I Claudius. It covers only 14 years, not the century or so that the earlier book did, but it is just as long -- maybe longer. The amount of detail and the sheer number of characters in Claudius the God could be overwhelming for readers who just want a good, fast-moving story. I liked this book, but most of the characters just are not as compelling as the ones in I Claudius. Claudius certainly had much more affection and admiration for the people from his early life than he did for those who surrounded him when he was emperor.
Claudius The God is good, but not quite up there with it's predecessor. It's written in the same style, but the subject matter is somewhat duller, and more depressing. Poor Claudius, like so many before and after him, learns that being absolute ruler isn't as fun as you'd think. Nelson Runger turns in the same excellent performance that he gave for the first book.
Graves is sometimes accused of over-sympathizing with Claudius, but I think this exaggerated. His Claudius is toned-down from Suetonius, to be sure, but if you read between the lines you get a similar picture: a very poor judge, a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease, mostly ruled by his wives and freedmen, and so forth. Seneca's Pumpkinification was rather mean-spirited, but not wholly wrong.
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