The sixth-century Roman Empire is a dangerous place, threatened on all frontiers by invaders. But soon the attacking armies of Vandals, Goths and Persians grow to fear and respect the name of one man, Belisarius: horseman, archer, swordsman and military commander of genius. As Belisarius triumphs in battles from the East to North Africa, his success causes him to become regarded with increasing jealousy and suspicion. In his palace in Constantinople, the Emperor Justinian, dominated by his wife Theodora, plots the great general’s downfall. Written in the form of a biography by Belisarius’ manservant, this epic historical novel portrays him as a lone man of honour in a corrupt world.
Robert von Ranke Graves (24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985) was an English poet and novelist, scholar, translator and writer of antiquity, specialising in Classical Greece and Rome. During his long life he produced more than 140 works. Graves's translations and innovative analysis and interpretations of the Greek myths, the memoir of his early life, Good-bye to all That, and his speculative study of poetic inspiration, The White Goddess, have never been out of print. Graves earned his living by writing popular historical novels, including I, Claudius (for which he was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize), King Jesus, The Golden Fleece and Count Belisarius. He was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford in 1961 and made an honorary fellow of St John’s College, Oxford, in 1971.
©1938 Robert Graves (P)2013 Audible Ltd
“Among the most generous, self-willed, unseemly and brilliant writers of our century” (New York Times)
“And so Count Belisarius continues, with one dazzling set-piece after another, effortlessly carrying us back over fifteen hundred years, bringing back to life a whole company of men and women before our eyes… Winston Churchill told Graves that he could not put it down; nor, I am delighted to confess, could I” (John Julius Norwich, historian)
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
I love the story of Belisarius. Did Robert Graves abuse history in writing this? I certainly hope so. By the end, however, I didn't really care if Belisarius was as good as Graves made him out to be, if the narrator, Eugenius, (Belisarius' wife Antonia's manservant ) is unreliable, or if Antonia slept with one man or many after marrying this 'Last Great Roman'. Graves bends this story into his own parable about power, corruption, honor and ingenuity. Other generals and the emperor Justinian serve as counter-examples of Belisaurius and also reflect the time he lived. The book wasn't perfect, but it was a great book about a near perfect man.
'Count Belisarius' does make me want to dig deeper into Procopius' History of the Wars of Justinian and The Secret History. I think the brilliance of writers like Robert Graves and Hilary Mantel is there ability (through historical fiction) to capture something MORE than history. Much of Belisarius' life is lost. What is known is known through histories that were written with their own agenda and perspective. Graves novel gives us room to imagine a world that may not be accurate, but is an idealized version of what we WANT to believe we are capable. With the void of the past containing almost an infinite number of possibilities, it is reasonable to want to find pure motives and heroics in those figures of the past. Procopius can keep his cuckolded history, I'll take Grave's virtuous fiction any day.
I love historical fiction and especially loved I Claudius, by Graves, which is why I tried this book. But I was greatly disappointed by the plot. Well, there really isn't a plot: it's a drawn out memoir which takes a long time to take off. The exasperating and humdrum narration of Laurence Kennedy didn't help.
I'll try another book by Graves, if I can find one not narrated by Kennedy.
I don't think so.
This book is for listeners very interested in daily life and political ins and outs of the late Roman Empire in the East.
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