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Claudius the God (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 3 Aug 2006


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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (3 Aug. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014118860X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141188607
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 38,431 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Graves was born in 1895 in Wimbledon, the son of Irish writer Perceval Graves and Amalia Von Ranke. He went from school to the First World War, where he became a captain in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. After this, apart from a year as Professor of English Literature at Cairo University in 1926, he earned his living by writing, mostly historical novels, including: I, Claudius; Claudius the God; Count Belisarius; Wife of Mr Milton; Sergeant Lamb of the Ninth; Proceed, Sergeant Lamb; The Golden Fleece; They Hanged My Saintly Billy; and The Isles of Unwisdom. He wrote his autobiography, Goodbye to All That, in 1929, and it was soon established as a modern classic. The Times Literary Supplement acclaimed it as 'one of the most candid self portraits of a poet, warts and all, ever painted', as well as being of exceptional value as a war document. Two of his most discussed non-fiction works are The White Goddess, which presents a new view of the poetic impulse, and The Nazarine Gospel Restored (with Joshua Podro), a re-examination of primitive Christianity. He also translated Apuleius, Lucan and Suetonius for the Penguin Classics, and compiled the first modern dictionary of Greek Mythology, The Greek Myths. His translation of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (with Omar Ali-Shah) is also published in Penguin. He was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford in 1961 and made an Honorary Fellow of St John's College, Oxford, in 1971.

Robert Graves died on 7 December 1985 in Majorca, his home since 1929. On his death The Times wrote of him, 'He will be remembered for his achievements as a prose stylist, historical novelist and memorist, but above all as the great paradigm of the dedicated poet, "the greatest love poet in English since Donne".'

(Image courtesy of The William Graves Collection.)

Product Description

About the Author

Robert Ranke Graves (1895-1985) was a British poet, novelist, and critic. He is best known for the historical novel I, Claudius and the critical study of myth and poetry The White Goddess. He wrote his autobiography, Goodbye to All That, in 1929, and it was soon established as a modern classic. He also translated Apuleius, Lucan and Suetonius for the Penguin Classics, and compiled the first modern dictionary of Greek Mythology, The Greek Myths. His translation of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (with Omar Ali-Shah) is also published in Penguin.

Barry Unsworth is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and holds an honorary doctorate from Manchester University. He is the author of 15 novels, among them 'Sacred Hunger', which won the 1992 Booker Prize. 'Pascali's Island' (1980) and 'Morality Play' (1995) were shortlisted for the same prize. His most recent novel 'The Ruby in Her Navel' is due for publication in 2006. He lives in Italy.


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First Sentence
Two years have gone by since I finished writing the long story of how I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus, the cripple, the stammerer, the fool of the family, whom none of his ambitious and bloody-minded relatives considered worth the trouble of executing, poisoning, forcing to suicide, banishing to a desert island or starving to death - which was how they one by one got rid of each other - how I survived them all, even my insane nephew Gaius Caligula, and was one day unexpectedly acclaimed Emperor by the corporals and sergeants of the Palace Guard. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 Oct. 2001
Format: Paperback
Robert Graves' Claudius novels are a fantastic rendering of Roman life. It is sometimes difficult to keep up in the early parts of 'I, Claudius' because of the complexity of Claudius' family structure (which Graves does not shy away from explaining to the full!). However, once the family tree is out of the way, and a couple of relatively uninteresting wars have been fought, you're on to an engrossing read, filled with twists and turns.
Caligula's excesses make particularly entertaining reading, whilst providing modern readers with a stark portrait of what excessive power can lead to.
If you survive the first 150 pages without falling asleep, you're there. This jewel of a book is definitely worth the archaelogical dig!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Victor HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 2 Feb. 2011
Format: Paperback
Why bother going to the trouble of inventing a decent plot and characters when history has already done it for you? The reigns of the Caesars in ancient Rome were full of memorable people and weird and wonderful occurrences driven by the power lust, greed and pure madness of the ruling family.

Telling the tale from an insider's perspective, this book tells the story of Claudius' reign as Caesar, his attempts to conquer Britain, his tragic marriage to the perfidious Messalina and his eventual death. In order to survive he plays up his image of the amiable idiot, never quite dangerous enough to be worth killing. But behind the mask was a quick and observant man, fascinated with establishing the truth for his history books.

Robert Graves provides Claudius with a compassionate personality, ill suited to his times. But this makes the narrating voice one with which we have much sympathy, especially when the cruel deceptions practiced by Messalina are revealed. The story is put forward in a clear and compelling fashion. Covering almost 20 years, and with a host of characters, it is epic in scale, yet centres around a very human story of just one man. Graves draws each character well, and provides them with distinctive mannerisms and voices, making each stand out clearly.

This book is a sequel to the equally great `I, Claudius', which details the Claudian family history, and Claudius' life up to being declared emperor.

These are absolute classics of English literature. Erudite, beautifully written, but also enthralling adventure stories that are highly accessible. Highly recommended to all.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 14 Feb. 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is the book that got me interested in Roman history. Written by historian Robert Graves, he weaves the known facts about the period into a fascinating story. You have it all in here, murder, intrigue, corruption, plots and poisoning. An invaluable insight into the lives they lead. I expect that Mr. Graves embellished a few points to smooth the story out but I was gripped from start to finish! If you haven't seen the series, I'm sure it's available through Amazon. The book is even better though!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr Gary Pearce on 9 April 2000
Format: Hardcover
The 70's BBC production with Derek Jacobi in the lead role was quite simply an inspiration to me. I have blown the dust from this book many times to re-read & it never fails to conjour up memories of the BBC characters in my head.....John Hurt as Caligula, Sian Phillips, George Baker, Brian Blessed.... True, I am reviewing the book here and not the BBC adaptation, but the two are so linked. The life of Claudius the fool, the stammerer, the idiot is quite simply a joy to read. The family of Claudius are the ruling family of Rome, they all tolerate their jack-ass relative because he is viewed as harmless whilst they plot against their own for greed and power, revenge and hate. But is Claudius really the fool, or will his knowledge & cleverness lengthen his life-span ? Please read this book at sometime in your life and enjoy just like I did.....it will leave an imprint for ever.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tim Riding on 1 Oct. 2006
Format: Paperback
This book was more or less the first I read on Roman history, and it has set off a thirst for Ancient Rome that had led to half a dozen more purchases (none of which can compare to Robert Graves' brilliant novels).

I'm not sure what it is that makes these books unputdownable. I read both in a week, and not being a particlarly fast reader that's very quick for me. Robert Graves styles it completely as a history. When you're reading it there is no doubt in your mind that Claudius is talking to you. There is very little dialogue, and there shouldn't be, because as these events occured two thousand years ago all conversations he puts in must be by their nature nebulous. The majority of the thing seems to be factual, and although historians have critisised Robert Graves for painting an incorrect picture of Claudius for the public, everything is firmly rooted in fact.

I can only remember one part in the whole of the split story that got a bit tedious, which was Claudius' Triumph (it went on a bit), but since there are usually a dozen points I yawn at in an ordinary novel, that is exceptional. I have to say that his two books climb up to my favourite five novels ever, and being at the stage in my life when I need to make important decisions about my future career, Graves has steered me irrevocably towards history.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 15 Sept. 2005
Format: Paperback
How can a man, writing 1900 years after the event, with all the intervening history between, the rise and fall of great empires, nations and peoples transpiring, living in an age, so unlike any other that has preceded it, of modernity, of the motor car, of mass transport, of radio and advertisements, of mass democracy and mass culture be able to recreate a feel of one of the great civilizations of Antiquity, and to put living words into mouths of people long dead and have them not seem contrived or ridiculously grand and unreal, to not be blinded and dumbed by the reverence for the subject the passing of time usually bestows, to not be tempted into a petty judgemental posture of insance acts and grotesque gestures? I don't know. But Robert Graves achieves something I did not think possible anymore.
I have read the classics only in translation, and therefore I can only comment on what I know: there is a style and power to much of the classics that escapes many modern novels. Thousands of years later they are still more alive than much that can be read now, printed only last month. Robert Graves manages to achieve that same feel of directness, simplicity and power of Classical writing, which, in theory, should be so simple, but is actually extremely difficult.He gives us the dust of the Roman Empire, the flickering light of torches lighting marble corridors, and human interactions that decided the destiny of millions.
Written in the 1930s, the books, aside from their great artistic merit, have a profound and deeply moving message about the nature of tyranny and the people who uphold it. There is even a portrait of Caligula which is not entirely without sympathy (and some great comic scenes).
The reader warms to the narrator, Claudius, and the novel's plot is very interesting and at times gripping.
From my reading of Twentieth Century Literature these works along with Graves' other, Count Belisarius, as amongst the very greatest; and an incredible achievement.
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