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The Claudius Novels (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) [Paperback]

Robert Graves
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Jun 1999 Penguin Twentieth Century Classics
Claudius, the stammerer, was known as a buffoon and a pitiful fool. He made it his business to watch from the sidelines and record the antics, funny, violent and lustful, of the imperial households as its members vied with each other for power. Then he found himself Emperor. From the great days of Augustus and the cruelties of Tiberius to the deified insanity of Caligula, he records a story breathtaking in its murderousness, greed and folly. Throughout the swings of fortune, his own disastrous love affair with the depraved Messalina and surprisingly successful reign, his voice sometimes puzzled, sometimes rueful, always sane, speaks to us across the centuries in two great, classical historical novels.

Product details

  • Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd (3 Jun 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141181486
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141181486
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 682,474 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.)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant in parts 30 Oct 2001
By A Customer
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb 19 Sep 2003
Robert Graves writes a majestic, hilarious and moving portrayal of ancient Rome extending from the benevolent reign of Augustus, through the tyranny of Tiberius and the insanity of Caligula, to the triumphs and tribulations of Claudius. Drawing on a huge knowledge of ancient history to present a (largely) factual account of the times, Graves fills the gaps with a wonderful array of salacious events, and gives each character fullness, especially Claudius himself who is one of the great characters in modern fiction. These two books are never dry and stuffy, by contrast they are overflowing with freshness and vitality. As relevant to today's events as any contemporary work, I Claudius and Claudius the God are essential reading.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book has everything! 14 Feb 2001
By A Customer
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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible achievement 15 Sep 2005
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Among the best books I have ever read. 1 Oct 2006
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars read this as a companion to the tv series
Told from the view of Claudius the fourth emperor of Rome born
With a lame leg,and grew up with a stutter and twitch he was treated
With contempt by his mother and... Read more
Published 19 days ago by g white film buff
5.0 out of 5 stars Two of the best books ever written
I recommend any one who hasn't read these books to do so, they are undoubted classics of 20th century literature.
Published 2 months ago by itec_masseur
5.0 out of 5 stars Catch up time
This huge volume was something I had long wanted to read. While away on holiday I found the book in a private library and over the period of a few days was able to read some... Read more
Published 13 months ago by peterclark
5.0 out of 5 stars Claudius speaks clear
Robert Graves has written, in these two novels, a stunning portrait of Claudius and of the Roman world. Read more
Published on 25 Jun 2010 by Klaatu
5.0 out of 5 stars I, Claudius/Claudius The God. Robert Graves - Historic fiction at its...
Why bother going to the trouble of inventing a decent plot and characters when history has already done it for you? Read more
Published on 7 Jun 2010 by Victor
5.0 out of 5 stars I Claudius and Claudius the God
It was good having the 2 books in one - enjoyed it very much, having also seen the TV series.
Published on 25 Nov 2009 by Mrs. M. Key
5.0 out of 5 stars The best historical fiction ever.
Robert Graves mastered the art of writing historical fiction in a way the reader identified with the main character, Claudius, and grow sympathy for this Roman scholar who became... Read more
Published on 1 Aug 2009 by T. R. Caris
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing
Aside from the incredible amount of scholarship that has gone into this book, it is extremely entertaining. Read more
Published on 25 Jun 2007 by a nice guy who likes reading
5.0 out of 5 stars "How many twisted stories remain to be straightened out?"
In I, Claudius, Robert Graves creates the first person narrative of Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus, known in Roman history as Claudius, widely regarded as an idiot. Read more
Published on 5 Dec 2006 by Mary Whipple
5.0 out of 5 stars Salve, Imperator!
Fantastic - divine even! Graves has written a fantastic pair of novels here, to the standard of Claudius himself, as the level of detail given is absolutely astounding. Read more
Published on 16 Dec 2003 by Amazon Customer
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