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on 16 August 2013
This is another fantastic pick up and read book by Philip Matyszak and if you are in anyway interested in at least one of the Julio Claudian Dynasty then this will have you hooked. The relaxed style of the author guides you back and forth through the events quoting passages from the historians whilst adding his own learned view where evidence has been lost or subject to hype such as Tiberius' lifestyle choices in Capri. There are also numerous black and white photographs of marble busts,beautiful Cameos and significant coins of the of the emperors and their families which break up the narrative nicely. This book is also a perfect partner to the BBC I Claudius television programme and in my mind John Hurt will always be Little Boots.
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on 30 July 2009
The first imperial family, the Julio-Claudian, lived in complex times. Their family relations were complicated as well. The writer Philip Matyszak knows how to write about this, without complicating it for the reader and making this part of history vivid and interesting to the reader. The writer used many ancient sources. He has integrated these sources in his book in a way that the ancient texts are a welcome addition to the book. I have read quite a lot of books about this Roman family, but I must say that this book is one of the best books. It is accessible to every reader without oversimplifying the text. The Romans and their lives presented in this book will become alive to the readers. It will be no surprise that I recommend this non-fiction page-turner to everyone interested in (Roman) history.
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on 25 January 2008
This book explores the highly complex lives of the first six Caesars, from Julius Caesar through to Nero. I myself have a rather limited knowledge of the Emperors after Caesar, so I was well pleased with the explanations of the rules of the Emperors. It is, as said above, an excellent starting point for research into one of the most turbulent times in Roman politics, but not recommended to people looking for a highly in-depth biography of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. It is highly enjoyable and the material lends itself well to the style of the author, allowing the tale to unfold.

However, the main fault with this history is Philip Matyszak's handling of the complex material, insofar that he is mostly unable to simplify the events to beeasily readable. Of course, the fact that the Romans insisted on naming their daughters after the family name of the father doesn't make simplification easy.

The criticism, though, is quite minor, but for me enough to warrant a loss of the fifth star. Despite this I would very strongly urge the purchase of the book to anybody looking for a brief reminder of these times and the events surrounding the fascinating figures in it.
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