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The Claudius Novels (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) Paperback – 3 Jun 1999

4.7 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd (3 Jun. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141181486
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141181486
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,041,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 29 Dec. 2005
Format: Paperback
'Claudius the God' is actually part two of a two-part set, the second volume after the much-better-known 'I, Claudius'. The story is set in Rome at the time of the institution of Augustus, the first emperor, up to the accession of Nero, the last of the Julio-Claudian line of emperors (after this time, the imperial seat was more of a political prize to be fought for than a family bequest).
Robert Graves intriguing use of the vernacular language and the extensive research, following largely the histories of Suetonius (a gossipy historian) rather than Tacitus (the formal, more official historian), gives a rather racy and juicy insight into the flamboyant lifestyle of the early imperial family, as seen through the eyes primarily of its most unlikely heir, Claudius the stammerer. Claudius escaped much of the political intrigue and was seen as a harmless outsider due to his physical impediments, which helped mask his intellectual capabilities and cunning insight into the actions of others.
Grave's recreation is well-done, but a bit too sympathetic to his hero Claudius. Claudius was not the intellectual saintly character protrayed in theses novels--true, he wasn't nearly as bad as his predecessor Caligula or his successor Nero, but he had shortcomings that are often ignored for lacking the glamour of the evils of the two emperors who bookend his reign.
Graves' use of language is interesting to note. Instead of translating historical scenes into formal, high-academic English (as a classically-trained Oxbridge scholar might be inclined to do), he put things into what Alistair Cook called the everyday language of the English aristocracy, a social class accustomed to the easy exercise of world-domination power, politically and socially.
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