Count Belisarius (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 3 Aug 2006
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About the Author
Robert Graves was born in 1895 in Wimbledon. He went from school to the First World War, where he became a captain in the Royal Welch Fusiliers and was seriously wounded at the Battle of the Somme. He wrote his autobiography, Goodbye to All That, in 1929, and it was soon established as a modern classic. He died on 7 December 1985 in Majorca, his home since 1929.
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Top Customer Reviews
Count Belisarius was published in 1938, some three years after Graves' more famous fictional accounts of the life and times of the Roman Emperor Claudius: I Claudius, and Claudius The God. These earlier works were based primarily on the scandalous (and salacious) account of the lives of the Emperors Augustus to Nero provided in Suetonius' Lives of the Twelve Caesars.
And so also with Count Belisarius. Taking liberal chunks from the contemporary scandal sheets (mainly Procopius of Caesarea's Secret History), and taking its style from Tacitus' Agricola, Graves' Belisarius is portrayed as a great, noble general thwarted and ultimately betrayed by the jealousy of an Emperor (in this case Justinian, not Domitian). He is a man who holds on to his virtue in a world going bad and rife with corruption.
Count Belisarius is a work of fiction, not of history. But, like the best historical novels, it displays such a depth of knowledge that its readers (unless they are very well read indeed) are certain to be become better informed in the course of their entertainment. This is not to say that it is a classic work of high art. Like Graves' earlier treatment of the Claudian dynasty, Count Belisarius is part soap opera, part gossip column and part hagiography. It is, however, a cracking good read, as well as being very articulate and erudite - an almost unheard of combination of attributes in an historical novel.Read more ›
Graves gives an epic and moving portrait of an unique man, his surroundings, his actions and his intimates. This book actually takes us to the Euphrates with Belisarius and his army, to the walls of Rome and to the corrupt and violent world of Constantinople and the Hippodrome: and I don't know how it does so quite so effectively as it is not a book that is overly-descriptive. Like those earlier great works of history, it uses simple, straightforward language to achieve this strong feeling about the setting. It is gripping, enjoyable and, as I said, moving novel.
This might be forgivable if we had any real sort of characterisation and dialogue and the focus was on the personalities and really bringing those historical characters to life. Graves was consciously trying to some extent emulate a writing style of the age (as memoirs of a slave of the wife of Belisarius) rather than a 'contemporary' novel, but what he has delivered feels like neither one thing nor the other and a bit of a mishmash. Paraphrasing Procopius whilst trying to throw in a little bit of dialogue as well doesn't succeed. May as well just read Procopius.
So, for example, Graves cops out of dealing with the intense theological arguments which were integral to the politics and very mindset of the age - this was a real disappointment; the Nika riots in which chariot racing politics spilled over into a popular uprising against the emperor ...Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A very slow starter. Almost 200 pages before I got used to the stoney style. The story is well worth telling however.Published 15 months ago by Jorgensen
This old historical novel first published in 1938 has received mixed reviews, depending on reviewers’ perspectives. Read morePublished 22 months ago by JPS
Classic exposition of brilliant but largely unknown general.Published 23 months ago by robert taylor
Truly a masterful piece. Both surgical in its precision and yet able to move one to tears and rage against its characters. Read morePublished on 3 Feb. 2014 by Takoul
This is a neglected classic almost as good as I Claudius. Not as well known because we have been much more exposed culturally to Roman history and the early Caesars. Read morePublished on 7 Sept. 2013 by Marat
You have to accept that this book was written in a different age for a different audience. It reads like a history lesson rather than a draatic historical novel, BUT the story is... Read morePublished on 13 Aug. 2013 by Enquirer