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The First Emperor: Caesar Augustus and the Triumph of Rome Paperback – 15 Nov 2007
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'An exhilarating portrait of Roman social customs and politics' (Publishing News)
'A comprehensive and readable account of [Augustus and the Roman world]' (Literary Review)
'This biography of the first Roman Emperor depicts Augustus, the man who turned inner weaknesses into strengths and painstakingly restored Rome's civic greatness at home and military doinance abroad . . . Quite a guy' (Tony Matthews, Defence Focus)
'His story is also the story of perhaps the most vibrant period of Roman history' (Sunday Business Post)
'This sparky text certainly brings the Emperor to life, as well as a host of supporting characters' (Sunday Telegraph)
'(A) solid biography' (Guardian)
A riveting new biography of Caesar Augustus, Rome's first emperor and one of the most influential men in historySee all Product description
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And thoroughly enjoyed it!
In the introduction the author sets out the difficulties of writing about people and events in ancient times. He lets the reader know that in many cases he had to rely on works written long after the events they describe and often the authors had their own political agenda. Many times in the book he admits that due to the limitations of historical sources we don't know the reason for or details of events mentioned.
Given the limitations described above Everitt has done a fine job. We get a great insight into the public and private lives of Augustus (AKA Octavian). He was a rather peculiar character in many ways. Brought up in a well off but not very influential rural family a prominent public life seemed unlikely. However his adoption by his great-uncle Julius Caesar opened many doors for him. He used his connection to the great man throughout his life. However he was completely different to Julius. That may explain why he was assassinated and Augustus lived a long life!
His record as a general is mixed to say the least, which surprised me. His tendency to get ill before major battles is interesting. More than once he relied on better generals such as Agrippa to garner vital victories for him, though that didn't stop him from often taking the credit for them.
However it was as a cool and calculating politician that he was at his best. His triumphs over Brutus, Cassius, Mark Anthony and others were as much the fruits of political manoeuvrings as of the military victories that marked their end.
Despite ending the Roman Republic Augustus always supported traditional Republican values. He saw see his dictatorship as a necessity caused by the instability caused by Republican politics but seemed to genuinely believe in ancient values such as the need for noblemen to do public service. He at least pretended to take heed of the views of the Senate. In this way he differed from Julius Caesar, a genuine revolutionary.
The author does a great job in describing and explaining the extensive political and military events through Augustus' life. He also describes the relationships that influenced his (often intermingled) personal and political lives. Of course the names of the people in Augustus' life jump off the page: Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Mark Anthony, Brutus, Cassius Tiberius and Agrippa. At the end of this book I wanted to find out more about all these characters as well.
In summary a highly enjoyable historical book.
If you are interested in this period and this man (Augustus)This is a must read.