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The First Emperor: Caesar Augustus and the Triumph of Rome Paperback – 15 Nov 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (15 Nov. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719554950
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719554957
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 3.1 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 768,533 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'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)

Book Description

A riveting new biography of Caesar Augustus, Rome's first emperor and one of the most influential men in history

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A couple of years ago on a visit to Rome, I came across, almost by accident, the Mausoleum of Caesar Augustus. It had just been reopened. Even as a renovated ruin it is impressive so imagine what it must have been like when it was built so many years ago. My interest in the first Emperor was piqued and bought Everitt's book.
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.
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Some great reviews already on this, so I'll try not to repeat what has already been said. I thought it might be useful to try to get across what it's like to read this book - what kind of experience is it?

Straight to the punchline: a big thumbs up from me!

I like the way this book is written. I already had a reasonable knowledge of this period but found plenty to keep me interested. On the other hand I'm sure that newcomers will find it equally engaging - not much is assumed about prior knowledge. One thing I didn't realise, for example was the prominence - and eventually equivalence - of Agrippa. What a team those two made!

Mr Everitt keeps his chapters nice and tight - and short! This is a personal thing but as I read a book over many 'sittings' I like to be able to close a chapter before I leave the session. If I'm tired a chapter of 20-25 pages is a bit daunting and it puts me off a bit. Maybe I'm a bit weird! But the author manages to get across a lot of good information in an informative manner in nice 'chunks'. I actually think that's a bit of a skill. But I'm biased!

So, my age old test: to what degree did I find myself checking out how many pages were left? Not a bit!

Most popular history about ancient Rome seems to focus on Julius Caesar - is that because he was so successful in Gaul? Or because he ended the Republic? Or because of the famous way he died? Maybe I'm missing something here but the reign of Augustus was equally thrilling and meaningful? Maybe someone can enlighten me! Anyway, my point is that this book fits very nicely. Dam' good job!
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As a lover of the Roman period, but certainly not an academic, i found this an accesible and entertaining read. I enjoyed reading about the everyday workings of the Empire as much as with the descriptions of the highest strata of the ruling classes.

The Emperor himself became a vivid and clearer person to me, "warts and all". The writing of his complex life, and of those who influenced, guided,and certainly those who challenged him was so well written and woven together in such a clear style, that it succeded in turning this into a facinating read.
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