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I, Claudius Paperback – 1 Sep 1969

4.3 out of 5 stars 109 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1 Sep 1969
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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New impression edition (1 Sept. 1969)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140003185
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140003185
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.8 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 840,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

I, CLAUDIUS and CLAUDIUS THE GOD are an imaginative and hugely readable account of the early decades of the Roman Empire ... racy, inventive, often comic (Daily Telegraph)

One of the really remarkable books of our day, a novel of learning and imagination, fortunately conceived and brilliantly executed (New York Times)

Still an acknowledged masterpiece and a model for historical fiction ... sympathetic and intensely involving: a great feat of imagination (Hilary Mantel) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

First published in 1934, and written in the form of Claudius' autobiography, the audio is read by Derek Jacobi. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. Dowden HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 23 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Over two novels, this being the first, Robert Graves managed to give us the fictional autobiography of Claudius that is scholarly as well as at the same time being speculative, and a thumping good read. As with any leader at this time so far back in our history there is of course rumour, propaganda and hearsay thus although we know certain facts but not everything Graves definitely had room to play about with his characters and certain events. This did give him a certain freedom to some extent, but even so you can see that he was a man who had done his research and knew a lot about the era he wrote of.

In what was a very turbulent period in Roman history with regards to its leadership, Claudius was an ideal person to use, as he lived through some major events, and due to his infirmities managed to avoid assassination unlike a lot of his relatives. After all an Emperor doesn't want family and others around him who could usurp him with legitimate claims to the throne.

In this book Claudius takes us back to before he was born so that we get a feel for the age, and then after his birth he shows what was going on with all the political and family machinations. By using modern place names this makes it an easy read for those who aren't as well versed on the history of the period as others, and whether you are quite well informed on the era or not this makes for some great reading. Although there is a lot of plotting and killing here this is also full of comedy and is a joy to read. We are taken up to the assassination of Caligula and Claudius being announced Emperor, with what happened next coming in the second volume `Claudius the God'.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I Claudius is a work of recreated autobiography, telling the life story of a reluctant Roman emperor, who introduces himself as “Tiberius, Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus This-that-and-the-other (for I shall not trouble you yet with all my titles).” As a story it’s a compelling read, starting in the relatively sunny days of the rule of jovial Augustus – Claudius’s grandfather - where we meet the young Claudius, a shy boy with a limp, a stutter and a love of reading, writing and history. We then follow Claudius, protected by the fact that everyone thinks him a harmless fool, through the increasingly cruel reign of Tiberius, into the demented period under Caligula. Then finally, following Caligula’s assassination, a terrified Claudius, stuttering his reluctance, finds himself hoisted shoulder high and proclaimed emperor himself.
As well as a good story, the book is also a reflection on what history actually is – a record of past events, a story built out of past events, and the use of the past to bolster the narrow interests of the present. It’s also a book about politics, with much to tell us about our own times. One of the characteristics of the benign period under Augustus, for example, is “freedom of the press” – a reluctance to punish writers or comedians who make the emperor the butt of their criticism or jokes. Modern Europe could take note.
Above all, I loved the ending. Claudius was primarily a writer, and if you were a writer who finds himself becoming emperor what would go through your mind? Robert Graves, another writer, realises you would be thinking, “ah well, at least I can get people to read my books now.” I would be thinking the same.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Graves' picture of Rome during the Caesars' reigns is top stuff. I've read that Claudius wasn't exactly the likeable chap depicted by Mr Jacobi in the TV version of Graves's books, but I'm no classicist so that's hardly valid in comment on a novel. And as a novel this is first quality reading, absolutely. I first read this a great many years ago, very soon after the TV series was launched on first showing - and was hooked very quickly. This and "Claudius the God" are easy reading indeed - and that's no insult, believe me. Graves' view of Rome is clearly drawn, his characters are beautifully portrayed. No doubt some weight was lent by the excellence of the TV version, but the budget constraints of a studio production don't enter into it for a work of literature such as this. It's a very worthwhile read indeed - but a surprisingly expensive buy for the Kindle - how so? It's an old pair of books, this - hardly flying off the shelves these days I'd reckon.

If I wanted to read these again now I'd look out a couple of used paperbacks and save £13 - rather than buy the kindle versions at nearly £8 for the second one - Amazon having hooked you into the "franchise" with a price of £4.99 for I, Claudius.

But - price apart - these books are quality writing and worth a few hours of anyone's attention.
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This reads like conversational history book. It's wonderfully detailed and Graves carefully and diligently spans on the main historical sources for the period, Tacitus and Suetonius. But it's dated historical fiction - compare this with Robert Harris's Imperium and Lustrum novels on Cicero and it is easy to see that this way of writing historical fiction has had its day. This is not to say the book is not enjoyable on its own terms but just because it has the status of a 'modern classic' does not mean to say that there are not other equally good or even better novels on Rome, including the early Imperial period, than I, Claudius. A fair three stars is my score for this book as I think it is good for its time but has aged somewhat in its style and manner of writing historical fiction and in its depiction of Ancient Roman society. Also it may be preferable, if one is to read classic books, to read Tacitus directly, though that is not doubt a drier affair than Graves' book.
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