- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (1 Mar. 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1848876858
- ISBN-13: 978-1848876859
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 3 x 20 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 451,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Twelve Caesars Paperback – 1 Mar 2013
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Unputdownable... These histories from 2,000 years ago are riveting in their insight, their black humour and their sheer readability, give or take a few highbrow verbal flourishes. Matthew Dennison fleshes out their gaudy history with boisterous scholarship. Daily Mail Dennison's series of impressionistic pen portraits are compelling and imaginative. Sunday Times Matthew Dennison is one of those rare marvels, a historical biographer whose work has reached the bestseller lists... Each story is told with humour and personal interpretations of the facts. Then there's the glory of the language: Dennison is in love with the English language, and it shows. Independent The author's prose style - epigrammatic, swift, and spiced with humour - is like Tacitus in translation. Which is meant as a compliment. His relish for his material shines infectiously through his sentences. -- Thomas Hodgkinson Spectator Dennison's approach combines thoughtful reflection and analysis with gossipy irreverence in a bewitching cocktail... hugely entertaining. Daily Express Unputdownable... These histories from 2,000 years ago are riveting in their insight, their black humour and their sheer readability, give or take a few highbrow verbal flourishes. Matthew Dennison fleshes out their gaudy history with boisterous scholarship. Daily Mail Gossipy and insightful, making for an enjoyable introduction to this power--hungry crowd Financial Times
About the Author
Matthew Dennison is the author of the critically acclaimed biographies: The Last Princess: The Devoted Life of Queen Victoria's Youngest Daughter, and Empress of Rome: The Life of Livia. As a journalist, he has been published in every national weekday broadsheet and continues to contribute regularly to Country Life, The Times, Telegraph Magazine and the Daily Express. He read English Language & Literature at Christ Church, Oxford, as Douglas Jerrold Scholar, and afterwards the History of Decorative Arts at the University of Glasgow.
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Top Customer Reviews
I has hoped that this book would allow me to learn much more about each of these first 12 emperors and their times, and it did...but it is such hard work. The author seems to assume the reader's preexisting knowledge, and although he says that his purpose in writing the book will be fulfilled if just one reader subsequently reads the account of 12 Caesars written by Suetonius around AD 117 (on which much of this book is based), it is hard to understand this book without having read Suetonius first.
The reason that this is so hard to follow easily is the frequent jumping back and forward in time within the account of each Caesar, and across the 12 accounts as well. The author certainly likes to use obscure words, and occasionally this doesn't make it any easier to understand.
The mixed feelings are because much of this book was enjoyable to read, although hard to follow, and that if you concentrate there is much to learn. Personally, I would have preferred a more 'birth to death' account of each of the Caesars, which looked at their actions and impacts more chronologically, than all the jumping around which takes place in this account.
The subject matter is fascinating, but the writing style didn't really work for me
However, the structure of Dennison's book was incredibly difficult to follow and far from being a good introduction makes many assumptions of prior knowledge. Frequently Dennison will summarise the characteristics of an emperor and then say 'and we all know what this led to.' No. No, I don't. That's why I was reading what has been billed as a good introduction to the subject!
Dennison leaps backwards and forwards chronologically and offers interesting snippets of events that never go far enough. I realise covering twelve emperors is a big ask and he is limited in what can be included, but all this book has provided me with is an indication as to which of the twelve Caesars I would now like to find informative, lucid books on! I also found that he didn't always make contradictions in the sources clear enough. He would present something as a fact and then several pages later say the opposite! Why not just clearly mention that the sources disagree?
This book must be aimed at an extremely niche market. I certainly would not recommend it to anyone who wants a good introduction to the subject! On the other hand, anyone who already knows about the Caesars is unlikely to find this very informative - although you may at least stand a chance of following Dennison's ramblings!
Ultimately, something is very wrong when a booklover like myself finishes a book by resoundingly slamming the pages shut and shouting, 'finished!' so loudly that I scare my cats.
One think I should mention before you jump into this book, buy yourselve a good dictionary; the author has a formidable command of the English language.
I would say though, like the previous reviewer, if you are not familiar with classical writing, grab a dictionary!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Alan Massie's review (over 20 years ago) of Suetonius and Tacitus etc. in "The Caesars" is very similar to this book in scope but it's much more readable and interesting. Read morePublished on 9 Jan. 2014 by John Coffey
I baulked, initially, at this book. Not the zippy approach of modern TV historians, but big, considered, dense paragraphs which at first seemed school-masterly even stodgy. Read morePublished on 31 Aug. 2013 by Jonathan Sims
Self-consciously literary, this is hard going, and adds little to the knowledge most interested readers will already have acquired elsewhere. Read morePublished on 28 Aug. 2013 by JK