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I, Claudius ()

Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century (14)

Robert Graves is one of the few writers to put an entry on both the Top 100 Fiction and Top 100 Non-Fiction lists.  His WWI memoir Goodbye to All That made the latter list; his excellent historical novel I, Claudius made this one.

The great task facing any writer of historical fiction is to render his subjects accessible to a modern reader without sacrificing the authenticity of his period setting.  Graves set a standard for other authors to shoot for with I Claudius.  His Claudius manages to speak to us in a voice that we can readily comprehend even as we are transported to the Rome of the Caesars.

Claudius, afflicted with numerous physical ailments, seemed to his peers to be something of an idiot.  Graves makes the case that these very infirmities, and the underestimation of his abilities by all but Augustus, enabled him to survive the mayhem and bloodshed of the reigns of his predecessors.  Upon Caligula's assassination, Claudius was elevated to emperor almost as a joke, but he turned out to be one of the most capable of the Roman Emperors.

Graves tells the story of the years leading up to his ascension to the throne with great wit and verve in this archetypal historical novel.


Grade: (A+)


Robert Graves Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Robert Graves
    -REVIEW ESSAY: A Graves Goodbye to WWI (JOHN P. ROSSI, MAY 30, 2024, Religion & Liberty)

Book-related and General Links:
    -Robert Graves Trust, Archive and Society
    -Focus on Robert Graves and His Contemporaries
    -De Imperitoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors
    -History of Western Civilization
    -I, Claudius the film as history

If you liked I, Claudius, try:

Gibbon, Edward
    -The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire : An Abridged Version

Langguth, A.J.
    -A Noise of War: Caesar, Pompey, Octavian and the Struggle for Rome

Pressfield, Steven
    -Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae   (read Orrin's review, Grade: A+)

Sienkiewicz, Henryk
    -Quo Vadis?

Wallace, Lew

Whyte, Jack
(The Camulod Chronicles)
    -The Skystone
    -The Singing Sword
    -The Eagle's Brood
    -The Saxon Shore

Yourcenar, Marguerite
    -Memoirs of Hadrian