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Count Belisarius by Robert Graves

Count Belisarius (1938)

by Robert Graves

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7731317,373 (3.72)65
  1. 10
    The Secret History by Procopius (Michael.Rimmer)
  2. 10
    Homer's Daughter by Robert Graves (longway)
  3. 00
    Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar (nessreader)
    nessreader: Literary historical fiction, about the later roman empire, the decline and fall. sumptuously written.
  4. 00
    Das griechische Feuer by Luigi Malerba (longway)

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Having enjoyed Graves's Claudius novels, I decided to have a go at this book, set in the reign of the Byzantine emperor Justinian. Graves has distilled the official histories of the time, and more gossipy works like Procopius' Secret History, to create a moving story about the ingratitude of rulers. Large parts of the book are filled with descriptions of battles, but Graves writes very well and never allows them to become tedious. Besides, the Byzantine Empire certainly has a lot of colour to keep the interest up. The emperor Justinian came out of the whole thing extremely poorly. I don’t know how far Graves exaggerated his character, but I found him cowardly, ungrateful, blind, unstrategic, easily-misled, henpecked and generally flawed in every possible way; worst of all, he didn’t even have the sense to recognise that Belisarius was the one man in the Empire whom he could trust implicitly. It may be true, as some critics claim, that Belisarius is a little too good to be true; but nevertheless it's a convincing and powerful story of injustice, which is all the more moving because it is based on historical events. ( )
  TheIdleWoman | Dec 8, 2017 |
Cast in the form of a chronicle/memoir, written by Eugenius, the eunuch servant of Belisarius's wife, Antonina, this purports to tell the story of Count [Generalissimo] Belisarius, of the Eastern Roman army in the days of Justinian and Theodora, 6th century AD. It begins with the boy Belisarius and reveals his quick-thinking at so young an age. Becoming general, he cuts a wide swath through North Africa, Roman cities in Italy and Sicily. We see his tactical and strategic genius. He also deals with machinations at the court of Justinian and Theodora set against the broader history of that period.

The style was stilted, using pseudo-Victorian language. This put me off somewhat. The first few chapters introduced the characters and gave them personalities in broad strokes. The book was more interesting from Belisarius's quelling of the Nika [Victory] Riots, through his battles to regain the Western Roman Empire and final fate: 350+ pages or so. I could not get close to any of them; writing was mere reporting of facts as Eugenius remembered them. I believe much was taken from Procopius, historian who appears in the story. What he wrote we can't trust completely; the man had his own agenda.

Recommended, as a classic of the 6th century. ( )
  janerawoof | May 21, 2016 |
Count Belisarius was the last general of the Roman empire to be given a Triumph. His reconquests of North Africa, and Sicily in the 530's CE were the high mark of the reign of Justinian I. His wife was an intimate of the Empress Theodora, and he shows well in history, having also defended the empire from invasions by the Persians and the Huns.
Utilizing the fact that the historian Procopius was employed by Belisarius as a secretary, Robert Graves has written this fictionalized biography with skill. It's a little short on sex, but is in the format that the later novelist, Alfred Duggan would bring to perfection.
Read twice. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Dec 30, 2013 |
Belisarius was a tragic hero, deserving of the title "The Last Roman". An honest and principled man, who reconquered Rome and Carthage with a miniscule force, and died, according to legend, a blind beggar, fallen to the intrigues of the Byzantine court.

Graves, who is no slouch when it comes to historical fiction, does well here. He does his research on an all too obscure period of history, and writes a gripping novel. Detailed yet energetic. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
A good read. But not as good as I thought it would be. There is no doubting Graves' attention to historical accuracy, and his descriptions of ancient warfare and tactics were fascinating. But it lacked a deeper insight into the personalities of the principal characters. Part of this, I think, is because the narrator is, for much of the story, not a direct player in the events, so there can be less characterisation.

That said, I would certainly recommend the book, and was always keen to find out "what happened next"! ( )
  RMMee | Jul 3, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert Gravesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Davis, LindseyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hughes, DavidIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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When he was seven years old, Belisarius was told by his widowed mother that it was now time for him to leave her for a while, and her retainers of the household and estate at Thracian Tchermen, and go to school at Adrianople, a city some miles away, where he would be under the guardianship of her brother, the Distinguished Modestus.
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Book description
The sixth-century Roman empire is a dangerous place, threatened on all frontiers by invaders. But soon the attacking armies of Vandals, Goths and Persians grow to fear and respect the name of one man, Belisarius: horseman, archer, swordsman and military commander of genius. As Belisarius triumphs in battles from the East to North Africa, his success causes him to become regarded with increasing jealousy and suspicion. In his palace in Constantinople the Emperor Justinian, dominated by his wife Theodora, plots the great general's downfall. Written in the form of a biography by Belisarius' manservant, this epic historical novel portrays him as a lone man of honour in a corrupt world. (Penguin Modern Classics blurb)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374517398, Paperback)

The sixth century was not a peaceful time for the Roman empire. Invaders threatened on all fronties, but they grew to respect and fear the name of Belisarius, the Emperor Justinian's greatest general. With this book Robert Graves again demonstrates his command of a vast historical subject, creating a startling and vivid picture of a decadent era.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:52 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A historical romance of the sixth century AD, this is the story of Belisarius, the last of the great generals of the Roman Empire, who re-conquered Africa and Italy for the emperor in Constantinople, only to be rewarded with suspicion and humiliation.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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