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I, Claudius (1934)

by Robert Graves

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Claudius (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,474157816 (4.24)409
Based on the life of Claudius, Emperor of Rome.
  1. 120
    Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar (bertilak)
  2. 50
    Julian by Gore Vidal (CurrerBell)
    CurrerBell: Both classical Roman subjects, and they share the style of an "autobiographical novel."
  3. 20
    Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz (sirparsifal)
  4. 20
    Homer's Daughter by Robert Graves (longway)
  5. 20
    Augustus: First Emperor of Rome by Adrian Goldsworthy (CurrerBell)
    CurrerBell: I, Claudius can be at times be a bit weird (maybe "overly romanticized" would be a better description). Goldsworthy's biography can be a good corrective, at least for the first half of I, Claudius (the portion dealing with the lifetime of Augustus), and definitely presents a different (and probably much more balanced) image of Livia, the long-time wife of Augustus.… (more)
  6. 20
    Augustus by John Edward Williams (rahkan)
  7. 10
    The Annals of Tacitus by P. Cornelius Tacitus (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: Non-fiction view into the same period, and a probable reference for Mr. Graves.
  8. 21
    Salammbô by Gustave Flaubert (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Historical fiction set in the Classical Mediterranean
  9. 10
    The Egyptian by Mika Waltari (mcenroeucsb)
  10. 11
    Tiberius by Allan Massie (celtic)
  11. 11
    An Imperial Possession: Britain in the Roman Empire, 54 BC - AD 409 by David Mattingly (John_Vaughan)
  12. 11
    Pride of Carthage: A Novel of Hannibal by David Anthony Durham (mcenroeucsb)
  13. 12
    Empire by Steven Saylor (JGolomb)
    JGolomb: "I, Claudius" is the standard bearer for Imperial Roman fiction. It's more richly detailed and emotional than Saylor, but comparable it's broad historical scope.
  14. 34
    I, Claudius [1976 TV miniseries] by Herbert Wise (longway)
1930s (46)

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Showing 1-5 of 138 (next | show all)
In 1977 (oh my, how time flies), Masterpiece Theater presented a BBC production of I, Claudius. The production included the events of both of Graves Claudius novels and featured a cast that would include some of the best actors of the century, among them Derek Jacobi, an unforgettable Claudius. After watching it, I read Robert Graves novel from which its name was derived, but never got around to the second half of the story, Claudius the God. Fast forward to today, and I am at last revisiting the first novel in anticipation of reading the second.

What an amazing piece of historical fiction this is! I do not think bringing this era to life and making it relatable is easy, but Robert Graves makes it seem so. What an unlikely hero is the stammering, crippled Claudius, but what a clear-sighted and good man he is, despite his times. How can you keep your sanity when there is so much arbitrary killing? Was there ever a more villainous villain than Livia? A more reprehensible madman than Caligula? A less insightful dupe than Augustus? No wonder Rome fell.

At the end of this novel we have just been introduced to the lady, Messalina. I know what awaits me in volume two and I am looking forward to it. Lord preserve us from ourselves.
( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
Just well-researched and accurate... Disappointed for one of the best rated historical books... ( )
  jordisolisc | Aug 7, 2022 |
One of the giants in the field, Robert Graves' artful stitching of Tacitus and Suetonius' accounts of the life of the Fourth Roman emperor, reads well, and holds up today. Lacking some of the more immediate details of domestic life, and the remarkable numbers of suicides and outright assassinations, this is a clear portrait of the narrator, and most especially of his remarkably vicious grandmother, Livia the wife of Augustus. The choice of the life of the studious Julio-Claudian, allowed Graves to avoid going into the details which may appeal to the modern taste for bedroom scenes and gritty sword fights. Read it to discover the "high road" of historical imagination, and, because it is a hard book to stop once you start. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Feb 13, 2022 |
Graves' scholarship comes through very clearly in this work, and he takes meticulous care in the detail with which he addresses the intrigues of Rome. In that respect, it reminded me strongly of Pride and Prejudice--but the pacing was more like a summary of a longer work. The sections in which he characterized Claudius were strongest, but my taste for those is likely a symptom of being used to modern narratives. The tone was reminiscent here and there of Caesar, of Herodotus, and in language, he used a hybridization technique, with very little Latin. It was a useful technique to make Claudius into a historian, and the reader could clearly see where his biases and prejudices affected his opinions on things. An interesting work to read alongside historical fiction theory articles. ( )
  et.carole | Jan 21, 2022 |
Claudius, fourth Emperor of Rome, is said to have composed an autobiography now lost to history. In the 1930s a cash-strapped Robert Graves decided to try filling in this blank with a two-volume fictional work. In this first volume, he has Claudius describe the rule of the first three Emperors, all of whom he knew during his lifetime. It is as wonderful a companion to Tacitus' Annals as I had hoped. It fills in the story of Augustus which Tacitus spent little time on, and clarifies the crimes of Tiberias (whom I'd found at least somewhat sympathetic, but not at all now). Tacitus' coverage of Caligula has been lost but it's all here. I doubt whether Graves selected Claudius as his narrator so much for the purpose of redeeming his image (although in this first volume at least he certainly does that), as much as because he could tell the story of the early Roman Empire from an ideal point of view.

This fictional memoir approach makes it comparable to Yourcenar's account of Hadrian. This is not as dense, but both heavily rely on telling more than showing, and feature an enormous amount of detailed family relationships, military maneuvers and political machinations. They differ in two significant respects. For one, Robert Graves waxes more poetic than Yourcenar - literally, in his recounting of invented prophecies, quoting from Homer, etc. Secondly, Graves in particular is a wizard at completing our knowledge of events beyond what's recorded. I was too often forgetting that I was reading fiction, wondering in surprise about some astonishing fact before I had to remember that it wasn't (necessarily) how events actually occurred. Graves writes a very plausible and often exciting story, one that makes an enormous villain out of Livia and a victim out of Julia, swaps Postumus with his impersonator, attributes definitive blame for various deaths, and does various other tricks. I picked up on a few of these thanks to other reading (e.g. Tacitus) and by referring to the internet, but I'm sure I missed a few gems. An annotated edition of this novel would be brilliant, if it could cite through endnotes which parts of the narrative can be found in contemporary sources and which appear to be invented.

I would suggest that nothing Graves speculated is entirely implausible. He adheres to the known history, and what makes this so fascinating is that quite possibly he's guessed right on all counts. Who can say now? ( )
3 vote Cecrow | Oct 25, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 138 (next | show all)
It is not enough for us to form any judgment of his merits as a historian or his qualities as a stylist. It is Graves that gives him a voice, and what a voice it is, garrulous, digressive, spiced with gossip and scandal, at the same time strangely dispassionate and sober. There is a range of tone here that enables Claudius, in his persona as professional historian, to deal with matters widely diverse, to be equally convincing whether talking about the waste and excess of military triumphs, the fate of Varus and his regiments in the forests of Germany, or the endless intriguing for power and influence among the members of the imperial family.
added by SnootyBaronet | editThe Guardian, Barry Unsworth
Supuesta "autobiografía" de Claudio, singular emperador romano predestinado a serlo a pesar de que sus deseos fueran por otros caminos. Graves dibuja sin concesiones un espeluznante retrato sobre la depravación, las sangrientas purgas y las intrigas cainitas llevadas hasta el crimen durante los reinados de Augusto y Tiberio. Pero Yo, Claudio es también Calígula y su etapa sádica, Mesalina, Livia y, cómo no, Roma, un decorado único para esta trama argumental apasionante que se llevó a la pequeña pantalla con rotundo éxito.
added by Pakoniet | editLecturalia

» Add other authors (32 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Graves, Robertprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hill, Tom GoodmanNarratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jacobi, DerekNarratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cohen, Mark J.Designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martinez, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mazía, FlorealTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mitchell, SusanArt directorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Renner, LouisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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. . . A story that was the subject of every variety of misrepresentation, not only by those who then lived but likewise in succeeding times: so true is it that all transactions of pre-eminent importance are wrapt in doubt and obscurity; while some hold for certain facts the most precarious hearsays, others turn facts into falsehood; and both are exaggerated by posterity.

First words
I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus This-that-and-the-other (for I shall not trouble you yet with all my titles) who was once, and not so long ago either, known to my friends and relatives and associates as "Claudius the Idiot", or "That Claudius", or "Claudius the Stammerer", or "Clau-Clau-Claudius" or at best as "Poor Uncle Claudius", am now about to write this strange history of my life; starting from my earliest childhood and continuing year by year until I reach the fateful point of change where, some eight years ago, at the age of fifty-one, I suddenly found myself caught in what I may call the "golden predicament" from which I have never since become disentangled.
You refuse to see that one can no more reintroduce republican government at this stage than one can reimpose primitive feelings of chastity on modern wives and husbands. It's like trying to turn the shadow back on a sundial: it can't be done.
Tiberius will make him his successor. No question of it. Why? Because Tiberius is like that. He has the same vanity as poor Augustus had: he can't bear the idea of a successor who will be more popular than himself. But at the same time he does all he can to make himself hated and feared. So, when he feels that his time's nearly up, he'll search for someone just a little worse than himself to succeed him. And he'll find Caligula.
Germanicus has told me about you. He says that you are loyal to three things—to your friends, to Rome, and to the truth. I would be very proud if Germanicus thought the same of me.
To recommend a monarchy on account of the prosperity it gives the provinces seems to me like recommending that a man should have liberty to treat his children as slaves, if at the same time he treats his slaves with reasonable consideration.
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Based on the life of Claudius, Emperor of Rome.

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Haiku summary
Becomes emperor
with death of Caligula.
Where have good times gone?

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141188596, 0143566393


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