I, Claudius – Robert Graves

I-Claudius-Penguin-ClassicsI cannot recommend highly enough this compelling story of the first emperors of Rome from Augustus to Claudius. Written as an autobiography of the physically challenged Claudius, this work of historical fiction has it all – and I do mean ALL – intrigue, sex, violence and poisoning just to name a few of the more scintillating elements.  Claudius bears witness to these machinations, managing not only to survive but to become emperor himself in A.D. 41.  One of the most interesting characters in the novel, if not the most interesting, is Augustus’s wife, Livia.   Although history wants to relegate her to a relatively minor role, I prefer this version where she is so deliciously evil it almost takes your breath away.  The BBC mini series with Derek Jacobi is by now quite old but still holds up rather well, and has a few interesting surprises like Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek) playing the scheming Sejanus.  The sequel to this book, Claudius The God, is fabulous as well.

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