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Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor Kindle Edition

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Length: 416 pages

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

British author Everitt begins his biography of Augustus (63 B.C.– A.D. 14) with a novelistic reconstruction of the Roman emperor's last days, offering a new spin on his murder at the hands of his wife, Livia. Everitt presents the death as an assisted suicide intended to speed and secure the transition of imperial power to his stepson Tiberius. Later, Everitt presents a careful historical argument for this theory—and, save for a few other shadowy incidents such as the banishment of the poet Ovid, he keeps guesswork to a minimum, building his narrative carefully on solid evidence. Everitt (Cicero) makes Augustus's rapid rise through Roman society comprehensible to contemporary readers, deftly shifting through the major phases of his life, from childhood through his adoption by his great-uncle Julius Caesar to the power struggle with Mark Antony that ended with Augustus's recognition as both imperator and princeps, or "first citizen." Everitt also neatly presents his subject's complex personality, revealing how Augustus secured a political infrastructure that would last for centuries while reportedly keeping up a highly active sex life, all the while fighting off longstanding rumors of cowardice in battle. This familiar story is fresh again in this lively retelling. (Oct. 17)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Everitt, whose biography of the great orator Cicero evoked Rome on the cusp of empire with dazzling energy, again captures the color of the city and an era in a biography of Rome's first bona fide emperor. Born Gaius Octavius in a town south of the city, Octavius wasn't automatically marked for a political career. But his family was related to Julius Caesar by marriage, and the great general took the boy under his wing and made him his protege. After Caesar's assassination in 44 BCE, Octavius was surprised to learn that his mentor had formally adopted him in his will, making the 19-year-old a serious contender for power in Rome. Required to deal with both Caesar's enemies and his old allies, Octavius' power wasn't truly solidified until he went to war with and defeated Mark Antony, his chief political rival. Taking the name Caesar Augustus, the young man wisely and judiciously implemented changes to take Rome from unstable republic to thriving empire. Everitt's writing is so crisp and so lively he brings both Rome and Augustus to life in this magnificent work, a must-read for anyone interested in classical times. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 1514 KB
  • Print Length: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (October 17, 2006)
  • Publication Date: October 17, 2006
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000MAH5LU
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,912 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Anthony Everitt, visiting professor in the visual and performing arts at Nottingham Trent University, has written extensively on European culture, and is the author of Cicero and Augustus. He has served as secretary general of the Arts Council of Great Britain. Everitt lives near Colchester, England's first recorded town, founded by the Romans.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

186 of 196 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne Cross on October 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For a man who's achievement in terms of altering Roman history, Augustus Caesar has always stood (literally from the git-go) in the shadow of his magnificent great Uncle, Julius Caesar. There's a sort of magnificence to Caesar that Augustus simply couldn't match; where Caesar was a protean talent, equally at home in rhetoric, literature, art, ambition, or military genius, Augustus' talents were on a far more normal scale. That said, as was remarked by a grieving friend of Caesar's after the Ides of March, "If Caesar could find no way out, who can?"? And it was the 18-year-old Octavius who, over a 45-year-career, found that way out.

Augustus' achievement was to ruthlessly pursue supreme personal power in Rome for 20 years, and to spend the next 40 years turning that power into a functioning system that prolonged the Roman Empire for at least 200 years, arguably until its demise, and provided the peaceful environment for some of its greatest Roman art and literature. When he was born, Rome was, as it had been for centuries, firmly in the political grip of an incredibly small, wealthy elite of Senators who essentially ran the Republic as their own personal preserve. When he died, men from all over the Empire were now actively involved in its administration, the grip of the "old boys club" on power politics was broken forever, and he managed to harness the incredible competitiveness of Roman politics to solve most, if not all, of the old Republic's problems while taming the aristocracy. He did this through a constant, thoughtful, trial-and-error process that managed - just! - not to offend the hypsensitive reactionary elements in the Republic while accommodating them to a new world in which Roman power, and Roman talent, had to be harnessed world-wide.
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70 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Steven Peterson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anthony Everitt follows up his excellent biography of the Roman politician, lawyer, and writer Cicero with a strong biography of the first Roman emperor, Augustus (born Gaius Octavius in 63 BC). If one add in Goldsworthy's well done recent biography of Julius Caesar, one then has a trio of excellent biographies that help make the political intrigues of Rome in the late Republic and early Empire come to life.

The challenges facing the author include holes in the life story of the man who became Augustus, leaving certain key questions about his life unanswered (nicely outlined in the last chapter). Writing the biography of someone from two thousand years ago is a daunting task, but one that Everitt ends up pulling off well.

The narrative traces the life of Octavius from his childhood onward. What we see is a young man with a lot of grit and determination--and luck. His great uncle, Julius Caesar, became his patron and adopted him, providing a jump start to his career. After Caesar's violent death, Octavius showed political skills by allying with Mark Antony and Lepidus to create a triumvirate, in opposition to those who killed Caesar (whose leaders included Cassius and Brutus).

The book shows how, with great patience, one of his greatest attributes, Octavius slowly increased his power and authority. With some exceptional friends and co-leaders (for instance, Agrippa), he ended up defeating Mark Antony and ascending to power.

The books shows the nature of that ascent, the value of his patience (compared with the impatience of his great uncle), the way that he used his power to stabilize and enhance the Roman Empire, his continual efforts to maintain peace in Rome, his intolerance toward his own family, his dilemmas at trying to organize the succession.

All in all, a very good biography of one of the more important figures in the West.
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Douglas S. Wood on January 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Anthony Everitt has followed up his earlier biography of Cicero with this compact one-volume work on the life of Rome's first emperor, who began his life as Gaius Octavius, later added Caesar, and then became Augustus. In the end, he was known simply 'princeps', the first citizen. This bit about being just the first citizen was perhaps a useful piece of political flummery - after all, he was supposed to be bringing back the Republic!

Everitt tells Augustus's life story in a straight forward, no nonsense way. He abjures speculation and sticks to the known record. The problem is that there are far more sources for the first half or so of Augustus's life than for the rest. The text reflects this change as the level of detail drops dramatically. The sparseness of sources must be a nightmare for scholars of the classical era.

Having recently read Tom Holland's excellent 'Rubicon' on the last days of the Roman Republic, it seemed to me that Everitt sort of squeezed the life-blood out of this story. In fairness, this grayness at least partly reflects the colorless prig who was Augustus - at least in public. Everitt's 'Augustus' is a study in first the gathering of power and later the mostly judicious use of power.

Everitt misses an opportunity to explore a couple intersting inquiries. First, how did Augustus manage to hold on to power for so many decades in a Rome that had a habit of regularly and sometimes violently changing leaders? Second, why did Marcus Agrippa, Augustus's great general, eschew the pursuit of power - even to the extent of refusing his well-earned 'triumphs'? Agrippa seemed well placed to challenge his friend's power, if he so desired, but never did so, at least openly.

On the whole, an edifying work and reasonably readable. Recommended.
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