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Claudius Paperback – September 10, 1993

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Editorial Reviews


'This study, with its balanced judgementis well organised, well argued and well written.' - The Classical Review

'Barbara Levick succeeds in [her] task admirably.' - Times Literary Supplement

'It must rank as one of the best studies of the Julio-Claudians This book will probably remain the best treatment of Julio-Claudian government for a long time to come.' - David Potter, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

'A must read, - Claudius has force and wit.'

'A biography and much more ... this stimulating book is the best we have on Claudius and among the best current treatments of any Roman emperor.' - Ronald Mellor, American Historical Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; Reissue edition (September 10, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300058314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300058314
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,228,338 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
Barbara Levick's 'Claudius' is a good resource to use when falling under the Claudian spell of such works as Graves' 'I, Claudius' and 'Claudius the God', or the 'I, Claudius' BBC production. This will help put a proper historical perspective on the man and emperor, Tiberius Claudius Nero Germanicus. Get used to the panoply of names-each noble Roman shares many names with the others in his family, thus making history often confusing.
Among the things Graves' readers might miss (and certainly the television-only set will miss) is that Claudius was married four times, had five children, and was much more less of a dolt in these matters than one would realise.
Levick explores some of the intrigues of the Julii Caesares as well as the Claudii Nerones; she explores the history from all angles. She looks to the politics and the sociological realities of family and court life to explain what ambitions Claudius really had, and what he might actually look forward to accomplishing in his life. 'Seneca's scathing comment on Claudius after his death was that `nobody thought he had ever been born'. In connection with this a remark of his mother Antonia recorded by Suetonius may be relevant. He claims that Antonia used to speak of her son (she need only have said it once for it to be presented as a leitmotiv!) as `a monstrosity of a human being, one that Nature began and never finished'. Antonia's hostility to her `unfinished' youngest child was probably intensified when she almost immediately lost her husband, and, a quarter of a century later, her even more brilliant elder son: now primacy was lost to her family.'
Levick explores Claudius' childhood and education, which continued past the usual age, given his apparent deformities. His tutors attended him well past the usual age of tutelage.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By on July 14, 1998
Format: Paperback
Ms. Levick's biography of the emperor is to be recommended as an excellent and in-depth study of the limits of any Roman emperor's power. She tends to paint a somewhat untraditional and cynical view of the emperor, even suggesting that he played a part in the assasination of Caligula. In Levick's eyes, Claudius is a politician struggling to retain the very basis of his power, his ultimate failure being his inability to command respect in the eyes of his contemporaries or posterity. Some of her views are certainly matters of interpretation; indeed, it seems that she sometimes misrepresents ancient authors to strengthen her opinion of the Caesar; it should be remembered that Levick's Claudius is not THE Claudius, but a new and somewhat untraditional interpretation of one of history's most enigmatic figures.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Katie Mac on April 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
Claudius was written to be a biographical work on the life little-known Claudius, by means of compiling the scattered primary sources that offer a window into the life of the ancient Emperor. Relevant to all who research Claudius or the works of his freedmen, Levick presents the most recent extensive work on his life, along with new historiographical interpretations that without, one's research cannot be effective. Levick, being a well-known Roman historian, has written many great works on the Emperors in biographical form, her most recent being this very book, written in 1990, fairly new considering the ancient topic.
Many of her sources come from the primary documents of Tacitus and Suetonius, along with other historians such as Josephus and Seneca, while her secondaries relate many of the great works on Claudius, hers being the first in fifty years. Personal research has revealed that she has not wronged these historians in her interpretations of their written work, presenting a reliable account of the life of Claudius. In regards to her organization, she is unique as she does not follow chronological order, but divides the book into sections of his reign. While recording his reign, she covers it in the aspects that her sources allow, containing greatly to his reign, and little to his life before Though I would recommend having an ample background on Roman history, as Levick sometimes takes for granted her vast knowledge of the time, all who research Claudius would be remiss rule out this book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Arch Stanton on March 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really wish that I could recommend this book stronger. Claudius was a very interesting person, that much is clear, but Ms. Levick does a horrible job of it. As one previous reviewer noted, she continually refers to Claudius as THE usurper. The reason for using such a strongly negative word in association with Claudius isn't clear. Certainly he could be considered a usurper, although given the circumstances of his predecessor Caligula's death it's hard to state who had more of a right than him, but to refer to him as such constantly is annoying. It's even stranger considering that her presentation of him is generally positive even though she seems to work hard to use negative terms in describing him. Now, I'm not complaining because her view of Claudius is different than mine. I don't know many biographies where I agree with all the interpretations. It just seems that she doesn't put enough effort into finding out who he truly was. Or perhaps she has, and just doesn't present it well. All I know is that it seems a jumbled mess.

The other thing about this book is that it, in common with a number of other scholarly books, is divided into two basic sections. The first part from 1-80 is a basic narrative of his personal life. By this I mean his marriages, his family, and the many conspiracies against his life. This would seem to be the more interesting section, but she never mentions anything outside this limited topic. As you can imagine, it's confusing to have her refer to major events such as the conquest of Britain without explaining anything about it. And that reference only came about in relation to one of the senators who was executed. The section on the invasion comes only in the second section of the book.
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