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111 of 111 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't miss the point
A lot of the reviews of this book fail to recognise the exercise in which Graves was engaged when writing this book. I agree that he glorifies Claudius beyond what we will find in many historical texts, and also that he goes on about Herod Agrippa (although some people, including myself, find this very interesting) and in general, the book is written rather differently to...
Published on August 8, 2002 by Cordless Iron Man

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun, but can't live up to the original
Not as good as the first book ('I Claudius') but still a chatty, fun and historically absorbing read. Graves makes Claudius a mixture of shrewdness and hilarity that is affecting.
Published on February 15, 2011 by E.J. Kaye


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111 of 111 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't miss the point, August 8, 2002
This review is from: Claudius the God: And His Wife Messalina (Paperback)
A lot of the reviews of this book fail to recognise the exercise in which Graves was engaged when writing this book. I agree that he glorifies Claudius beyond what we will find in many historical texts, and also that he goes on about Herod Agrippa (although some people, including myself, find this very interesting) and in general, the book is written rather differently to I, Claudius.
You must recall, however, whether you have read the book already or are considering reading it, that Graves sets about to write a fictional autobiography. That is the style that he chose and I think he does it brilliantly. In I, Claudius we see the various emperors of Rome through Claudius's eyes - we are shocked by their terror, their blood-thirstiness and the general tyranny of their rule. Claudius, as a Republican, allows us to see these things in a manner that we would understand. In this book, however, Graves is trying to give us insight into the mind of an emperor: we see the difference between what occupies his mind now and what did when he was just a citizen. We also see the manner in which he justifies his actions to himself. He is constantly claiming that his actions were not tyrannical, that he was not exercising imperial authority but that he was doing what any reasonable man in his circumstances would have done. In these passages Graves is making it clear to us that he is writing about Claudius as Claudius would have seen himself.
After all, it would have been rather boring to just have another book on how terrible this or that emperor was - here, Graves has attempted, quite boldly, to put us in the shoes of the emperor and see how a reasonable man could fall prey to the charms of virtually unlimited power over the most powerful empire in world history.
I think he does it brilliantly.
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine sequel to an excellent book..., September 5, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Claudius the God: And His Wife Messalina (Paperback)
Taking up where "I, Claudius" left off, "Claudius the God" chronicles the reign of one of the most unlikely Emperors in Roman history: the lame, stuttering, and hardly stupid Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus. Having spent his entire life trying to *avoid* any political office, mostly by letting his family think he's a hopeless idiot (intelligence tends to get weeded out rather rapidly among the Julio-Claudians, usually with the help of some poison), Claudius finds himself catapulted to the throne at the age of fifty-one when his nephew, the mad Emperor Caligula, is assassinated. He doesn't want to be Emperor-he is in fact a staunch believer in restoring the Roman Republic-but eventually is forced to accept the job and thus begins the ill-fated rule of one of the most interesting Emperors of all time.
Of course he's doomed from the start-there's hardly an Emperor who *wasn't* murdered, and poison probably qualifies as death by natural causes when you're Roman aristocracy-and his wife Messalina is quite a piece of work, but that doesn't stop the book from being a good read, especially in the earlier parts of the story where Claudius shows an unexpected capacity for efficient administration. The same wry humor and political intrigue that characterized "I, Claudius" are present here as well, and the cast-of-thousands are all distinguished quite well from each other. While "Claudius the God" is not as captivating as its predecessor, and is in fact quite a bit more depressing, it's a book worth reading. There is only one drawback to reading these two tales of intrigue and Imperial families: you'll find yourself wanting to go out and get a food taster afterwards...
Footnote: While this may be the wrong place to recommend videos, I strongly suggest that anyone who read and enjoyed "I, Claudius" and "Claudius the God" should see the BBC miniseries. Derek Jacobi is perfect as Claudius, both as the aging Emperor and the young and gawky historian, and Sian Phillips brings the character of Livia to malevolent life with her portrayal of the woman behind the throne. A must-see for any fan of Roman history-or Rome in general!
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful political historic novel with wit and humor, September 3, 2004
By 
C. B Collins Jr. (Atlanta, GA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Claudius the God: And His Wife Messalina (Paperback)
Whereas Claudius the God is not quite as fast moving and dramatic as I, Claudius; the sequel is a worthy masterpiece equal to the first volume. Whereas I, Claudius was about survival without power; Claudius the God is about survival with power. This point is very well made as the parallel careers and lives of Claudius and Herod Agrippa are intertwined. Herod Agrippa and Cladius were close friends. Herod had been raised in the household of Octavia Caesar, Claudius' mother and sister to the Emporer Caesar Augustus. Claudius eventually realizes that the clever, witty, charming, light-hearted persona that Herod Agrippa presented to the royal court of the Julio-Claudians was in fact his shield and mask that hide his ambitions and aspirations. Claudius hide his intellect, wit,and insight behind his stutter and limp but because of his friendship with Herod, he learns late that Herod also had a mask. Yet, even though the rebellion of Herod, as king of the Jews, hurt Claudius because of their years of friendship; it was Herod who never betrayed Claudius at court, never revealed that Claudius was brighter than generally percieved, and gave him the best advice possible "Trust no one".

There is no other wasy to describe Claudius' marriage to Mesalina except to say it was very messy. Love is certainly blind and Claudius almost loses his life to the manipulative and treacherous young wife with her thousand lovers. Mesalina was a mess.

Graves documents that he used multiple sources other than Suetonius' Live of the Twelve Caesars. Suetonius wrote a hundred years after the reign of Claudius and thus had a republican axe to grind against all the Julio-Claudian family. Graves is far more sympathetic and balanced in his telling of the life of Claudius.

I enjoyed I, Claudius in a different way from Claudius the God. Graves was able to capture Claudius the survivor in a treacherous family in I,Claudius. In Claudius the God, there is more maturity and sad reality about the limitations of human life and aspirations.

They both are superb and must be considered two of the finest historic novels in the English language. Graves' use of the English language is perfectly beautiful and I found I quickly read through both novels, thorougly entertained by every page.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Et tu, Claudius?, July 23, 2003
This review is from: Claudius the God: And His Wife Messalina (Paperback)
'Claudius the God' is actually part two of a two-part set, the second volume after the much-better-known 'I, Claudius'. The story is set in Rome at the time of the institution of Augustus, the first emperor, up to the accession of Nero, the last of the Julio-Claudian line of emperors (after this time, the imperial seat was more of a political prize to be fought for than a family bequest).
Robert Graves intriguing use of the vernacular language and the extensive research, following largely the histories of Suetonius (a gossipy historian) rather than Tacitus (the formal, more official historian), gives a rather racy and juicy insight into the flamboyant lifestyle of the early imperial family, as seen through the eyes primarily of its most unlikely heir, Claudius the stammerer. Claudius escaped much of the political intrigue and was seen as a harmless outsider due to his physical impediments, which helped mask his intellectual capabilities and cunning insight into the actions of others.
Grave's recreation is well-done, but a bit too sympathetic to his hero Claudius. Claudius was not the intellectual saintly character protrayed in theses novels--true, he wasn't nearly as bad as his predecessor Caligula or his successor Nero, but he had shortcomings that are often ignored for lacking the glamour of the evils of the two emperors who bookend his reign.
Graves' use of language is interesting to note. Instead of translating historical scenes into formal, high-academic English (as a classically-trained Oxbridge scholar might be inclined to do), he put things into what Alistair Cook called the everyday language of the English aristocracy, a social class accustomed to the easy exercise of world-domination power, politically and socially. This makes it an engaging work that avoids the pitfalls of academic histories.
This particular volume looks at the later part of Claudius' life, concluding with the time when he was emperor. The intrigues that had carried on in the royal family continued unabated around him as emperor, except that the wise and almost omniscient Claudius of old seemed to develop blind spots once in the imperial seat, largely due to love. When his wife Messalina finally plots his overthrow with a divorce, he acts, and his life is rather sorrowful ever after.
Derek Jacobi's performance in the BBC production is stunning; what the novel leaves out in way of historical accuracy to detail (Claudius was married more times than would Graves' books attest, for instance) it more than makes up for by way of being an entertaining introduction to imperial Rome. Make sure to get both volumes!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-Written, if Depressing, April 15, 2005
This review is from: Claudius the God: And His Wife Messalina (Paperback)
Claudius the God, sequel to I, Claudius, can't be as well-received as the former due to its very premise. I, Claudius, though filled with tragic events and villains triumphant, walks a lightened path because one knows that the narrator-a good man and devoted republican-is destined to survive, and become Emperor. By that same token, however, Claudius the God is headed into dark woods. We know that Claudius will be assassinated, that the evil Nero will succeed him, and that the Republic will never be restored. So, whatever small joys we might take in the events of the novel, a shadow is always cast by the knowledge of future events. Also, and to explain the turn of events, the narrator must transform and become increasingly unreliable and unsympathetic, though we are always rooting for him and his doomed ambitions.

Beyond this, the work really is a direct continuation of the first in all ways. It is brilliant, and if you loved the first book and want more resolution than it provides (such as what becomes of Caligula's assassins, or whether his marriage with Messalina proves happy) then you'll likely want to continue on. You won't be disappointed with the presentation, only possibly with the answers. I'm happy I read this book, and feel it has all of the strengths of the first, but I can also understand why it hasn't received the same attention. It doesn't have the usual Hollywood ending and may leave the reader a little cold.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy second stab at the story, October 12, 2001
This review is from: Claudius the God: And His Wife Messalina (Paperback)
When I was half way through reading "I, Claudius," I decided that I had to pick up this book in order to finish the series. It basically carries on where "I Claudius" leaves off, and finishes the story. It not as intriguing a read as it's predecessor though. Most of the really interesting action takes place before the begining of this book. However, this book does have it's moments, and, in a sense, is necessary in order to conclude the story of Claudius. The most interesting sections of the book, were the ones dealing with Britain, and Herod Agrippa. I was very suprised at the amount of detail that Robert Graves went into concerning the cultures of the ancient British civilizations. It is readily apparent that Graves had done his homework for these sections. Also, Herod Agrippa (a friend of Claudius) takes up a great deal of this book. Thankfully, his story is fairly interesting (as are all the events that take place in the Middle East during this novel).

One possitive aspect of this book is that it seems to have more of an international perpective than "I, Claudius." That is, it focuses on happenings throughout the empire, while it's predecessor is more focused on the imperial family. Thus, it gives the reader a better idea of the immensity of the Roman empire, as well as the power of it's emporer.
Judged by itself, this is a very fine book. Robert Graves was able to write in the same engrossing style that made the first book so memorable. The only reason that this book isn't quite as good as the first one is that there simply wasn't the same material to work with. I would recomend this to anyone who has read the first book, and is interested in the second half of Claudius' life. However, if you haven't read "I, Claudius," pick it up first. I would also recomend this series (Both "I, Claudius," and "Claudius the God") to anybody who is interested in either Imperial Rome, or historical fiction.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthy Successor to I, Claudius, January 2, 2004
By 
D. W. Casey (Sturbridge, MA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Claudius the God: And His Wife Messalina (Paperback)
Claudius the God is the sequel to the legendary "I, Claudius". Though not quite as powerful as its predecessor, the book continues the story of Claudius after his ascension to the throne.
The book points out the many pitfalls of ruling a state; Claudius, sadly, is as much at the mercy of his wife as the Emperor Augustus was his -- a blind spot that nearly costs Claudius his throne. The advice Claudius receives from his friend Herod Agrippa in the beginning of the book -- to "trust no one", is indeed good advice.
As a character, Herod Agrippa steals the book -- the book's first seventy or so pages deal with his story, which form a very amusing and interesting digression -- and shows how Herod Agrippa's influence in Rome is instrumental in bringing the Senate around to recognizing Claudius.
Claudius introduces legal reforms; converts the harbor at Ostia into an all-season port to help secure Rome's food supply, conquers Britain, and revives the Roman religion. The book is a wealth of historical detail and interesting anecdotes.
The book is also engaging and entertaining; although one soon sees that the job of Emperor is no fun indeed -- Claudius has as much cause for paranoia as any of his predecessors.
The book is a must read for anyone who reads "I, Claudius", and is a very good work of literature that brings the Roman age to life.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Story continues, April 26, 2000
This review is from: Claudius the God: And His Wife Messalina (Paperback)
This is a great sequel and a must read, though it is a very different book from the one it follows. Where 'I, Claudius' was introverted and historical centered, Claudius the God moves into the wider circles of the Empire. This should by no means perturb the reader who came to hunger for the political machinations of Livia or the tawdry depravity of Tiberius in the first novel, this one presents new hurdles and struggles through which Claudius must muddle in order to survive: a wicked nephew, a military uprising, war against Boadicea and two caniving wives.
This is the better of the two books, no matter what your interest in them is, and it builds to a truly profound ending.
Like other reviewers before me, I urge that anyone who read and enjoyed the characters as represented in these two books: see the miniseries. It may be 12+ hours in length but it is worth it!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I have been as deaf and blind and wooden as a log.", August 2, 2006
This review is from: Claudius the God: And His Wife Messalina (Paperback)
Continuing the story of _I, Claudius_, which ends with his unexpected acclamation as Emperor of Rome, Robert Graves focuses less here on the genealogy and history of Claudius's ruling family and more on the personal characteristics which enable great leaders to rule--and to fall. Claudius is hugely popular when he first becomes Emperor, refusing many of the numerous titles claimed by his predecessors because he believes he has not yet earned them. An unpretentious man who respects the people, Claudius hopes to improve their miserable lives and, one day, to bring about a genuine republic--at least at first.

Gradually, we observe the truism that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." As Graves is careful to point out, however, the ultimate corruption of Claudius's rule is due at least as much to the people with whom he surrounds himself, and whom he believes and/or empowers to act on his behalf, as it is to his personal missteps. As Claudius, an historian, records his memoirs and his feelings about his own reign as Emperor, the reader develops enormous sympathy for a man who began his reign with pure motives and a good heart but who was ultimately powerless to control his own destiny and that of Rome. "Monarchy turns our wits," Claudius notes.

Graves masterfully controls our growing understanding of Claudius as a ruler by showing him in three separate arenas of action--during his invasion of Britain, in his relationship with Messalina, and finally, in his attempts to ensure a republic by controlling the succession to his throne. Exciting battle scenes reveal Claudius's insights into the psychological aspects of battle, his intelligence, and his clever manipulation of his enemies' perceptions. Domestic scenes with Messalina show his naivete, his own ability to be manipulated, and his ruthless pursuit of justice, at his own expense. And in a brilliant tour de force, Graves finally shows Claudius, late in his life, when the seers have already predicted his death, deliberately acting contrary to expectation in an attempt to manipulate Roman history and his own legacy.

Taken together, Graves's two novels of Claudius constitute what is arguably the greatest fictional biography ever written. Precise historical detail creates a rich tapestry of life in the period, while, at the same time, Graves's keen awareness of psychology leads to vibrant and believable characters behaving badly. The values (or lack of values) of the period are presented in dramatic scenes of violence and excess, and the fickleness of the masses (whom Claudius calls "the frog pool") is both realistic and sadly universal. A masterful characterization of a lesser known Caesar. n Mary Whipple
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At least as great as "I, Claudius", September 4, 2007
This review is from: Claudius the God: And His Wife Messalina (Paperback)
I wouldn't recommend reading this work without its predecessor, which also deserves (and has duly received) many five-star reviews. If you loved "I, Claudius," you should definitely read this second part, which also abounds with larger-than-life characters, endless webs of plotting and scheming, and Robert Graves' narrative brilliance. But I wouldn't think of the two works as forming one big novel in two parts. "Claudius the God" is a very different work, and maybe even a better novel than "I, Claudius." Though longer in length, it covers fewer events: don't expect the same breathless succession of bloody twists and turns.

The BBC series dedicated fewer than a fourth of the episodes to this book, and for good reason: "Claudius the God" is chiefly concerned with the emperor's approach to the challenges of ruling the empire, and Robert Graves takes his time with this task. Slowing down from the intrigue-driven rhythm of "I, Claudius," Robert Graves beautifully conveys the fatality of Claudius' journey, from the excitement of his early idealistic days as a ruler bent on restoring the Republic to the last years of his reign. The book is full of nuanced emotion and even contains some surprisingly lyrical passages, which would have been quite out-of-place in its predecessor. The last few chapters are beautiful and tragic, in a way "I, Claudius" never attempts to be, as the old emperor comes face-to-face with the immutable fate of Rome and the absurdity of his own role as Caesar. Seen as a true tragedy, this novel is a real success.

Other cool elements include a brilliantly paced glance at early Christianity from Claudius' perspective, and the unpredictable and fascinating character of Herod Agrippa. Though much more complex and likeable, he electrifies (and occasionally dominates) the story as powerfully as Livia does in "I, Claudius." Messalina adds further spice, intrigue (more sexual, less bloody, than Livia), and an unexpected touch of pathos to the book. This novel is also much richer than its predecessor in its evocation of political and military maneuvers, since the management of the empire is the central foundation of the plot.

Overall, both books are brilliant. But if "I, Claudius" is lots of fun (more fun, technically speaking, I suppose, than "Claudius the God"), this book raises more questions, develops more themes, and ultimately tells a much richer story: the tragic story of what boundless power does to a man who never wanted it.
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Claudius the God: And His Wife Messalina
Claudius the God: And His Wife Messalina by Robert Graves (Paperback - October 23, 1989)
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