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Lives of the Later Caesars: The First Part of the Augustan History, with Newly Compiled Lives of Nerva & Trajan Paperback – June 24, 1976


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Lives of the Later Caesars: The First Part of the Augustan History, with Newly Compiled Lives of Nerva & Trajan + The Twelve Caesars (Penguin Classics)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (June 24, 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140443088
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140443080
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #103,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Latin (translation)

About the Author

Anthony Birley is a renowned translator.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By P. Bartl on October 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
The Augustan History is probably one of the most enigmatic and controversial historical documents to reach the present. Birley gives an excellent introduction on the current state of knowledge - according to which the book was a fraud or joke of sorts - and his notes are careful to point out what is likely to be true or not. The ancient text itself can be quite irritating to read, though. Birley's own lives of Nerva and Trajan are rather more interesting.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By C. E. R. Mendonça on July 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
If you are to read this enigmatic work, you are already a Roman History buff, so beware to sort the fiction from actual history. Historia Augusta, in its better moments, renders the same flavor as a well-accomplished Xena episode; one feels befuddled by the mix between History, sheer invention and tongue-in-cheek humour; eventually, one wants to read more (well, supposing you are a Roman history buff and a xenite...) Therefore I regret very much the absence of an integral version of the whole work, that is the second half - the histories of the emperors after Heliogabalus - where fiction predominates, and which is perhaps the most intersting part in historical terms, as it is pratically the only written source for the most troubled years of the Roman Empire. Reading the work puts a most intriguing question: why it was that Late Antiquity found it necessary to look at its own past this way? Not a entirely otiose question in our postmodern days, I daresay.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Alex Grand on June 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is meant to be a continuing off of the Suetonius book, ending with Elagabalus (Heliogalabalus). This book is written similarly to Suetonius and includes the cover and inside grittiness of each emperor. a must read for people interested in the personal lives of the emperors.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Luc REYNAERT on December 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
The German scholar H. Dessau unmasked the six authors of the Historia Augusta (HA) as the brainchildren of one impostor, whom Sir Ronald Syme in his `Ammianus and the Historia Augusta' calls a master of historical romance.
This book contains 17 lives of emperors from the HA, together with 2 small biographies of Nerva and Trajan compiled by the excellent translator Anthony Birley.
The anonymous author of the HA mingled excerpts from other works, particularly by Cassius Dio and Herodian, with his own `fiction' to compile a parody of imperial hagiographies, exposing those who `belittle the defeated'.
It is a work in super-Hollywood style with fake letters, bogey references and even an insult litany on Commodus. The latter `killed with his own hand many thousands of wild animals, even elephants.' During the reign of Antoninus Pius, `four lions became tame of their own accord and yielded to capture'.
Hadrian was a Stakhanovist: `At one and the same time, he wrote, dictated, listened and conversed with his friends - if it can be believed.'
Avidus Cassius had a schizophrenic character; he `seemed truculent and rough, but sometimes placid and mild; often he was devout, but at other times scornful of sacred things; avid of wine, and again abstinent; eager for food but able to endure starvation; a devotee of Venus and a lover of chastity.'
Marcus Antoninus `made the bad good and the good very good.'
Pescennius Niger insulted his soldiers: `You have the Nile and you ask for wine?'
But the author is fundamentally a moralist: `Wretched is the republic which endures those men who are desirous of riches, and the rich.
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