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Livia, Empress of Rome: A Biography Hardcover – January 4, 2011
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"Hitler's Forgotten Children" by Ingrid von Oelhafen
The Lebensborn program abducted as many as half a million children from across Europe. Through a process called Germanization, they were to become the next generation of the Aryan master race in the second phase of the Final Solution. Hitler's Forgotten Children is both a harrowing personal memoir and a devastating investigation into the awful crimes and monstrous scope of the Lebensborn program. Learn more | See related books
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“This is an erudite, nuanced, and engrossing portrait of a turbulent era and of an empress demonized for refusing to be invisible.”—Publishers Weekly
“A fine biography. . . . [Dennison] has produced a scholarly but highly accessible book about the woman who—through chance, dress, behaviour and her own undeniable determination—was able to make the Empire her own.”—Lindsey Davis, New York Times bestselling author of Alexandria
“British journalist Dennison deftly sifts the historical record for a portrait of a woman in the right place at the right time. . . . Dennison does a nice job of defending this fascinating character from “demonization” through the centuries, and knowledgeably considers many facets of Roman history, including religion, the place of women and children, family life and iconography. A deeply considered look at women and power in the late Roman age.”—Kirkus Review
“Dennison attempts to set the historical record straight in this balanced biography of one of the most maligned females in ancient history: Portrayed in both fact (The Histories and The Annals) and fiction (L Claudius, anyone?) as a serial poisoner who would stop at nothing to ensure that her son Tiberius succeeded his stepfather, Augustus, as emperor of Rome, the Livia that is resurrected here is far from the femme fatale of legend. . . . Ancient Rome always appeals, and it is nice to see an unjustly tarnished reputation polished up for posterity.”—Booklist
“[A] richness of detail gives readers a solid foothold for understanding the complex traditions, customs, and politics of the era. . . . aficionados of Roman history, social history, women's history, or biography will enjoy the wealth of information.”—Library Journal
“Learned, engrossing and pacey new biography . . . Dennison combines a healthy scepticism towards his sources with an alertness to all that made the career of his heroine authentically remarkable . . . His achievement, in this consistently entertaining biography, is to remind us that a politician with a clever and supportive wife is a fortunate man indeed.”—Mail on Sunday (UK)
“An engrossing and persuasive portrait of one of history’s most influential women.”—Independent (UK)
“Well-researched . . . full of delightful detail.”—Daily Mail (UK)
“Dennison excels at exploring the iconography of Livia . . . his analysis is exemplary . . . Balanced, scholarly and yet accessible, this is very good history indeed.”—Country Life (UK)
“A powerful new life of Livia . . . refreshingly free of cant.”—The Herald (UK)
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Top Customer Reviews
Whilst his book is well written, it often lacks a clear thread that allows the reader to follow MD's interpretations (many of which may well be right) of events, documents, and sources generally, and the inferences he draws from them. Invariably, there is a lot of speculation when MD hits the many lacunas that mark the life of Livia, and - falling back on his journalistic background - is often tempted to replace facts with suggestive questions (many of which are not entirely logical).
In all, one really has to ask the question what drove MD to write this book, especially since (leaving Ranke-Graves aside) there are already several well balanced accounts of Livia's life. MD is no Jasper Ridley, who does not hesitate for a moment when he can tear a hole into Antonia Fraser's web of history. MD is gentle, prefers to walk around the issue, and compel the reader to look at the same source material from different angles. Alas, one is occasionally tempted to conclude that such tour d'horizon does not add further insights and is dangerously close to confusing.
Were it not for MD's pleasing style of writing, one might easily be persuaded to move on to another book.
Was Livia really as bad as some Roman historians (on which many more recent portrayals are based) make her out to be? Dennison considers some of her detractors as incredibly biased, such as Tacitus, who it seems makes every effort to badmouth her at every turn, at least when she shows up in the histories. There are points in the narrative where Dennison demonstrates that something the historians say about her can't possibly be accurate based on any kind of logic or precedent. These passages are effective in doing what Dennison wants to do.
Unfortunately, too many times the best Dennison can do is say that there is no other corroboration or that something doesn't quite make sense. He can't demonstrate definitively that the histories are wrong. When these passages came up, I could almost see the mental gymnastics Dennison went through to try and lessen the impact. He tries to get into her head a little bit, supposing what she might have really thought in this case, rather than what Tacitus or Dio say she was thinking.Read more ›
There is interesting analysis of motivation without new insights towards either history or characterizations. Dennison is perhaps overly careful not to assume any history without evidence. He does not substitute any character study of his own.
Many questions remain. When and how did Augustus manage to morph from first citizen to emperor? Why did he stay with Livia as his honored consort for thirty years in spite of her failure to provide him an heir? The author gives the impression of approaching from a distance, never getting close to his characters. The source and extent of Livia's political influence does not come through. Citing Livia as politically astute is not explored. That she engaged in her own foreign policy and inherited territory from the sister of Herod in her own right is a very interesting item that warrants more detail. Also that she vexed Tiberius with a desire to be co-emperor.
Some of the most interesting items in the book are given as tidbits that could stand much more exposition. Dennison characterizes Tiberius as a 'Republicans' and allusion that Germanicus might have restored the Republic.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A very poorly written book, and not particularly informative.Published 11 months ago by James Williams
I regret to say that this book is written in a most discombobulated style, the "narrative" wanders back and forth through time and place and that makes it nearly IMPOSSIBLE... Read morePublished 17 months ago by C. E. Cazedessus II
You think you know Livia? You don't know Livia. Great book, modern perspectives and great in sitesPublished 18 months ago by Eve Luppert