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Blood of the Caesars: How the Murder of Germanicus Led to the Fall of Rome 1st Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0470137413
ISBN-10: 047013741X
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Editorial Reviews


"This is a work to keep you fascinated and to make you wonder at the web of deceit that could occur in Rome."BBC History Magazine May/June 2008 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

It was an unfitting death for any Roman soldier. For the empire's greatest hero—a brilliant thirty-three-year-old general, fierce warrior, and gifted diplomat, beloved by the people and in line to become the third emperor—to die in his bed, after suffering weeks of agony, was more than a shock: it was a crime. Germanicus Julius Caesar died with the names of his presumed murderers on his lips, imploring his friends to bring charges against them. The year was a.d. 19, and, says noted historian and author Stephen Dando-Collins, the seeds of the destruction of the empire had just been sown.

In Blood of the Caesars, the fifth of his stirring histories of Rome, Dando-Collins delves into this ancient murder mystery with a fresh eye, a keen mind, and a host of questions. He lays out the evidence that Germanicus was poisoned, assesses the cases against those accused of the murder, and unearths a raft of new suspects, many of whom were among the most prominent and respected citizens of Rome. Then, he supplies a stunning solution to the mystery.

This provocative account unveils the labyrinthian array of intrigues, plots, counterplots, deceptions, and double-dealing that led up to the death of Germanicus and came into full flower after his murder. Beginning with the killing (not suicide, as many claimed) of one of those accused of poisoning Germanicus and followed by verdicts and sentences in the trial that many believed to be a sham, these sub-rosa doings included both failed and successful attempts on the lives of emperors.

How profound was the impact of Germanicus's death? Huge mobs stormed temples around the city because the gods had ignored their prayers for his life; Rome's bitter enemy King Atarbanus of Parthia declared a period of mourning; barbarians at war with the empire made peace in his honor. More darkly, Dando-Collins shows that the emperor Augustus had picked Germanicus to succeed Augustus's immediate heir, Tiberius, believing that the young general was the only man in Rome who could complete the job of empire-building that the first emperor had begun. With his death, Rome ceased to be a work in progress and became an unfinished edifice that could only crumble with time.

Blood of the Caesars combines a fascinating journey into the ancient world with a compelling real-life murder mystery and a truly astonishing solution that will require the rewriting of Roman history.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (February 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 047013741X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470137413
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,514,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. A Newman VINE VOICE on November 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very interesting book, but ultimately the author has produced a flawed product. The is work by Dando Collins suffers from two fatal flaws. The first is that his basic thesis, that the death of Germanicus weakened Rome, setting the stage for a series of weak and corrupt rulers, thereby leading to the western empires eventual fall in 476 AD and the eastern empire's destruction in 1453 (good runs considering). But it is perhaps his solution to the person behind the murder of Germanicus that is ultimately the most unsatisfactory aspect of this work.

That the succession issue was bothersome for Rome is no question. It lead to periodic outbreaks of Civil War and undermined political stability in the 200s. However it is probably an overstatement to conclude that had Germanicus and his eldest sons taken over from Tiberius that Rome would have been spared these complications. I have a hard time imagining that Germanicus as the third emperor could have engendered a situation, as Dando Collins claims, in which Roman ruins might have been found in Capetown and persons living in China might have learned Latin. This is an overstatement in the extreme.

Dando Collins makes extensive use of Dio, Tacitus, and Suetonius. While he tends to question the accuracy of both Suetonius and Dio in places (the did write 70 and 200 years after the events of the book), he gives Tacitus a pass. While Tacitus is an excellent writer and the leading historian of imperial Rome, he too has an agenda. Tacitus, in common with most members of the senatorial class, never met an emperor he really liked (Suetonius never heard of an affair by an emperor in which he did not believe, particularly if involved some extreme perversion).
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Format: Hardcover
Blood of the Caesars is a great read. It moves swiftly, holds the reader's interest and strikes a superb balance between providing too much detail and providing too little. It is also somewhat of a murder mystery, and at the end of the book Dando-Collins gives his opinion as to the identity of the murderer of Germanicus Caesar.

Dando-Collins's contention that the murder of Germanicus led to the fall of Rome is a bit too much to swallow. It ignores the restoration of stability during the Flavian dynasty under Vespasian and Titus and, after a number of bad years under Domitian, the golden age of the "5 good emperors" (Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius). Almost one full century of good rulers undid the damage that occurred in the 40-odd years after Germanicus death.

There may be a key error in the book that undermines his theory of the identity of Germanicus's murderer. Dando-Collins writes that Augustus's daughter Julia died of "natural causes", but other sources say that she was starved to death shortly after Tiberius took the throne. Now, it turns out that Aggripina the Elder, Nero Germanicus and Drusus Germanicus were also starved to death. Beginning to see a pattern here? Especially noteworthy is the death of Drusus Germanicus, which clearly occurred on Tiberius's orders following the execution of Sejanus. (Sejanus is sometimes blamed for the other two deaths). Tiberius had few qualms about murdering his family and is the most likely candidate for the person who ordered the death of Germanicus.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have enjoyed before the books relating the History of the Roman Legions by author Dando-Collins, especially Nero's Killing Machine that gives background on the campaigns of Germanicus and how he become recognized as one of Rome's best military commanders. In this new book he gives us an intriguing possibility about the untimely death of Germanicus and we are confonted with evidence linking this death to a murder commited by a very well known character in Rome's history. I believe that the conclusions make sense but since this a 2000 year old mystery the case will remain unsolved foerever but his conclusions are very interesting. As far as the death of Germanicus being the cause for the later fall of the Western Roman Empire I believe that is stretching history a little bit too far, I believe even if Germanicus reached the position of Emperor, Rome would have fallen eventually to barbarian invasions and to internal decomposition as the seeds of decay lay in the internal foundations of Roman society namely: slavery, poverty, militarism and many other reasons than just bad goverment of a few emperors. If Germanicus could have finished the conquest of Germany eventually barbarians from the East namely Goths, Alans, Huns and others would have eventually overan Rome. But anyways I thoroughly enjoyed the book, new conclusions different from Robert Graves version of this famous murder as stated in I Claudius.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was highly entertaining. Dando-Collins does just what the description claims- he creates a web of suspense that kept me reading until the last page. I figured out half of his idea of "whodunit," but the other half came as quite a suprise (although, like with any good mystery, it made me bop myself on the head and say "Oooooh!").

That said, while it's an enjoyable read, I didn't find his conclusion terribly convincing. Although he does bring up some interesting evidence that shows that there is more to the story of his main suspect, I was not convinced that that person was connected to *this* story. His theory is not backed up by any real evidence, while other theories are done away with using incomplete logic. Much of his case is circumstantial and relies on guesses or holes in the historical record. Seeing that it is a two thousand year old mystery, no one will ever know for sure.

For a work of non-fiction, I found his scholarship in some places to be spotty, not just with regards to the murder of Germanicus, but with other dates, places, and people. Some seem like careless errors that should have been caught upon revision (such as claiming Tiberius was the younger of Livia's two sons); others undermine his vision of the story by changing the timeline of events, seemingly to suit his purpose.

The claim that the death of Germanicus lead to the eventual fall of Rome should be treated with skepticism. For an idea within the subtitle of the book, it didn't take up much space, and rightly so. I found that claim much more improbable than his idea of who Germanicus' murderers were.

Overall, I did enjoy the book and would recommend it as a fun read, especially due to its novel conclusions, but not as something to base opinions on or to be taken as fact.
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