- Paperback: 334 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Paper); Reprint edition (April 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0671738496
- ISBN-13: 978-0671738495
- Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,322,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Caligula: The Corruption of Power Reprint Edition
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From Library Journal
Making judicious use of the often incomplete and inconsistent sources from the life and rule of Caligula, Roman emperor A.D. 37-41, Barrett has succeeded in writing a detailed and full study intended to appeal to informed readers and students of Roman history. The historical significance of Caligula's reign is also examined, e.g., his treatment of Jews and plans to conquer Britain. In sum, Barrett's book offers new insights into a figure often avoided by academic biographers.
- Jackson P. Hershbell, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
Now for the bad side. The book is written in a dense and confusing scholarly style which is extremely difficult to follow. This wouldn't be so bad in a scholarly book except that at the very beginning he explains that his purpose is to write it for a more general audience. In that he utterly fails. As a scholarly work it works, though clunky, but as a popular biography it fails to impress. The majority of the book is dedicated to examining the minutiae of what Caligula did throughout his reign. His personality is covered mostly in the opening and concluding chapters. Throughout the rest of the book he seems to be just ahead of you, you follow what he does but you never really get a feel for who he was. Nonetheless, the man's life was interesting. It's just a shame that this book wasn't placed in the hands of a better writer.
Caligula has been portrayed as a megalomaniac in films like The Robe and as seriously disturbed in "I, Claudius" and is the view people generally accept. Ancient historians were not like their modern counterparts who seek to reveal the truth behind people and events, and are not in agreement among themselves. Rather, their concern was to relate the truth as they saw it, and a bad emperor had to be bad man.
Mr. Barrett writes well and gives us a biography that can appeal to the historian and general reader. He examines the sources and archaeological evidence to provide a well-ground appraisal of Caligula's personality. The discussion is well reasoned and Mr. Barrett presents a good deal of material to support his conclusions. There is an excellent selection on the coins, inscriptions and portraits of Caligula, and a list of his victims with source citations. The personality that emerges may not be the one who slept with his sisters and thought he was Jove but a ruthless tyrant remains.
Barrett, sensitive to the great controversies about the life of Caligula, demonstrates that he has done his homework and provides every little detail he can. This ultimately has the effect of slowing the book down to an unimaginably slow pace and saps the life out of what should be an intriguing biography. While there are moments of pleasure one can derive from this historical sketch - for example Caligula's non-erotic relationship with his sisters - there is much that seems to be glanced over - like Caligula's relationship with the Emperor Tiberius.
The book has little sense of narrative and reads like an extended dissertation. This makes the reader feel like an outsider. We never quite grab ahold of the story, because the real story is buried under hundred of names, and equally as many side conversations.
One can appreciate that Barrett tried to present a balanced picture of Caligula; that is, he tried to put the various sources in some kind of perspective. This book is undoubtedly well reasearched and balanced. Moreover, there is very little speculating on what made Caligula tick. At least Barrett has enough respect for the reader to let them come to their own conclusions rather than over-analyzing a person in antiquity. However, while doing so he has created a book that is not fun to read and a portrait as colorless as the ancient Roman marble statues.