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Modern Classics I Claudius (Penguin Modern Classics) New Ed Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 507 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0141188591
ISBN-10: 0141188596
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Having never seen the famous 1970s television series based on Graves' historical novel of ancient Rome and being generally uneducated about matters both ancient and Roman, I wasn't prepared for such an engaging book. But it's a ripping good read, this fictional autobiography set in the Roman Empire's days of glory and decadence. As a history lesson, it's fabulous; as a novel it's also wonderful. Best is Claudius himself, the stutterer who let everyone think he was an idiot (to avoid getting poisoned) but who reveals himself in the narrative to be a wry and likable observer. His story continues in Claudius the God. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Graves's legendary tale of Claudius, a nobleman in the corrupt and cruel world of ancient Rome during the rule of Augustus, Tiberius and Caligula, is a truly compelling listening experience. Derek Jacobi returns to the role that defined his career when he starred in the 1976 Masterpiece Theatre miniseries I, Claudius. Jacobi is so strong in this role, it seems created especially for him. Jacobi's compelling voice demands his audience's undivided attention from start to finish and in doing so delivers an unforgettable performance as Claudius yet again. So incredibly personal is Jacobi's performance that listeners feel almost as if eavesdropping on someone's private life, which only draws us deeper into this gem of modern literature. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Modern Classics
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classic; New Ed edition (August 29, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141188596
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141188591
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (507 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,156,567 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. Sellers on August 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
Instead of going into gory detail about the particulars of this text, as I'm sure you've read a few summaries already, I will merely say that this book changed my reading habits forever. I read this book, simply out of curiousity, because the title was familiar and from the first page of Graves' novel I was gripped. Written in an excellent, half-comic, half-tragic style, the novel flows, and keeps you reading until it abruptly (and I'd say quite cruelly ends). The moment which will stick in my mind forever is when I first read the scene when Claudius is called into the chamber of Caligula. Caligula mad intends to kill Claudius, but Claudius quickly picks up on the emperor's madness...and well read the book. This book changed it all for me, the next book I read was Tacitus, Annals of Imperial Rome, then The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire..and so on. This book lit a passionate flame of curiousity about Roman History and then eventually world history, ever since reading this book 3 years ago, I have read only ancient classics, greek, roman and world histories, at the pace of at least one a month. For that reason alone I must rate this book highly and maybe it will light that curiousity in you too.
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Format: Paperback
This novel by Robert Graves represents the supreme instance in the twentieth century to write a literarily serious historical novel. There has, of course, been no shortage of historical novels during the past century, but for the most part "historical" fiction has become a species of genre fiction, like Sci-Fi, detective fiction, spy fiction, and Westerns. I, CLAUDIUS, on the other hand, is a historical novel composed by someone otherwise regarded as a serious writer. This relationship between serious writers and the genre of historical fiction has not always been the case. Until the mid-19th century, a host of novels attempted to recreate a historical era, not least Dickens in A TALE OF TWO CITIES, William Thackeray in HENRY ESMOND, Flaubert in SALAMBO, Tolstoy in WAR AND PEACE, and Pynchon's GRAVITY'S RAINBOW. But for the most part, writers in the latter half of the nineteenth century and all of the twentieth century have forsaken historical fiction to write in the present tense, or at the latest of their childhood, as with Marcel Proust or Anthony Powell or Harper Lee.

Because of his success in the writing of I, CLAUDIUS and its sequel CLAUDIUS THE GOD, many today think of Robert Graves as primarily a novelist, but in fact most of his writing falls into the nonfiction realm, much of that with a historical bent. Graves was a passionate student of antiquity, both the Greeks and the Romans, and his goal in writing I, CLAUDIUS was to chronicle the period in Roman history immediately after the collapse of the republic and near the beginning of the rule of the Caesars. On the one hand, he wanted to adhere as closely to the documentary evidence for the events in the period as is compatible with a work of fiction, and on the other produced a first rate historical novel.
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Format: Paperback
Roman history, with its conquests, technical advancements, and impact on our modern world can be one of the most facinating subjects known to man. Roman politics, however, is usually one of the most boring. What Graves does with "I, Claudius" is present all the complex political intrigues of the early empire and make them not only bearable, but extremely involving.
Told through the eyes of Tiberius Claudius, the intellectually gifted but physically deformed relation to a series of emperors, the book winds from the last half of Augustus' (the first emperor after Julius Caesar) reign through the notorious times of Caligula, all the while keeping the reader enthralled.
The most remarkable thing about this book is simply that so much HAPPENS. Unlike most works of fiction, Graves' work does not busy itself with flowing descriptions of scenery, beautiful women, or romantic philosophy. Instead, the plot moves from event to event in a fast-paced but still rich combination of history and literary skill. Graves is able to strike an impressive balance between massive amounts of raw information (the history part) and uniquely adept storytelling prowess. Never have I read a book so full of historical fact and yet so utterly enjoyable.
You need NO prior knowledge of Roman history to appreciate this novel. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
After you finish "I, Claudius" you'll probably be sighing in relief that you weren't born into Roman nobility at the end of the first century BC. Because that would mean you'd have had wealth and political influence during the time of Augustus's scheming wife Livia and the tyrannical reigns of Emperors Tiberius and Caligula, which could have easily meant total loss of wealth and quite possibly death (and the deaths of all members of your family) if you so much as looked at any of them cross-eyed. Claudius is the nervous stammering weakling in the background, ridiculed by nearly all the royal family but relatively safe on account of those same shortcomings. He witnesses and lives through the many terrors and murders that the helpless upper crust of Rome suffers at the hands of the Caesars and their families and friends. The few noble-hearted members of the family are systematically wiped out as well, to prevent them from returning power to the Senate and making Rome a republic again.
Graves based this work (and the sequel Claudius the God) on Claudius's actual autobiography. Clearly many of the details must be fictional (i.e. what was on the menu on such and such night, words said during conversations, etc.), but all major events and many of the minor plot elements are ostensibly substantiated by historical text and hence are probably true to fact. That's scary. How can politics within a single city get as ridiculously inane and out of touch with regard for human life as portrayed in this work? Then again we need to remember that the Roman people condoned the spectacle of people killing each other for sport, so their thought patterns were obviously different from ours today. The Roman empire was a civilization, certainly.
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