Augustus: The Life of Rome’s First Emperor Review

Augustus: The Life of Rome’s First Emperor by Anthony Everitt details the life of one of Rome’s longest ruling emperor. This obviously is no small accomplishment considering how finicky people in that ancient era could be! What surprised me the most after having read through the book is that honestly, I didn’t feel that much of a connection with the emperor. I’ve read two books by Phillip Freeman and he made reading biographies fun and exciting. Here with Augustus, I honestly don’t know if it’s the author or that his life just isn’t that exciting when compared to Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. Heck, I even had a better time reading about the biography of Claudius than I did here with Augustus! However, could it be that that was the emperor’s plan all along?

The one thing that did strike me is how calculating and patient he was when planning his rise to the top. He knew that he wasn’t going to top the feats of Julius Caesar and the likes when it came to military prowess due to his health and so another method was needed. He obviously had a lot of help from Julius Caesar but the rest was up to him and this book details it all.

“Augustus expressed his surprise that Alexander did not regard it as a greater task to set in order the empire which he had won than to win it.”


I think that quote summed up the best of Augustus for me. Governing such a vast empire is no simple task and he understood that above all else. He rarely did anything brash but instead thought out his moves and its consequences. More importantly, it seems like he really did love his people and country.

“For the most part, the private man lived decently according to the standards of the time, and the public man did terrible things, but usually for the public good.”

Anthony Everitt

I did wish that the author went into more details about his relationship with his wife, Livia. It definitely seems like she played a significant role in his personal life and political career as was detailed elsewhere in other books. The author does seem to also hint at this but I was disappointed that it was not expanded further.

I’ve heard a saying that sometimes the greatest rulers are the one’s that are the most boring. I definitely don’t want to conclude that the life of Augustus was boring or meek by any means. There’s got to be a reason why he was the longest ruling emperor in ancient Roman times. It could be that I’ve been spoiled by reading of warlike characters such of Julius Caesar and of Alexander the Great before that of Augustus but I also couldn’t find myself agreeing to that in the end because I enjoyed reading I, Claudius more than this book and Claudius is not what you call entertaining by any means. I’d just have to settle with that Augustus was a man ahead of his time and that’s what made him unique even if I don’t quite understand exactly why!


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