I, Claudius by Robert Graves is a biographical fiction novel based on the account of Claudius during the infamous ancient Roman period. As usual, I was looking for my next book to devour when someone suggested that if a person wanted to read a good story with a lot of backstabbing, court intrigue and political scheming, look no further than I, Claudius. I’m happy to say that person was absolutely spot on! At times, I felt that this story will make even George Martin and his Game of Thrones series blush in terms of the amount of drama and murder plots involved! Although this book is not meant for serious history buffs that want every detail of the story fact checked and proven for accuracy sake, it’s meant more for casual readers like myself who are more primarily interested in getting the overall picture of what went down during this Roman period. If an event piques your interest during your reading, it will be your job to look it up online to get more information on it. After having read through I, Claudius, what I can say for sure is that this will definitely not be the last book on the Roman empire I will be reading!
Claudius is a very interesting character and historians should be very happy to have read his version of what went down during this period and to a point, his very own steady rise to power. Due to Claudius being born a lame, he actually gets to escape the wrath of many men and women hell bent on ruling with an iron fist either in the forefront or behind the scenes. However, this obviously comes at a cost in that while he gets to keep his life, it can be at many times seen as a very miserable one. Many would consider it a pretty good trade considering how easily one could lose their life during this era! It is this very fact that seems so fascinating to many. Like many others, I’ve never really studied or read about ancient Roman history except maybe knowing a thing or two about Julius Caesar. How shocking then to learn that this period’s demise was brought down by none other than greed, jealousy, money and the ever growing thirst for more power. Yes, things that plagued the once great Roman empire still can be seen rearing its ugly head generations before and after this period of time. It seems inescapable but to really read about it is something else and I’m positive other history books I’ll be reading will be no different.
I, Claudius is a slow moving book and rightly so. Due to him being handicapped, Claudius wasn’t really able to join the military. Therefore, he found the best way to contribute back to his society was to put his writing abilities to use and become an historian. What’s equally important though is that the author made the story fairly easy to read. Although the book is written in the biography view of Claudius himself, Robert Graves is the actual author. What the most difficult thing the reader will have to face is keeping up with the actual familial relationships between all the different characters! Trust me, it’s going to make your head spin at first and I’d would even suggest writing them down in a chart of some sort to not get lost or confused. Even Claudius’s own birth explanation at first forced me to re-read that section a couple of times simply because the book is about him and it would be a shame to misunderstand this important piece!
Fascinating. That’s the only word I constantly think of after having read this biography. To learn of how the Romans interacted with each other as well as the fear and chaos that a ruler can instill on its peoples is something I didn’t expect to read about. The fact that rulers can deify themselves and others by simply making it a decree is honestly hilarious yet mind blowing. Yet, that was what the people of ancient Rome went through and for better or worst, it undoubtedly made a mark in history for eons to come. I’m thinking that Claudius was no saint himself and it will be interesting to learn more about him via other sources. I was glad to learn that there is a sequel to I,Claudius titled Claudius the God. This will certainly be read one day by myself if only to pique my curiosity as to how Claudius the ruler will be like.