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I, Claudius (Claudius #1)

4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  32,377 ratings  ·  1,392 reviews
From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius, Born 10 B.C., Murdered and Deified A.D. 54:
Considered an idiot because of his physical infirmities, Claudius survived the intrigues and poisonings of the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, and the Mad Caligula to become emperor in 41 A.D. Historical novel set in 1st-century-AD Rome by Robert Graves, published in 1934. The book is wri
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Paperback, 468 pages
Published October 23rd 1989 by Vintage Books USA (first published 1934)
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Brandon The Imperial Family and Nobles of Rome, and their struggles for power, both perceived or actual. Lots of backdoor deals, assassinations, breaches of…moreThe Imperial Family and Nobles of Rome, and their struggles for power, both perceived or actual. Lots of backdoor deals, assassinations, breaches of trust, etc. All from the perspective of Claudius, who is an absolute runt amongst many strong, powerful and cunning men and women. Or so they think...(less)
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Best Historical Fiction
28th out of 4,929 books — 19,112 voters
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1st out of 507 books — 727 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Paul Bryant
I Claudius reviewed by Manny :


- Claudius, come here, sit down right by me, don't be shy.

- O o o o o oh, M-m-m-m-m-

- Yes?

- essalina!

I Claudius reviewed by Mariel :

All i can dream about is rabbits every day. every day rabbits. i can't tell you why.


I Claudius reviewed by Ian Graye :

You've seen The Sopranos, so you think you know about gangsters.

But Imperial Rome didn't get its reputation by organising knitting circles.

No, it didn't.

Claudius became emperor accidentally. They found him cowering in a
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Sarah (Presto agitato)
Jul 17, 2012 Sarah (Presto agitato) rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those interested in the real Hunger Games
Poor Clau-Clau-Claudius. He stuttered, had a limp, and was deaf in one ear. Considered the family idiot, he had the misfortune to be born into a family that suffered from a congenital lack of compassion.

Robert Graves’s choice of the hapless Claudius as the narrator for this work of historical fiction was ingenious. Seen as dull-witted and harmless by his ruthless relatives, Claudius managed to avoid (view spoiler) the poisoning, banishment, starvation, stabbing, and suici
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Kemper
Things had to have been boring in ancient Rome with no TV, internet or video games. But after reading I, Claudius, I think that the average Roman citizen’s chief entertainment probably came from watching what the imperial family did to each other. There was the crime and intrigue of a show like The Sopranos. All the narcissism and betrayal of a season of a reality TV show. More sex than cable on-demand porn channels and enough family dysfunction to make Jerry Springer’s guests look classy. You ...more
Riku Sayuj

Yo, Claudio

The review I really have in mind will be attempted for this book only after I finish reading Claudius the God (to quench the burning curiosity of how this ‘Clau-Clau-Claudius’, a man, who in the first shock of being made emperor had this outrageous thought come rushing to his mind - "So, I'm Emperor, am I? What nonsense! But at least I'll be able to make people read my books now.”, will conduct himself as a God-Emperor), The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Rubicon: The Last Y
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Aubrey
There have been multiple periods of time in my life during which I developed a fascination for different historical families, usually of infamous repute. Elementary school was devoted to the Tudors, focusing heavily on the Princess Elizabeth, while middle through high school was preoccupied with the Borgias, an interest more balanced between its equally intriguing members. Every so often those fascinations will spark up again, and I will find myself consuming relevant impressively rendered ficti ...more
Jr Bacdayan
Game of Romes

History is the lie of the victors. Or so that’s what they say. But in the case of I, Claudius hailed as one of the best pieces of historical fiction written to date, the so-called lie is either heightened or degraded, depends on how you see it, into a dramatic tale of cunning, deceit, depravity and the glories of ancient Rome chalked with enough back-stabbing, affairs, incest, assassinations, and debauchery you’d doubt whether you’ve unearthed an ancient tabloid. Granted there are c
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Luke Peterson
Feb 20, 2007 Luke Peterson rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: favorites
Best book I'd read in years. I, Claudius is a brilliantly written piece of historical fiction from the perspective of a hapless-yet-intelligent black sheep of the Julio-Claudian house during the Augustan era of the Roman Empire who stumbles his way through to survive the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, and Caligula only to be made emperor himself.

At times hilarious, others disturbing, very interesting all the way through, Robert Graves wrote a masterpiece with this. I challenge anyone to read 'I,
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Elijah Spector
[Cross-posted on my blog, but with pretty pictures!]
I decided that I had to read I, Claudius as soon as possible because of Brian Blessed.

I was watching a documentary about the famous BBC miniseries based on the book (which I desperately want to watch) and saw Mr. Blessed -- one of my favorite people to ever exist, who should really be a "Sir Blessed" -- discuss his reaction to being offered the role of Augustus: he basically (I am paraphrasing) went "oh no, I can't see myself as Augustus... m
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Manny
- Ave, Imperator!

- A-a-a-a-ave Manny. Heri o-o-o-ccurabamus?

- Parodis Paulii Bryantii erat.

- A-a-a-absit invidia. Latinam loquitis?

- Googlam Translatam utiliso.

- Non i-i-i-intelligo.

- Malefice! Logicus coprae est.

- P-p-parodis Bryantii melius erat.

- Bastarde!
Lyn
Compelling, humorous, entertaining and even at time times deeply disturbing, this traces the peripheral rise of an unlikely Caeser.

Historical fiction at its best, Graves provides an in-depth, behind the scenes look at early Roman Imperial intrigue. First published in 1934, this has been selected as one of the finest English language works in the twentieth century.

description
Jan-Maat
I was going to write that Graves having translated The Twelve Caesars recycled the Suetonius with a dash of Tacitus and some added murders to create I Claudius - ostensibly the memoirs of the Emperor Claudius.

This, however, seems to be entirely false as Graves wrote I, Claudius more than twenty years before he made that translation. He was though living on Majorca, which is not quite Capri and if isolated and obsessing over his muse not quite in Tiberian style.

In my imagination then I have to p
...more
David Sarkies
Apr 02, 2015 David Sarkies rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Roman Empire buffs
Recommended to David by: Sariah
Shelves: historical
A fictional autobiography of a Roman Emperor
23 February 2015

Well, here is another historical novel that I actually quite enjoyed, but that may be because, unlike most historical novels that deal with fictional characters placed in an historical time period, this deals with real characters, namely the Imperial Family from the establishment of the empire to the ascension of Claudius to the throne. As can be seen by the title, the main character is the emperor Claudius before he became emperor (th
...more
Dawn
I am a fan of anything to do with the Roman Empire. I find it endlessly fascinating how much of their systems of law and politics we continue to use and the amount of their language that is still a part of our lives.

As the intention must obviously have been, seeing as the point of view is from Claudius writing a history, this book is heavy on the facts and chronicles of events. Though it is written with a personal opinion on the characters, as Claudius is their contemporary.

I found the style o
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Andy Dowling
This thing is basically 'The Wire' in togas. It has much of the complex plotting, political positioning, warring and double crossing of that show, with a bit of incest and poisoning thrown in for good measure. A lot of poisoning actually. If the amount of poisoning in this book is at all historically accurate, then the Romans must have experienced the same abject terror sitting down to every meal, which we in modern life are thankfully now only exposed to when faced with no option but to use a K ...more
David
The first book that convinced me that history could be engrossing. Ridiculously fun to read - it delivers a thrill on a level with the first time you saw "The Mikado", heard the Saint-Saens cello concerto, Callas singing 'Casta Diva'. You get the picture

It is a stroke of genius for Graves to choose Claudius, the drooling 'halfwit' among the Caesars, overlooked and ridiculed by his more ambitious relatives, as his mouthpiece. In a voice that is irresistibly gossipy and remarkably shrewd, he draws
...more
Treva
I found I, Claudius to be really hard to get through. I just wasn't gripped by the story. There were no characters that I could identify with, including Claudius himself as the narrator. While there were a few tidbits here and there that held my attention, overall, the book seemed like a hopeless jaunt through decadent and debauched Rome with no upside to balance it out. In short, this book read like a modern day soap opera but with better use of language. I did commit myself to complete the boo ...more
Louise
Having just read Everitt's recent bio of Augustus, and being glued to HBO's Rome, I turned to this classic novel to get a better feel for Augustus and his times. The first two thirds of this novel, covering the administrations of Augustus and Tiberius, are dominated by the influence of Livia, an influence that extends into the Caligula era.

In contrast, the Everitt bio downplays Livia saying that she's shrewd businesswoman and loving advisor (if not much of a sexual partner) to Augustus. With car
...more
Heidi
I read this over the course of three weeks and blogged about it along with several other writers. (The Big Read II) That kind of slow, reflective read is perfect for this book. There are many historical characters to keep track of, and just who is going to be poisoned by whom.

Julius Caesar is merely the backstory, the real story here is about a sickly cripple that manages not to get assassinated before he becomes the Emperor at the ripe old age of 50 something. (That is not a spoiler...we learn
...more
Rustom Davar
If you think your family is bad, wait till you see what Emperor "Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus This-that-and-the-other" had to put up with! This historical novel is written from the point of view of Claudius, a stammering, lame, benign man who is taken for a fool by everyone who knows him (which happens to works in his favour). Claudius starts his tale with the reign of Augustus and ends the book with his own ascension to power. There is a sequel to the book called "The God Claudius" ...more
Bryan  Jones
Absolutely one of the worst books I ever read. I will never understand its popularity. Historical fiction at its worst. No themes, no depth, no undertones. Graves simply regurgitates facts and characters from 1st Century Roman high society.
Kiwi
A work of historical fiction as it should be: entertaining but based on solid research, including accurate dates and places.

The book narrative is in the first-person, as if Claudius were writing his autobiography, complete with Homeric references and Latin vocabulary. Although its stated purpose is of a biography, the story is rich with many historical figures related to the Julio-Claudian family line. Claudius’ observations on these characters provide interesting behind-the-scene information o
...more
A.J. Howard
I, Claudius is more of a fictional work of history than a historical work of fiction. What I mean by that is that Robert Graves isn't content with telling a story that takes place in a different era using historical events as devices that move along the narrative. Instead, the historical events are the narrative. Claudius, our narrator is a figure in the events, but he is approaching the events and other characters as a historian rather than as a participant. Graves' Claudius is a uniquely appro ...more
umberto
I bought this paperback after reading his wonderful autobiography "Goodbye to All That"; however, I thought I would never finish reading this seemingly formidable historical fiction due to its 34 chapters, lengthy narration (e.g. two full pages, pp. 222-223, without any paragraph), those innumerable names unfamiliar to me, etc. Incidentally, we can see Graves has understood his readers by adding lively, amusing or informative dialogs as appropriate. This fiction on ancient Rome has definitely su ...more
Taka
A masterpiece?

Hardly. Engrossing? Well, yes, it did pull me through 432 pages of dense and complicated Roman history, 98% of which is told in a narrative instead of rendered in scene. Even the rare scenes of dialogue are stripped of live actions of the characters and I was more than a little disappointed in not being able to get to know the historical characters in flesh, as it were.

Another weakness was that there really is no overarching narrative arc. It's mostly Claudius recording the vile, m
...more
K.M. Weiland
I don't know what I expecting when I started in on this. Something dull as tombs, a la some of the other classics I've been reading lately. Or something ostentatious, based solely on my familiarity with Graves as a poet (which makes no sense, because he's a wonderful poet). At any rate, the book totally blew my expectations out of the water. Fascinating from the word go, this is a stellar historical account of the early Roman Empire, as seen through the eyes of its misfit Emperor Claudius. For a ...more
Greg
Aug 17, 2008 Greg rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of HBOs <i>Rome</i> or <i>Sopranos</i>
I'd recommended the BBC/PBS TV series to anyone who'd listen for years, but only just got around to the book. Much more intrigue and mayhem than could be conveyed in the series, and I'll probably seek out Claudius the God in the near future.

My favorite bit was when a character appeared to have choked on a pear, Graves/Claudius writes: As was the custom in such cases, the pear tree was charged with murder and sentenced to be uprooted and burned.
Geoffrey Fox
What moved Graves, in his 39th year and during the vigorous rise of fascism, to write about the Roman Empire, from the last years of Augustus, through Tiberius, and up to the murder of Caligula? My question is not simply what gave him the inspiration but more seriously, what sustained him throughout the project. It is a monstrous allegory of his own times. No cruelty or treachery he had witnessed was unknown to the Romans of this period. The world did not yet know of genocide -- Hitler had becom ...more
Inês Beato
Uma obra magnífica! "Eu, Cláudio” conta a história, na primeira pessoa, do nobre Tibério Cláudio durante os reinados dos Imperadores Augusto, Tibério e Calígula. Fraco, gago e considerado um tolo pela família, Cláudio conseguiu sobreviver e escapar a todas as intrigas e mortes na família imperial, conseguindo passar suficientemente despercebido para contar a história do ambiente no Império Romano durante o reinado de Augusto e da malévola Lívia, avós de Cláudio, o reinado do louco Tibério e do a ...more
Joseph Fountain
3 1/2 stars

So, I’m Emperor, am I? What nonsense! But at least I’ll be able to make people read my books now.

I, Claudius is written as if it is the autobiography of Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus also known as Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (hereafter referred to as Claudius), the fourth emperor of Rome. But it is historical fiction. Graves did his research, so the major events, personalities, and dates are considered fairly reliable, while the anecdotal details and dialog
...more
Kim
Ok, one of my questions may have been answered, the question "Why did the Roman empire fall?" has just been answered, that is if the novel "I, Claudius" by Robert Graves is indeed accurate. I no longer wonder why it fell, now I wonder how it lasted as long as it did. Graves wrote his novel in 1934 and it was written in the form of an autobiography of the Roman Emperor Claudius, which made it pretty fun to read. I was surprised to learn that in 1998 the Modern Library ranked I, Claudius fourteent ...more
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Classic Trash: I, Claudius: Finished (Spoilers) 1 3 15 hours, 37 min ago  
Ancient &amp; Med...: SEPTEMBER 2014 (Group Read 1): I, Caudius by Robert Graves 144 126 Feb 17, 2015 12:35AM  
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Robert Ranke Graves, born in Wimbledon, received his early education at King's College School and Copthorne Prep School, Wimbledon & Charterhouse School and won a scholarship to St John's College, Oxford. While at Charterhouse in 1912, he fell in love with G. H. Johnstone, a boy of fourteen ("Dick" in Goodbye to All That) When challenged by the headmaster he defended himself by citing Plato, G ...more
More about Robert Graves...

Other Books in the Series

Claudius (2 books)
  • Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina (Claudius, #2)
Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina (Claudius, #2) Goodbye to All That The Greek Myths The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth I, Claudius/Claudius the God

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“I was thinking, "So, I’m Emperor, am I? What nonsense! But at least I'll be able to make people read my books now.” 33 likes
“I made no more protests. What was the use of struggling against fate” 13 likes
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