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Caligula: The Corruption of Power

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  206 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Was the Roman emperor Caligula really the depraved despot of popular legend? In this book -- the first major reassessment of Caligula's life and career in over fifty. years -- Anthony A. Barrett draws on archaeological, numismatic, and literary evidence to evaluate this infamous figure in the context of the system that gave him absolute power."Authoritative ... highly read ...more
Paperback, 360 pages
Published March 30th 1998 by Yale University Press (first published May 1st 1990)
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Jan 25, 2017 Joe rated it liked it
How to be a friend of Caligula

"Caligula sought out the company of gladiators and actors[...] it is probably safe to say that as a group they would not have seen their role as one of trying to curb the emperor's excesses."

"Helicon [...] was the leader of a large group of Alexandrian Greeks in Caligula's service. He had not made great progress under Tiberius because of that emperor's distaste for children jokes. But he saw his opportunity for advancement under Caligula because of his great skill a
Aug 22, 2012 Windsor rated it liked it
Shelves: ancient
This book is probably on the lower end of good in terms of the amazing Emperor series that I love. Although she gives a good description of Caligula's life, Barrett tends to wish wash on Caligula's reputation in my opinion. I still own this book, but I wonder if there is a better account of Caligula, even with how much I love Barrett's writing.
Jun 09, 2009 Alec rated it liked it
Shelves: history, biographies
Anticipating a bawdy read in the tradition of the BBC miniseries "I, Claudius", imagine my disappointment when I discovered that this scholarly tome is actually quite serious. A serious examination of the sources, carefully weighing the legend against what is in the records? No fun!
Life of Caligula, Rome’s third emperor, sets out to set the record straight and focuses a bit more on the positive for Caligula than is generally recognized, noting his support of theater and intellectual/oratorical gifts, whilst still at the same time acknowledging Caligula’s darker nature and disturbing, troubled reign

This is a VERY scholarly book and quite a slog in parts, that I would not recommend for anyone unless they have some prior familiarity with the times (this covers much of the sam
Reading Barrett's biography, you get the impression that acquiring an accurate picture of the third emperor's life is a matter of pulling bits and pieces of truth out of a bunch of lying historians. Of course, they weren't lying so much as just very much hostile to Caligula for various reasons and all too willing to include hearsay, gossip, and scandalous rumors. So, as one other Goodreads reviewer put it, if you love the Caligula of I, Claudius, you will be sorely disappointed by this biography ...more
Lyn (Readinghearts)
Jan 27, 2010 Lyn (Readinghearts) rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Roman history buffs
Shelves: ccclib, royals, borrowed
finally got to this one, and although I am finding Caligula's life interesting, the book itself is quite dry and reads like a textbook. Being a novice in the history of the Roman Empire, I was lost much of the time reading this book. All of the players had 3 or more names, but the one they went by had nothing to do with their actual name, or was the one that 10 other people were also using at the time. For example, Caligula was actually just a nickname that he received when he was small and tra ...more
Jan 29, 2010 Kimberly rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, 2010
This book fell into the ok/liked it a little category for me (2/2.5 stars). For the positive aspects, you can tell that Barrett did an incredible amount of research for this book which I respect. I actually took several Greco-Roman history classes in college so I recognized several of the people he cited as sources and the overall picture he portrayed of life during that time jived with my novice knowledge of that time period. I also appreciated his inclusion of pictures of relevant coinage and ...more
Michael Lewyn
Sep 16, 2015 Michael Lewyn rated it really liked it
Most ancient works on Caligula describe him as a madman. Barrett points out the flaws in these works; only two authors actually lived in Caligula's time (Seneca and Philo). But Philo mostly lived in Egypt, except for one trip to Rome to meet Caligula. And Seneca had a personal grudge against Caligula, having been exiled for adultery with Caligula's sister. Other authors lived decades after Caligula. Thus, there's not a lot of reliable information about his rule.

Barrett goes on to debunk the majo
May 26, 2013 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember hunting around bookstores in high school trying to find this book after one of my teachers talked about it. Never could find it and by the time I actually started buying books from the internet it had almost completely slipped my mind. I finally ran across it in the Strand Annex just before it closed while visiting NYC a few years ago and picked it up to read this spring. I was not disappointed.

For those have have read some of my other reviews of biographies of classical people, this
Edward Smith
Aug 03, 2011 Edward Smith rated it really liked it
This is not a book for the layman. It uses a lot of Latin (which usually is translated, but sometimes is not), and the author assumes that the reader has a somewhat advanced knowledge of Roman history, politics, and the structure of the early empire (or principate).

As stated by others, the author attempts to be a "revisionist" in the sense that he challenges the conventional picture of the Emperor being a raving lunatic that we see in I Claudius. Reinterpretation is brought, as most of the sour
Jul 14, 2012 Elliott rated it it was amazing
Anthony Barrett has hands down created the best biography on the emperor Caligula with the evidence available. His scholarship is impeccable, his writing superb. Of special mention is his 'diagnosing' of the emperor that's perfectly logical and far more believable, yet certainly less appealing than the traditional belief: Caligula was not 'mad' per se, he like many a despot before and after him merely found himself as a young adult sheltered for much of his life, inexperienced with the republica ...more
Nov 23, 2015 Kristine rated it it was amazing
Una biografía extremadamente interesante de uno de los personajes más escandalosos que el Imperio ha dado. A pesar de ser corta sí que puede hacerse muy pesada, pues se tiene que leer con suma atención. Dudo, y me río por no llorar, que haya un párrafo que no contenga información que daría para desenvolupar una entera página de Wikipedia con tantos datos que nos conjunta. Es por eso que su lectura me llevó casi un mes, pues no podía dedicarle mis pasajes en bus o pausas en el instituto, donde ac ...more
Jake Duffie
Dec 18, 2016 Jake Duffie rated it really liked it
Interesting take on Caligula (maybe all those stories are just misunderstood, garbled jokes?). Couldn't be more thorough which, unfortunately, made for some parts that lagged. Gets bogged down in conspiracy speculation. It covers every single person, event, object or architecture even tangentially connected to Little Boots. Ultimately worth reading along with Winterling's "Caligula".
Nov 11, 2009 Hannah rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Barrett is one of the main sources to go to for information on Caligula, particularly for the layman. I found this book quite useful for my Extension History thesis (although keep in mind that was Year 12, not university level, so I cannot say how useful this would be for those doing more in-depth studies on Rome).
Rena Sherwood
This was good, but not as good nor as memorable as Aloys Winterling's biography of Caligula. So, you know, it's got a nice beat but it's hard to dance to.

Mar 03, 2014 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A satisfactory, rather then gripping, account of the life and reign of one of Rome's most notorious emperors.

The writing is, however, so dense that I was tempted to just skim over some parts of it.
David Fitzgerald
Oct 25, 2014 David Fitzgerald rated it it was amazing
This book was refreshing and full of unexpected histories about the Emperor that most people think was insane. On the contrary, this book proves that Caligula was a sane, rational and cool-calculating ruler who hated the Patrician class.
Larry Van Bibber
Dec 18, 2014 Larry Van Bibber rated it liked it
Shelves: my-lib
It was interesting from the standpoint of providing details of his demise. But the only sources were anti him. So there may be some issues with their objectiveness.

I will use other sources to develop my perspectives oh him.

I wont be recommending this book to any one else.
Janet Martinez
dr.barrett completely changes your view of caligula-i re read this one every year since it came out-can't wait to read winterling's caligula since dr.barrett himself has recommended it to me&speaks very highly of winterling's assesment oof the most misunderstood of all the julio-claudians
Oct 17, 2008 Dergrossest rated it it was ok
I am not convinced that this least impressive of the Roman emperors deserves an entire book devoted to him and this book did nothing to change my mind.
Birgitta Hoffmann
Oct 01, 2014 Birgitta Hoffmann rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Interesting take on Caligula, although at times a bit wordy.
Ginger Heskett
I registered a book at!
Feb 22, 2012 Lucy rated it really liked it
Got a bit dry at times but overall only fueled my current obsession with Bootsie. Definitely worth reading if you're into Roman history or, you know, crazy emperors.
Belinda G
Mar 27, 2013 Belinda G rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013, university, history
I very much enjoyed this book both on an academic level and as entertainment. Found this really useful on my assignment on Caligula!
Emily Brown
Aug 26, 2008 Emily Brown rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
informative, but a lot of history about caligula that i've learned from other sources. great book for those who know very little about him or his reign.
Matthew rated it it was amazing
Jan 11, 2011
RJ rated it liked it
Jun 20, 2011
Tim rated it really liked it
Mar 25, 2017
Jay Cardam
Jay Cardam rated it liked it
Dec 09, 2014
Justin rated it really liked it
Oct 06, 2007
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