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Caligula: The Corruption of Power

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  138 ratings  ·  19 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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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.
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!
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
Kimberly B.
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
readinghearts (Lyn M)
Apr 27, 2010 readinghearts (Lyn M) rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Roman history buffs
Shelves: borrowed, ccclib, royals
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
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
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
Edward Smith
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
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
Rena Sherwood
This was good, but not as good nor as memorable as Winterling's biography.
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
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.
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).
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
Birgitta Hoffmann
Interesting take on Caligula, although at times a bit wordy.
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.
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.
Emily Sours
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.
Belinda G
I very much enjoyed this book both on an academic level and as entertainment. Found this really useful on my assignment on Caligula!
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