Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor
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Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  2,561 ratings  ·  249 reviews
He found Rome made of clay and left it made of marble. As Rome’s first emperor, Augustus transformed the unruly Republic into the greatest empire the world had ever seen. His consolidation and expansion of Roman power two thousand years ago laid the foundations, for all of Western history to follow. Yet, despite Augustus’s accomplishments, very few biographers have concent...more
Paperback, 377 pages
Published October 9th 2007 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2006)
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Channing
Jul 16, 2007 Channing rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history wonks, classicists, the power hungry
Towards the end of his previous book, "Cicero", Everitt describes Cicero taking Julius Caesar's grand-nephew, the young Gaius Octavius, under his wing and introducing him to the world of Roman politics. In gratitude, the young Gaius winds up forming an alliance with Mark Antony and reluctantly agreeing to have Cicero killed (although he forces Antony to murder his uncle in exchange). Thus begins the rise to power of Rome's first emperor, later to call himself Augustus.

On one hand, Augustus could...more
Steven Peterson
Anthony Everitt follows up his excellent biography of the Roman politician, lawyer, and writer Cicero with a strong biography of the first Roman emperor, Augustus (born Gaius Octavius in 63 BC). If one add in Goldsworthy's well done recent biography of Julius Caesar, one then has a trio of excellent biographies that help make the political intrigues of Rome in the late Republic and early Empire come to life.

The challenges facing the author include holes in the life story of the man who became A...more
Linda Harkins
This book is an audacious attempt to cover in only 327 pages the rise to power and reign of Rome's first emperor. Not all my questions were answered, but I have a better understanding of the period having read this biography.

The author quickly introduces Augustus as Octavian, the handsome and astute great-nephew of Julius Caesar. Trained in public administration by Caesar, Octavian was a person of delicate health who never became the warrior that his great-uncle was. In fact, he leaned heavily u...more
Kelly
Oct 27, 2007 Kelly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of ancient history, fans of HBO Rome
Very well done. Told as narratively as possible, almost in novel form at some points. Very engaging, makes you feel like you know these people. If you liked the HBO series, you'll like this book. It was a very easy read each time I picked it up, which is saying something as I read it during a very stressful time during which I didn't have a lot of time to spare. But I always enjoyed diving into it. You'd think that I'd need something a bit more relaxing. But not with the way this was written.

I d...more
Sean
A solid biography of the founding father of the Roman Principate. Indulges in a fair amount of speculation, but I suppose that's what separates scholarly history from popular history, and the author gives you plenty of notice when he's off on a flight of (informed) fancy. Besides, given the paucity of reliable sources for much of Gaius's/Octavian's/Augustus's life, perhaps some speculation is called for.

Any student of Roman history should have a handle on the life and times of Imperator no. 1, a...more
Margaret
A great follow-up to Cicero. Between the two of them you get a thorough introduction not only to these two men, but more generally to life in ancient Rome and its rise to empire. (It's a crazy story, if you hadn't heard.)
Jeremy Perron
Anthony Everitt tells the amazing story of the young Gaius Octavius, who grows up to become the man we know as Emperor Augustus. Everitt gives the treatment of Augustus' life the same way he treated the orator Cicero's. Everitt has an easy to follow narrative that guides the reader from the chaotic early life to the stable rule as the first Emperor of Rome, or what Augustus called his new regime: the Principate.

Born during Cicero's consulship, the young boy grows up in the period of political in...more
Erik
I doubt that this recent biography on Augustus -- ne Octavian -- is the first to focus solely on the first emperor of Rome (as the dust-cover flap suggests), but I will agree with most critics and readers that this is a compelling read that manages to include many of the debates and nuances that make Augustus and his contemporaries so intriguing. If you're looking for confirmation of the scandalous affairs and sordid acts that were paraded on screen during the two seasons of HBO's breath-taking...more
Emalise
This was the first biography I ever read. Surprisingly enough, as I'm a Classics major with a concentration in Latin, I did not read it for a class. I've always had a certain fascination with Augustus even though I never knew too much about him. (It is hard for me to imagine him an any other way than as Simon Woods played him in HBO's Rome but that is not being very historically objective, now is it?)

Everitt successfully navigated the difficult feat of writing about a great man, on whom there ar...more
Reid
It has been nice to see a recent flourishing in the publication of narrative ancient histories meant for the larger reading public. Rubicon must stand out as the supreme example among them, if only for its readability and scope. Everitt, in contrast, is a great also-ran, his biography of Augustus presenting a well-balanced and well-ordered book on a very controversial historical figure. In particular, Everitt's information about Sextus Pompeius was an utter revelation, something I had completely...more
Trina
This biography is heavy on the battles of the civil war that preceded Octavian's rise to power, but ultimately I really enjoyed the development of Augustus' character: he was physically weak and prone to illness but he lived into his mid 70s. His strength was that he was extremely thoughtful, tactical and patient in working out how to bring Rome out of civil war into a position of power. The fact that his "reign" effectively ended the Republic, which wasn't working but which is always idealized...more
Adam Ford
Augustus was such a great man they named a month after him. He succeeded Julius Caesar and is famously the first Roman Emperor (marking the end of the Roman Republic). But, oddly, he was able to become an autocrat by appealing to the old republican traditions of Rome and by utilizing the Senate more than Julius Caesar had.

Caesar was given short term autocratic power during time of war and people feared he wouldn't give it up, hence the attack on the ides of March by Republican Senators, includi...more
Jana
I finished Cleopatra and now I realize how much I don't know. This was a very enlightening, entertaining, readable (listenable in my case) biography of Rome's longest ruling emperor. His stable ruling, policies AND beautification of Rome lasted half a millennia. Perhaps Marc Antony wouldn't have fared so well?

Based on this one, I want to read the same author's Cicero as well.
J.M. Slowik
Solid. This is compelling history, even when the antiquity of it all frequently requires the author to disclaim "the true story will never be known." Everitt succeeds in telling the epic, a sweeping story of one hugely influential life. To his credit, he doesn't shy away from human complexity, hypocrisy, or just plain mystery.

More important, though, is this question: what lesson did Augustus primarily draw from his long reign? What did he believe near its end? Well, at one point he quoted Virgil...more
Jie
The people was easy to please. They hailed him as the absolute ruler and handed over the authority willingly to him. But he knew his power ultimately came from the control of the army, with which he could give up the authority over half of the empire back to the senate. It was an ominous beginning, as the fate of the empire would for ever roll between the hands which fought to grasp the rein of the legions. Dynasty never lasted long. Divide, fight, and chaos. But all of this had the root of the...more
Miklos Hargitay
For anybody interested in the History of Rome, Mike Duncan's podcast gives a wonderful overview. For a more detailed look at a particular battle, emperor, figure, etc., further reading is necessary.

A common cliche is that a given figure is complicated. Augustus, is in fact, complicated. Adopted by Julius Caesar, head of (several) revolts, credited for putting Rome on firm footing, and died just after orchestrating his dynasty, he deserves much of the accolades he is given.

Everitt gives a detaile...more
Cheska
Jun 18, 2012 Cheska marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: back-burner
Because reading one book at a time is never enough....
Jigar Dave
Well I took up this book owing to my ongoing fascination for Rome and this book doesn't disappoint or dim that fascination even one tiny bit. It's about Augustus - Rome's First Emperor or journey of Rome from Republic to Monarchy. The book I must say takes an unbiased note in rise of Augustus. Helped by factors such as Mark Anthony and his loss of goal and of course Cicero. It also details the years with best friend and later general Agrippa and also the end of one of Rome's best known emperor.
Ric

Ancient history is made up of bits of information from dated manuscripts and the plausible conjectures of historians. Reading this book, I would add that the personal biases of history writers fill in the information gaps which are especially large the farther back in time we go. The end result is a mix of fact and fiction, and like a scifi novel, the fiction needs to retain structural consistency with the rest of the facts.

With equal parts wonder and skepticism, this book takes one way back to

...more
Lisa
Holy crap, Augustus was a fascinating man.

I'd read a few books that dealt with Octavian/Augustus in a supporting role to the infamous Cleopatra and her children. With one exception, I was way more interested in Octavian than Cleopatra (I may have declared I was Team Octavian). Not in a "clearly Octavian was superior" way, but because his character seemed more complex than Cleopatra and her kin's.

So I picked this book up, wanting to know more about Augustus and it did not disappoint me. The compl...more
Paul Patterson
I read this book last year 2007 and found that I had a very difficult time remembering much of what I read. In fact, I felt I didn’t even get a feeling for Augustus as a result of plowing through it. The second reading this year was better but it was still plodding and while there were high points, I had not noticed before such as descriptions of Court life in the Augustan era and family dynastic intrigues, it was still very slow even boring. What made is such was the preponderance of detail on...more
John
A very interesting an informative biography of Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus, Rome's first emperor. I come to this biography knowing broad outlines of Roman history - Octavian, nephew of Julius Caesar became his heir and eventually rose to supreme power after the dissolution of the 2nd Triumvirate and the defeat of Marc Antony. Beyond that, it was merely the iconic image the Augustus statue that appears in every history book, and Roddy McDowell's turn as Octavian in "Cleopatra" that come to mind...more
Bob Reed
This was a great read. While I am biased because I love this time period, the story of Octavius/Augustus is one of the great stories of history. I read this immediately after reading "Why the West Rules For Now" and it seemed to me that this was an excellent counter to the argument that the fate of civilizations is pre-determined by forces of nature outside the control of man. In Octavius'/Augustus' case, one man did affect the course of history. Two things I found amazing about him: Firstly, ho...more
Craig
A very well researched and written biography of Octavian (later Augustus Caesar) one of Rome's most capable and revered leaders. Though not a skilled military commander, he had the vision, patience, tenacity and political savvy to unify the Roman empire and expand its borders. Upon the assassination of his great uncle, Julius Caesar, he succeeded together with Mark Anthony and Lepidus to form the Second Triumvirate. Eventually, Lepidus was sidelined and later Mark Anthony was eliminated (though...more
Julesmarie
This was definitely an interesting book, for more reasons that the author likely intended. This was the first biography I've read in which the opinions of the author were so unabashedly evident. Julius Caesar is discussed in tones of honor sometimes bordering on worship. Antony is vilified and villainized (to the extent that the author claims Antony had complete knowledge of the plan to assassinate Julius Caesar and chose to do nothing about it).

Once the narrative reached the point where Augustu...more
StrangeBedfellows
Now I'm not a big biography reader and probably wouldn't have cracked this one if it hadn't been assigned. But damned if I'm not enjoying it. Everitt makes a good biographer for several reasons. Rather than relate facts a la textbook he tells a story complete with family feuds, gossip, fashion, animal sacrifice, incest -- all those things that make ancient Rome so fascinating. Another point in Everitt's favor is the way he fills in cultural and historical background without slowing things down....more
Kelly
This is a decent biography. It gives a good general lesson in the life of Augustus; including a great deal of material that most readers will have encountered previously in romantic epics and so forth. Indeed, it often seemed as though Mr. Everitt was more enamored of Mark Antony than perhaps he ought to have been. His parsing of political and strategic motivations inevitably leaves the impression that Antony has been wrongly treated by history. In any event, this telling of the life of Augustus...more
David Miller
How did the Roman Republic become the autocratic empire that came to rule the Mediterranean world? Everitt's book gives us the story, as best we know, of the man who built the apparatus of the imperial state. But it also shows us that by the time Augustus achieved power, the Republic was beyond recall. This is really the story of how a society that prided itself as much for freedom and constitutional government as for its battle prowess made peace with the sly emergence of monarchy.

Of this, Ever...more
Chris
A modest biography of Rome's first emperor -- Octavian, the self-styled "Augustus."

Anthony Everitt's book is readable and informative but far from perfect. Some problems with this biography will be outlined in a moment, but let me state out the outset that I have some sympathy for Everitt's dilemma. The historical records during the century prior to Augustus becoming ruler of Rome are much more complete than after Augustus reestablished Rome as an Empire. Much of the record from the period after...more
Rick
For years I’ve meant to read Everitt’s life of Cicero, which was published some time ago to acclaim. After following “Rome” on its two season-run on HBO, I added this to the list for my birthday this year when it appeared in bookstores at the end last year. I’d like to say it was great but it was merely informative and easy to read—not too dense or academic but far from compelling and not always convincing. Though the careful way Everitt navigates the sources, casting skepticism on some of the m...more
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