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Count Belisarius

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  876 ratings  ·  61 reviews
The sixth century was not a peaceful time for the Roman empire. Invaders threatened on all fronties, but they grew to respect and fear the name of Belisarius, the Emperor Justinian's greatest general. With this book Robert Graves again demonstrates his command of a vast historical subject, creating a startling and vivid picture of a decadent era.
Paperback, 576 pages
Published October 1st 1982 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1938)
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The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif ShafakIstanbul by Orhan PamukMy Name is Red by Orhan PamukMurder on the Orient Express by Agatha ChristieCount Belisarius by Robert Graves
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5th out of 116 books — 29 voters
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36th out of 219 books — 78 voters


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Community Reviews

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William
Robert Graves's models for Count Belisarius include some of the great historical works of classical antiquity: Livy, Thucydides, Herodotus, and certainly Xenophon in the Persian war sections. The novel is set in the sixth century of our era. Belisarius is perhaps the last loyal general the Roman Empire can still count on. He is deeply Christian (Orthodox) but with an admirable tolerance for divergent views (Arianism, Monophysitism, etc.). He is also a military leader of genius. The accounts of h ...more
Darwin8u
I love the story of Belisarius. Did Robert Graves abuse history in writing this? I certainly hope so. By the end, however, I didn't really care if Belisarius was as good as Graves made him out to be, if the narrator, Eugenius, (Belisarius' wife Antonia's manservant ) is unreliable, or if Antonia slept with one man or many after marrying this 'Last Great Roman'. Graves bends this story into his own parable about power, corruption, honor and ingenuity. Other generals and the emperor Justinian serv ...more
Paul
Late Roman historical fiction with a solid base in fact. Belisarius was a roman general who served Justinian in the sixth century. Graves uses Procopius as a base for his account and has the story told by of of Antonina's (Belisarius's wife) eunuchs. Justinian is well drawn as the monster he was and there are entertaining accounts of early Christian heresies. It's been a while since I've read about Monophysites and Arians. Belisarius is portrayed as impossibly good and honourable and both of the ...more
Chadwick
Jul 26, 2007 Chadwick rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of the historical novel
Although not quite the masterpiece that both of the Claudius novels are, Count Belisarius is a great read, and brings the period, the 6th century C.E. to vibrant life. The titular Count Belisarius is a devout Orthodox Christian general of the Eastern Roman empire during the reign of Justinian. The book, supposedly written by his wife's eunuch Eugenius, follows his campaigns in Rome and Northern Africa, chronicling the court intrigues and jealousies that prevent him from winning the glories that ...more
Hadrian
Belisarius was a tragic hero, deserving of the title "The Last Roman". An honest and principled man, who reconquered Rome and Carthage with a miniscule force, and died, according to legend, a blind beggar, fallen to the intrigues of the Byzantine court.

Graves, who is no slouch when it comes to historical fiction, does well here. He does his research on an all too obscure period of history, and writes a gripping novel. Detailed yet energetic.
Tony
Graves, Robert. COUNT BELISARIUS. (1938). ****. I was an early Graves fan and read most of his novels when I was a teenager – many, many years ago. This was the novel I read after his Claudius books. Both “I, Claudius,” and “Claudius the God and his Wife Messilina,” were based on the information contained in Suetonius’ “Lives of the Twelve Caesars.” This novel was based on the Belisarius as described by Procopius in his “Histories.” Factual data are a little thinner here so that Graves has to fi ...more
Matt Brady
I seem to be in the minority on this, but I found Count Belisarius to be a little disappointing. I’ve not read any Graves before, and I picked this particular novel over the more well known I, Claudius because I’ve always thought Belisarius’ life story was pretty cool and conveniently contained a bunch of dramatic elements that make it an accessible story – a military prodigy, honourable and loyal to an Emperor that often doubts and fears him, fighting to restore the Western Roman Empire and str ...more
Erik Graff
Jun 08, 2014 Erik Graff rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Einar Graff Jr.
Shelves: literature
One evening, towards the beginning of secondary school, I was standing in front of the desk in an alcove off the living room above which were most of my father's displayed books on long shelves reaching from wall to wall. As he was nearby and I was looking for something interesting to read, I asked his recommendation.

Dad told me that one of his favorite authors was Robert Graves whose novels had seen him through much of World War II on shipboard in both theatres. He pulled out a cheap paperback
...more
Roger Kean
I read this (at least twice) years ago and I'm currently reading it again, but in the luxurious Folio Society's just-released edition. If you truly love books, the binding, the generosity of the paper and margins, the typesetting and typography, the Folio Society (of Britain) is for you. But you need deep pockets, the production values mean they are rarely cheap.

Reviews for Robert Graves' Count Belisarius at the time were mixed; some felt it didn't live up to his two Claudius novels, and it is q
...more
Christan
There are few things I love more than my books. Paradoxically, there are few things that I hate more than moving them. In my most recent move (I accept my inner gypsy), I faced the daunting task of transporting hundreds of books from my old house, to my new place and also a storage facility. I generally keep my favorite books on bookshelf display. But then there are those that must be kept in boxes and stored away - due to lack of bookshelves. The slow painful process of hauling heavy cardboard ...more
Jim
A factual account of the lead general under Justinian, 500 Ad - 565 AD. It is a military account of Belisarius successfully conquering Persian, Carthaginians and Goths in Rome. The book is full of military manoeuvres and how to win at ancient warfare. It explained how a fortified city could with stand the attack of an armed army. Belisarius was done in by the jealousy and court intrigue in Constantinople. It reads as a companion piece the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. III. An excell ...more
Jefferson
Can you resist a novel by Robert Graves, the author of I, Claudius (1934), about Belisarius (500-565 AD), arguably the greatest general in history, a man who used his intelligence, courage, creativity, and leadership to preserve and expand the troubled Byzantine Empire in campaigns against the Persians in the East, the Vandals in North Africa, the Goths in Italy, and the Bulgarian Huns right around Constantinople, a man who (according to Edward Gibbon but not Graves) loved his wife too much, a m ...more
Scapeghost
Irredeemable Corruption and Unwavering Loyalty: Justinian and Belisarius

I don't recall ever becoming more incensed reading a novel than I did with 'Count Belisarius'. The desire to see vengeance come to bloody fruition in 'Red Grass River' by James Carlos Blake was powerful; the sense of loss and sadness I felt when I finished reading 'Watership Down' was my earliest childhood inkling of the power that literature could exert. But the indignation roused by this portrait of irredeemably weak and c
...more
Richard Moss
This had potential but unfortunately the choices made by Robert Graves make this a deeply unsatisfying read.

He chooses a narrator - eunuch servant Eugenius - on the fringe of the action, a man who can offer little insight. Instead of being inside the heads of Belisarius or Justinian or their wives, we can only observe them and get no sense of character development or motivation.

Graves also attempts to write in the style of a contemporary Roman text. A clever party trick perhaps, but one that see
...more
Frank Peters
This was an excellent historical novel, describing the life of one of the most brilliant military generals the world has ever seen. Previously I have read a good deal of historical material on this period, and as a result enjoyed the book even more. Why? Because the author did not butcher or distort the history, but evidently sought to embellish the actual life of Belisarius in a way that was consistent with the histories as they have come to us. In truth, Graves softened some of these histories ...more
umberto
I found reading this 24-chapter historical novel experientially interesting, however, it may look a bit formidable unless its readers have read some of Robert Graves' works to acquire familiarity with his writing style, detailed description and profound knowledge of the sixth-century Roman Empire.
Varmint
groan,

graves decided to tell the story in the voice of belisarius' mincing eunuch slave. imagine having perez hilton reading the script to road warrior and you'll have some understanding of why this book has been forgotten.
Mark Newton
Outstanding novel by Graves - marred perhaps by the depth to which he explained military proceedings, structures and so on. I want to believe in this fabulous portrait of Belisarius.
Caroline
Re-reading this amazing fictionalized account of one of my favorite periods of history. Graves' narrative is amazingly compelling and fluid. Everyone should read this book!
Bob
I was really looking forward to reading this book, after learning about the amazing life of Belisarius, but was very disappointed. I really enjoyed Robert Graves' Claudius books, but this one paled in comparison.

The third person narrative just didn't grab me the way that the first-person Claudius books did. The descriptions of battles were interesting, but still somewhat dry. Other than the battles, though, the intrigues and injustices were depressing and tragic, but just annoyed me rather than
...more
P.Sannie
I really wanted to like this book, I really did. Robert Graves writes with elegance, intelligence, wonderful descriptions, and great word choice. After recently reading a lot of books that weren't necessarily trash but not necessarily stimulating, I was excited about this one, but in the end I thought Count Belisarius fell short of my expectations.

The first few chapters flew by and were really entertaining to get through. Belisarius had an interesting childhood and the reader can see his humble
...more
Peregrino
Consecuente hasta el final. Sólo con que la mitad de la historia fuese cierta, el conde Belisario debería pasar a la historia como modelo de coherencia. Se trata de una novela histórica, bien escrita por Robert Graves, y que narra la vida de Belisario a través de los ojos del eunuco Eugenio, servidor de Antonina, su mujer. Nacido en los albores del siglo V, Belisario sirvió al "gran" Justiniano (personaje que no sale muy favorecido) y a su mujer Teodora. Fue un general que combatió a los godos e ...more
Matthew
'Your fun reading looks a lot like your work,' remarked my brother one Christmas in undergrad when I brought Aeschylus' Oresteia home for my reading on the break.

Well, that hasn't changed in the past decade, even when I read novels! Count Belisarius is Robert Graves' fantastic vision of the Justinianic world, following the career of Belisarius, Justinian's greatest general, through the eyes of one of Belisarius's wife's domestic slaves.

Historical fiction can get bogged down and become simply a h
...more
Masen Production
Robert Graves is amongst my fav authors. His Claudius series has been an introduction to his writing & I have been captivated by his grasp over the subject & his descriptions has never failed me in transporting to that era.

Belisarius is the scorge of the Vandals, the Persians and the Goths, but they are not the only enemies he has. Back in Constantinople the emperor, jealous of his succes, is continuously plotting against his loyal subject. If it weren't for the friendship between Belis
...more
David
If "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein had been written using a Roman General as the metaphor, you would basically have this book. Belisarius is just about the most nobel, loyal, and successful general anyone could ever imagine, and Emperor Justinian jealously hates him progressively more and more with each brilliant and improbable military campaign. "And the tree was happy."

Like all of Graves' historical novels, it's a fun waay to learn about the period, but getting the military stuff is a bi
...more
Alan Smith
If Shakespeare's Falstaff is the most ill-treated king's friend in all of literature, the unfortunate Count Belisarius must surely be the real-life historical equivalent. The titular character was the emperor Justinian's savviest general and most faithful servant, and was rewarded with - well, I won't spoil it for those who don't know, but trust me, it'll make you gnash your teeth in rage on the count's behalf!

A beautifully and realistically drawn portrait of 6th Century Rome with all the decad
...more
Jaime R
Fascinating and moving. A bit too partisan on Theodora's side, though that can't be helped, considering it's written from the point of view of one of the characters.
Antonio Nunez
A brilliant telling of the story of the last roman hero, count Belisarius, the savior of what remained of the Roman Empire in Constantine's time and how he was betrayed by the devious but weak emperor Justinian and his harlot wife Theodora. How he was eventually blinded by the jealous emperor and ended as a pauper in the streets of the city he had saved from the Vandals and other barbarians. Although not as good as I Claudias and Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina, it is as good as Gore Vid ...more
Sherry Schwabacher
How I love reading Robert Graves. I find more clarity and more humanity in one of his books than a whole course in ancient history. Count Belisarius illuminates the break up of the Roman empire and the beginning of the Dark Ages through the interactions between four characters - Emperor Justinian, his great general Belisarius, and their wives, the Empress Theodora and Antonina. Both women had been entertainers and prostitutes together prior to being raised to patrician status and were close frie ...more
William Durkee
One of three most riveting narratives I´ve ever read. If you want to study the art of generalship, and discover the "Byzantine" ways of politics, as in, self aggrandizement and ingratitude, at the higest levels, read this book. Belisarius is arguably the most succesful military commander to have ever walked this planet, and died penniless and in shame, at the hands of his jealous emperor. I recommend this book to anyone considering a professional military carreer today.
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3012988
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...
I, Claudius (Claudius, #1) 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

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“Malthus's school was in the centre of the town of Adrianople, and was not one of those monkish schools where education is miserably limited to the bread and water of the Holy Scriptures. Bread is good and water is good, but the bodily malnutrition that may be observed in prisoners or poor peasants who are reduced to this diet has its counterpart in the spiritual malnutrition of certain clerics. These can recite the genealogy of King David of the Jews as far back as Deucalion's Flood, and behind the Flood to Adam, without a mistake, or can repeat whole chapters of the Epistles of Saint Paul as fluently as if they were poems written in metre; but in all other respects are as ignorant as fish or birds.” 3 likes
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