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Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  3,679 ratings  ·  279 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
Hardcover, 327 pages
Published October 17th 2006 by Random House (first published January 1st 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Channing
Jul 16, 2007 Channing rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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.)
Mitchell
A erudite exploration of Rome's first and greatest emperor. A entertaining book for lay people. The most challenging part of the book is knowing the ancient geography of the time.
Nick Ohrn
I enjoyed the book, but felt like he narrative could have been a little bit better constructed. I felt like the work jumped from place to place and time to time much too suddenly and I found myself having to go back and reread a few page to figure out how we got where we were. Also, and this is definitely not the author's fault, there was a lack of certainty about many facts because of the lack of surviving records. This is to be expected, but compared to biographies of more modern personalities ...more
Caidyn
Growing up, I had a huge thing for history. Specifically, Ancient Egypt and Cleopatra. To this day, I can recite basically all of Cleopatra's history, from her siblings, children, death, legacy, etc. Over so many other things, that's stuck in my mind as something I needed to remember. Octavian -- as I always heard him called -- was a name I was familiar with. He was the person who caused Cleopatra to kill herself. I always didn't like him much for that. But, after reading this book, I can honest ...more
Avis Black
I've been binging on Rome lately, and this is the 4th Anthony Everitt book I've read so far. It's a solid work that starts with the Civil War in the wake of Julius Caesar's death. Augustus, Caesar's heir, has a lot of popular support, but he nonetheless ends up with one big black cloud hanging over him. He and Mark Anthony perpetrate one of the worse mass murders in Rome's history.

When the pair seize power, they post lists of thousands of people, declaring them to be 'enemies of the state.' Thi
...more
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
A.R. Draeger
I read this some years ago when I found myself burned out on lit fic & my usual genres. Rome -the HBO show- left me wanting to know more (and not just the dramatized version) about him, so I picked it up. Fascinating. Author did an excellent job- didn't feel as dry as many history books do. I recommend. :)
Zelda
This was a very interesting listen after having listened to "I, Claudius". I couldn't recommend this to just everyone. You'd have to have some initial interest in Imperial Rome to really get into this. Anthony Everitt does a fine job once again of making what seems like a dense topic very accessible. He is very good at balancing the scholarly voice with a more conversational tone. The reader was excellent.
Alcornell
Brings Augustus to life, sorts out the confusion of names and numbers, balances characterization and solid history writing. Impressive and enjoyable. All my questions were answered--what was the deal with Antony and Cleopatra? Was Livia really the evil stepmother she is fabled to be? What happened to Cassius and Brutus? The whole modern western world has been shaped by this 75 year period. It's a fascinating read. I will read Everitt's Cicero now.
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.
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
Samantha
A very thorough and accurate account of Augustus' life, though not the most interesting one I've encountered. Everitt is an excellent researcher, but as a writer he's...just okay.

The second half of the book was more compelling than the first, though this is perhaps just because the focus of it was more to my taste, shifting more toward imperial policy and everyday life in Rome rather than military conquest.

Some of the battle narrative definitely felt excessive in volume, especially when compar
...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
Hadrian
The First Roman Emperor, although many did not see him as such. A calculating figure, who brought forth a massive empire which left its mark on all of Europe.
Clifford
Excellent insight into the Roman era. Interesting book that was well written with explanations that extend to modern days. I recommend it highly!
Tanya
Hmmm....opinionated much? I got a little tired of reading about how something might be plausible although there isn't one shred of evidence for it. That being said I find the time period covered by this book to be very fascinating and while I knew the broader outlines I didn't know the details. Some of the parts were absolutely fascinating to me (Antony's journey east, what happened to Pompey's sons (which I knew but not in detail), and the disappointment that Augustus' family turned out to be. ...more
Miklos
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
Curtis J. Correll
This book is a great way to learn about the transformation of Rome from a Republic to an Imperial Monarchy. You definitely come away with a good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of Caesar Augustus. The story is a very interesting one, but this is not written to be a page turner. The narrative portions are interrupted in places for some lengthy sections that set the time and culture. This is a good thing if you want understanding, but if you are looking for a gripping adventure after ...more
Cheska
Jun 18, 2012 Cheska marked it as to-read
Shelves: back-burner
Because reading one book at a time is never enough....
Annie
Pretty god book. Everitt clearly loves his subject, which is a plus. If I come away from a book feeling like I really learned something, as I did in this one, then that's always a plus. Some criticisms: author says in the introduction "I incline to a minimalist view, often accepting what I am told unless there is an obvious or rational objection." To me, this is crap. The whole point of being a historian is to pick things apart to get to the truth. I feel like Everitt had to question his ancient ...more
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“Rome became a republic in 509 B.C., after driving out its king and abolishing the monarchy. The next two centuries saw a long struggle for power between a group of noble families, patricians, and ordinary citizens, plebeians, who were excluded from public office. The outcome was a apparent victory for the people, but the old aristocracy, supplemented by rich pledeian nobles, still controlled the state. What looked in many ways like democracy was, in fact, an oligarcy modified by elections.” 0 likes
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