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4.16  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,594 Ratings  ·  418 Reviews
A brilliant and beautifully written novel in the tradition of Robert Graves’ I, Claudius, Augustus is a sweeping narrative that brings vividly to life a compelling cast of historical figures through their letters, dispatches, and memoirs.

A mere eighteen years of age when his uncle, Julius Caesar, is murdered, Octavius Caesar prematurely inherits rule of the Roman Republic
Paperback, 336 pages
Published November 9th 2004 by Vintage (first published 1972)
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John The different narrators make this book what it is. You hear the story of this young man through their viewpoints, prejudices, and anglings. Confusing…moreThe different narrators make this book what it is. You hear the story of this young man through their viewpoints, prejudices, and anglings. Confusing at first, the letters written by different people transcend how remarkable a person was the boy called Octavius.(less)

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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Lynne King
And yet a third perfect book by this inimitable author who was working at the very height of his powers. I now know that I will never again come across a book such as this. I actually didn’t want to finish it as I felt that I had to continue in this enthralling dream. What disturbs me, however, is the downside that when one has loved something/someone so much, those following, well to my mind anyway, will only be substitutes which in itself is rather a sad state of affairs.

As I read this book I
I've never been particularly interested in political novels or had any great fascination with ancient Rome, but this beautifully written novel held me transfixed nonetheless. It's a cliché to say it "brings history alive," but it does indeed bring history alive. Told in epistolary form as a compendium of letters and journal entries by characters both integral and incidental, we get to know Octavius Caesar the August from the perspective of those who love him and of those who despise him, but we ...more
Jan 31, 2016 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
“One does not deceive oneself about the consequences of one's acts; one deceives oneself about the ease with which one can live with those consequences.”
― John Williams, Augustus


John Williams read some Robert Graves and said, "Yeah, I got this Roman. I can do this." I'm trying to think of equivalent historical fiction that orbits the same level of prose mastery: Norman Mailer, Robert Graves, Hilary Mantel, E. L. Doctorow and a few others belong on this very short list.

There are some writers (l
May 20, 2014 Brian rated it it was amazing

Good historical fiction is some of the best fiction - this book didn't disappoint. Fans of Williams' Stoner and Butcher's Crossing will find plenty to love; the author's recognizable compact writing style and rich imagery are on display throughout this book.

A reader isn't required to have a vast knowledge of Roman history between 50 BC and 50 AD, but it certainly helps. Reading this book shortly after finishing Appian's Civil Wars was the right decision for me. Williams' particular talent allows
helen the bookowl
Apr 17, 2016 helen the bookowl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is an epistolary which means that it is written entirely in letters. The focal point of these letters is Augustus and how he came to power in ancient Rome. It starts with the murder of Julius Cæsar in the Senate, and it follows Augustus as he grows up and becomes one of the biggest emperors of Rome.
I was very excited about this story, but admittedly I was also very sceptical about it being told through letters. However, I quickly realized that this narrative style appealed to me a lot
Greg Brown
Nov 19, 2011 Greg Brown rated it it was amazing
John Williams only wrote three books once he became a mature writer—his first he disowned—and they're all excellent. Unfortunately, this book is the last of the three I've read. There's a peculiar sadness when you finish the last book by one of your favorite deceased authors, the usual morose feeling of leaving a world only compounded by the knowledge you'll never again hear that voice for the first time. Kind of a bummer.

The first surprise of this book was John Williams ratcheting up the diffic
Jun 26, 2016 Dolors rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who see beyond the mask
This is more than a lush recreation of the nuanced menace of diplomatic skirmishing and Machiavellian intrigue, public guilelessness and carnage that gave birth to the Roman Empire under the ruling of its first Emperor.
This is more than a walk through the path of history because it takes unusual detours of borrowed memories penned by secondary historical figures that surrounded Octavius Caesar Augustus.
Delivered in a non-chronological letters that carry moments of high pathos spanning over sixty
May 08, 2011 Szplug rated it really liked it
I decided upon giving Williams' epistolary fiction a four-star rating, because the elegant writing—which adheres to the classical form that it emulates to an impressive degree—is a pleasure to behold, and does an admirable job of situating a handful of important personages—mostly friends, family, or rivals of the titular empire founder—within the confines of the principal themes that the author wished to explore: the alienating and intoxicating aspects of power, whether in the arena of the polit ...more
Apr 26, 2015 orsodimondo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana
Dalle note d'autore: Alcuni errori di fatto, in questo libro, sono voluti. Ho modificato l’ordine di numerosi avvenimenti. Ho inventato là dove i dati storici sono incerti o incompleti. E ho creato alcuni personaggi cui la Storia non fa cenno… Tranne poche eccezioni, i documenti che formano questo romanzo sono inventati… Ma se in questo lavoro sono presenti delle verità, sono le verità della narrativa più che della Storia. Sarò grato a quei lettori che lo accoglieranno per que
Sep 21, 2014 Ginny_1807 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, romanzi
Passione e poesia
Meraviglioso struggente ritratto di Augusto, l'imperatore e l'uomo.
Insolita la tecnica narrativa, ovvero una sorta di collazione delle fonti scritte, in questo caso interamente rimaneggiate o inventate: lettere, documenti, pagine di diario, che, oltre a scandire le varie tappe della carriera politica e della vita privata di Ottaviano, calano il lettore nel clima politico e culturale dell'epoca, dall'uccisione di Giulio Cesare nel 44 a.C. fino al 14 d.C., anno della morte di Aug
Mi sono avvicinato a questo libro con sentimenti contrastanti: la fiducia nel consiglio di un'amica colta e sensibile; la leggera, ma insopprimibile, diffidenza verso gli scrittori del "Nuovo Mondo" che si cimentino con una Storia che non scorre nel loro DNA. Ebbene: la fiducia era ben riposta; il pre-giudizio poggiava su un assunto impreciso. Augustus è un bellissimo libro.
Williams scrive bene, questa la prima annotazione: la sua scrittura invita, persuade. E da lì si parte sempre, o almeno io
Aug 10, 2014 Sini rated it it was amazing
Zoals bekend is de totaal vergeten John Williams sinds een paar jaar geleden weer helemaal 'hot' vanwege "Stoner", een boek dat ikzelf ook heel erg heb bejubeld. Een tijdje later kwam "Butcher's Crossing" opnieuw uit, een boek dat ik zelf duidelijk minder vond dan "Stoner", maar toch heel goed. Toen "Augustus" onlangs in nieuwe vertaling uitkwam was ik dus wel heel benieuwd: het is het enige boek van Williams dat ooit een vette prijs won (de prestigieuze National Book Award), maar zou ik het zel ...more
Jun 12, 2016 Arwen56 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Arwen56 by: S©aP
Un libro pregevole, sebbene non all’altezza di Stoner, per quel che mi riguarda.

Qualcuno ha osservato che Augustus “non è abbastanza romanzo e non è neppure abbastanza vera storia” e, forse, non ha tutti i torti. Anzi, togliamo pure il “forse”. Probabilmente è proprio questo fatto che me l’ha fatto apprezzare un po’ meno rispetto al primo. Oltre che una maggior “freddezza” espressiva, sia pur necessaria alla materia trattata e alla modalità letteraria scelta per elaborarla, ossia quella epistol
May 14, 2014 Lia rated it really liked it
I was lucky that my library carries this out-of print book. Unfortunately, reading with the group were a lonely experienced since only a few people were able to get their hands on this rare gem.

Now, on to the review.
The first thing that hit me when I received the book was, how terrible looking the cover is. It was the one with the aged bronze statue of Augustus. It was so off putting that I had to cover the book with brown paper to finally able to start my reading (and people said don't judge th
rating: 4/5

I loved this novel! Beautifully written it sheds a light onto a time period that I know little about. The author has taken some liberties with the timeline and texts and states so in his discussion of the novel. Using historical documents and writings, including parts of the letters and documents translated and paraphrased from actual writings, and filling in where he needed to with his imagination, the author creates a breathtaking story. It is truly a work of historical fiction.

Mike Duncan makes Octavian sound like a spoiled little asshat with a cruel streak, but he was ultimately successful in creating a stable bureaucracy (and outliving most of his descendants, despite his constant illnesses). I could get into what makes the Princeps tick. Although this cover is pretty creepy ...


I wonder, if he saw me, would he recognize what he has become? Would he recognize the caricature that all men become of themselves? I do not believe that he would.

This is a gorgeou
Mira Baldaranova
Забележителна книга, в която история, философия и поезия се срещат в образите на познати исторически личности, философи и историци и на великите римски поети, в единозвучие с времето се конфронтират и съюзяват, за да пресъздадат величието и нещастието на една епоха - апогея на Римската империя (44г. пр.Хр. – 14 г. сл. Хр.).

Роман, написан в епистоларна форма, която придава автентичност на съчетанието от исторически факти и художествена интерпретация, с вече разпознаваемия почерк на Джон Уилямс, п
Mar 01, 2015 Isidora rated it really liked it
Augustus is an epistolary novel set in classical Rome. This is written by John Williams, an author I havent read before. Many favourable reviews of Stoner which came into my way lately made me very curious about Williams work. He seems to have written only great novels. Not many though, but it says that all can be placed on the great American novel bookshelf. So when I saw Augustus at my library, I knew the time was right.
In Augustus Williams tells the story of the founder of the Roman Empire. U
Oct 31, 2015 Laysee rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star-books
“Augustus” by John Williams is a remarkable book on all counts. It has that perfect blend of beautiful prose and a retelling of history through the crucible of the literary imagination. “Augustus” is a supremely engaging novel characterized by a gripping plot, a rich cast of believable characters (neither villains nor saints), a deep unraveling of the impulses that drive humanity, and above all, some substance of import on which to reflect on the meaning of existence. Published in 1972, “Augustu ...more
Sep 10, 2012 Ryan rated it it was amazing
John Williams wrote a supreme novel in Augustus, his fourth and last. It's a historical drama set in the ancient republic of Rome and revolves around the eponymous emperor. The style is epistolary, with letters, memoirs, and memoranda exchanging hands among a fairly large cast of characters deserving of an ensemble acting award, or rather distinct voices award, for moving along the strands of plot toward a visionary conclusion. Williams's cohesive vision of power and consequential human destiny ...more
Bart Thanhauser
Jan 01, 2011 Bart Thanhauser rated it liked it
The book, as the title suggests, covers the life of Augustus. His rise to power as a late teenager, his consolidation of power, and his five plus decades as Emperor of Rome. Ancient Rome is not lacking in intrigue. There’s plenty of sex, murder, conspiracies, rumors, and plots for power. Although the book is a work of fiction, it is historical fiction that takes largely from history. As a result, I took a few lengthy wikipedia travels during the reading. Bouncing around reading the biographies o ...more
Jason Golomb
“Augustus”, by John Williams, I can quite contentedly report, is equally as robust as Robert Graves’ “I, Claudius”, while being readable, true to history (or as close as one can come with a thorough, but not quite complete, historical record), and remaining undeniably literary. This is most definitely a character-driven novel and, at under 300 pages, tautly evokes the lives, politics, regrets, loves and emotions of the Roman Empire’s elite.

Somehow John William’s “Augustus” flew under the radar
Jun 16, 2011 Keith rated it liked it
I didn't particularly like the fomat of this book. The entire novel was a series of letters, journal entries, memoirs and petitions back and forth between numerous Roman characters. It made it hard for me to follow.

For example; one letter was from "Gauis Cilinus Macenas to Titus Livius (12 B.C.)" also a "Petition: the Centurion Quintus Appius to Munatius Plancus, Commander of the Asian Legions of the Imperator Marcus Antonius, from Ephesus (32 B.C.)" It also didn't follow chronologically so I h
Христо Блажев
Император е повече от баща:

Странно преживяване е автор да те отведе от едната в другата крайност – от романа за негероя “Стоунър”: скромният, тих, незабележим човечец, който минава безметежно през живота си по линията на най-малкото съпротивление; към един от най-могъщите владетели в човешката история: Октавиан Август, поел властта след убийството на Цезар, укрепил империята, разгромил знакови врагове като Марк Антоний и Секст Помпей… Джон Уилямс изгражда
Feb 02, 2016 Jacob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Some men rise some men fall. It is the wheel of fortune that has haunted human existence for millenia. Some in great measure, others in barely palpable shifts of misery.

I am not a classicist. I've always preferred the Greek to the Romans, defending its authentic nature compared to the me-too brutishness of the legacy that followed. Leave it to Williams to strip me of my right to label and once again hammer home the universality of human existence from mortal god to political upstart or mulemong
Mamdouh Abdullah
قراءة لرواية أغسطس للروائي جون ويليامز
Mar 18, 2016 Nancy rated it it was amazing
Octavius was chosen by Julius Cesar to be his heir and successor. He was a teenage when Julius Cesar was murdered on the Ides of March (March 15) in 44 BC. He became Augustus, emperor or Rome, a deity, and the founder of two hundred years of Pax Romana, temporarily ending the internal warfare for power that had troubled Rome.

Augustus by John Williams shared the National Book Award with John Barth's Chimera. I read Barth's book at Adrian College but had never heard of Williams until I bought a sa
Sep 11, 2014 Justin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unlike the other two Great Novels set during Rome's imperial period (Robert Graves' I, Claudius and Gore Vidal's Julian), John Williams' Augustus eschews the inherent dramatic absurdity of the pitiful underdog, as well as the wistful nostalgia of brilliance cut down in its prime. No, Williams is up to something else here: examining the consequences of a lifetime of nearly uninterrupted triumph--"Twice I triumphed with an ovation, and three times I enjoyed a curule triumph and twenty-one times ...more
Terry Calafato
Sep 07, 2014 Terry Calafato rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, to-buy
"Roma non è eterna: non importa. Roma cadrà: non importa. Ci sarà stato un momento di Roma, e non morirà del tutto. Il barbaro diverrà la Roma che ha conquistato, il nostro latino gli scioglierà la lingua rozza, la visione di quanto avrà distrutto gli scorrerà nel sangue. E, nel tempo che è incessante come so, il costo non è nulla, è meno di nulla."

Quando ho preso questo libro, non mi ero neanche resa conto si trattasse dell'autore di Stoner. L'ho comprato presa dal desiderio di leggere qualcos
Mar 02, 2015 John rated it it was amazing
“For Octavius Caesar is Rome; and that, perhaps, is the tragedy of his life.”

John Edwards Williams’s “Augustus” is the best work of historical fiction I have read. Comprised of a series of letters and notes, Augustus is at first hard to follow but the careful reader is able to understand the names of the characters and the pace of things by the first few chapters. Augustus is framed like a Roman arch and its keystone, Book III, holds the arch together and comes at the end. For this is the first
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NYRB Classics: Augustus, by John Williams 7 62 Aug 22, 2014 01:42PM  
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name or a similar one. The middle name has been added to differentiate among them.

John Edward Williams was born on August 29, 1922, in Clarksville, Texas, near the Red River east of Paris, Texas and brought up in Texas. His grandparents were farmers; his stepfather was a janitor in a post office. After flunking out o
More about John Edward Williams...

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“One does not deceive oneself about the consequences of one's acts; one deceives oneself about the ease with which one can live with those consequences.” 31 likes
“It seems to me that the moralist is the most useless and contemptible of creatures. He is useless in that he would expend his energies upon making judgments rather than upon gaining knowledge, for the reason that judgment is easy and knowledge is difficult. He is contemptible in that his judgments reflect a vision of himself which in his ignorance and pride he would impose upon the world. I implore you, do not become a moralist; you will destroy your art and your mind.” 23 likes
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