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The Borgias

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  2,337 ratings  ·  219 reviews
The name Borgia is synonymous with the corruption, nepotism, and greed that were rife in Renaissance Italy. The powerful, voracious Rodrigo Borgia, better known to history as Pope Alexander VI, was the central figure of the dynasty. Two of his seven papal offspring also rose to power and fame - Lucrezia Borgia, his daughter, whose husband was famously murdered by her broth ...more
Kindle Edition, 313 pages
Published 2011 by Constable (first published October 6th 2008)
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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Kalliope




I picked up this book not because I wanted to learn more about the scandals, the violence, the corruption enveloping the popular image of the family of Pope Alexander VI. For that one can watch the very entertaining TV production with Jeremy Irons in the role of the Pope. I was more interested in the marginal aspects, such as the family’s origins, the Pope’s patronage of the arts, and what happened to Alexander’s children well after he had died.

Alexander, Rodrigo Borgia (Borja in his original la
...more
Jaidee
3 "Phillipa Gregory would be darn proud" stars !!


Mr. Hibbert wrote an extremely entertaining and "tongue in cheek" history book about the life of the most notorious of the Borgias focusing on Pope Alexander VI and his children Cesare and Lucrezia. He did an admirable job of getting across to the general reader a huge amount of information on this most corrupt and ruthless family where other famous people such as Machiavelli and Michelangelo play small but important roles. The book is always inte
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Bruno Bouchet
This book should really be called Renaissance Mules and the Fabrics they Carried as the author seems far more interesting in describing in detail how many mules loaded up with how many yards of brocade, silks and cloth of gold schlepped across the Apennines for sundry weddings and festivities. I suppose accurate history does depend on the contemporary documents available and the writers of the Borgias time might be the ones obsessed with fabrics, public parades and the costumes of the 300 page b ...more
Jon Nakapalau
Without going into particulars it is shocking how Cesare made a career of stacking the dead bodies of anyone who got in his way and using their cadavers as steps to his next position of power. The whole time it seems as if it never occurred to him what would happen once the families he had offended decided to seek vengeance. A cautionary tale that still has relevance in this age of globalization.
Dan Lutts
Nov 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The Italian Renaissance marked a high point for the arts but a low point for the papacy. And the papacy of Rodrigo Borgia, who ruled as Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503), marked its lowest point. Christopher Hibbert’s The Borgias and Their Enemies tells you all—and even more— you should know about Rodrigo and his infamous children who helped make life in Renaissance Italy so “colorful.”

Rodrigo comes off as a complex man who mixes religion with greed, lust for power, and violence against anyone who o
...more
Sean
Solid chronological history with no fancy bells and whistles. If you happen to have watched The Borgias on Showtime, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how much you already know, and you may find yourself reading everyone's name in a dramatic British accent.

Lacking sufficient chronological context on either end -- there's a bit, but it feels rushed and you won't walk away with much information about the Renaissance papacy or the geopolitics of Italian city-states generally.

The sex wasn't a surpri
...more
C.W.
Oct 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a marvelous, concise account of the Borgias' rise to power and the foibles and intrigues that destroyed them. Well researched and easily accessible, it's highly recommended for those who want to learn more about this infamous papal dynasty and their era. ...more
Nicky
Dec 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I have to confess that my interest in the Borgia family comes from playing the Assassin’s Creed games — I love knowing what has been cleverly included in the games, where things diverge, etc. So I knew both that the Borgias were a pretty colourful family, and that Assassin’s Creed probably emphasised that, and was definitely biased against them (other than in acknowledging Rodrigo Borgia’s cleverness, I can’t think of anything else positive about him or Cesare in the games).

Still, this book made
...more
Elaine Dowling
Jan 25, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book attempts to cover almost 100 years of Renaissance Italian history in 336 pages. Don't expect detail. Still, it does a surprisingly good job. You don't get depth of character. The various atrocities committed primarily by Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia) and his son Cesare are so numerous and covered so quickly that they lack the shock value they rightly deserve. These shortcomings are a consequence merely of the length of the volume. It is well researched, well presented and, rather notab ...more
Dawn
The author gives a great overview of the Borgia’s rise and fall in this book. It mainly focuses on Pope Alexander VI and his children Caesar and Lucrezia. The early years are skimmed through as a set up for the famous members of the family and the minor players are often only described in relation to the three main characters.
An in depth look at the entire family and era it is not, but it is well worth the read; especially as a start to a more comprehensive look into the family and/or time peri
...more
Aaron
May 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up after I started watching the new Showtime series The Borgias, which I find myself really enjoying. I was really curious to see how much dramatic liberty with the historical figures and events were being taken. The only thing I really remembered about the Borgias was a comment from my European history teacher in high school who said that one of them was a Pope, who had an affair with his son and his daughter. There are so many things wrong with that statement, not even taking int ...more
Mike
Jan 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
As with any well-written and diligently researched history book, one of the first things the reader notices about Christopher Hibbert's 'The Borgias' is the amount of subtle myth-busting that is done. In the course of this work, Hibbert manages to guide us through the lesser known points of early Renaissance Europe whilst simultaneously chipping away at rumour and gossip. Lucrezia Borgia was, so popular history would have us believe, some fully-fledged harlot (she was actually renowned in her ow ...more
Julie
Nov 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting. I would like to read up on more of this time period. This stuff is super juicy. It was hard to believe some of that actually took place.
Marta
The time of the Borgias is one of history’s most excessive, scandalous and colorful epiodes. Alexander VI was a greedy, ruthless, lecherous, murderous pope, whose ambition for his beloved chidren, Cesare and Lucrezia, knew no bounds. Murder, poison, excessive pomp, debauchery, orgies, bribery, selling of bishoprics and everything else, mark his reign. Personalities larger than life rule, unrestrained, immortalized by Machiavelli, served by the greatest artists of the reneissance - Michelangelo, ...more
Mayar El Mahdy
Nov 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been trying -and failing- to find an entertaining history book to read. I like history but I want a good narrative.

Hibbert has an amazing voice that really makes you enjoy the story, even though it isn't as scandalous or salacious as it is normally depicted.

Can't wait to read more by him.
...more
Louise
Apr 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For the general reader, Italian history is difficult. British history, like American history, is about one country tied by one language. While these histories have religious and political strife they are very unlike the situation where city states and a religious superstructure vie for power. The many narratives and subnarratives, inclusive of the monumental art created at this time, make it hard for the general reader. A focused work like this is most appreciated.

I particularly liked that Hibbe
...more
Rebecca
They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover - I didn't do that, and I'm happy for it! (but more on that a bit later)

This is a good book on pope Alexander VI and his children (mostly Cesare and Lucrezia) - a Renaissance pope who acted much a secular leader would have done at the time. The Borgia name has gone done in history as something quite extraordinary evil and violent, and while they can't really be called nice people (at all - though most of them had their brighter moments too), they
...more
Grace
Feb 28, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2021
The Borgias is an in-depth book about the infamous Italian family. Beginning with the rise of Rodrigo Borgia (later Pope Alexander VI) who brought the family name of Borgia its prominence in Italy. He fathered many children, most notably Cesare and Lucrezia who are written about extensively.

The Borgias is an interesting book which taught me much about this period of time in Italy. I felt at times the historical narrative was over-dramatised, but on the whole a great read.
Elizabeth Sulzby
I hadn't thought this book would add much to my knowledge but it's actually quite good. His accounting of the history leading up to the Borgia papacy is detailed without being boring. Within the accounts during the papacy he uses a number of original sources, including the notes of his "Master of Ceremony" Johannes Burchard. Some other original sources are near-contemporaneous. In his end notes he separates original and secondary sources as well as some other related newer sources. Hibbert is a ...more
Angie
Apr 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
Hibbert's familial biography of the Borgias was surprisingly interesting; but I've realized, thinking back to past books of history I've relished, that I love the breezy style with which British authors often approach such large subjects: you are swept away by the force of the writing; and, if you are like me, are willing to let go the notion you would remember the name of every personage mentioned, let alone know who they were. I was captivated by page fifteen, if I recall.

What Hibbert subtly m
...more
Rob Atkinson
Apr 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A rather straightforward and unsensational history of one of history's most scandalous families, this work provides a good if basic overview of the careers of Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia) and his children, particularly Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia. The infamous reputations of the former two are largely confirmed, with devious deal-making, murder, theft, simony and licentiousness aplenty. Nevertheless, the Borgia Pope did prove a wily navigator of the tricky terrain of Italian politics, succe ...more
Lyn (Readinghearts)
Dec 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jennifer , Niecole, Kate, Aly,
Recommended to Lyn (Readinghearts) by: Colleen
The Borgia family has always held an allure for me since I lived on a street named after them when I was a child. In addition, I was raised a Catholic, so the Popes are intriguing to me, especially those during the period where the church was more of a political entity. When I heard that Showtime was doing a show about this family this spring, I decided now was the time to do some background reading and get the real story about the family.

I had never read any books by Christopher Hibbert, but h
...more
Kara
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Well researched, clearly written, well presented, sources cited, and a subject simply that oozes with scandal. In short, the perfect history book.

Hibbert starts a few generations before Rodrigo Borgia came to power, to establish just how bad Rome was in the 14th century. It was bad. Like, post-apocalyptic bad. When people talk about how great the Renaissance was, a lot of us forget part of the reason it was so great was because it was in direct contrast to the poverty-ruin-plagues-wars of the p
...more
Jules
Jun 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Borgias were seriously badass. The Pope is a fairly fat corrupt conniving dude who at least cares for his family very much and at least fixes the city up a bit (fittingly played by Jeremy Irons in the series), but his son Cesare is pretty much a mass-murdering fuckhead (unfittingly portrayed as a good and hot guy in the show - he's supposed to be covered in herpes rash), his daughter is cute and cunning in both versions. The real star is 'master of ceremonies' Johannes Burchard who is forced ...more
Alicia
Jul 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
It's always fun to find a diamond in the clearance books section, especially hardcovers. If I'd had to pay full price for this book, I probably would not have bought it, but for $5 - sure why not.

This was a quite engrossing history of the rise and fall of the Borgia family - one of Italy's most powerful families during the early years of the Italian Renaissance. I found this book shortly after the series premiere of "Warehouse 13", so my interest in Lucrezia Borgia was already piqued. This book
...more
The
Apr 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book very much, mostly due to the fact that the author doesn't impose his own opinions on the reader, the way a lot of historians seem to do when writing a book. Statements are backed up by facts and records of documentation, instead of sleazy insinuations, which is a welcome change.

The last few chapters of this book annoyed me though. The author barely even mentioned the death of Cesare, which in it's own right was a big deal, and the author made very little mention of Jofré thro
...more
Ruth
Sep 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall an enjoyable, although grotesque and revolting, read and a good introduction. Footnotes would have been beneficial. A major takeaway for me was the lesson to avoid contracting syphilis at all costs.
Christine
Have you seen the Showtime series? The Borgia’s would be so much cooler if they were actually like that. Still worth reading to get the idea of Italian Papal politics, but not half as interesting if they had really poisoned people.
Vince Tirri
Very interesting history about the Borgias, but seriously rushed at the end and in no way a satisfactory conclusion to Cesare's story. ...more
Emily Ross
I really enjoyed this book. I only wanted to know more about the Borgia's having read Machiavelli's The Prince, and this book was a straightforward account of how the Borgia's rose to prominence, how they stayed in power, and ultimately, how they all fell from grace. I found it quite an enjoyable read.

The problem with the book is that the second half of the book is much harder to follow than the first half, as many people are introduced in quick succession, who you are expected to recognise and
...more
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Christopher Hibbert, MC, FRSL, FRGS (5 March 1924 - 21 December 2008) was an English writer, historian and biographer. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the author of many books, including Disraeli, Edward VII, George IV, The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici, and Cavaliers and Roundheads.

Described by Professor Sir John Plumb as "a writer of the highest ability and in the N
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