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Augustus: First Emperor of Rome

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  2,517 ratings  ·  183 reviews
The dramatic story of Augustus, Rome’s first emperor, who plunged into Rome’s violent power struggles at the age of nineteen, proceeded to destroy all rivals, and more than anyone else created the Roman Empire
"A fascinating study of political life in ancient Rome."—Nick Romeo, Christian Science Monitor

Caesar Augustus’ story, one of the most riveting in Western histo
Hardcover, 624 pages
Published August 26th 2014 by Yale University Press (first published 2014)
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Average rating 4.26  · 
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 ·  2,517 ratings  ·  183 reviews

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Gary Inbinder
A very well-written, well-researched, objective and compelling biography of one of the most important, successful, interesting and complex rulers of the ancient world.

Goldsworthy includes, in an endnote examining the possible birthdate(s) of Jesus, a wise caveat for those who rely primarily on the "evidence" presented in popular historical fiction that might be tainted with rumor, speculation, myth, fantasy, and the personal preferences and prejudices of the author:

" is important to acknowl
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
The first emperor of Rome ruled for 44 years. My introduction to Augustus was through historical fiction and I wanted to learn more about his life. This book was both more and less than I was expecting. The author obviously did a lot of research and wanted to share it all, but I would have preferred a more focused biography of Augustus. I didn’t really need to know about breast feeding practices, the age at which boys got their first haircuts and donned their first adult togas, or the name of Ma ...more
Oct 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Augustus: First Emperor of Rome, by Adrian Goldsworthy, is an excellent biographical account of Caesar Octavian's rise to power and his subsequent creation of the Roman Empire. The work chronicles his life from his birth to death. He was born Caius Octavian Thurinus of a fairly well off but relatively unknown aristocratic family from an Italian city outside of Rome. His great grandfather had become an important politician in the area, and the subsequent generations were important politicians, ba ...more
Charlie Hasler
Jun 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have wanted to read a book about Augustus for some time as he is mentioned often in other books focusing around the same period but never in a huge amount of detail.

Anyone who is interested in Rome and indeed Augustus then you will love this book. Also gives a lot of information on other key personalities.

May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Augustus regarded as one of the greatest men of the ancient world! He reformed government , military, public works and quality of life for the Roman’s and was the start of the Roman Empire! This book was very informative and detailed about the life of Augustus I highly recommend this to Roman historians and historians alike!
Carol Storm
Mar 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Passable biography but if you're looking for entertainment THE TWELVE CAESARS by Suetonius is actually a lot more fun. The original is still the greatest! ...more
Charles Haywood
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This review will combine something very old with something very new. The very old, of course, is the title character, the Emperor Augustus, and his times. The very new is a continuation of my thoughts on reaction as a modern political movement. You will see how these things fit together, and in fact are much the same thing, for today, more than ever, everything old is new again. And I will begin to distinguish “conservatives” from “reactionaries,” as I recently promised I would.

Adrian Goldsworth
Dean M (Vox Poetica)
Adrian Goldsworthy is undoubtedly one of the best Roman historians of recent years. Never a dull moment and always great insight. Im a Julius Caesar guy, but I can see why he adopted Octavian.
Steven Peterson
Sep 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am not an expert in Roman history, so I cannot speak to the accuracy of this work. However, I am, in the end, impressed by the work. First, the author has an extensive background in Roman history, having written an excellent biography of Julius Caesar, as well as works on battles and military matters. Second, he does not seem to me to go beyond the evidence. At any number of points, he notes that we cannot know what happened, although he sometimes makes an informed guess (some biographers have ...more
Aug 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
A few months back I read Goldsworthy's biography of Julius Caesar, so it made sense to continue the story by reading the biography of Augustus Caesar. Simply put, this book is a fantastic account of the first Roman Emperor.

What I most appreciated was the story after Augustus had won the battle of Actium and the civil wars. Most overviews of history I've read go on to simply note that Augustus reigned until his death at 14 AD. But that's 45 years, a long reign in any era! Goldsworthy does not di
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Augustus was the nephew and adopted son and heir of Julius Caesar. As such he led one of the factions in the civil war that followed Caesar's murder and emerged as sole ruler from 27BC, ruling the empire for forty years.

Augustus skilfully developed the role of emperor, co-opting the major families and politicians of Rome into a system that proved stable for the four decades of his rule. He expanded the empire, reformed the state and encouraged massive investment and huge public works to make Rom
Aug 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
When in Rome...

“…as military dictators go, Caesar Augustus was not such a bad one.”

Great-nephew and principal heir to Julius Caesar, Augustus was just nineteen when Caesar was murdered, but it seems he was never in doubt of his right to take over the honours of the older man. His early career was as a warlord, using the wealth he had inherited and borrowing extensively to ensure that he had the largest army as the Roman republic descended into civil war. He was also helped by the loyalty of Juli
Oct 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A gift from a friend (who knows I am a confirmed ‘Roman nut’), ‘Augustus’ was a treat to read. Densely packed with information and analysis, written in a clear style and a consistent narrative pace, I found the whole account balanced and eminently readable.

Augustus is such an important figure; a ruthless warlord who brought peace, a clever political operator, propagandist, but energetic and dedicated, a writer, wit, autocrat, a family man, but as unfaithful as any Roman man of the period. He wa
Ross Cohen
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Adrian Goldsworthy's "Augustus" completes a trilogy that began with "Julius Caesar" and "Antony and Cleopatra." Of these three excellent books, "Augustus" is the best. This is mostly due to the nature of Goldsworthy's subject and to the duration for which he ruled. Caesar embodies dynamism, Antony and Cleopatra embody passion, Augustus embodies Rome. And, like Rome, he is complex: Augustus possessed mercy and ruthlessness, ambition and service, cowardice and audacity. Goldsworthy's triumphant bi ...more
Tudor Ciocarlie
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Goldsworthy is in my opinion, the best non-fiction writer about the Roman Empire living today and Augustus is another excelent book by him.
Jasmeet Matharoo
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
this book is for anyone interested in the transition of roman republic to roman empire and the life and power struggle of first roman emperor Augustus.this book gives detailed information about the working of roman elite or its history book one can feel the book becoming long and tedious at some points but overall its a really good.
Aug 20, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
impressive collection of facts based on extensive research; most of it interesting to general reader but some of it boring for me and must admit unfairly skipping over some parts
first published 2014 but just out as kindle in 2020
This seems more of a textbook for a good college class.

Library Loan
Aug 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: world-history
Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus, first principate of Rome. Not as exciting as his father, by adoption, however certainly more impactful on history. Especially, in terms of considering the consolidation of the Roman Empire.

Notably, you can see how the leadership, discipline, and size of the Roman military had already began to decline within the first few decades of Augustus rule. Culminating in a decisive defeat in Germania; where in a draft was issued. This all despite the fact that the population
Mark Gray
May 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful take on the life of Augustus presented in a fresh way. I thought I knew about his life but soon realised the gaps that the author skilfully filled. I really like his style and have just downloaded all his other books

Well recommended
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It also covers the key points of Julius Cesar’s life - so I’d recommend this book over the author’s Julius Cesar biography.
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Adrian Goldsworthy’s biography of the first Roman emperor has been hailed as a triumph by many but to me it feels like a rather cautious affair. He is, understandably, reluctant to engage in speculation about reasons for Augustus’s decisions unless they are clearly supported by the evidence. As a result, there is nothing remarkable here. What we get instead is a comprehensive assemblage of everything that is known about the princeps, his family, and the powerful individuals and institutions with ...more
Jul 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Prior to reading this biography of Augustus I knew very little about the history of the first Emperor of Rome – only that he was the adopted son of Julius Caesar and a few other factoids. This, coupled with the fact that the rest of my knowledge of the Roman world is decidedly piecemeal meant that, after a recent short visit to Rome, I was very keen to expand my understanding.

Adrian Goldsworthy’s history is a quite readable recounting of the events of the civil wars that led up to Octavian’s tak
Alexander Seifert
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The first book I’ve read entirely dedicated to the life of Rome’s first ‘emperor’. While the book is thick and covers a long time period (Augustus lived a long life in a tumultuous period of history), it reads quickly. The style of writing is very engaging, so it never felt like a slog. I snatched the book at the library hoping to get a great biography of the man and a history of the period, and I wasn’t disappointed. The author is upfront with some of the struggles (sources, methodology) in try ...more
Rob Trans
Dec 13, 2020 rated it liked it
This book contains an impressive collection of facts based on extensive research (with sources listed along with appendices of information about how the career of a Roman Senator took place, glossary, family trees, and the correlation of dates from the bible with the dates in other sources; a quarter of the book is in the appendices). For someone such as myself with a limited knowledge of Roman history, the information presented was mostly interesting, but the number of characters and the simila ...more
Rich McGilvray
Feb 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Professor Goldsworthy has done it again, an excellent overview of the life and times of one of the most influential people of classical antiquity. This book will be enjoyed by all who have even a passing interest in the subject matter.
Andrew Dockrill
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The book was fantastic!

I can definitely see why Augustus is considered one of the most important Romans to have lived and Adrian Goldsworthy is considered one of the best modern classicist biographers. His books are so accessible and easy to read. I look forward to reading more of them in the future!
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Adrian Goldsworthy never fails to please. Another winner. Informative, accessible, and engaging. You can't ask for anything better when reading history. ...more
Nicholas Renner
Jan 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Adrian did a good job on explaining Augustus not like a textbook.
The book is about The first emperor of rome. Adrian didnt make it seem like he was some god but showed his mistakes. The book highlights military victory's,diplomatic success and the tense relationship rome was in with the eastern powers.And its explained with a story tellers style.I like it becuase he says he was inevitably a dictator but not a bad one he did kill alot of people but not like hitler or stalin. The book was well res
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolute world class from the best writer on ancient history there is.
Elizabeth S

If staying at home has helped with anything aside from health and safety, I think I’ve noticed it most in how I’ve finally gotten around to reading the books I’ve been holding onto for years.

I first saw Augustus: First Emperor of Rome four years ago while exploring a much-lauded bookstore. Considering its heft and the fact that I would have to lug it around with me, I just took a picture of the cover for later.

About two or so years ago, I finally acquired a copy. Yet the thing about Goldsworthy’
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Adrian Goldsworthy is the author of numerous acclaimed books, including biographies of Julius Caesar and Augustus. He lectures widely and consults on historical documentaries for the History Channel, National Geographic, and the BBC. He lives in the UK.

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  Jordan Morris is a comedy writer and podcaster whose credits include @Midnight, Unikitty! and Earth to Ned.  The sci-fi comedy Bubble is his...
6 likes · 1 comments
“For what is the life of a man, if it is not interwoven with the life of former generations by as sense of history. [Cicero, quoted by Goldsworthy in his Augustus]” 8 likes
“Personal hatreds and rivalry loomed larger in most senator's minds than the good of the Republic. [A big problem then and now]” 5 likes
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