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Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  2,769 ratings  ·  304 reviews
Author and historian Tom Holland returns to his roots in Roman history and the audience he cultivated with Rubicon—his masterful, witty, brilliantly researched popular history of the fall of the Roman republic—with Dynasty, a luridly fascinating history of the reign of the first five Roman emperors.

Dynasty continues Rubicon's story, opening where that book ended: with
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Kindle Edition, 512 pages
Published October 20th 2015 by Anchor (first published September 3rd 2015)
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Rob Atkinson Suetonius was the primary source for Graves' "I, Claudius" fictions (wonderful, if you haven't read them) and I'd also read Graves' translation of…moreSuetonius was the primary source for Graves' "I, Claudius" fictions (wonderful, if you haven't read them) and I'd also read Graves' translation of Suetonius if taking it on -- though it's one of those classics that reads like a guilty pleasure, so have no fears! Suetonius is very entertaining, but he is the most gossipy of all the ancient Roman historians/biographers; while a valuable source, one must bear in mind that he gleefully repeats every rumor he can get his hands on, and while making for colorful reading it may involve an exaggeration or outright falsehood at times. Naturally it is a source for Holland, though his bibliography is broad and deep. As for the classics he seems to also rely on Tacitus and Cassius Dio, but he's apparently deeply read in more recent analyses of the history. One must always remember to read the ancient historians in context as they often have an axe to grind, or highlight an aspect of past corruption or injustice to make a subtle point about their own times, and some modern revisionists believe that some of the emperors here (really, all of them, post Augustus) are unfairly maligned to some degree. I found Holland to be even-handed in his approach, giving credit for the good actions of even the most notorious emperors, and providing alternate explanations for some of the scuttlebutt that attends the histories of Caligula and Nero in particular. Beyond this, his writing is a pleasure to read, fluid and often witty, and never dry and academic. If like myself you love the history of ancient Rome (which your having read Suetonius suggests) it's about as good as it gets for this period; having read tons (both Classical and modern) on this early imperial period I can honestly say Holland makes this well-trodden territory seem fresh again, with a renewed focus on family dynamics, social history, and a discerning sifting of (probable) fact from fiction.(less)
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Start your review of Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar
Jeffrey Keeten
 photo Augustus203_zpsbcjgqzkl.jpg
Octavian the man. Augustus the God.

”When people think of imperial Rome, it is the city of the first Caesars that is most likely to come into their minds. There is no other period of ancient history that can compare for sheer unsettling fascination with its gallery of leading characters. Their lurid glamour has resulted in them becoming the archetypes of feuding and murderous dynasts.”

The women are schemers, and the men are ruthless. Even Augustus and Claudius, who are considered the more
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Bettie
44BC

Description: Dynasty continues Rubicon's story, opening where that book ended: with the murder of Julius Caesar. This is the period of the first and perhaps greatest Roman Emperors and it's a colorful story of rule and ruination, running from the rise of Augustus through to the death of Nero. Holland's expansive history also has distinct shades of I Claudius, with five wonderfully vivid (and in three cases, thoroughly depraved) Emperors—Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero—
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Susan
Jul 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having enjoyed Tom Holland’s excellent, “Rubicon,” I was very happy to have the chance to review this volume.. Subtitled, “The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar,” this follows on from “Rubicon,” which centred around Julius Caesar and his adopted heir, Octavian. The dynasty of Augustus still very defines autocratic power and the celebrity of the Caesar’s remains. Rome’s first imperial dynasty have everything that modern day celebrity desires, and more. It was a time of tyranny, power, sadism ...more
Emma
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'Dynasty' is exceptional. I can say, without reservation, that I have never been so engaged by a history book. Considering I am just finishing my MA in Classical Studies, that's more of a statement that you might imagine.

The events narrated by Holland are incredible, dramatic, exciting, horrifying. The pages are filled with intrigue and blood. It's safe to say that if these stories were presented as fiction, they would be too outrageous to be believed. In Roman politics, the stakes are as high
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Trish
Dec 22, 2015
For cripes' sake! I have been working on this book for months and only just now realized it was never intended to be a novel, but is meant to be a popular history. Lawsy, I feel stupid. It would have made a difference in how I approached the whole endeavor. In any case, this may be "popular" with historians, but it was rough going for me. Below, see my earlier review, and everywhere you see me calling the work "fiction," have a laugh at my expense. Enjoy!
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Tom Holland’s
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K.J. Charles
A hugely readable and clear account of the tangled politics of the House of Caesar (Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero). It's extremely ghastly and bloody, in which Holland takes obvious relish, but this part of history is basically a horror comic, featuring a lot of utterly shitty people in a grotesque society, so. The telling is even-handed as far as that's possible, and the global, political and social context is all fleshed out very effectively. A rollicking read.

And quite a scary
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Ray
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Caesar managed to climb to the top of the greasy pole that was Rome but he upset a few people on the way up, and got punctured by a lynch mob who stabbed him to death in the Senate in the name of the Roman Republic. His adopted nephew Octavian then seized supreme control after a series of civil wars, ruling as Augustus, first citizen or Princeps of the Roman Empire.

The descendants of Caesar and Augustus ruled as the Roman Empires first dynasty. Rule and misrule, excess and a marked decline in
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Karla
Holland seems to take a page from Suetonius (that marvelous scandalmonger of yore) and produces a book that lives up to the blurb's promise that it's "...a luridly fascinating history of the reign of the first five Roman emperors."

I know Suetonius (as well as some of the other historians who reported on Imperial Rome) gets a bad rap for being biased and inaccurate, but he can put butts in the seats, so to speak. The rampant modern proclivity to retool some of the most notorious figures of the
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Kacey Kells
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having read 'The Twelve Caesars' by Suetonius, I was excited to read John Holland's 'Dynasty' and I wasn't disappointed, quite the contrary. Oh, I won't say it's an easy book to read (I'm a bookworm, but it took me more than a month to reach the last page); nevertheless, Holland is both a brilliant expert and a very good storyteller who knows how to turn real life history into a vivid story, so that it reads like a novel.
What I liked the most is that Holland clearly tried to remain objective and
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Kusaimamekirai
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I read Simon Sebag Montefiore’s “The Romanovs” last year and Tom Holland’s “Dynasty” about the five Caesars of the Julio-Claudia dynasty (Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius, Caligula, and Nero) and how they each in their own unique way profoundly changed the Roman world is perhaps the most fitting companion to it.
Just as the Romanovs had extremely competent administrators in charge at various stages such as Catherine the Great, so Rome of the Caesars had men like Augustus and
Tiberius (this
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Palmyrah
Feb 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book after hearing it plugged by the author in a lecture at the Galle Literary Festival earlier this year. Mr Holland’s pitch was that Suetonius, Tacitus and the rest were relying on earlier accounts, now lost to us, by authors contemporary with the Caesars or with their near successors and that these accounts were inevitably biased, distorted and/or confabulated in order to support contemporary political agendas, flatter powerful individuals, etc. Thus, he said, they must be ...more
Christine
3.5

Sometimes I wish I Claudius was true, but then if it was, we wouldn't have nicely detailed books like this.

I highly recommend, you already have a general outline of the time because at points Holland jumps around a bit. I liked that, however, because it shows the relationships between different policies.
raffaela
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been reading a lot about Rome this year, but most of the books I've read so far have to do with the Republic. Dynasty gave me a glimpse into what Rome was like after the Republic fell and the emperors reigned supreme. Holland only covers the first five Julio-Claudian emperors (Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero), but that's a good thing - it makes the narrative much more manageable to read through (especially if you're a beginning reader on this topic like me) and allows Holland ...more
The Library Lady
Like so many adult historians, Holland's writing is often ponderous and you begin to drown trying to keep all the information straight.
The only time he brightens up is when he gets to talk about sex, and then with the glee of an adolescent boy he goes into detailed musings, often using graphic language that doesn't shock me, but doesn't match the fairly scholarly tone of the rest of the text. It's unpleasant and downright salacious.

I didn't read "Rubicon," (and wish I had know that it existed
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Travis Weir
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I literally waited years for this book to arrive in print. And when I discovered it online one afternoon, I was elated. Tom Holland is my favourite chronicler of history, there is nobody better, especially when it comes to Ancient Rome. Holland's wit, and fluid prose are a treat to read. In "Dynasty", Holland continued the story after Julius Caesar's death and covers the legendary Julio-Claudian line that began with the majestic Augustus, continued with the tormented Tiberias, was passed down to ...more
Richard Thomas
Sep 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classical-world
This is a vivid account of the first five Caesars of the Augustan dynasty. Their lives and achievements are described in detail and the (I suppose) bizarre mixture each displayed to varying extents of solid statecraft with grotesque personal characters. Augustus was recognisably human whose political acumen and genuine regard for the roman people was his strength. His feet had less clay than his four successors. Tom Holland describes the strengths and weaknesses of the four next Caesars with a ...more
Doubleday  Books
With the flare of a seasoned storyteller and the expertise of a practiced historian, Tom Holland brings the reign of the first five Roman emperors to life. Dynasty picks up where Holland’s popular Rubicon left off: with the murder of Julius Caesar. I’ve never been one to dip too deeply into history, but the exciting and riveting details Tom Holland brings to life in Dynasty left me unable to tear myself away. This book is awesome for readers looking for both a thrilling plot and a history lesson ...more
Carey Combe
Sep 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bloody brilliant. Eminently readable and scholarly - what more could you ask for!
Elizabeth S
4.5 very well earned stars

The only reason this book doesn't have 5 stars is because I already knew most of the history going into it, so I wasn't phenomenally shocked by anything. For that reason, it seems a bit of an exaggeration to consider it amazing. Nonetheless, this is an excellently researched and written book.

Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar is my first Tom Holland book, but by no means his only strong work. I've heard great things about his books before, and as someone
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Christopher
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europe, history
(Reviewer's Note: I just wrote a more in depth review of this book on my weekly book blog. If you like this review and would like to read more, click on the following link: https://tobereadnow.blogspot.com/2017...)

I loved Mr. Holland's Rubicon when I read it in high school and I've had my eye on this sequel for some time now. And while not as memorable as his previous book, Mr. Holland does not fail to deliver in this history of the Julio-Claudian line of Roman emperors.

Starting with a quick
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Liviu
the usual story (with a few tweaks, more below) in the engaging style of the author of Rubicon (one of the best popular history books of all times alongside JJ Norwich Byzantium), but my ultra high expectations were not quite met as the book seems to go by fixed # pages per year, so the times of Augustus and Tiberius which cover about 80 of the 110 ten years of the dynasty (43 BC and the Triumvirate, though the book goes in the background of the story covered in Rubicon for a few pages in the ...more
Bill
I don't read much non-fiction history, as I find a lot of it to be very dry and relatively boring. I have read a lot of historical fiction, because as long as the history rings true, I have found historical novels to be much more palatable and easier to read.

So, I decided to try and rectify the relative lack of real history books being read, and decided to start with this one. And what a good choice it was too. This book is about the various emperors who ruled over the Roman empire after Julius
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Ndf
Sep 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: roman-history
Absolutely stunning.

Phenomenal. A real tour de force of historical writing.

This is the first book of Tom Holland’s that I’ve read and it certainly won’t be the last. I loved this book so much, Rubicon is next only my reading list.

I found this book really hard to put down, it’s so immersive. I was swept along on a tidal wave of gorgeous prose detailing the minutae of the lives of the first five emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty –Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero. As a lover of
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Sud666
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, favorites
Superb history book. Well written, engaging and full of interesting information. This is how narrative history ought to be written. A wonderful book tracing the rise and fall of the Julio-Claudinian line of Emperors (starting with Julius Ceasar and ending with Nero) this is a phenomenal story of the Dynasty that helped to shape the Ancient Rome most recognized by people. Starting with Julius Caesar, then Octavian/Augustus Caesar and finishing with Caligula, Cladius and Nero-these 5 members of ...more
Tudor Ciocarlie
The real history in this book is much more interesting than the speculations of Robert Graves in I, Claudius.
Todd
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, antiquity
Entertaining, although not as good as Rubicon.

Overall an edifying history of the emperors in the house of Caesar. Bridging from where Rubicon left off with Scipio Africanus, taking us through the Roman Civil Wars, and the rise and fall of the House of Caesar. From the rise of Augustus, the establishment of the Augustinian dynasty, down through the fall of Nero.

Not surprisingly, the drama has turned from the civil wars at the end of the Roman Republic to the palace intrigue at the beginning of
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Lindz
This is the kind of the book I love to wallow in. I think it are the details of the piece, history is best, for me at least, when it is about the details. It's probably why I did a little excited dance when Ken Burns documentaries showed up on Netflix. It's all about the details. The details here are sparkling, just lots and lots. I liked the premise of Holland's trying to find a middle ground, trying to find a middle ground in between the reality tv producer that was Suetonius (seriously the ...more
Tom Ludwig
Not as good as Rubicon. Although I have to forgive the author to a certain extent given the limited historical resources at his disposal, I find the narrative spotty and disjointed. I also grew tired of how much time was spent on each emperor's sexual proclivities, given how most historians believe some of the more extreme elements of Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero's behavior may be overblown or false.
Ross Cohen
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Like his previous "Rubicon," Holland's "Dynasty" delivers.
Z. J. Pandolfino
I first read Rubicon by Tom Holland when I was fourteen years-old, enthralled with what little Roman history I had encountered in the hardcover picture books of my youth and on amateurish websites that catered to ancient history enthusiasts. Truthfully, the book transformed my life; by the time I had put it down, I was obsessed with Roman late Republican history. Holland, not unlike the most successful novelists, has a taste for the dramatic, a keen ability to touch upon and shift seamlessly ...more
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Tom Holland is an English historian and author. He has written many books, both fiction and non-fiction, on many subjects from vampires to history.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Holland was born near Oxford and brought up in the village of Broadchalke near Salisbury, England. He obtained a double first in English and Latin at Queens'
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“We always want what we’re not allowed.” 2 likes
“JULIA: Oldest daughter of Julia and Agrippa. Owner of the smallest dwarf in Rome. Exiled in AD 8.” 1 likes
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