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I, Claudius

(Claudius #1)

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  48,471 ratings  ·  2,239 reviews
Robert Graves's magnificent reconstruction of the grandeur, folly and vileness of Imperial Rome

Into the racy 'autobiography' of Clau-Clau-Claudius, the pitiful stammerer who was destined to become Emperor in spite of himself, Graves packs the everlasting intrigues, the depravity, the bloody purges and mounting cruelty of the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius, soon to culmina
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Paperback, 396 pages
Published September 1st 1969 by Penguin Books Limited (first published 1934)
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Fanna Casat My opinion: very little of it is Graves's invention. The basic account of how things went down is in keeping with actual history. The novel is very…moreMy opinion: very little of it is Graves's invention. The basic account of how things went down is in keeping with actual history. The novel is very heavily based on all the ancient accounts of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. But as for how much of that is real "history" or not, well...

Graves chooses to use all of the worst possible versions of events, the most scurrilous rumors, that these ancient historians recorded. Not complaining about that. It makes things fun.(less)
Brandon The Imperial Family and Nobles of Rome, and their struggles for power, both perceived or actual. Lots of backdoor deals, assassinations, breaches of…moreThe Imperial Family and Nobles of Rome, and their struggles for power, both perceived or actual. Lots of backdoor deals, assassinations, breaches of trust, etc. All from the perspective of Claudius, who is an absolute runt amongst many strong, powerful and cunning men and women. Or so they think...(less)

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4.27  · 
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 ·  48,471 ratings  ·  2,239 reviews


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Henry Avila
Jul 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus (Claudius to his embarrassed family), born in Lyon, in what is now France, a sickly, lame, twitching, stutterer, a nonentity, thought an idiot by his relatives, the most prominent in ancient Rome, Julius Caesar began their more than century long reign, as the rulers of the vast, expanding, Roman Empire. But he Claudius , survives the treacherous, deadly, byzantine atmosphere, where killing an enemy is common, all for power, influence and money, nothing el ...more
Kemper
Things had to have been boring in ancient Rome with no TV, internet or video games. But after reading I, Claudius, I think that the average Roman citizen’s chief entertainment probably came from watching what the imperial family did to each other. There was the crime and intrigue of a show like The Sopranos. All the narcissism and betrayal of a season of a reality TV show. More sex than cable on-demand porn channels and enough family dysfunction to make Jerry Springer’s guests look classy. You ...more
Lyn
Jul 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Compelling, humorous, entertaining and even at time times deeply disturbing, this traces the peripheral rise of an unlikely Caeser.

Historical fiction at its best, Graves provides an in-depth, behind the scenes look at early Roman Imperial intrigue. First published in 1934, this has been selected as one of the finest English language works in the twentieth century.

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Paul Bryant
Sep 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
I Claudius reviewed by Manny :


- Claudius, come here, sit down right by me, don't be shy.

- O o o o o oh, M-m-m-m-m-

- Yes?

- essalina!

I Claudius reviewed by Mariel :

All i can dream about is rabbits every day. every day rabbits. i can't tell you why.


I Claudius reviewed by Ian Graye :

You've seen The Sopranos, so you think you know about gangsters.

But Imperial Rome didn't get its reputation by organising knitting circles.

No, it didn't.

Claudius became emperor accidentally. They found him cowering in a
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Jan-Maat
I was going to write that Graves having translated The Twelve Caesars recycled the Suetonius with a dash of Tacitus and some added murders to create I Claudius - ostensibly the memoirs of the Emperor Claudius.

This, however, seems to be entirely false as Graves wrote I, Claudius more than twenty years before he made that translation. He was though living on Majorca, which is not quite Capri, and if isolated and obsessing over his muse, not quite in Tiberian style.

In my imagination then I have to
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Jr Bacdayan
May 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Game of Romes

History is the lie of the victors. Or so that’s what they say. But in the case of I, Claudius hailed as one of the best pieces of historical fiction written to date, the so-called lie is either heightened or degraded, depends on how you see it, into a dramatic tale of cunning, deceit, depravity and the glories of ancient Rome chalked with enough back-stabbing, affairs, incest, assassinations, and debauchery you’d doubt whether you’ve unearthed an ancient tabloid. Granted there are c
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Sarah (Presto agitato)
Jul 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in the real Hunger Games
Poor Clau-Clau-Claudius. He stuttered, had a limp, and was deaf in one ear. Considered the family idiot, he had the misfortune to be born into a family that suffered from a congenital lack of compassion.

Robert Graves’s choice of the hapless Claudius as the narrator for this work of historical fiction was ingenious. Seen as dull-witted and harmless by his ruthless relatives, Claudius managed to avoid (view spoiler) the poisoning, banishment, starvation, stabbing, and suici
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Riku Sayuj
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: r-r-rs, favorites

Yo, Claudio

The review I really have in mind will be attempted for this book only after I finish reading Claudius the God (to quench the burning curiosity of how this ‘Clau-Clau-Claudius’, a man, who in the first shock of being made emperor had this outrageous thought come rushing to his mind - "So, I'm Emperor, am I? What nonsense! But at least I'll be able to make people read my books now.”, will conduct himself as a God-Emperor), The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Rubicon: The Last Y
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Aubrey
There have been multiple periods of time in my life during which I developed a fascination for different historical families, usually of infamous repute. Elementary school was devoted to the Tudors, focusing heavily on the Princess Elizabeth, while middle through high school was preoccupied with the Borgias, an interest more balanced between its equally intriguing members. Every so often those fascinations will spark up again, and I will find myself consuming relevant impressively rendered ficti ...more
Alex
I like I, Claudius a lot, but what is it?

It's a slow character study of subtle, canny Claudius, who's one of the most likable protagonists I've read recently. Self-deprecating and brilliant, he's more proactive than he chooses to mention.

It's a history lesson, but not a trustworthy one. This is a good example of something I think of as the Nero Rule. Nero, see, put cages on poles and set Christians on fire in them and used them as streetlights. He probably didn't, actually, but that's a cool sto
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Luke Peterson
Feb 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: favorites
Best book I'd read in years. I, Claudius is a brilliantly written piece of historical fiction from the perspective of a hapless-yet-intelligent black sheep of the Julio-Claudian house during the Augustan era of the Roman Empire who stumbles his way through to survive the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, and Caligula only to be made emperor himself.

At times hilarious, others disturbing, very interesting all the way through, Robert Graves wrote a masterpiece with this. I challenge anyone to read 'I,
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David Sarkies
Feb 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Roman Empire buffs
Recommended to David by: Sariah
Shelves: historical
A fictional autobiography of a Roman Emperor
23 February 2015

Well, here is another historical novel that I actually quite enjoyed, but that may be because, unlike most historical novels that deal with fictional characters placed in an historical time period, this deals with real characters, namely the Imperial Family from the establishment of the empire to the ascension of Claudius to the throne. As can be seen by the title, the main character is the emperor Claudius before he became emperor (th
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Raul Bimenyimana
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This was fun reading! It reminded me of the 'A Song of Fire and Ice' series. Claudius, is a stammering lame fellow whose disabilities and weaknesses bring him both mockery and his salvation in a family plagued with scheming, deceit, betrayal, poisoning, the lust for power and the like. The humour and action in the book makes it a great page turner and Livia has become one of my favourite villains of all time.
Rob
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's generally accepted that I, Claudius is one of best Roman historical novels ever written. Given this, it has to be assumed that amount of research that Robert Graves did for this book would have to have been prodigious.
Now, this is a novel and not an historical textbook. And if only half of it is accurate it's still a miracle that the Romans were able to create an Empire that would, to this very day, influence world history.

The life of Claudius is told by Claudius, himself, as he reads his m
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Sara
In 1977 (oh my, how time flies), Masterpiece Theater presented a BBC production of I, Claudius. The production included the events of both of Graves Claudius novels and featured a cast that would include some of the best actors of the century, among them Derek Jacobi, an unforgettable Claudius. After watching it, I read Robert Graves novel from which its name was derived, but never got around to the second half of the story, Claudius the God. Fast forward to today, and I am at last revisiting th ...more
Dawn
I am a fan of anything to do with the Roman Empire. I find it endlessly fascinating how much of their systems of law and politics we continue to use and the amount of their language that is still a part of our lives.

As the intention must obviously have been, seeing as the point of view is from Claudius writing a history, this book is heavy on the facts and chronicles of events. Though it is written with a personal opinion on the characters, as Claudius is their contemporary.

I found the style o
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Kiwi Begs2Differ  ✎
A work of historical fiction as it should be: entertaining but based on solid research, including accurate dates and places.

The book narrative is in the first-person, as if Claudius were writing his autobiography, complete with Homeric references and Latin vocabulary. Although its stated purpose is of a biography, the story is rich with many historical figures related to the Julio-Claudian family line. Claudius’ observations on these characters provide interesting behind-the-scene information o
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Em*bedded-in-books*
Nov 04, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Staunch History Buffs
[2.5 stars]
Oh, Claudius. I tried to comprehend , but perhaps my 21st century brain is differently wired so as to make sense of the various intrigues, conspiracies, counter-conspiracies, political friendships which suddenly turn into violent enmity,and often vice versa. I also could not fathom your very intricate family tree, which was rife with marriage between relations, incest, polygamy and polyandry. The way you people changed, added or subtracted spouses at the turn of your hats also confuse
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Annie
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It's just boring and pointless. I mean, it’s well-researched, and it’s probably pretty accurate as far as fictionalized biographies can be. But my God, is it dull. It’s just this endless, joyless recitation of facts and events.

I read somewhere (probably Wikipedia) that Graves only wrote this because he needed cash, and it’s so clear. These are not words of inspiration or love but of pedantry and weariness.

It reads like this: “Early the next year, early 19 AD, the last harvest in Egypt was not
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Emily
Robert Graves does a remarkable job bringing the various Caesars to life in this book. But, oddly enough, the least compelling Caesar is Claudius. That's crazy, because Claudius--due to his lameness, his stutter, and his assumed idiocy--managed to survive most of his family (and the reign of his insane nephew Caligula) to become emperor in 41 A.D. And he was a good emperor--definitely the best and most capable of the Caesars since Augustus.

That makes Claudius a particularly enticing figure to s
...more
Em Lost In Books
Nov 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, 1930-39, 4-star
My first HF book on ancient Rome, and I must say am impressed. Royal family kept providing so much drama and entertainment.

Story is told from PoV of Claudius, a stutterer and a cripple, also widely considered a dimwit by his own family. And because people thought him to be a fool, unambitious and harmless to Roman throne that he outlived his siblings and cousins, who were poisoned or died in mysterious circumstances. Since Claudius was considered incapable of taking part in politics, he became a
...more
Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
Historical fiction is a genre I quite enjoy and this was a group read I was really looking forward to. Graves tells us, in the voice of Claudius (himself a historian and writer of many books), the story of the Roman civilisation from the days of Augustus to when Claudius himself is appointed Emperor. It doesn’t take long to realise that “civilisation” is rather a misnomer (one sort of knows that already, of course, especially from the gladiators and other “entertainments”), for though there is t ...more
Andy Dowling
This thing is basically 'The Wire' in togas. It has much of the complex plotting, political positioning, warring and double crossing of that show, with a bit of incest and poisoning thrown in for good measure. A lot of poisoning actually. If the amount of poisoning in this book is at all historically accurate, then the Romans must have experienced the same abject terror sitting down to every meal, which we in modern life are thankfully now only exposed to when faced with no option but to use a K ...more
Bryan  Jones
May 29, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely one of the worst books I ever read. I will never understand its popularity. Historical fiction at its worst. No themes, no depth, no undertones. Graves simply regurgitates facts and characters from 1st Century Roman high society.
Maryana Pinchuk
This is a re-read for me; I found it at my parents' house while visiting over Thanksgiving — the same dog-eared copy I had first read in high school — and just like the first time, despite the heavy subject matter, it was a pretty easy and breezy read. I devoured it in less than 2 days.

While it was less of a page-turner knowing all the twists and intrigues that were to come, the second reading gave me a new appreciation for the tension Graves strikes, on the one hand titillating the reader with
...more
Karla
Re-read after 15 years. It wasn't as good as I remember, but the audiobook narrator occasionally irritated me with his delivery so that might have had something to do with it. I'll actually re-read the sequel Claudius the God and see if the written word has a different effect.

I also re-read this concurrently with watching the 1976 miniseries for a long long overdue first time ever, enjoying it more than the book version. It's highly doubtful I'll ever unsee Brian Blessed as Augustus & John H
...more
Christine
Updated Review - Reheard after listening to Holland's book about the family. So fun.


A very good dramatization. If you are a fan of the series, this does not detract from it. It is also interesting to listen to Derek Jacobi as Augustus. It makes a nice bookend.
Shyam
Aug 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, folio-scoiety
I shouldn’t say this, but it might be the only show where the TV version is better than the original novel. —Mary Beard
__________
All I want now is to know the truth. I am a professional historian and the one thing that really interests me is to find out how things happen and why.

Finishing my annual summer rewatch of HBO's Rome this year, I decided to follow it by reading Graves' I, Claudius novels, rather than watching the TV adaptation, as I sometimes did.

One thing that the original does bett
...more
K.M. Weiland
Nov 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know what I expecting when I started in on this. Something dull as tombs, a la some of the other classics I've been reading lately. Or something ostentatious, based solely on my familiarity with Graves as a poet (which makes no sense, because he's a wonderful poet). At any rate, the book totally blew my expectations out of the water. Fascinating from the word go, this is a stellar historical account of the early Roman Empire, as seen through the eyes of its misfit Emperor Claudius. For a ...more
David
Jul 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first book that convinced me that history could be engrossing. Ridiculously fun to read - it delivers a thrill on a level with the first time you saw "The Mikado", heard the Saint-Saens cello concerto, Callas singing 'Casta Diva'. You get the picture

It is a stroke of genius for Graves to choose Claudius, the drooling 'halfwit' among the Caesars, overlooked and ridiculed by his more ambitious relatives, as his mouthpiece. In a voice that is irresistibly gossipy and remarkably shrewd, he draws
...more
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Robert von Ranke Graves, born in Wimbledon, received his early education at King's College School and Copthorne Prep School, Wimbledon & Charterhouse School and won a scholarship to St John's College, Oxford. While at Charterhouse in 1912, he fell in love with G. H. Johnstone, a boy of fourteen ("Dick" in Goodbye to All That) When challenged by the headmaster he defended himself by citing Plat ...more

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Claudius (2 books)
  • Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina (Claudius, #2)
“I was thinking, "So, I’m Emperor, am I? What nonsense! But at least I'll be able to make people read my books now.” 61 likes
“Let all the poison that lurks in the mud, hatch out.” 29 likes
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