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Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  4,618 Ratings  ·  346 Reviews
He found Rome made of clay and left it made of marble. As Rome’s first emperor, Augustus transformed the unruly Republic into the greatest empire the world had ever seen. His consolidation and expansion of Roman power two thousand years ago laid the foundations, for all of Western history to follow. Yet, despite Augustus’s accomplishments, very few biographers have concent ...more
Hardcover, 327 pages
Published October 17th 2006 by Random House (first published January 1st 2006)
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Lynne King
I have tried over and over again to write a review on this outstanding and spellbinding book but without success. Nevertheless what I will state categorically is that Everitt has succeeded magnificently in bringing Augustus alive to the reader. The author also achieved a real sense of place as Rome also became alive to me. I so wish that the book had been longer as I didn’t want to finish it.

Trust me, read this book. It is out there waiting for you to be captivated the way I was.

One of my top
...more
Darwin8u
Mar 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
Probably the best (either this one or Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician) of Everett's Roman biographies and histories. A nice introduction and review of Augustus. Nothing particularly new in this book, but Everitt has a flair for narrative biography.

IF you are new to Anthony Everitt, I'd suggest reading in the following order:
1. The Rise of Rome 3 stars
2. Cicero 4 stars
3. Augustus 4 stars
4. Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome 3 stars

But really, unless you are planning on all
...more
Channing
Jul 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: history wonks, classicists, the power hungry
Towards the end of his previous book, "Cicero", Everitt describes Cicero taking Julius Caesar's grand-nephew, the young Gaius Octavius, under his wing and introducing him to the world of Roman politics. In gratitude, the young Gaius winds up forming an alliance with Mark Antony and reluctantly agreeing to have Cicero killed (although he forces Antony to murder his uncle in exchange). Thus begins the rise to power of Rome's first emperor, later to call himself Augustus.

On one hand, Augustus could
...more
Arminius
Dec 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I do not think I ever read a book on Roman history that I did not like and this book has not changed that. Augustus is considered Rome's first Emperor due to the fact that he spent over 40 years as Emperor. He came to this position by being the nephew and then becoming Julius Caesar's adopted son. Caesar trained him, as a youngster, in the rudiments of Rome's military leadership training. However, when Caesar was assassinated in March 15 of 44 BC Caesar's most important soldier Mark Antony and A ...more
Kelly
Jun 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of ancient history, fans of HBO Rome
Very well done. Told as narratively as possible, almost in novel form at some points. Very engaging, makes you feel like you know these people. If you liked the HBO series, you'll like this book. It was a very easy read each time I picked it up, which is saying something as I read it during a very stressful time during which I didn't have a lot of time to spare. But I always enjoyed diving into it. You'd think that I'd need something a bit more relaxing. But not with the way this was written.

I d
...more
Kiwi
Sep 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nf-history, nf-bio
Approachable biography of one of the most important figures in western history. The book, being relatively short, is dense but very informative. Beside Augustus itself, Everitt brings to life many historical figures that had an influence on the emperor (both past and contemporary) and are essential to understand the political situation at the time. This approach contributes to a true 360 degrees view of the main character.

It is important to stress that this is a non-fiction book, heavy on the de
...more
Sean
Aug 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
A solid biography of the founding father of the Roman Principate. Indulges in a fair amount of speculation, but I suppose that's what separates scholarly history from popular history, and the author gives you plenty of notice when he's off on a flight of (informed) fancy. Besides, given the paucity of reliable sources for much of Gaius's/Octavian's/Augustus's life, perhaps some speculation is called for.

Any student of Roman history should have a handle on the life and times of Imperator no. 1, a
...more
Margaret
Aug 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
A great follow-up to Cicero. Between the two of them you get a thorough introduction not only to these two men, but more generally to life in ancient Rome and its rise to empire. (It's a crazy story, if you hadn't heard.)
Betsy
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining look at a man who lived a long life and had an immense influence on Rome. I particularly enjoyed the chapters through the Battle of Actium. After that the author discusses life in Rome in general so it slows down somewhat.

My favorite character was Marcus Agrippa, who was an outstanding soldier and friend of Augustus. It was to Augustus' good fortune to have such a loyal follower.

If you have seen "I, Claudius" you know much of what happened what happened to many of the people in the
...more
Clifford
Jul 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Excellent insight into the Roman era. Interesting book that was well written with explanations that extend to modern days. I recommend it highly!
Hadrian
The First Roman Emperor, although many did not see him as such. A calculating figure, who brought forth a massive empire which left its mark on all of Europe.
Mitchell
May 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A erudite exploration of Rome's first and greatest emperor. A entertaining book for lay people. The most challenging part of the book is knowing the ancient geography of the time.
Steven Peterson
Feb 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Anthony Everitt follows up his excellent biography of the Roman politician, lawyer, and writer Cicero with a strong biography of the first Roman emperor, Augustus (born Gaius Octavius in 63 BC). If one add in Goldsworthy's well done recent biography of Julius Caesar, one then has a trio of excellent biographies that help make the political intrigues of Rome in the late Republic and early Empire come to life.

The challenges facing the author include holes in the life story of the man who became A
...more
Avis Black
Jul 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: biographies, 3-stars
I've been binging on Rome lately, and this is the 4th Anthony Everitt book I've read so far. It's a solid work that starts with the Civil War in the wake of Julius Caesar's death. Augustus, Caesar's heir, has a lot of popular support, but he nonetheless ends up with one big black cloud hanging over him. He and Mark Anthony perpetrate one of the worse mass murders in Rome's history.

When the pair seize power, they post lists of thousands of people, declaring them to be 'enemies of the state.' Thi
...more
Caidyn (BW Book Reviews)
Growing up, I had a huge thing for history. Specifically, Ancient Egypt and Cleopatra. To this day, I can recite basically all of Cleopatra's history, from her siblings, children, death, legacy, etc. Over so many other things, that's stuck in my mind as something I needed to remember. Octavian -- as I always heard him called -- was a name I was familiar with. He was the person who caused Cleopatra to kill herself. I always didn't like him much for that. But, after reading this book, I can honest ...more
Linda Harkins
Mar 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is an audacious attempt to cover in only 327 pages the rise to power and reign of Rome's first emperor. Not all my questions were answered, but I have a better understanding of the period having read this biography.

The author quickly introduces Augustus as Octavian, the handsome and astute great-nephew of Julius Caesar. Trained in public administration by Caesar, Octavian was a person of delicate health who never became the warrior that his great-uncle was. In fact, he leaned heavily u
...more
Nick Ohrn
May 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the book, but felt like he narrative could have been a little bit better constructed. I felt like the work jumped from place to place and time to time much too suddenly and I found myself having to go back and reread a few page to figure out how we got where we were. Also, and this is definitely not the author's fault, there was a lack of certainty about many facts because of the lack of surviving records. This is to be expected, but compared to biographies of more modern personalities ...more
Dawn
I liked it but it wasn't enough. I understand that much of what we know about Ancient Rome is supposition, especially in regards to an individual but somehow this book almost came across as all supposition. Was it the way he wrote it?? Do we really know so little??
This book concentrates on the early life of Augustus. His childhood, his rise to power and his consolidation of that power. It dwells on very little in depth, making it a good overall perspective on the making of the emperor but not g
...more
Noah Goats
Mar 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a very good biography of Augustus, a man who was a complex as he was powerful. The interesting events of Augustus' life: the murder of Julius Caesar, the battles against republicans and Mark Antony, the end of the republic and creation of the empire... all are related with good judgement and narrative drive while Augustus is brought to life as well as any man who lived 2,000 years ago can be. This would be a great book for anyone who is new to Roman History, but also for anyone who has r ...more
Jeremy Perron
Nov 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Anthony Everitt tells the amazing story of the young Gaius Octavius, who grows up to become the man we know as Emperor Augustus. Everitt gives the treatment of Augustus' life the same way he treated the orator Cicero's. Everitt has an easy to follow narrative that guides the reader from the chaotic early life to the stable rule as the first Emperor of Rome, or what Augustus called his new regime: the Principate.

Born during Cicero's consulship, the young boy grows up in the period of political in
...more
Emalise
Dec 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
This was the first biography I ever read. Surprisingly enough, as I'm a Classics major with a concentration in Latin, I did not read it for a class. I've always had a certain fascination with Augustus even though I never knew too much about him. (It is hard for me to imagine him an any other way than as Simon Woods played him in HBO's Rome but that is not being very historically objective, now is it?)

Everitt successfully navigated the difficult feat of writing about a great man, on whom there ar
...more
Erik
Jun 18, 2008 rated it liked it
I doubt that this recent biography on Augustus -- ne Octavian -- is the first to focus solely on the first emperor of Rome (as the dust-cover flap suggests), but I will agree with most critics and readers that this is a compelling read that manages to include many of the debates and nuances that make Augustus and his contemporaries so intriguing. If you're looking for confirmation of the scandalous affairs and sordid acts that were paraded on screen during the two seasons of HBO's breath-taking ...more
Reid
Dec 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It has been nice to see a recent flourishing in the publication of narrative ancient histories meant for the larger reading public. Rubicon must stand out as the supreme example among them, if only for its readability and scope. Everitt, in contrast, is a great also-ran, his biography of Augustus presenting a well-balanced and well-ordered book on a very controversial historical figure. In particular, Everitt's information about Sextus Pompeius was an utter revelation, something I had completely ...more
Dan
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was a fantastic biography. Everitt draws from all the classical sources and puts together an gripping narrative of Augustus's life and the myriad surrounding events. The story flows smoothly and a good balance is struck between necessary details and larger events. The major figures of the period are all examined from both a political and a personal perspective as well as the surviving records allow and how their motivations shaped history comes together in a coherent chronicle of the earlie ...more
Trina
Sep 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
This biography is heavy on the battles of the civil war that preceded Octavian's rise to power, but ultimately I really enjoyed the development of Augustus' character: he was physically weak and prone to illness but he lived into his mid 70s. His strength was that he was extremely thoughtful, tactical and patient in working out how to bring Rome out of civil war into a position of power. The fact that his "reign" effectively ended the Republic, which wasn't working but which is always idealized ...more
Alcornell
Jan 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Brings Augustus to life, sorts out the confusion of names and numbers, balances characterization and solid history writing. Impressive and enjoyable. All my questions were answered--what was the deal with Antony and Cleopatra? Was Livia really the evil stepmother she is fabled to be? What happened to Cassius and Brutus? The whole modern western world has been shaped by this 75 year period. It's a fascinating read. I will read Everitt's Cicero now.
Zelda
Jul 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book, 2014
This was a very interesting listen after having listened to "I, Claudius". I couldn't recommend this to just everyone. You'd have to have some initial interest in Imperial Rome to really get into this. Anthony Everitt does a fine job once again of making what seems like a dense topic very accessible. He is very good at balancing the scholarly voice with a more conversational tone. The reader was excellent.
Greg
Feb 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
The second of Everitt's tryptich of famous Romans focuses on perhaps the most famous emperor. In an unusual move, two-thirds of the book takes place before Augustus becomes emperor (assumes the purple, as Gibbon so likes to write). Sadly, for such an influential person, little personal information remains about Augustus. Everitt contradicts a lot of conventional wisdom to be found in I Claudius and elsewere, especially about Livia.
Jana
Dec 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, audible
I finished Cleopatra and now I realize how much I don't know. This was a very enlightening, entertaining, readable (listenable in my case) biography of Rome's longest ruling emperor. His stable ruling, policies AND beautification of Rome lasted half a millennia. Perhaps Marc Antony wouldn't have fared so well?

Based on this one, I want to read the same author's Cicero as well.
Erez Davidi
Sep 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is the second book by Everitt that I read, the first being Cicero. As in Cicero, the narrative is very easy to follow. I think Everitt did a fine job in bringing Augustus to life along with Roman empire in general, it helped me fill a few holes about the birth of the Roman Empire. All in all, this is a fine introduction to Augustus' life and to the Birth of the Roman Empire.
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Anthony Everitt is a British academic. He studied English literature at the University of Cambridge. He publishes regularly in The Guardian and The Financial Times. He worked in literature and visual arts. He was Secretary-General of the Arts Council of Great Britain. He is a visiting professor in the performing and visual arts at Nottingham Trent University. Everitt is a companion of the Liverpoo ...more
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“Rome became a republic in 509 B.C., after driving out its king and abolishing the monarchy. The next two centuries saw a long struggle for power between a group of noble families, patricians, and ordinary citizens, plebeians, who were excluded from public office. The outcome was a apparent victory for the people, but the old aristocracy, supplemented by rich pledeian nobles, still controlled the state. What looked in many ways like democracy was, in fact, an oligarcy modified by elections.” 1 likes
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