Claudius the God
By Robert Graves
Published in 1935
Thibault’s Score: 4/5
Claudius the God is the sequel to “I, Claudius.” It covers Claudius’ reign as emperor, still written as a fake autobiography.
The book heavily features two new characters.
The first (briefly mentioned in the first) is Claudius’ wife Messalina. She turns out to be a slut, and constantly cheats on Claudius, ruining his life. She is much younger than she is, and manipulates him to obtain what she wants. Her manipulations result in seriously harming the Roman Empire.
The second new character is King Herod, King of the Jews. King Herod is a scoundrel with a heart of gold. Before Claudius is emperor, he helps him escape. During the unstable early days of his reign, he also helps the budding new emperor. However, during the later part of his reign, he becomes a rebel and a hindrance.
As in the first book, the events covered run roughly parallel to the real non-fiction account of the Roman historian Tacitus and Cassis Dio.
Claudius is corrupted by the immense power that he gets to wield as Roman Emperor. He eventually ends up himself becoming decadent, although he does not ruin the empire. He repeats many of the mistakes of Augustus, Tiberius, and Caligula - realizing that the latter had far less choice in the matter of their errors than he was led to believe before he was in power.
This book starts off very strong, much stronger than the first book. However, it starts getting slow as the narrative moves on. The end is very satisfying, ultimately concluding with Claudius becoming a God against his will.
The story ends with a real poem written by Seneca about Claudius’ ascension to become a God. The fiction narrative ends where the non-fiction narrative begins, coming full circle.
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