By Robert Graves
Published in 1934
Thibault’s Score: 5/5
I usually hate historical novels because I spend so much time studying history that I am immediately distracted by every single mistake or error in them. As a result, I can’t get immersed into fiction.
However, “I, Claudius” is so incredibly well researched and masterfully written that it did not bother me. It reads like a fake primary source, only slightly favored by the biases and perspective of an author writing in the 1930s.
The book tells the story of Claudius, the fourth Roman emperor who eventually restores the empire after the troubled reigns of Tiberius and Caligula. Claudius was handicapped, and likely had a cerebral palsy - but was nevertheless intelligent. Most of the real sources about his life were written by only two authors - Tacitus and Cassius Dio.
Graves successfully re-invests and re-imagines a plausible narrative for Claudius’ life, and gives him an incredibly plausible voice which he uses to tell the unlikely story of how he eventually became the Roman Emperor.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who loves Roman history. However, reading this book without some pre-existing knowledge or familiarity with how the Roman Empire operated in its early days might be a little bit difficult.
This is not only the best historical fiction that I have ever read but might also be one of the best fiction books that I have ever read in general.
I am eagerly looking forward to reading the sequel “Claudius the God” which covers his reign as emperor.
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