Claudius The God

Written by Robert Graves
Review by Ann Oughton

After the assassination of Caligula, the soldiers, on a high after the furious bloodletting and bent on looting the palace, find a terrified Claudius cowering behind a curtain. Well, it would be quite a joke to make the idiot emperor, and they carry him shoulder high to the people. A firm believer in the Republic, Claudius is at first reluctant to be Emperor but soon realises that this would give him access to secret archives that would allow him to continue his historical record of the times. Succeeding in inspiring the loyalty of the army and the common people, Claudius enjoys a successful career, surviving plots and unfaithful wives until the inevitable end. Claudius, the historian, writes his final page.

By intriguing use of the vernacular, a matter-of-fact style with humour, Graves brings the character of Claudius to life. Not as cruel as Caligula or Nero but, perhaps Claudius was the most cunning of them all.

Written over seventy years ago, the narrative style stands the test of time. It is packed with historical information and a cast of thousands but it is the personal story of Claudius as he relates it that really fascinates.