I, Claudius

Written by Robert Graves
Review by Ann Oughton

Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus survived the intrigues, power struggles and bloody purges of one of the most violent times in history because no one considered him to be worth murdering. He was in turn regarded as Claudius the idiot, the stammerer, the poor uncle; despised by his family, he withdrew, becoming an acute observer of his age, recording all in his personal memoir.

Augustus, Tiberius and Caligula feature largely as Claudius reveals not only the historical events of their times but also the inner feuding and the gossip, not to mention ‘how to win at dice’. The women behind the great men wielded power using feminine wiles and the occasional poisoning to manipulate and control. Augustus’ wife, Livia, whose cruel son, Tiberius, was obsessed with treason trials and whose great grandson, Caligula – whose depravity knew no bounds – was one such major player. The many family names are confusing at first, but the necessary back of the book family tree helps to clarify all.