I picked up I Claudius
and Claudius the God
, because I remembered really liking the BBC Series, which we watched in Latin Class. I approached the first book with some caution, not sure if they would live up to the TV series, after all, these books were written almost 80 years ago. I was not disappointed. They're great. Really great. It is written in a manner that projects a lot of authenticity, yet very pleasant to read.
'I Claudius' deals with Claudius' childhood up until Caligula's assassination, in the form of an autobiography. 'Claudius the God' describes Claudius' life as emperor of Rome until his death.
It's obvious that Graves knows his stuff and that he has done a lot of research. Granted, he does portray some of the wild stories that Suetonius and the like wrote about as being true, and most historians will tell you to take this with a pinch of salt. But hey, I remember loving those stories in my Latin classes, the crazier the better. I adored Caligula, he was just awesome. Horse elected senator, war against Neptune, oh man. Good stuff.
So many times while reading these, I came upon facts, or names or whatever and I would have an 'ohhhh yeah!' moment and remember things that I'd been taught years ago. These two books are a must-read for people who are interested in Roman stuff. Graves does tend to go into a lot of detail, so make sure you're a total geek before you start. Myself, nine times out of ten, I was very interested. And there's always epic battles, murder, deceit, banishment and adultery to mix things up.
Personally, I enjoyed the first book a little more than the second one, but that might be because the first one has historical V.I.P.'s such as Caligula and Augustus (who is, by the way, probably a little slower and a little more pussywhipped than the real Augustus was), but they are both still very much recommended. By me.