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03 March 2008


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So I have to say that so far I am liking it. It took me a little while to get used the massive amount of names and information he is giving us but I find it very interesting and I had to stop myself from just contituing and reading chapter 4. We seem to be having the same reactiond to it so far - I too was impressed by the fact that the Senate could create new Gods just like that. Am looking forward to the next three chapters.


Yeah, I've found myself going back and re-reading paragraphs again and again -- as in, "Wait, wait, who said what?" -- but as I read, that seems to be happening less and less. I must be getting used to his style. Yay me.


The names do settle down; it doesn't help that these are kind of the "whirlwind tour of backstory" chapters and once you get into the real story everyone is drawn so well that it's easy to keep them apart (I think--I've also read this 80 hundred times and teach Roman history for a living so. . .)

One of the things I'm noticing (and admiring in the writing) this time around is the casual, pervasive brutality of the world Claudius lives in. Julia's wig is a case in point: I don't think C. is horrified by it--he just doesn't think it's true. Or compare the story of Tiberius killing a friend (!) in a boxing match--no pity, no horror, just the note that he wasn't even wearing metal gloves. Shudder.

I adore Claudius' voice--spacy, discursive, a little pedantic, but occassionally and surprisingly vulgar. I find him very endearing. And Livia. Well. She's awesome beyond words. The bit you quoted about "womanly" ambition is so killer.

Re: the Senate creating new gods. A historian of Roman religion (can't remember which) said that if the Romans had had bicycles they would also have had a goddess Punctura. They had several different gods for doors. As in: one for the hinges, one for the latch. Emperor worship came in from the East where there was a tradition of god-kings (e.g. in Egypt).


Yeah, you're right, I didn't get a horror vibe from him about the wig -- he just didn't think it was true, while I actively hoped it wasn't true. I thought the whole section about Tiberius was especially interesting -- that he was one of the Bad Apple Claudians, but that until he lost Claudius' father due to different military posts, Vispania due to the forced divorce and his relationship with Augustus changed, he had somewhat of a handle on it (even if he did, you know, kill his friend in a boxing match with his bare hands (oops)).

Maecenus was a real bastard to Agrippa.

And I wouldn't have blamed Octavia if she'd gone all Medea on Mark Antony's ass.


I read it years ago when the series with Derek Jacobi was on PBS. The book (and the series) is brilliant. Graves turns Rome into a soap opera. Do you plan on reading "Claudius the King" as well?


Here are my thoughts on the first few chapters.

Julie Carter

I picked up the book and, well, I'm glad I didn't say that I would be joining in the Big Read II because I'm almost done with the book after only a day.

Sucked. In.


I'm enjoying it so far! Claudius' voice is great, it's much funnier than I was expecting. I'm with Tom on the soap opera feel of it all.

I'm not feeling the suspense that you are, though, Leila. I'm just happy to go with the ride and enjoy the snarky commentary.

I've put up my first thoughts on the book at my blog.


Yep, even just after three chapters, I'm feeling the soap opera vibe as well.

Julie, I hope you continue commenting even though you already zoomed through the book!

That's actually the kind of suspense I was talking about -- that I'm crazy to read more, but I'm using my vast reserves (HAH!) of will power to prevent myself from reading ahead. I want to know everything and more, and I want to know it now! I need to do what you're doing, Emmaco, and just enjoy the ride. I'm working on it.

I'm trying to decide if I should watch the miniseries as I read it, or if I should wait until I'm done. Does the miniseries cover the second book, too? (I do have a copy of the second book waiting for me, by the way. I suspect I'll read it right after this one.)


I think it would be hard to watch the miniseries and stay with the chapter breaks. And as our fearless leader you need to set a good example and stay on schedule! (says the person who dutifully put in a bookmark to stop reading at the right spot but put the bookmark in the wrong place...woops!).


The series covers both books. And I agree with Emmaco... read the book first.


RATS! Oh, well. I suspected that would be the case.

Julie Carter

I'm astonished at the willpower and fortitude of all of you. Though I have only 20 pages to go and I'm sitting here in front of the computer instead of reading them, so maybe I have willpower, too.

One thing I didn't expect before reading was the style. I guess I expected it to have more dialogue--be more like a traditional novel. Instead, it's more like a witty history.

And the flashbacks I'm having to high school latin classes and university ancient history courses! That makes it even more fun, those "Ooh, I remember that!" moments.

Erin A

I almost created a family tree, too! I still may, actually. I'm totally loving this book, it's a complete soap opera but certainly for the erudite -- the prose is so packed I find myself re-reading passages to be sure I've picked every morsel from the bone.

Last week I had plenty of time to read, but needed to discipline myself to stay on the group's sked. This week I'm much tighter for time...will do the best I can. Looking forward to a nice long read tonight!

Thanks again for getting me to read this. My older brother made me suffer through the PBS mini-series back in the 70s. He needed to watch it for his AP European History class, I tortured him in return by doing gymnastics all around the living room! He'd pass out if he knew I was participating in this...


I'm two days behind, maybe will only be one day behind for the next batch.

I almost had more fun writing about it than reading it...this is certainly changing the way I read the book. I'm not likely to forget it.

I keep seeing Monty Python sketches in my head.


I'm a little late but joining in - I've got my chapters 1-3 up here:

I agree that it's much funnier than expected, and although I've never had a real interest in Roman history, I might have one now! Now off to catch up on the next section...


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