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I, Claudius
by Robert Graves
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Having never seen the famous 1970s television series based on Graves' historical novel of ancient Rome and being generally uneducated about matters both ancient and Roman, I wasn't prepared for such an engaging book. But it's a ripping good read, this fictional autobiography set in the Roman Empire's days of glory and decadence. As a history lesson, it's fabulous; as a novel it's also wonderful. Best is Claudius himself, the stutterer who let everyone think he was an idiot (to avoid getting poisoned) but who reveals himself in the narrative to be a wry and likable observer. His story continues in Claudius the God.
 



Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (15 of 37), Read 39 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, May 31, 2001 08:16 AM I've copied these messages from a thread in Reading List Books to keep all the discussion together. Hope no one minds. David --------------------------------- From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, May 30, 2001 07:13 PM And I thought modern politics were suspect! For a summarized version of the events/relationships related in I, Claudius: http://www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/augustus.html If you scroll down to 4CE you'll find a family tree and an even more thorough geneaology. I can't get over the research that went into this book. Already have Claudius the God and the PBS videos on reserve. K From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, May 30, 2001 07:38 PM Another informative site: http://www.roman-empire.net/index.html The "Emperors, Leaders, Famous Romans" section has busts of the various players in I, Claudius, along with short biographies. I also enjoyed playing with the interactive maps. K From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Thursday, May 31, 2001 02:01 AM Does anyone else find themselves wishing this book had an index, so that when some minor character suddenly pops up after lengthy absence, one could look up the first appearance and get a fix on him/her? I am fluxing between hot and cold on this book. 100 pages to go before the final verdict. Theresa From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Thursday, May 31, 2001 08:04 AM I experienced the same thing, Theresa, but ended up on the hot side when it finished up. Not so much for the writing, but for the tremendous amount of information and intrigue contained within its pages. I know it's fiction, but it's based on actual events. It's really a history lesson, disguised as a novel. That's the aspect that fired my imagination. I'm curious as to how much imagination was used to fill in the gaps between facts. Obviously, the conversations were made up, but how much of the who did what to whom and why was Graves' own creation? He lost me at the beginning, with all the adoptions, births, remarriages, cousins, etc. but I'm glad I stuck with it for the intrigue. Livia is a real piece of work, isn't she? K
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (16 of 37), Read 44 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, May 31, 2001 08:23 AM Yes, Claudius was certainly a master at making people lower their expectations of him. Wonder why no one uses that technique today? David
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (17 of 37), Read 44 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Thursday, May 31, 2001 12:48 PM I think Claudius was more interested in survival than in ruling. He enjoyed being in the know, yet removed from the action. Being considered an idiot did wear on him at times, though. K
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (18 of 37), Read 47 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, May 31, 2001 03:39 PM I have to confess I threw Claudius over for Harry Angstrom. The writing just failed to engage me. Leaden. OTOH, I highly recommend the PBS series. Ruth "Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry---all of it---is a trip into the unknown." Vladimir Mayakovsky
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (19 of 37), Read 45 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Thursday, May 31, 2001 05:58 PM I'm loving this book! I'm wondering why I'm having a different reaction from some of you. It's hard to keep everyone straight, but I've just given up on that and am doing the best I can. The history is fascinating and I like the character of Claudius. What an incredible schemer Livia is, much more Machiavellian than Machiavelli! I'm on page 150 and just finished the games set up to honor Claudius and Germanicus' father. What surreal scenes, the one between the rhino and the elephant especially. I also loved the stuff about the historian, Livy, and am trying to remember why I know about him. Interesting information about the way the way marriage was viewed by Augustus and the legal ways the women got out of losing all of their property to their husbands. My husband and I are going to Europe this summer and will be in Rome. I'm hoping that some of this history will still be in my head when we get there. Barb
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (20 of 37), Read 47 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, May 31, 2001 06:11 PM Barb and all, after this book I'm sure you'd enjoy the Roman portrait busts at the Uffizi. You'll meet a whole cast of famous Romans. And they'll look pretty much as they actually looked, warts and all. Ruth "Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry---all of it---is a trip into the unknown." Vladimir Mayakovsky
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (21 of 37), Read 50 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Thursday, May 31, 2001 07:18 PM Finished this novel a week ago and loved it. In fact, I started reading a history of Rome by Chester G. Starr in his A History of the Ancient World. Starr of course delves deeply in the "Augustan Age," which is interesting after reading Graves' novel; you keep waiting for the intrigue, but Starr just concentrates on the culture and politics. Here's some snippets I found particularly interesting... Especially [Augustus] sought by blandishment, by the simple tone of his life with Livia, and by legislation against celibacy and adultery and in favor of child-bearing to restrict the self-destruction of the upper classes. These laws, from 18 BC on, were consolidated by the Papian-Poppaean code of AD 9 (named after the two bachelor consuls of the year!) ******* While this area was being reconquered, a worse disaster occurred in the forested, loosely held wilds of Germany. In AD 9 the governor P. Quinctilius Varus was sucked into a trap in the Teutoburger forest by Arminius, who had learned the military art as a Roman auxiliary commander. Three legions were wiped out, Varus committed suicide, and all Germany was lost. ************ ...of the first 12 Caesars, 7 met violent ends. Still, the troubles at Rome rarely had any repercussions in the provinces. For the Roman Empire as a whole the era from AD 14 [time of Augustan's death] to 180 (the death of Marcus Aurelius) was the most peaceful and secure that the ancient Mediterranean world ever experienced. ******** The historians and other authors who lived in the Empire were most interested in the series of emperors, particularly their peccadilloes, and in their relations with the upper classes. These varied from open murder and assassination to relieved harmony. As a result, the conventional pictures of many emperors are incredible caricatures: Tiberius (14-37), for instance, is stamped as a gloomy, suspicious old man who is nonetheless capable of the wildest orgies at his retreat on Capri; Claudius (41-54) is the wife-ridden fool; the esthete Nero (54-68) has become an archetype of Satan; Marcus Aurelius (161-80) is the perfect philosopher-king. Still, I found Graves' narrative engrossing. It provides insight into a time many, myself included, seemed to know so little except the caricatures Starr mentions. As for a bibliography, Starr never mentions I, Claudius, though he does mention Robert Graves' translation of Apuleius' Golden Ass. So he must of been doing some research for his novel at the time... Dan
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (22 of 37), Read 41 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Thursday, May 31, 2001 08:14 PM Thanks for all of the background history, everyone. After reading the excerpts in Dan's note, I've gone back and read some of the internet sites that were linked earlier and will go back again when I'm finished with the book. Fascinating stuff. Barb
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (23 of 37), Read 38 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, June 01, 2001 01:38 PM Barb- I was so caught up in the intrigue that I just let the family relationships meander where they would. I wish the prose were better written, but the last 2/3 of the book made up for it. The novel is one long gossip session. I thought that the Romans' interest in seeing the pyramids and Sphinx was interesting. They seemed to view them as ancient monuments, which really put them into perspective as antiquities for me. Also, I'd never considered Egypt's importance as a source of grain and wealth for Rome. I'd always thought it was just another place to conquer. K
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (24 of 37), Read 42 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, June 01, 2001 02:07 PM Kay: That's exactly the thing that intrigued me about this novel--it makes you feel as if you are a fellow Roman listening to Claudius spill the beans on what's really been going on. Consider the age of the United States as a nation and compare it to the age of Rome. For Claudius, there was a Rome well over 200 years before his time and there would still be a Rome well over 200 years after his time. It reminds me of European friends who roll their eyes on tours where Americans huddle together in a Plantation and get bug-eyed when the tour-guide says, "And this is over 150 years old." For some Europeans, that's modernity. I'm buying Claudius the God in order to find out what happens next. I found out from Starr that Claudius was the first emperor to boot the Christian sects out of the city. Dan
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (25 of 37), Read 38 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Saturday, June 02, 2001 10:27 AM Interesting, Dan. Where did you read that - on the Net, perhaps? I'd like to know the site, if you can find it again. As I was reading, I was trying to assimilate the fact that Christ was walking the earth. The Roman reaction to him is made more understandable after reading about their mindset. I'm off to collect Claudius the God, as well. Robert Graves used Tacitus' "Annals of Rome" as his basis for his Claudius books. For more info on Claudius: http://www.roman-empire.net/emperors/claudius-index.html There are some interesting tidbits on ancient Rome and its leaders in the "Tempus" site, which can be reached from: http://www.i-claudius.com/ I'm afraid I'm off on a new reading kick. K
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (26 of 37), Read 39 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Saturday, June 02, 2001 04:25 PM Kay posted this over in Reading List Books: "I just read the summary of WFTB from the log on page and was struck by its apt juxtaposition with "I, Claudius." "....his situation is that of all men living in unbearable complicity with regimes that ignore justice and decency." "That is Claudius' dilemma in a nutshell. Ha!" And, as I mentioned, this struck me as well. Now, Claudius did many good things, and occasionally put himself in danger. But could it be said that his essential reaction to an evil regime was to follow orders and concentrate on keeping himself safe, rather than engaging in active protest? David
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (27 of 37), Read 37 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Saturday, June 02, 2001 07:21 PM David, So far, it appears to me that Claudius had a full time job just trying to keep himself alive. I checked out some entries on Robert Graves in Contemporary Authors at the library today. His real love was poetry, not prose. Ruth, if you're still following the discussion, have you ever read his poetry, and if so what do you think of it? Although the prose in I, Claudius is not the least poetic, IMHO the novel is very well written. CA indicated that Graves did serious research for his novels and knew a great deal about his subjects. He came up with some rather unorthodox conclusions, such as deciding that Claudius was actually a savvy ruler rather than a fool and declaring that Jesus did not die when he was crucified. Specialists criticized him on the details, but others felt that he had got the general atmosphere of ancient Rome right. Of course, he took dramatic license at times. This was a novel, not a history. He did, at any rate, succeed in making this whole period of history come alive for many of us, and I think that is a remarkable achievement. Ann
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (28 of 37), Read 43 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Saturday, June 02, 2001 07:39 PM Not familiar with his poetry, Ann. I thought the prose in this book was particularly leaden and dull. But then I didn't give it too much of a chance before I got sucked away into the Rabbit series. I've had a touch with Roman history in learning about the art. Not that I know who's who without a scorecard, but I got something of a feel for the temper of it. Ruth "Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry---all of it---is a trip into the unknown." Vladimir Mayakovsky
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (29 of 37), Read 47 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ernest Belden (drernest@pacbell.net) Date: Saturday, June 02, 2001 09:48 PM Did someone say that the more things change, the more they remain the same? The important lesson I got out of this book was that war, chaos, murder, etc., is not unique to our age. The problems the Romans faced are neither new nor unknown to us. Have we not seen extreme (deadly) competition between power figures. Did we in the US have political leaders murdered, slanderer. The unfortunate lesson seems to be that human nature changes but little over the centuries. Isn't it strange how at that time German and Yugoslavian tribes were either fighting each other or the Romans. Yes, there were peaceful periods, but they never lasted very long. Claudius was told at an early age to use his disabilities as assets mainly to protect himself. He was quite clever in doing so, except he could not stay away from history. Sometimes the non-participants in political and military turmoil are not only fortunate but also the most constructive in teaching us history and the unfortunate nature of man. Ernie
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (30 of 37), Read 46 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Saturday, June 02, 2001 10:15 PM In the introduction, there's something about Graves attempting to replicate Claudius own writing style; can't remember exactly what it said. I'm on the home stretch, 50 pages to go. I keep going back to this book, because I really, really want to find out what happens next. But it's such a chore to read!! My next dilemma; I'll probably want to read the sequel, just to find out, of course, what happens next. But am I willing to pay the price of slogging through all those pages? Theresa
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (31 of 37), Read 39 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 07:11 AM Theresa- I hear your pain. I've decided I'm too much a soap opera fan to deny myself the inside information on what's going on at the palace. I picked up Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina yesterday. Those poison mushrooms were beckoning...... K
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (32 of 37), Read 39 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 07:34 AM Dan- I found further information on Claudius and the Christians in the foreword to Claudius the God. Graves states that, "...I have been particularly careful in my account of early Christianity to invent no new libels; but some old ones are quoted, for Claudius himself was not well-disposed to the Church and derived most of his information about near-Eastern religious matters from his old school-friend Herod Agrippa, the Jewish king who executed St. James and imprisoned St. Peter." Graves also lists 24 original sources, including Claudius' own letters and speeches as his research base for IC and CTG. Claudius wrote in Greek, which explains his careful explanation of Latin jokes. I find this whole matter fascinating. K
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (33 of 37), Read 33 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 01:44 PM At the end of IC, I found Claudius to be a survivor, and not much more. He was more of a reporter than a player, and I'm curious to see how he survives the 13 years as Emperor before being poisoned by Messalina. He doesn't strike me as a decisive man, nor does he seem to have the mindset to be an active player by the end of IC. However, he must have done something right to survive as long as he did. Many have described him as a fool or a devious fool, but I don't see a player, with the necessary survival skills. He can't hide as Emperor. I see a man trying to dodge all comers and survive in the background. I give him full credit for achieving that, but he did it by staying hidden. He did take a chance by sending money to Germanicus, so he did have integrity. His observational powers are good, and that might be helpful to him. He also seems to have a grasp of how the game is played and who's who among the players. I have to wonder, though, how Claudius reconciles his strong Republican beliefs with his being Emperor. What traits do you see in Claudius that would keep him hale and hearty in the palace? K
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (34 of 37), Read 32 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 02:21 PM I own a copy of Robert Graves' little book Contemporary Techniques of Poetry: A Political Analogy which I read years ago. Reading the Claudius series, I'm not surprised to find Graves mixing poetry and politics in criticism. Graves obviously was well read in the Augustan literature and that helps in pulling this novel off. I noticed yesterday at the store that he even has a novel entitled Jesus Christ which is done in a similar vein. There is a note of controversy with this one (is anyone really surprised?), but after reading Starr's account of the rise of Christianity and knowing Graves does excellent research, I can't wait to dig into it as well. Let's return to David's comment earlier: Though we're caught up in his narrative web, does Claudius place his own skin above the good of those around him and his country at large? The very qualities he admires in Germanicus (integrity, honesty, trust) certainly result in Germanicus' death, but at least Germanicus burns bright and is a shining and inspirational example for a time. Claudius stays in the shadow playing stupid. The scene that sticks in my mind is when Claudius plays the foolish bouncer and beating people at Caligula's prostitution party. He relishes beating his former critics, but he seems to be demeaning himself not for the good of Rome (by this time he isn't holding anything secret any longer, such as the evidence that the exiled guy was framed and was innocent) but just to remain alive. Is this just the memoirs of Claudius the Coward? Dan
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (35 of 37), Read 34 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 05:59 PM Dan- I don't think he's a coward so much as obsessed with survival, though some of Claudius' actions might suggest otherwise. Even his hiding behind a curtain when the Praetorian guards come looking for him after Caligula's assassination is understandable. He had never been trained for warfare and physically couldn't protect himself. A very different portrait arises once he's in power, and I find myself respecting him more. What privileges did a citizen have as opposed to a freedman? I'm curious as to why so many were willing to grant freedom to their slaves, unless it was a reward for good service. But that doesn't fit with what I've learned about the Roman way of thinking. Also, what rationale did the Romans use when they would decide to deify someone like Augustus? If it took a vote from the Senate, it couldn't be that of assuming the Emperor descended from a god or goddess. If that were the case, all Emperors would be deified. K
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (36 of 37), Read 36 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 07:41 PM Kay, Judging from the deification of Augustus, there had to be a supernatural sign. Allegedly a cloud came down while his funeral pyre was burning and his soul ascended into heaven. Ann
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (37 of 37), Read 33 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 07:12 AM Oh, that's right, Ann. Thanks. K
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (38 of 39), Read 23 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 01:58 AM Was anyone else reminded of I, Claudius when reading news reports of the carnage in Nepal? Who do you think REALLY pulled the trigger there (probably Livia, reaching out from beyond the grave!) Theresa
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (39 of 39), Read 15 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 06:32 AM No, I hadn't thought of that, Theresa, but I sure do wish ol' Claudius could report on it. Who benefited, in addition to the new king? The report I read said there is a lot of political unrest in Nepal, with "Maoist insurgency" factors. I don't think I'd want to be in the royal family at this point. This just proves Augustus' and Tiberius' point of not shifting to a Republican government. The king had ceded total power to a constitutional one in 1990. And just look what happened.... HA! K
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (40 of 44), Read 29 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 01:29 PM Theresa, Good question. I think there was more to it than one deranged prince. The whole incident does make I, Claudius seem eerily contemporary. Ann
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (41 of 44), Read 33 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 02:21 PM If I had to lay money on a bet, I'd say the new king, Gyanendra, played a role. 1) He wasn't at the dinner, due to "illness" and his son left early. 2) The opposition party has refused to be a part of the investigation. It claims constitutional laws are not being observed. Of course, this could simply be a play for further allegiance from the rioters. 3) Gyanendra tried to explain the massacre as an "accidental explosion of an automatic weapon -- an explanation described as implausible by ballistics experts." 4) Gyanendra's son is considered a lout by the Nepalese. Remember - he was at the dinner party. Sounds fishy to me. Claudius - we need you! I, Claudius has turned me into a conspiracy believer. Ha! http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20010605/ts/nepal_leadall_dc_7.html K
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (42 of 44), Read 32 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 03:32 PM Kay, my impression is that you are exactly right. Ruth "Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry---all of it---is a trip into the unknown." Vladimir Mayakovsky
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (43 of 44), Read 18 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Pres Lancaster (plancast@neteze.com) Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 08:43 PM Dan says: "Graves obviously was well read in the Augustan literature and that helps in pulling this novel off" Graves translated The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius and Pharsalia by Lucan for Penguin Classics. He also collaborated with someone else on The Greek Myths (also Penguin) which gives all the variants of a particular myth in Greek and Roman literature, or so I think I remember. In the course of checking some of this out I came across the following in Roman Readings by Michael Grant, a Pelican book: Of the present age's failure to appreciate Lucan, Grant says, "This is partly because our century, with its unusual distaste for the purple patch, is ill-fitted to recognize at least some of his great qualities. Nevertheless, in the opinion of Robert Graves, this failure of contact is only temporary: since Lucan's 'modernist traits - impatience with craftsmanship, digressive irrelevances, emphasis on the macabre, lack of religious conviction, turgid hyperbole, inconsistency, appeal to violence - have been rediscovered by this new, disagreeable world.'" Lucan (AD 39-65) Epic Poet, considered himself the equal or better of Virgil, was admired by Nero and was an intimate. But Graves also says that the hostility that L showed N "is still notorious." Lucan loved his wife dearly; she had "youth, beauty, wealth, virtue, and intellect to commend her". L was involved in a conspiracy against N and when discovered was allowed to commit suicide - at age 25. A normal Roman life. Graves also writes: "I remember that his (L's) poems were published by all sorts of editors, reputable and disreputable, and even lectured on by professors of rhetoric." And for six degrees of separation: the Roman Readings introduction to Lucan also cites a remark by A.E. Houseman, classical scholar and poet, subject of the play, Invention of Love, whose lead actor won a Tony on Sunday night and showed how a real actor gives an acceptance speech. pres
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (44 of 44), Read 6 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, June 06, 2001 09:09 AM pres: Thanks for the fascinating background. I came across this quote in Claudius the God which has a bearing on (I believe it was) Ruth's contention that while the facts of I, Claudius are interesting the writing is dull and dry: Herod had read [my] History of Carthage--he was not interested in the subject of Etruria--and said that he had learned a lot from it about the Phoenician character; but that he did not think that many people would have the same interest in it as he had. "There's too much meat in that sausage," he said, "and not enough spices and garlic." He meant that there was too much information in it and not enough elegant writing. Seems to me, Graves is being self-reflective here and making a semi-veiled comment on I, Claudius, which does fit Herod's sausage metaphor. The writing is filled with facts and characters and inattention to details can lead a reader astray. However, in Claudius the God Graves has Claudius loosen up a bit and do some real focused storytelling. There's more dialogue and vision in this sequel. For me, this results in a much more satisfying read than the first one. Here is that rare case where the sequel is better than the first. Dan
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (45 of 93), Read 60 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, June 06, 2001 01:11 PM Kay, Ah, ha --the plot thickens. Those Nepalese commoners know something after all. Pres, Thanks for the information. Graves was quite a scholar, wasn't he? He certainly knew far more about the setting of his historical novels than most writers of the genre. Dan, Okay, you convinced me. It's onto the sequel, as soon as I finish I, Claudius. It seems to me that this novel centers so much around characterization and a very complicated plot that there isn't much room for elegant writing. Can anyone think of a novel which concentrates on these two things, but also exhibits beautiful (i.e., elegant, striking) language throughout? Ann
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (46 of 93), Read 57 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, June 06, 2001 03:43 PM I just finished "Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina." The focus is Claudius' accomplishments, including an aqueduct, legal changes, and his conquest of Britain. He discusses his personal conflict with being a monarch when he believes so strongly in a Republic. Claudius is the only one in the entire Roman Empire that doesn't see the parallel between Livia and his wife, Messalina. And then there's Agripinilla.............. King Herod plays a role, and there's a lot of talk about a fellow who many claim is the Messiah. It is interesting to see what a small blip Christ caused in Roman politics. I found this book easier to read from the start, though I did get bogged down in a couple of places. The battle that won Britain was fascinating reading. Last night, I saw a program that showed what remains of Claudius' aqueduct. Truly an amazing feat. I'll confess to a sense of loss when he meets his end. K
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (47 of 93), Read 62 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, June 06, 2001 04:47 PM While I'm not as far as you, Kay, I gather you enjoyed Claudius the God? The way the two novels fit together--the one picking up just where the other leaves off--seems that reading only the first one is only getting half the story. On the down side, I noticed in Claudius the God a greater tendency to render conversations between historical figures; conversations peppered with aphorisms and allusions to historical lessons that I would think most Romans wouldn't bother expressing. In some ways, this dialogue tends to blemish the historical mirror Graves constructs with Claudius' supposed autobiography. Dan
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (48 of 93), Read 51 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Thursday, June 07, 2001 09:00 AM Yes, I did enjoy it, Dan. Graves makes the era come alive. It fascinates me to think that what we see as remains were once such an accepted part of everyday life. For Claudius, ridding Rome of Jews and Christians was nothing more than an attempt to punish those that refused to respect the Roman way of life. There's something about knowing the impact Christ had on history and comparing that to how He was seen by officials that is intriguing. Claudius' summation of the myth after Christ's death sounded just like the other Roman myths. Graves makes people like King Herod and Pontius Pilate real. I thought it interesting how Claudius just gave up after he discovered Messalina's betrayals. I'll wait until you've finished to say more. The "reports" by Seneca and others after his death were a treat, as well. I particularly enjoyed the story of his trip to Hell and Mount Olympus. Augustus seemed to be carrying a grudge. K
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (49 of 93), Read 48 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, June 11, 2001 01:36 PM I am closing in on the end of I, Claudius and at this point I am longing for the good old days when Livia was in charge. Didn't anyone in the line of succession get to die a natural death? I am also curious about Tiberius's horrible depravities. Claudius keep telling us how disgusting they were, but I'd like to be able to judge for myself, if you know what I mean. :) Ann
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (50 of 93), Read 51 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, June 11, 2001 02:01 PM LOL, Ann. Seriously, though, I imagine that Tiberius was rebelling against Augustus' stern moral and legal beliefs and Livia's detailed management of his life. The combination of privilege, power, and rage led to a life of dissolution. I've been watching the PBS I, Claudius series. In them, Tiberius is portrayed as a weak, manipulated man. He's caught between what he knows to be right and what he's politically compelled to do. His forced divorce from Vipsania and successive marriage to Julia made him very bitter towards Livia. A friend told me that Colleen McCullough has written a series about ancient Rome. Has anyone read them? K
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (51 of 93), Read 53 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, June 11, 2001 03:40 PM Finished up Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina and I just want to say this has been a most satisfying read. I did not realize I had such a gap in my historical knowledge. Kay: I think you're right. Once Claudius discovers what is going on in his palace he just gives up. Still, my heart did go out to him when he allowed Britannicus to stay in Rome. After all he had been through, it was so hard for him to allow his son to deliberately enter the fray. I also love the final essay by Seneca--satire that would have been entirely lost on me without Graves' account under my belt. A fantastic finish from an actual contemporary of Claudius' time. This morning I picked up The Twelve Caesars by the Roman historian Suetonius. I had to choose between this one and several others--Tacitus' was incomplete and Plutarch was too biased and expensive. According to the back blurb, Suetonius "gathered much of his information from eye witnesses, checking his facts carefully and quoting conflicting evidence without bias." Sounds good to me. As an added boon, I discovered when I got home that this work was translated by none other than Robert Graves. Dan
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (52 of 93), Read 53 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dean Denis (dddenis@iname.com) Date: Monday, June 11, 2001 04:18 PM I have read the first book in the series, "The First Man In Rome" and enjoyed it very much. Colleen McCollough does a good job of presenting details of daily life in Rome while developing the characters and their stories. The novel relates the political career of Gaius Marius including his rise to consulship in 105BCE and again in 107BCE. In addition, we are introduced to his family and friends and we follow each as e makes er way through the challenges of living in Rome. Ms. McCollough gives excellent detail about domestic, military, political, commercial, social and romantic situations. What most surprised me was the complexity of the political system. It is a bit daunting but the author does her best to show the details through the actions of the characters, sometimes humourous, sometimes lethal. A glossary is provided and does come in handy.
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (53 of 93), Read 51 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, June 11, 2001 08:50 PM Thanks, Dean. I'm off to reserve "The First Man in Rome." I hope our library has all four books, or my bank account is going to suffer. I don't know exactly what it is that has attracted me so much, but this is proving quite a reading kick. Dan- I've also eyed "The Twelve Caesars," and will give it a try. Ann- I've also got the David Marouf book on order at Waldenbooks. K
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (54 of 93), Read 48 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, June 12, 2001 06:31 AM There's an interesting essay by Gore Vidal on Robert Graves' translation of Twelve Caesars, complete with a rather bloody painting. Interesting essay. http://www.rjgeib.com/thoughts/desolation/gore-vidal.html Dan
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (55 of 93), Read 51 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, June 12, 2001 08:21 AM Interesting, indeed, Dan. Our library does not have the Graves translation of The Twelve Caesars, so I'll have to buy a copy. Oh well. I'll just regard this whole ancient Rome business as a new collection for my permanent shelves. Everyone needs a hobby. I'm amazed at all that Graves has written, including the siege of Troy and Greek myths. He even has a novel entitled "King Jesus" which I'll probably check out. He was a remarkable historian and author, wasn't he? K
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (56 of 93), Read 53 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, June 12, 2001 10:41 AM The painting is a detail from Caravaggio's Judith Slaying Holofernes. Ruth "We are each of us like our little blue planet, hung in black space, upheld by nothing but our mutual reassurances, our loving lies." John Updike
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (57 of 93), Read 47 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, June 12, 2001 03:44 PM Thanks, Ruth. Now who was Judith and why did she kill Holofernes? Kay: I mentioned the Jesus Christ novel a while back and I'm glad someone else is intrigued. I found Graves' Claudius the God revealed quite an interest in the origins of Christianity. Given his research, I'm not surprised Graves would tackle Christ next. I plan on reading it and, if it holds up to par, nominating it for CR next year. From what I gather from a discussion of Job that occurred before I found CR, this place gets real busy when religion comes up. Dan
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (58 of 93), Read 49 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, June 12, 2001 04:02 PM Judith was a Jewish heroine. During a siege of a Jewish city by the Assyrians, she snuck into the general, Holofernes, camp with her maid, set up a seduction scene, got him drunk and whopped off his head. What this has to do with Roman Caesars, I dunno. Ruth "We are each of us like our little blue planet, hung in black space, upheld by nothing but our mutual reassurances, our loving lies." John Updike
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (59 of 93), Read 49 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, June 12, 2001 04:08 PM Ruth: An answer in under ten minutes! God I love CR. The guy's main website also has some stuff on Jocephus' Jerusalem War series--the painting was obviously intended for that material, evidently. Dan
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (60 of 93), Read 47 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Pres Lancaster (plancast@neteze.com) Date: Tuesday, June 12, 2001 07:07 PM Little ol' cynic me: I think the publisher thought that his readers wouldn't know the difference and that the painting was both "classical" enough and gory enough for its purpose - attract the buyers. pres
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (61 of 93), Read 45 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ee Lin Kuan (eelin@althor.fsnet.co.uk) Date: Wednesday, June 13, 2001 04:32 PM Kay, I read all the 5 books in Colleen McCullough's series on Rome years ago and enjoyed them very much. It took a while to remember the names of the characters and to get the social setting straight, but once this settled into the memory cache, it was pretty good going. However, I remember being a little disappointed with the style of the last one. I don't know if it was because my tastes had changed over the years or the writing had gone downhill. But there are apparently still more to come in this series. It's been at least two or three years, now, since the last one, and still no sight of the next to come. My favourite in the series was "Caesar's Women". If you like reading about ancient Greek history too, then do give Mary Renault a try. My favourites - "The Bull from The Sea" and "The King Must Die" - expands on the myth of Theseus and the minotaur. I thought it was a wonderful retelling of the myth. Ee Lin
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (62 of 93), Read 46 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, June 13, 2001 05:18 PM I went through Mary Renault in high school, and it's time for a re-read. Thanks for reminding me. K
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (63 of 93), Read 47 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: S. Bohinka (bohinka@riconnect.com) Date: Wednesday, June 13, 2001 06:08 PM For those of you who've read Coleen McCullough's Rome series I'd like to recommend the short bio of her in the Greenwood Press Contemporary Author's series. (These volumes are white with a sort of dark pink print.) Her story is really fascinating. I like these Greenwood Press books because they give you 10-15 pages of bio--enough to be interesting without having to read 300+ pages about someone. Plus they're about authors that wouldn't normally warrant a critical biography. Bo
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (64 of 93), Read 39 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Thursday, June 14, 2001 01:09 PM Bo, I gobbled up Coleen McCullough's The Thorn Birds many years ago. You mentioned that her life story was fascinating. Do you remember any details? Ann
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (65 of 93), Read 38 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: S. Bohinka (bohinka@riconnect.com) Date: Thursday, June 14, 2001 07:28 PM Ann, She was training in some heavy duty scientific career (right now I can't remember what it was) but she was allergic to latex and had to switch gears. As I remember The Thorn Birds was a bit of a fluke success and as a result she could spend her time doing what she wanted--which was the Rome series. Find the Greenwood Press Contemporary Authors series, though, Ann. You'll enjoy reading the bio. Bo
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (66 of 93), Read 39 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Thursday, June 14, 2001 10:23 PM As you might have guessed from my scarcity around here, my "real" life has been taking over lately. However, I've been talking to a friend of mine who is a great fan of both of these Claudius books. He says that Graves based much of it on The Twelve Caesars by Suetonious that a number of you have referred to above and that it too takes a more gossipy slant. I say "it too" because I told him that I liked that aspect of I, Claudius. Also, he liked both books but thought that the first was the best written. I found that interesting, given the comments here. Ann, the friend I'm referring to is John Brownlee who posted when we talked about Lolita. I'm still only on page 345 which is a statement on my life right now, not the book. Am still loving it when I can squeeze a few pages in. And, I know that I'm going to miss Livia when she's gone. She's not exactly likable, but I love waiting to see what she's going to do next. I wasn't sure that I "bought" her conversation with Claudius when she confessed all though. What about you all? It just didn't seem like something she'd do...and if she did, I didn't think she would do it exactly that way. Barb
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (67 of 93), Read 41 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, June 15, 2001 05:05 AM I'm watching the PBS series now, and Livia is the lynch pin of the palace. Even when Augustus looks her dead on and realizes she's set Julia up or arranged the murders of his heirs, he denies it. They had a very strange relationship. She's such an awful person, but I find myself delighted to be in on the devious plans she makes. It's interesting that the women are on to her first, at least in the PBS version. K
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (68 of 93), Read 43 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, June 15, 2001 11:45 AM I remember really enjoying the PBS production, Kay. Ruth "We are each of us like our little blue planet, hung in black space, upheld by nothing but our mutual reassurances, our loving lies." John Updike
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (69 of 93), Read 41 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Friday, June 15, 2001 10:14 PM Barb, I just finished I, Claudius tonight. Livia may have been despicable when it came to eliminating anyone in her way, but Claudius does give her credit for being a very capable ruler. In this version of history at any rate, she is the one who really ran the show, and it's kind of fun observing a female with so much power. (Not that I would ever have wanted to be involved with her personally, mind you!) I categorized the confession scene as a plot device, but I got great pleasure from her rationalization of her behavior and her plea to Claudius to have her deified. Gods, after all, don't have to follow any of the moral rules binding us poor humans. page 338: (Livia)"I have done many impious things--no ruler can do otherwise. I have put the good of the Empire before all human considerations. To keep the Empire free from factions I have had to commit many crimes...And what is the proper reward for a ruler who commits such crimes for the good of his subjects? The proper reward, obviously, is to be deified. Do you believe that the souls of criminals are eternally tormented?" (Claudius) "I have always been taught to believe that they are." (Livia)"But the Immortal Gods are free from any fear of punishment, however many crimes they commit?" (Claudius)"Well, Jove deposed his father and killed one of his grandsons and incestuously married his sister, and...yes, I agree...They none of them have a good moral reputation. And certainly the Judges of the Mortal Dead have no jurisdiction over them." (Livia)"Exactly. You see now why it's all-important for me to become a Goddess..." I found the above humorous and oddly touching. A fellow teacher recently lent me a series of lectures on tape about ancient Rome. I'm anxious to start listening to the ones that cover this period in history. Ann
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (70 of 93), Read 45 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Friday, June 15, 2001 10:20 PM I also found some macabre humor in the descriptions of mad Caligula turning himself, his sister Drusilla, and even his horse into gods. Claudius knows how to play the game pretty well, as is evidenced by the fact that he is one of the only members of the imperial family alive at the end. He tells Ganymede (395) to speak to Drusilla. "Tell her she's a Goddess too," I said, "in case she hasn't noticed it." Ann
Topic: June Discussion: I, Claudius by Robert Graves (71 of 93), Read 46 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Saturday, June 16, 2001 01:42 AM Ann, the way the Romans played about with religion cracked me up. They were very pious (in the sense of observing all the formalities), at least as depicted by Graves. It was such a big deal to complete every word and gesture correctly during daily devotions - one little mistake, and poor old Claudius had to start all over. They had the opposite of a separated church and state. But it was almost like religion served the needs of the state, rather than what we have sometimes seen in more modern times, where the state claimed to serve the needs of religion. Whoever was in charge would decree someone a god, or decree a religion for the conquered people to worship; and there it was. Not devotion in the sense we would understand it, eh? Theresa
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (72 of 93), Read 50 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Alex Wenger (arw2@duke.edu) Date: Saturday, June 16, 2001 02:31 AM IC starts with Claudius' profession of his Republican beliefs. It ends with his coronation as emperor. What is then to be made of IC and its take on government? We hear so often of Claudius' interest in returning the power to the people, yet it is Livia who makes the most compelling argument--for dictatorship. Claudius is for democracy, but his arguments are always muted and expressed as self-evident. IC puts at stake how government should be controlled. At the time he wrote it, Graves was living in a Europe between the World Wars. Every new democracy created following WWI except Czech. fell to fascism before the outbreak of WWII. From Germany to Spain to Italy to all of the smaller countries, Europe was in a massive state of ideological flux. What's more, the parallels to ancient Rome and between-war Europe are unmistakable. Both cases involve the events following a war with Germany. Claudius portrays Roman civilization as crumbling, just as the Lost Generation saw their own society falling down. Graves' intentions about government are ambiguous to me, but I am leaning towards a fascist element in IC. I would be interested to hear others' takes if we can abandon the do-you-like-this-character? debate for a moment. Alex
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (73 of 93), Read 50 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Saturday, June 16, 2001 10:00 AM Theresa, Good observation about the Romans and religion. I wonder if anyone took it seriously, other than as a way to propitiate the gods and ward off disaster. It doesn't seem like the kind of religion which would offer any kind of comfort, does it? I suppose that's why Christianity was so appealing--a loving God, promise of a wonderful hereafter, even if the present was a living hell, etc. Ann
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (74 of 93), Read 35 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Saturday, June 16, 2001 11:16 PM Alex- "Claudius, the God" covers his rationalization for maintaining the monarchy, rather than returning to a Republic. I've returned the book, but I remember a passage where C. comes to the conclusion that it's better to have a benign dictator than a nation in constant upheaval from civil wars. He's embarrassed for not living up to his personal beliefs, but he realizes that Rome will never return to a Republic. Since C. truly had no real interest in self-aggrandizement, I think he was genuinely concerned for Rome's welfare. He didn't trust anyone else to take the dictatorship, and figured he could do best for Rome by staying in his position. Dan, have you read CTG yet? What is your take on Alex's comments? The Roman religion seemed to be based on appeasement,fear, and intimidation, on the part of the Caesars and their families. There didn't seem to be an expectation of comfort or example for living their lives. K
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (75 of 93), Read 32 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Edd Houghton (eddh@pacbell.net) Date: Saturday, June 16, 2001 11:23 PM ANN I don't think the "older" religions were ever meant to give comfort. Mostly they seem geared to scare the masses and keep them in line. Plus by the time the Romans expropriated the Greek religion, it was a confusing conglomeration of differing beliefs. Seemingly the Greeks had kept every religion of every group they conquered, and rationalized them into a unifying set of gods and demi-gods. The harder it was to conquer a group, the higher in the panoply their gods were. Even with the story of Aeneas leaving Troy with his father on his back, the religion inherited by the Romans must have seemed confusing to any but the most learned. The Christians in Rome were slaves. The religion was tolerated because it was non-violent. The Christians were not considered a threat to the ruling class. By luck or design the Christians took over the running of households; the Romans eventually came up with the idea that education was not necessary and before they knew what was going on, they became not Christians, but obsolete. EDD
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (76 of 93), Read 36 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Saturday, June 16, 2001 11:43 PM Alex, Loved your note. It provided much food for thought. I hadn't really considered before how contemporary events influenced Graves' narrative and point of view. There are some interesting parallels between the Roman empire and the time between the 20th century world wars. However, I think there are also very significant differences. For one, I would not equate fascism with a monarchy, which is what Rome had in this period. Fascism involves extreme nationalism and a totalitarian control of the population, neither of which had been invented yet. You could make a case that both involved a kind of dictatorship, but I don't think that they had the same roots. The Roman empire described in IC may have been exhibiting signs of moral decay in the upper classes, but overall this was a period of economic prosperity and, for the most part, peace. The barbarians didn't actually overrun Rome for another 400 years. The period between the world wars, on the other hand, was marked by tremendous economic upheavals and a leadership weakened by the terrible loss of the best and brightest during the First World War. Be that as it may, I think you have hit the nail on the head in your comments about the Germans. Graves describes some of them, particularly the ones who guarded Caligula, as almost subhuman. I think that Graves' treatment of them was very probably influenced by his views of contemporary Germany. Since this is an historical novel, Graves could not depart from history in order to make Claudius a republican hero. The furthest he could go was to give his hero republican tendencies, which he may or may not have had in real life. Do you think that his descriptions of the excesses of one man rule during this period were meant as a warning to his contemporaries? Ann
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (77 of 93), Read 36 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Saturday, June 16, 2001 11:49 PM Edd, Good point about ancient gods being a conglomeration of gods from conquered peoples. No wonder they lacked cohesion. Growing up with the idea that God represents perfection, I am at something of a loss to understand religions where gods represent pure power. I am sure you are right that religion was used as a means to control people. Many would say it has retained that role up to the present. It's no wonder that a religion that promised that the meek would inherit the earth appealed to the lower classes, is it? Ann
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (78 of 93), Read 37 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Saturday, June 16, 2001 11:57 PM As I was reading, I though it interesting that Germany was such a thorn in the side of the Romans, but I didn't pick up on the parallels of current events in Graves' time. Germans were aggressors in both World Wars, but the only connection I made was that their reputation was long term deserved. K
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (79 of 93), Read 39 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, June 17, 2001 09:08 AM Having read a lot of the Roman history Graves used to formulate this novel, the German equation was seems more an instance of coincidence than intent. the Germanic tribes were causing problems during the early Augustan age. While I think Graves enjoyed playing with it, I never got the sense that he equated the Nazi regime with the Germanic tribes. If anything, the Romans themselves surrending to the yoke of dictatorhip seems to present a pro-fascist argument. In Claudius the God, Claudius tackles the very question raised by Alex: How can a self-professed Republican be a dictator? He feels, as Kay asserted earlier, that he is the keystone in the government's arch and that he cannot remove himself without everything crumbling. Dan
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (80 of 93), Read 45 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, June 17, 2001 10:35 AM Maybe so, Dan, but Graves' portrait of the Germans in IC is very unflattering. They were, of course, "barbarians" to the Roman world. Perhaps there were no intentional parallels. However, I think it is also quite possible that the Graves' descriptions of the Germans were influenced by his opinion of his German contemporaries. Here are some excerpts describing Caligula's German guards, for example. One might suppose that living in the capital of the greatest city on earth had civilized them somewhat. However, that was not the case. They are presented as exceptionally brutish and stupid creatures: (p.457) By this time, there can hardly have been a citizen in Rome who did not long for the death of Caligula, or would not willingly have eaten his flesh, as the saying is; but to these Germans he was the most glorious hero the world had ever known. And if he dressed as a woman; or galloped suddenly away from his army on the march; or made Caesonia appear naked before them and boasted of her beauty; or burned down his most beautiful villa at Herculaneum on the grounds that his mother Agrippina had been imprisoned there for two days on her way to the island where she died--this inexplicable sort of behavior only made him the more worthy of their worship as a divine being. They used to nod wisely to each other and say, "Yes, the Gods are like that. You can't tell what they are going to do next. Tuisco and Mann, at home in our dear, dear Fatherland, are just the same." The Germans never change? A few pages later, after Caligula has been assassinated they once again appear to be mindless louts: (p. 464) They were going to avenge their murdered hero by a wholesale massacre...it was quite clear what the Germans intended because they were going through that curious performance of patting and stroking their assegais and speaking to them as if they were human beings, which is their invariable custom before shedding blood with those terrible weapons... Ann
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (81 of 93), Read 43 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, June 17, 2001 01:02 PM Ann and Alex- Consider how frustrating it must have been for the Roman generals and caesars to not be able to conquer and stabilize the German tribes. Rome had conquered the world, except for these barbarians, who refused to accept Rome's domination. I think that would account for Graves' writing. I'm guessing his research showed many such frustrated, angry references to the Germans by the Romans. I think Graves writing to reflect current events was unlikely. K
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (82 of 93), Read 43 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, June 17, 2001 02:52 PM Kay, Of course, we'll never really know. :) I am listening to the Great Courses on Tape lectures on Roman history that my friend lent me. They are fascinating. The lecturer is Professor Garrett G. Fagan from Pennsylvania State University. He remarks that Suetonius, who was one of Graves' main sources, wrote "tabloid history." He also comments that whenever Graves had a choice of sources, he always picked the most sensational. Although there were nasty rumors about Livia in the old Roman texts, Fagan considers them to be unsubstantiated. He points out that it would have been almost impossible for Livia to have killed some of her reputed victims because she was so far from the scene. (Ah, what the heck, he was writing a novel after all.) He only touches briefly on Claudius, but does say he was generally capable. Unlike Caligula, who had never held any position of importance, Claudius was at least educated and had studied Roman history. Although Graves may have personified all the political machinations going on in one character (Livia), he seems to have got much of the atmosphere of Roman aristocratic life right. I just finished listening to the tape on Roman religion, for example. It emphasizes how ritualistic Roman religion was and how, if even a tiny mistake was made, they had to start over from the beginning. One time a 3 day festival had to be started over at the very beginning because of a small mistake. Apparently those ancient gods were very picky! It reminded me of Claudius' many problems performing religious rituals. Fagan says there is considerable controversy among scholars as to how seriously the Greeks and Romans took their religion. He feels, however, that it would be a mistake to assume that they did not believe in their gods and rituals. He says that paganism served for thousands of years as a viable explanation of an arbitrary and dangerous world. Because the gods could be so fickle, it was constantly necessary to propitiate them with prayer, sacrifice and rituals. I guess this gave people some sense of control, comforting them that if they followed the correct procedures, they could ward off disaster. Moral values did not form part of Roman religion. Both the Romans and Greeks left that role to philosophy. Well, I have rambled on enough. These tapes are great. I don't know if libraries carry them or not, but they are a great way to distract yourself when you're doing routine gardening or housework. Ann
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (83 of 93), Read 46 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, June 17, 2001 02:53 PM Alex, Are you still out there? Ann
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (84 of 93), Read 49 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, June 17, 2001 03:03 PM Ann- Would you feel comfortable loaning the tapes to me when you're through? I think I'd enjoy them. K
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (85 of 93), Read 50 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, June 17, 2001 03:40 PM Kay, If they were my tapes, I'd be happy to lend them, but they belong to a co-worker who only lent them to me for a short time. There are 24 separate tapes. Ann
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (86 of 93), Read 55 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, June 17, 2001 05:00 PM Oh. Ok, no problem. Just keep your observations and discoveries coming, all right? K
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (87 of 93), Read 34 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Alex Wenger (arw2@duke.edu) Date: Sunday, June 17, 2001 11:57 PM Yes, still there. About this Germany thing. I see it simply as a parallel literary device Graves uses to make us aware of the connection between his novel and the world he inhabited when he wrote it. Some have claimed that CTG deals directly with democracy vs. dictatorship question, but I would submit that that theme is the major current running through IC--the subject for this discussion thread. My main point--that I perhaps did not make crystalline in my first post--is that IC is not necessarily a book that supports democracy. Claudius tells us one thing, but the text KNOWS another. At one point, when discussing Tiberius' reign, Claudius mentions that the empire faired quite well during this period. He says that while 200-300 of the elite suffered, the provinces and vast majority of Roman citizens prospered. This is made even more explicit when he mentions that Caligula assumed the emperorship with a full treasury and smooth running bureaucracy. THIS is the real message of IC--that a dictatorship can rule far better than democracy even if it is a depraved and unfair institution. It is easy for us 70 years later to automatically assume everyone but the Hitler and Mussolini preferred democracy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Weimar Republic of Germany was constantly beset by a sizable percentage of the population that wanted a return to one-man rule. Much of Europe saw similar sentiments. IC came at a time when democracy and dictatorial rule were being most fiercely debated, and I cannot but read this as a text informed by that debate. Alex "A pretty girl In her underwear If there's anything better In this world Who cares?" "Underwear," Magnetic Fields
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (88 of 93), Read 34 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, June 18, 2001 07:46 AM Yes, the treasury may have been full, but at what cost to the Roman taxpayers and the conquered? The dictators frittered away the stockpile, then demanded unreasonable taxes from the citizens. There were also all those forced clauses in wills to give estates to Caligula. Allowing the leadership of a country to fall into the hands of a single person is not a good idea. As Claudius points out, the country's fate rests on the one in power and power does a lot of corrupting, even with the good guys. I don't see IC as an argument for a dictatorship. It's an interesting question, though. K
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (89 of 93), Read 35 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, June 18, 2001 08:32 AM Someone asked a while back what Tiberius was up to on the island that Claudius did not wish to soil his text with. Suetonius, the "tabloid historian," provides a glimpse. Don't read further if you're easily offended. This is the only warning... On retiring to Capreae he made himself a private sporting-house where sexual extravagances were practised for his secret pleasure. Bevies of girls and young men, whom he had collected from all over the Empire as adepts in unnatural practices, and known as spintriae, would copulate before him in groups of three, to excite his waning passions. A number of small rooms were furnished with the most indecent pictures and statuary obtainable, also certain erotic manuals from Elephantis in Egypt; the inmates of the establishment would know from these exactly what was expected of them. He furthermore devised little nooks of lechery in the woods and glades of the island, and had boys and girls dressed up as Pans and nymphs prostituting themselves in front of caverns or grottoes; so that the island was now openly and generally called 'Caprineum' (a play on the word caper (goat)). Some aspects of his criminal obscenity are almost too vile to discuss, much less believe. Imagine training little boys, whom he called his 'minnows', to chase him while he went swimming and get between his legs to lick and nibble him. Or letting babies not yet weaned from their mother's breast suck at his breast or groin--such a filthy old man he had become! Then there was a painting by Parrhasius which had been bequeathed him on condition that, if he did not like the subject, he could have 10,000 gold pieces instead. Tiberius not only preferred to keep the picture but hung it in his bedroom. It showed Atalanta performing fellatio with Meleager. The story goes that once, while sacrificing, he took an erotic fancy to the acolyte who carried the incense casket, and could hardly wait for the ceremony to end before hurrying him and his brother, the sacred trumpeter, out of the temple and indecently assaulting them both. When they jointly protested at this disgusting behaviour he had their legs broken. Reading of these capers, I'm reminded of Gore Vidal's comment that sexual freedom or depravity (depending on your POV) occurs when one is given unlimited powers. Vidal asserts that everyone is capable of the most heinous sexual practices; it is only those that have the ultimate power--like many of the Caesars--that this animalistic lust comes out and is no longer fantasies but practices. Having read Claudius the God, we see that this occurred with women as well as men, as with Messalina's marathon orgies. What is the truth? Is Tiberius' swim that different from Clinton's cigar? When historians write of Clinton, no doubt the most fascinating aspect of his 8 years as president will be the very thing that draws readers to Suetonius--what was this leader like in private? And is it true repulsion or is it envy? Dan To quote another like Alex... My tears have stained all the pages of my True Romance magazines, We still dance in my outrageously beautiful Busby Berkeley dreams. The Magnetic Fields
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (90 of 93), Read 34 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Anonymous () Date: Monday, June 18, 2001 10:12 AM Alex: A handsome boy in his boxer shorts beats a girl in her panties if you are the right sort.
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (91 of 93), Read 28 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Pres Lancaster (plancast@neteze.com) Date: Monday, June 18, 2001 10:20 AM About religion: I think it would be wise to remark the difference between an educated "worshipper" and a superstitious one. In China, in 1981, when it had just become possible for the native Chinese to frequent temples again, I was impressed with poor women bringing very young children and physically putting them through their kow-tows. pres
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (92 of 93), Read 29 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, June 18, 2001 01:15 PM Alex, From what I have learned, it is very true that the provinces were well governed under Augustus and Tiberius. Augustus initiated reforms that stopped provincial governors from using their positions to enrich themselves. Although there were some battles with the Germans west of the Rhine and with the Balkan peoples, generally this was a period of great peace and prosperity. Was this because Rome was ruled by a dictatorship, or in spite of it? Occasionally in history, there are benevolent dictatorships. But, as Kay pointed out, once the power becomes too concentrated for too long, it corrupts and results in misgovernment. Outside of the aristocratic classes, it probably didn't make much difference to the people of the time who ruled the Roman empire -- an emperor/dictator or the Senate. Democracy was a completely alien concept. One third of the population was slaves and didn't have any legal rights. All of the people, not just the slaves, dressed differently depending on their rank, sat in different places at the colosseum depending on their positions, were subjected to different kinds of punishment by the law, etc., etc. That's the way things were, and that's the kind of society Graves presented. I don't think it is valid to say that he was trying to make a case for dictatorship, especially since his books emphasize so many of the negative aspects of this period. I suppose one could argue that the success of the Roman empire as a whole during this period shows that dictatorships can be effective, but you would have to really limit your perspective. Anyway, it certainly is an interesting question. Thanks for bringing it up. Ann
Topic: Republic vs. Dictatorship (93 of 93), Read 30 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, June 18, 2001 01:19 PM Gosh, Dan, that certainly does satisfy my curiosity. This is certainly once example of Graves not choosing the most sensational rumors. If he had included any of these allegations, he might not have been able to sell the book to the "nice" readers of his time. :) Pres, We take our own religious practices for granted and find those of other groups strange, don't we? The tapes I am listening to mention that the Romans thought Jewish monotheism was naive because it was unreasonable to think that only one god could be responsible for everything that went on. They also thought the Jewish practice of not eating pork was based on superstition. Ann

 
Robert Graves
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