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AE Book Club - I, Claudius

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  Quote vagabond Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: AE Book Club - I, Claudius
    Posted: 18-Nov-2004 at 05:44

A story that was the subject of every variety of misrepresentation, not only by those who then lived but likewise in succeeding times: so true is it that all transactions of preeminent importance are wrapt in doubt and obscurity; while some hold for certain facts the most precarious hearsays, others turn facts into falsehood; and both are exaggerated by posterity.

I'm so impatient -  I just had to start and thought that the Tacitus was a good jumping off point.  I have just finished I, Claudius - again - and loved it - again.  I'll try to refrain from posting any "spoilers" until everyone is finished.

How far along are we?

What does everyone think so far?

What do you think of Graves' portrait of Livia?

I love chapter IX - historians discussing how history should be written.

It is interesting to be reading a "history" about a "historian" from a historical perspective - good literary technique by Graves I thought; very good use of the available facts on Claudius. I really like his first person use here - gives the whole story an immediacy - a feel of "now" that would be otherwise missing.

So - was that Tiberius Claudius Nero? or Tiberius Claudius Nero? or Tiberius Claudius Nero?  or I'm so confused!

Now that we are all completely confused by all the names - here are a few links that might help to clear things up a bit - - - or not. These pages all list the Julio - Claudian family tree - interesting that each one is slightly different from the next

These are fairly complete as far as I can see - lists some adoptions but not all spouses:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Emperors/JulioClaudian  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ptolemaic_dynasty

These cover most of the characters:  http://www.ancientroute.com/Trees/claudian.htm  http://www.ancientroute.com/Trees/julian.htm  http://www.ancientroute.com/Trees/julioclaudian.htm  http://www.ancientroute.com/Trees/ptolemy_family.htm

This one actually lists Plautia Urgulanilla among the wives of Claudius - and tries to show the multiple marriages and adoptions:  http://www.roman-emperors.org/jclaud1.htm

BTW - Janus - again -  this was a great idea - thanks for getting us started.



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In the time of your life, live - so that in that wonderous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it. (Saroyan)
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  Quote Dawn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19-Nov-2004 at 11:02

I'm glad to see I'm not the only impatient one. As to how far along, well I have about 6 chapters to finish (only cause I picked up a different book to read the last few days). I also loved it -again.

Graves portrayal of Livia is interesting, I just can't quite remember off hand which of the ancient sources that he parallels. Without giving too much away, he (graves)makes her out to be quite the villain, I question if she really had that much influence on Augustus . I now remember where the distaste I have for Augustus started. Its amazing how a work of fiction can color you attitude so easily. Im sure that Cornellia will have much to say on his treatment of Livia. Looking forward to it.

Im really fond of the section in the beginning where Graves has Claudius explaining what brought about him writing this history and why it survived and why it is so much better than the other histories written

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  Quote Cornellia Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Nov-2004 at 08:03

I completely disagree with Grave's portrait of the historical Livia.

Dio is one of the ancient writers and he mentions that she murdered Marcellus to pave the way for her own sons.  It was the type of charge that was usually made against Livia and often in an absurd context that is hard to disprove.   It is worth noting that although Dio raises the issue, he is also extremely sceptical about the claim and notes that other sources were in disagreement.

To have arranged so many murders without arousing suspicion, Livia would have to be ranked among the cleverest manipulators of all time. Augustus, ordinarily very perceptive, would have had to have been terribly naive not to have recognized her part in them.

That said......the Livia according to Robert Graves is one of the all time BEST villians ever.  I do enjoy the way the story progresses.  You feel almost like you're peeking over Claudius' shoulders and geting ALL the best gossip on who was who during the early days of the Republic.

Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas
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  Quote Dawn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Nov-2004 at 22:28

Cornellia Are you reading the book now?

How accurate do you think graves portral of the other charaters is particularly Claudius?

I do love the way he rambles on.

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  Quote Cornellia Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Nov-2004 at 11:39

Yes ma'am, I am.  LOL...I've been reading while deer hunting.  Of course in my case, deer hunting means that I'm sitting in a deer stand with my nose in a book so I tend to miss a lot of deer.  LOL

I do have a problem with the way that Augustus is being portrayed - as an overgrown boy who is all but led by the nose by the wily and clever Livia.  I think Graves gives too much credit to Livia and not enough to Augustus.  

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  Quote vagabond Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Nov-2004 at 00:38

How many have finished the book - I'm afraid to post  and ruin it for someone...

I found it interesting that Graves - classicist that he was - would choose to portray Livia A woman) as the controlling force behind Augustus - and Tiberius - and -

Some Roman women had influence and power - but it would not have gone down well if even rumors of this kind of manipulation had gotten out in their time - had there been any substance to the rumors at all - they would have seriously damaged Augustus' later standing in the Empire and his deification would have had a great deal more trouble than it did.

I'm with Cornellia - I think that Augustus is given somewhat short shrift here - but Graves having chosen this protrait of Livia, there is little room for other powerful figures until she is out of the way.

How did you like the Germans? - both in the forests and in the guard I thought that the images were good.

In the time of your life, live - so that in that wonderous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it. (Saroyan)
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  Quote Dawn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Nov-2004 at 11:08
Originally posted by vagabond

I'm with Cornellia - I think that Augustus is given somewhat short shrift here - but Graves having chosen this protrait of Livia, there is little room for other powerful figures until she is out of the way.

But If he had used a more balanced portral of the two of them would the book have become tha classic that it is? I think not ,as Cornellia said Livia is one of the best villians and I think it would have been a major detraction from the book if she had been portrayed as a more typical Roman matron.

The book was written in the 30's was there any political factors from that time that could have contributed to Graves choice of portaying Livia and Agustus as he did?  

 

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  Quote Cornellia Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Nov-2004 at 15:43

Two things happened over the holidays.

First, I managed to shoot an 8-point buck (well, it wouldn't leave and I had to do something...LOL) and secondly, I finished the book.

There is a very telling scene within the book - where Graves has Livy and Pollio discuss the best way to write history.  Pollio felt it was best to leave it at the facts whereas Livy's approach was more from the heart and what history should be.  Claudius admits that while the straight historical way is the best for the future, Livy's makes for much better reading.  I think this tells a great deal about how Graves approached the story.

Toward the end of Livia's life, Graves has Claudius acting almost like her confessor.  He presses her for details about the poisons and she confesses to who and how she poisoned.........and why.  What is intriguing is that Claudius sees the reasoning behind the poisons and how necessary they were for the state.  He also gives Livia full credit for creating the mechanism of the state which is a point I missed when I first read the book.

Her description of the deaths and his acceptance of her reasons almost had the feeling of Mafia killings - it was only business.

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  Quote vagabond Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Nov-2004 at 23:12

Congrats on the Buck.  I knew a guy named Buck once - would be old and stringy now - but probably deserved shootin'.

The portrait of Livia is even more interesting in that it was written in the thirties which either gives Graves a much more forward thinking perspective than he is credited with, or makes him a blatant sexist for creating such a villaness.

I wholeheartedly agree - chapter IX is a masterpiece.

Poetry is Poetry, and Oratory is Oratory, and History is History, and you can't mix them
  As much as I love a well told story, I think I agree with Claudius, "I think I would choose choose Pollio."
As I am sure that I can never hope to attainLivy's inspired literary elegance, I shall do my best to imitate Pollio's accuracy and diligence.
Fortunately we have the choice today to read both history and historical fiction - which was not yet a recognized genre in Claudius' time.

Deny it if you can, you damned fornicating dogs, you!
Oh my - how did he get that one past the censors.  And those remarks about the radish... 

I did think that the dinner conversation between Claudius and Livia was great - it tied together a number of loose story lines - but it seemed uncharacteristic for Livia.  Even with Graves' explanations - I had trouble beliveing that someone so used to secrecy and power would suddenly respect, treat as an equal and bare their soul to someone they had always held in contempt.

In the time of your life, live - so that in that wonderous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it. (Saroyan)
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  Quote Dawn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Nov-2004 at 10:41
I think I should have read with post it notes to keep track of all the passages that I wanted to bring up.  now I have to find them again.By the way congrates on the deer Cornellia - now whats you going to do with it?
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  Quote Cornellia Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Nov-2004 at 10:52

I will have it made into ground meat, steaks, a bit of sausage and a roast.  Saves a lot on groceries and the meat is far leaner than anything you can buy in the store.

A bit off topic I know but I hope to be back on topic with my next post.

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  Quote vagabond Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Dec-2004 at 01:20

I understand fully - we had venison (along with the turkey) for Thanksgiving - y sister did the turkey - I braised the venison - in a red wine reduction with cranberry and juniper sauce.

Back to Claudius -

Even though I was not entirely happy with the "confessional" scene in XXV - I did like the fact that Livia was still and always portrayed as a pragatist - her assessment of Caligula is a riot - "He's treacherous, cowardly, lustful, vain deceitful..."

I haven't had time yet to go to the sources to compare the portrayals of Tiberius and Caligula with the actual fact.  I know that all the tour guides and touts in Capri use the "throwing lovers off the cliff" story.   Caligula's madness was well documented IIRC - I remember the "I am a Godess story" from  one of the ancient sources, as well as the stories of his revelries which went beyond every point of excess.  The horse Incitatus is also documented by primary sources.  I'm not sure about the bridge across the Bay of Naples stuff.  Graves is so well researched - I can't imagine him using material unless it was well documented in ancient times.



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In the time of your life, live - so that in that wonderous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it. (Saroyan)
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