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Location: California, United States

Friday, July 05, 2013

Latest book from the library

Shipwrecks, human sacrifice, hairbreadth escapes, unbridled sex, battles on land and at sea, ambushes, family scandals, and above all the unforgiving pursuit of absolute power ...

My latest book from the library is Augustus: : The Life of Rome's First Emperor by Anthony Everitt. Here's the Publishers Weekly blurb at Amazon ...

British author Everitt begins his biography of Augustus (63 B.C.– A.D. 14) with a novelistic reconstruction of the Roman emperor's last days, offering a new spin on his murder at the hands of his wife, Livia. Everitt presents the death as an assisted suicide intended to speed and secure the transition of imperial power to his stepson Tiberius. Later, Everitt presents a careful historical argument for this theory—and, save for a few other shadowy incidents such as the banishment of the poet Ovid, he keeps guesswork to a minimum, building his narrative carefully on solid evidence. Everitt (Cicero) makes Augustus's rapid rise through Roman society comprehensible to contemporary readers, deftly shifting through the major phases of his life, from childhood through his adoption by his great-uncle Julius Caesar to the power struggle with Mark Antony that ended with Augustus's recognition as both imperator and princeps, or "first citizen." Everitt also neatly presents his subject's complex personality, revealing how Augustus secured a political infrastructure that would last for centuries while reportedly keeping up a highly active sex life, all the while fighting off longstanding rumors of cowardice in battle. This familiar story is fresh again in this lively retelling.

I know a fair amount of Roman history but I don't think you have to do so to be interested in the book - my sister talked me into reading it because she likes it so much, and she didn't take Roman history at school. Augustus (Octavian) isn't the most interesting of the emperors - I'd rather read a good book about Marcus Aurelius (and I have read some interesting fiction about emperors, like I, Claudius, Memoirs of Hadrian, and Count Belisarius (Justinian)) - but still Augustus' life has some exciting events, like the sea battle with Cleopatra and Mark Antony :) ....

- The Battle of Actium, 2 September 31 BC by Lorenzo A. Castro

For those interested, you can watch online what was a pretty good 2002 movie about Julius Caesar (the uncke and adopted father of Augustus) which starred Jeremy Sisto, Richard Harris, and Christopher Walken.


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