July 08, 2008

Gratuitous Llama Summer Reading Book Review


Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor by Anthony Everitt.

A couple years back, I enjoyed reading Everitt's biography of Cicero, so I was quite eager to delve into his treatment of Augustus when I came across it.

I'm happy to say that Everitt delivers again. This is, as I said of his prior book, a very good layman's history of a fascinating subject. One thing I believe Everitt does very well is to give some sense of just how enormous an impact Augustus had on the development of Western Civilisation: Octavian (as he was formerly known) is one of those relatively scarce figures of history who had the ruthless drive to achieve ultimate power, but at the same time, once he achieved it, also had the self-discipline and vision to put such power to use for the greater good. He truly did, as he said, find Rome a city of brick and leave it a city of marble, not just physically, but metaphorically, as it were, instituting many hallmarks of social and political organization still perfectly recogizable today. Thus, I would recommend this book to any other classickal civ geeks out there.

Ah, but what is a Robbo Book Review without a quibble? Well, here's one: Having finished Everitt's book, I went back and pulled out my copy of Suetonius' The Lives of the Twelve Caesars and reread the section on Augustus. I was a bit concerned to note that Everitt relies very heavily on Suetonius' accounts of the episodes of Augustus' life, sometimes lifting passages practically verbatim. Granted that we have very few other sources, but I had always been given to understand that Suetonius was something of a gossip-monger, jotting down every rumor, tale or story about his subjects that he could find. This being the case, I feel that Everitt could perhaps have been just a leetle more distant in relating some of the incidents of Augustus' life. Not a lot, just a little.

Posted by Robert at July 8, 2008 11:29 AM | TrackBack

"A Slave of Catiline"

No, it's not porn.

Posted by: mojo at July 8, 2008 12:29 PM