I, Claudius

by Robert Graves

If one were remarketing this book in the modern era and wanted to drive sales, I, Claudius—a book written over 80 years ago—could quite honestly be subtitled 'The Real Housewives of Rome.' Sales would go through the roof. My working theory is that women should begrudge science. Two thousand years ago, you could A) Poison a guy's food & rid society of him, B) Sleep around & claim whichever paternity for your offspring most benefitted you, and C) Realistically get a guy to believe you had bewitched, cast a spell on, or cursed him. Now, no thanks to post-mortem blood panels, DNA, and the scientific method & debunking, female influence in/on modern society has been cut off at the knees. Granted, women's power in Ancient Rome was exercised via manipulation, and we were absolute BITCHES 2000 years ago...but still... Marriage in these pages is quite rightly referred to as "joining forces"!

I, Claudius is a great reminder...
• How many books would benefit hugely from a genogram: "In the year before Germanicus's return Tiberius had put informers to work on a young man called Libo who was a great-grandson of Pompey and a cousin of Agrippina's through their grandmother Scribonia." If anybody understands that sentence (and there are ZILLIONS like it between the covers of this book) send me an email.
• Why I hate politics: "Nobody realized that it was at Sejanus's own suggestion that Castor was so honoured; he had hinted to Tiberius that Castor, Agrippina, Livia and Gallus were in league together and proposed this as the best way to see who else belonged to their party." I, Claudius is FILLED with recounts of so-and-so being mad at whozits for doing a such-and-such to what's-his-face who doesn't like whatchamacallit because of you-know-what. BLERGH.
• Why I love good writing: "The first thing that happened was that Helen became an invalid—we know now that there was nothing wrong with her, but Livilla had given her the choice of taking to her bed as if she were ill or of taking to her bed because she was ill." (Emphasis mine.)

Like most high schoolers, boy, did I find ancient history class boring. And Latin class was only passably more enjoyable. So you've got to give it up to Robert Graves for making me take an interest in a well informed fictional reconstruction of Ancient Rome on its own merits (and not because I had to take a quiz on it). I, Claudius doesn't read much like a novel though, and Graves must have come off as a mordant bore at parties while he was researching this book. HOWEVER: For those of you who dismiss a lot of history ('HIS-story') by referring to it as 'dead white male studies'...sure they were white and they were male, but a lot of men are dead because women killed them! So there. I, Claudius represents Classic Bitch's permission for you to... Take back history!