Author: Robert Graves
The angelic and demonic aspects of the human psyche have been explored by philosophers, artists and others for millennia. Even in the first bit of the 21st century we’ve had ample demonstration of the latter trait and the preceding century certainly provided numerous opportunities to point out humanity’s moral failings, but by many measures, the dawn of the Roman Empire was as foul a display as ever. Numerous efforts have been made to reconstruct what life was like in the imperial court two thousand years ago, one of the most acclaimed being I, Claudius, a novel published in 1934 by Robert Graves. Based on numerous historical accounts, the book is a fictionalized autobiography of Claudius, the fourth Roman emperor.
Graves, a British writer who was initially famous for his World War I poetry, tells of the early years of the empire from the perspective of Claudius, a great-great-grandnephew of Julius Caesar who was born in 10 BC and hampered by a disabling limp, stammering speech and numerous embarrassing ticks. He was mistakenly considered a moron by his family and most of his associates, but he was actually an avid historical scholar, passionate about documenting and understanding the political world around him.