The Big Read II: I, Claudius

Chapters 14-16

Whew, I think I’m actually caught up with the game – I’ve just been reading lately, and not paying attention to chapters, and I realized I’m already in Ch. 18. Only my chapters are in Roman numerals (of course) so it’s Chapter XVIII. Fortunately there are only XXXIV chapters, so it won’t go beyond my realm of comprehension. Once you get into the Cs, I’m lost.

Chapter 14: Augustus crossed the line. Livia’s line, of course, which means goodbye, Augustus. While I’m sure that there are lots of theories about how Augustus really died, I like imagining history as a series of personal motivations. Of course the random chance factor is just as interesting – I think about that with situations like Henry VIII – if his brother hadn’t died, if he hadn’t married Catherine, he’d had a son by Catherine, if Catherine had agreed to divorce him, if Anne’s son had lived – all of the small but incredibly consequential factors. I, Claudius, on the other hand, is a story where more rests on individual decisions than on chance. It’s a controlled and ordered world, although of course controlled by the few.

The whole discussion about how Augustus ended up getting declared a god is priceless. I like Gallus – he’s got gumption.

“I will not write more about Augustus’s funeral, though a more magnificent one has never been seen at Rome, for I must now begin to omit all things in my story except those of the first importance.” Uh-huh. I’ll believe that when I see it.

A missing will! Of course there’s a missing will!

Chapter 15: I was a bit bored by the whole Rhine mutiny thing. Soldiers, money, negotiations, blah blah. Haha, I love that he ends the chapter with, “But this has been a very ill-judged digression, leaving Germanicus, as it were, waiting anxiously for his money while I write a book about dice.” Classic Claudius.

Chapter 16: We meet Caligula. The over-indulged child never comes to a good end. Actually, I don’t know anything about Caligula’s place in history, but a name like that is never promising. Neither is a book cover which describes him as “the mad Caligula.” House-burning is also not a good sign.

More mutiny, more negotiations, a few more deaths slipped in there. I get distracted looking up Roman naming conventions and watching more episodes of Rome (not to say that I’m doing these things simultaneously, but they took my interest elsewhere).