Caesar Augustus' story, one of the most riveting in Western history, is filled with drama and contradiction, risky gambles and unexpected success. Read more...
Caesar Augustus' story, one of the most riveting in Western history, is filled with drama and contradiction, risky gambles and unexpected success. Thrusting himself into Rome's extremely violent politics while yet a very young man, Augustus skillfully maneuvered his way through twisting alliances during years of civil war. Named heir to the murdered Julius Caesar, he outwitted and outlasted far more experienced rivals like Antony and Brutus. Ruling supreme, he reinvented himself as a benevolent man of peace and created a new system of government.
In this highly anticipated biography Goldsworthy puts his deep knowledge of ancient sources to full use, recounting the events of Augustus' long life in greater detail than ever before. Goldsworthy pins down the man behind the myths: a consummate manipulator, propagandist, and showman, both generous and ruthless. Under Augustus' rule the empire prospered, yet his success was never assured and the events of his life unfolded with exciting unpredictability. Goldsworthy captures the passion and savagery, the public image and private struggles of the real man whose epic life continues to influence Western history.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-09-08
- Reviewer: Staff
Historian and biographer Goldsworthy (Caesar) showcases his deep knowledge of Ancient Rome in this masterful document of a life whose themes still resonate in modern times. Augustus, heir to Julius Caesar and architect of the pax romana, receives a detailed examination of his quasi-mythic public life; one that "speaks of immense and highly focused ambition, and of great political skill, but also of luck." A strong narrative emphasis ties the work together and is enriched by evocative details of Roman life, whether it be bathing practices, voting tendencies, or the contemporary significance of Virgil. Readers may be surprised to find ancient precedents for still-visible cultural phenomena, such as the celebrity status accorded to politicians, public delight in scandal, and leadership "constantly reinforced by... propaganda." Similarly, those attuned to contemporary politics may appreciate Augustus's struggle to initiate a unified Roman order and peace in the fallout of a failing state beset by civil war, political division, and corruption. Despite the work's density, the overall effect that Goldsworthy generates is of meeting a man whose life seems hardly distant from the modern experience. While ancient cultural practices can often feel foreign, the political motivations and machinations, the familial relations and emotions, ring as true today as at the turn of the Common Era. Maps. (Sept.)