Talk:I, Claudius

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Don't you think, that the article should be devided into two relating, but different articles, one about the books, and the other concetrating on the series? --Marduk

Yes, I was thinking about that too. The problem is deciding which one should get the main page (which is more well-known), or should I, Claudius be a disambigulation page? LaurenCole 15:07, 30 April 2006 (UTC)
You have just stated the reason not to separate them. The article is not all that long now. Why split them up, and then a few months later somebody will say, "Hey, let's combine them!" Wahkeenah 16:31, 30 April 2006 (UTC)
At least for me it is quite obvious that the BBC series is much more well known than the books it is based on. It is widely regarded as one of the best TV series ever. I don't think that anything like that is ever said about the books. I think the main entry should be about the BBC series, and at the begining there should be a link to the books article.--Marduk 09:16, 6 May 2006 (UTC)
The problem is redundancy. The miniseries omits some of the material in the books (particularly Claudius the God), but the themes and criticisms are basically the same. In the article right now, there is no separate summary of the plot of the miniseries. That would have to be added before the article could be split. And it would have to be considerably different from the novel section. As for the books, they were voted the 14th best novel of the 20th century on the Modern Library's list, and one of the all-time top hundred novels on the Time magazine list, so it's on about even standing with the miniseries. LaurenCole 19:44, 6 May 2006 (UTC)
In general throughout Wikipedia it seems that the original medium takes the undisambiguated page, regardless of how high profile the adaptations are. In the event of a split the books should take precedence. Timrollpickering 21:46, 22 September 2006 (UTC)
I've decided it's probably long enough now to split, and any help disamiguating links and writing 'Plot' and 'Differences to the novels' sections for the new article would be much appreciated. Neddyseagoon - talk 17:44, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

I reviewed the BBC version, which I saw on DVD, here is what I said:

What is "I, Claudius"? It has been called the greatest series ever ("Brideshead Revisited," step aside) - BBC series, that is. Derek Jacobi as Claudius, John Hurt as Caligula and the electrifying Brian Blessed as Augustus, it is the story of a few Caesars after Julius and the Triumvirate, that classic era familiar to all who have taken a semester of Latin . Told in 13 parts in 1976, I'm on part 8.

We are set down in the relatively calm, noble era of Augustus in the first Episodes. Roman politics are expeditious, but relatively sane and wholesome compared to what would come. The nemesis is Livia, Augustus' wife, who is so bent on promoting her own children to the throne (she is Augustus' second wife and has a brood from the first marriage) that she kills off much of her family and much of Augustus', mostly by poison. Our humble narrator, Claudius, slowly rises in importance as the moral tenor of the emporership degrades during the reigns of Tiberius and Caligula.

So it made me think, god how fucked up can people be? And how much more civilized are we now? What does it take to get us to start offing our family and loved ones, throwing over girlfriends, children, mothers for the sake of personal glory? How can I relate this to my personal life? I doubt I will ever kill anyone in my family, nor know anyone who will. Such are rare enough crimes that they are usually headline news. What to ascribe such things to? Well, I may be getting ahead of myself, this is fiction after all and Suetonius and the other historians of this era are presumably not above spicing up their tales to move scrolls off the shelves.

I respond to the issues of accumulated bitterness throughout life, betrayals that reverberate, though the consequences of my own are on a far smaller scale, to be sure. I suppose once you decide to start murdering those, in an atmosphere where you can get away with it, that stand in the way of your vanities, it becomes a small thing. Yet so much of our self-identity is based on morality: I am worthy because I respect, because I do good, because I do unto other, that's why they will do unto me and make my life worthwhile, etc.

I am given new respect for the BBC: in 1976, few punches were pulled in terms of revealing rather sordid and objectionable aspects of family politics here.

Many of the characters age decades in this series and the makeup is utterly convincing. This was a real wow. To see a virile 40-year old Tiberius become a splotchy, degraded septuagenarian on death's door was just par for the course: Augustus, Livia and Claudius aged with miraculous verisimulitude as well.

This was shot on video, 1976-era video: strong light sources left trails behind them on pans, color palette was quite limited, etc. And the shooting was exclusively indoors on sets that were cheap by today's standards. All this mattered not a whit after the first few minutes of adjustment: the drama is so strong it leaps through the gauzy scrim of 3/4" tape that has probably not aged too well.

The overriding theme is ambition. To taste the power of emperorship. One that I cannot strongly identify with, to be absolutely honest. Once I owned my own home, my material covetousness plummeted alarmingly. I have 1000 sunfilled square feet - any more wouldn't make me any happier, that seems certain. So perhaps it is about attention, affirmation. These were certainly generations whose parents were too busy politicking to raise them properly, leaving them in the hands of nannies and placing cruel limitations on their identities: marriages and careers were arranged for children for political reasons, not personal. Can you imagine? If it's true as our era believes that parental neglect leaves a major mark on our future development, then I have no hope of identifying: I've been spoiled and coddled by comparison. We all have. But maybe that was part of the whole mechanism: leave them wanting as children, so that when they grow up they still have an empty mot-love piggybank to fill up with driving will-to-power, which will make the family safer, bring them up higher.

In a poor society, which every one was back then, the stakes were higher: to fall from grace could so easily mean to fall all the way: to starvation. So discipline was intensely enforced, finer emotions an obstacle to staying in favor with those in power. So was the society back then truly less advanced than ours? Are today's routine genuflections and politeness of a superior grade - more conducive to peacefull living in a community of hundreds of millions? Or is the lesson more narrowly about the mores of the few who seek the ultimate pinnacle - that they self-select for characters that value power over scruples? I'm sure if I studied more philosophy in college I would have more fluent answers to these questions...

Is the original text out of copyright yet?--DennisDaniels 03:00, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Nope. Not until 2055 (Graves only died in 1985). Deadlock 14:14, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)

"It has come to be widely regarded as one of the best television series ever made, which is remarkable given the violence and highly sexual themes contained within."

I don't know about violence, but the Brits are *much* more accepting of sexual themes in serious drama than the Americans. Lee M 01:25, 6 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Yes. In fact, that clause should probably be deleted. These things are relative, after all, and that does sound like an editorial comment. --Chips Critic 19:45, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

Time scope[edit]

It's been a decade since I read the book, & I don't have a copy handy at the moment, but I thought it began roughly when the series does (24 BC), not 44 BC like the article says. Could just be my mind playing tricks on me though. Binabik80 06:15, 6 Mar 2005 (UTC)

The first twenty or thirty pages are Claudius explaining the history of Caesar, the civil wars, and Augustus' rise to power. Kuralyov 22:36, 8 September 2005 (UTC)


What killed me about the books was his often referring to "corm" rather than "grain". There was no corn in the "old world". Unless it was used as a generic term? User: 16:38, 16 March 2006 (UTC)

  • It was, in a way. "Corn" means the primary cereal grain in a given country. What we call "corn" in the USA is properly "Indian corn", i.e. "native American corn", and is properly called "maize", which was the name its ancient developers gave it (originally pronounced "mah-EES", anglicized to "mayz"). In the U.K. and other parts of Europe the term corn refers to other cereal grains like wheat or barley, and "maize" is the preferred term for Indian corn. Wahkeenah 16:59, 16 March 2006 (UTC)


The article states

Livia is charged with many more murders than even the anti-imperial ancients alleged (Tacitus only alleged that she murdered Augustus).

Tacitus, in fact, mentions rumors that she may have had something to do with the deaths of Gaius and Lucius, I'm fairly sure, and possibly some others. This is actually too strong and too weak at the same time. Tacitus mentions that it was rumored that she murdered Augustus (and, I think, Gaius and Lucius, too), but he doesn't actually make the allegation himself, I don't think. john k 19:11, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

The two books together[edit]

I was wondering, why are both I, Claudius and Claudius The God combined into one article? I think maybe having them seperate is a better idea. DamionOWA 05:37, 5 July 2006 (UTC)

surely this is discussed above? and the miniseries is now being repeated on BBC4 - its 30th anniversary Peter Shearan 19:35, 12 August 2006 (UTC)

Historical accuracy[edit]

Isn't this section a bit stuffy? The novel is a work of fiction, which Graves himself described as a historical romance. It is written as first person narrative, and so ought to contain the narrator's prejudices and spin. And the ironic conceit that the manuscript was left lying around to be read by a later generation (coinciding with the mid-20th C) should cover any concern about misuse of terms, because any mistakes are the fault of the "translator".--Shtove 07:24, 9 October 2006 (UTC)

I like the section, but I think it could be a bit livelier. This is not inherently dull material! I was wondering, however, why no one has offered an alternative version of Augustus. It's hard to believe he was the indulgent softy depicted in the story (and the series), considering his accomplishments, and the ruthlessness required. Ilyaunfois 04:54, 19 November 2006 (UTC)

Possibly I missed a page or two when a bookmark fell out of my copy of the book, but I don't recall Herod Agrippa being mentioned anywhere except in the television miniseries. Have I taken leave of my senses? Could senility have set in already? Cryptonymius 16:00, 25 December 2006 (UTC)

It has been a lomg long time since I read them, but I seem to remember that Herod Agrippa was in the second book Claudius the God. This sticks in my memory because I had liked the performance by Mr Faulkner and found it odd that I wasn't reading about his character, then it all came clear when I got into the second book. Now, as I said, it was the early 1980's that I last read the books so I could be mistaken. Maybe some other wikipedian who has read them more recently will be able to clear this up for you. Cheers. MarnetteD | Talk 18:12, 25 December 2006 (UTC)
Yeah, Herod Agrippa is central to the second book - I don't think he's mentioned in the first one. And yes, senility could have settled in already - eat more oily fish!--Shtove 01:06, 27 December 2006 (UTC)
The "oily boid" catches the woim... then he puts it on a line and catches the oily fish. Wahkeenah 01:39, 27 December 2006 (UTC)
Something in the intonation suggests boids and woims from Brooklyn, heh... (And Faulkner was superb.) Thanks for the, uhh...what were we talking about? Cryptonymius 06:42, 27 December 2006 (UTC)

I'm copyediting the section now. Fascinating as Livia's tale is, there isn't anything in here about historical accuracy. However, I didn't want to lose this lively passage, so I am pasting it here until we can fit it back in:

  • Livia is presented as so power-hungry that she plans to kill her own son when she finds he wants the Republic restored and she actually does kill Augustus late in life when he is taking steps to move the Emperorship away from her blood line. Her one overriding concern is that her son Tiberius becomes Emperor. Unfortunately, when all of her manipulations finally allow it to come to pass, the middle aged Tiberius has already been filled with bitterness and doesn't live up to her expectations.Trishm 02:51, 7 February 2007 (UTC)

I agree with User:Shtove. This whole section is inappropriate for an article about a novel. It could possibly be spun off as a separate history article, with the addition of complete in-line citations and sources. I added more 'citation needed' tags to show how many unsourced assertions there are. I also moved the 'expert' template to the 'Historical accuracy' section. WCCasey (talk) 20:21, 21 October 2010 (UTC)

I'd just like to note, I came to this page specifically for this section. It's something that just seems very wikipedia to me, as many other entries have it also like Deadwood and even fiction adaptations normally have a 'differences section'. Audiovore (talk) 23:40, 15 June 2011 (UTC)


"There also seems to be a subtle feminist message": How can this be the case when all the major female characters except the prostitute Calpurnia are basically evil? Livia might be a good administrator, but she is also a serial killer. Nearly all the female characters are power hungry bitches who use sex to manipulate men - the other exception is Claudius' mother, who although very moral is an awful mother to Claudius. I assume that this reflects the sources rather than any misogyny of Graves', but it is a hell of a stretch to refer to 'feminist messages', however subtle. The idea of the woman who manipulates men using sex and violence to get her own way is more misogynist paranoia than feminism. --Helenalex 02:58, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Well, part of the problem with the characterizations is that Graves based all the female characters on his girlfriend Laura Riding. At that point in time, they were not getting along at all, and she was somewhat controlling. Laura is supposed to have hated the books after seeing right through the thinly veiled references to herself. But, the intent was feminist - Augustus does nothing without Livia's approval, Livia signs official documents while the emperors (husband and son) are indisposed, Agrippina the elder fights on behalf of her sons rights and her dead husband. The point was that the women were the power behind the power (there's a passage where Claudius speaks of enjoying listening to women tell the true stories behind the stories during his childhood). Most of the male characters aren't any less power hungry or evil (look at Sejanus, or Tiberius, or Caligula), so it's really equal opportunity. 22:15, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
Maybe so, but how does that make it feminist? Is MacBeth's mother in Shakespeare's play a feminist figure? Graves's book is just a good old fashioned historical romance, with lashings of sex.--Shtove 22:59, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
Female liberation includes all forms of empowerment, including being murderers and thieves just like the men who ran the Roman Empire. Wahkeenah 23:07, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
Yes, the majority of characters in the books, of both sexes, are basically evil. But there are also quite a few good men: Augustus, Germanicus, Nerva (unless I'm thinking of someone else here), Claudius' father and Claudius himself. Apart from a few minor characters, the only completely good female character is Calpurnia, and as a prostitute she would have been seen by both the Romans and 1930s English people as sinful.
There is quite a bit of feminist debate about whether liberation does include being just as awful as men. But the basic point here is that the female characters are more likely than the male to be evil, and that female power tends to be portrayed as having a negative effect. Even though Livia is shown doing a good job basically running Rome, Graves spends much more time on how she killed people, destroyed their lives etc.
I'm not arging that the books are sexist (although the case could be made), just that they can't be described as feminist. And, Shtove, you're thinking about MacBeth's wife, not his mother. It's a comparison that occurred to me as well. --Helenalex 03:24, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the MacBeth correction. There's only one stable marriage in the book, between Germanicus and Agrippina, who are both portraits of traditional Roman virtue. They're surrounded by deceit and knavery, which makes the story dramatic, and fall victim because they can't beat the bastards on their own terms, which makes their story tragic. Overlooking events is the all knowing narrator, Claudius the fool. It's just good story-telling. The biogs of Graves I've looked at spend very little time on his novels, even though this one is particularly good. The White Goddess is becoming an odd footnote, along with a lot of the theorising, but people still read I Claudius for enjoyment.--Shtove 16:26, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
And Agrippina isn't even depicted very sympathetically, iirc. john k 05:34, 7 February 2007 (UTC)

The label "feminism" is not only POV, it seems to be Original Research. I have changed it, and removed the section on Laura Riding. As an unsourced, unflattering comment on a living person, it can't stay.Trishm 03:18, 7 February 2007 (UTC)

More OR than POV, I would say. Laura Riding, however, is not alive. She died more than 15 years ago. john k 05:34, 7 February 2007 (UTC
My mistake.Trishm 09:47, 7 February 2007 (UTC)

This article needs expert attention before a copyedit.[edit]

I responded to the call to copyedit this article. Unfortunately there is an abundance of unsourced comments, and is not ready for copyediting, which really deals with prose, grammar and so forth, and is best done once the underlying content is more or less sorted out and fully sourced. To keep the process of improving this article going, I have replaced the copyedit tag with an 'expert' tag.Trishm 09:59, 7 February 2007 (UTC)

Is the part about herod wanting to be messiah based on any real data?Wolf2191 02:15, 6 May 2007 (UTC)

WikiProject History?[edit]

"This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. WikiProject History or the History Portal may be able to help recruit one. If a more appropriate WikiProject or portal exists, please adjust this template accordingly."

but it's a novel, albeit historically-based. I don't know how to 'adjust the template' myself, I don't know where these templates hang out - but surely there must be a literary one somewhere? -- (talk) 07:30, 8 August 2008 (UTC)

T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia )[edit]

Is it worth while adding that the foward to the book was written by Lawrence? He was using the name T. E. Shaw at the time. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:06, 22 October 2009 (UTC)

Deleted Historical Accuracy section[edit]

This section absolutely does not belong in the article. While the subject of historical accuracy may be of interest, an unsourced, unreferenced, opinionated essay is in complete violation of policy -- not guidelines -- about POV, original research and citing sources. The numerous points made were debatable or controversial and demanded citation. Though almost every sentence called for them, there were ZERO citations. Wikipedia has become the playground for wannabe scholars, self-appointed authorities, students showing off their school papers, and for other personal agendas, usually vanity-based, and this section was a prime example. If someone wants to make a section on historical accuracy in I Claudius, then please find published works about it, then summarize and cite them. Do NOT use the article as a vehicle for your opinions and criticism. —— J M Rice (talk) 21:42, 23 July 2011 (UTC)

Amen. WCCasey (talk) 18:08, 6 August 2011 (UTC)

In the Later References, you forgot "I, Koch"; the promotional biography of then New York City, New York Edward Israel Koch. -- (talk) 19:55, 26 June 2014 (UTC)Veryverser


"Graves claimed that after he read Suetonius, Claudius came to him in a dream one night ..." This statement should either be verified by citation or deleted. Littlewindow (talk) 02:11, 8 November 2014 (UTC)