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Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar


Summary of:  Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar

This is the period of the first and perhaps greatest Roman Emperors and it’s a colorful story of rule and ruination, running from the rise of Augustus to the death of Nero. Holland’s expansive history also has distinct shades of I Claudius, with five wonderfully vivid (and in three cases, thoroughly depraved) Emperors—Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero—featured, along with numerous fascinating secondary characters. Intrigue, murder, naked ambition and treachery, greed, gluttony, lust, incest, pageantry, decadence—the tale of these five Caesars continues to cast a hypnotic spell across the millennia.

Author:  Tom Holland

Review of:  Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar

This is a superb book which reads like a real thriller. Tom Holland’s talent is in a creating compulsive, page turning narrative which happens to be true while at the same time his erudition is skillfully concealed. Here he makes no secret of where his sympathies lie which is with the dead Republic as he tells the tale of the successive dictators at the start of the Roman Empire. One fascinating aspect is that along the way he touches on the limits of history and historical knowledge – was Livia (the wife of Augustus) quite as bad as her enemies made out?; could the extraordinary public bigamous marriage of Messalina ( the wife of Claudius) possibly be an exaggeration by her enemies? Some matters will always be a matter of interpretation. As the narrative develops, the crimes multiply and the body count rises – this is Rome as Game of Thrones. My only problem with it is that despite the scheming at the top, the Empire was doing very well and probably few noticed or cared who was Emperor. It was a civilization, not just a political tyranny and one that achieved an extraordinary administrative and cultural unification stretching from Hadrian’s Wall to Arabia – something that remains the envy of modern EU enthusiasts. Its legacy in terms of literature, law, philosophy, architecture and language has been immense.One needs to remember this as one enjoys the tale of skullduggery at the top of the pecking order.

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Rick Mac
Student and author of History. The study of History is the beginning of wisdom.

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