While I was reading about the battle at Teutoburg Forrest, I got the idea to finally read "I, Claudius" by Robert Graves. I have been thinking about it for years, and I remember only one grim scene from the television series with Derek Jacobi, when Caligula (John Hurt) has tried to eat (like some other gods he knew) the baby in his wife´s (and I seem to remember she was his sister, too) belly and "woops! she died?". I was only ten or eleven at the time, I think.
I have just finished the first volume, printed in 1964. The translation is good and while Graves used modern names for geographical locations, the swedish translator has decided to use mainly the roman equivalents, believing that a swedish reader would find it odd that the romans themselves would say "France" instead of "Gaul" or "Tyskland" instead of "Germanien". Of course, the last example works better in english. However, this consideration made me rather happy I chose to read it in swedish. I do wish, though, that it had been proofread a bit better. Spelling errors are a damned irritation, whatever book.
At first, Claudius seems a bit of a bore, but at the same time, this makes the narrative so much more convincing, as this is supposed to be his inofficial, truthful, memoir, written at the end of his life, when he has, in spite of his limp and his stuttering, become emperor himself. And the stories he has to tell! I became completely engrossed by the third chapter or thereabouts and got through it in a few short evenings. Can´t wait to get my hands on Part II.
The battle at Teutoburg Forrest is in here, of course, but as the actual site had not been discovered or excavated when the book was written, in the 1930´s, Claudius´s account for it has hardly any credibility. According to him, it went on for days. In reality, it would have been over in an hour.
While the palace machinations are chilling, with emperor Augustus cruel wife Livia administering poison left and right to anyone getting in her way, I do get a lot of pleasure from the tales of how Tiberius, Drusus and Germanicus deals with their colossal armies. Perhaps I find tales of warfare so fascinating because the devastation spread by armies frightens me so.
This book was reprinted in english in 2006, and I have no doubt it has sold well, with all the television drama and film that´s been turned out about this period in history. I think someone should do the same for the swedish translation. Excellent.