I have now finished the second part of "I, Claudius". At first I wished I had read it straight after I finished the first part, because in just a few weeks I had almost forgotten how all the characters were related. However, I soon realized these people were all real, and I could easily update myself courtesy of Wikipedia.
The madness continues is, I suppose, a way to summarize the story. Augustus Ceasar dies, his evil wife Livia dies, Livias son Tiberius becomes a very paranoid emperor and kills off a lot of folks, Claudius nephew Caligula becomes a barking mad emperor and, well, a god. And kills a lot of folk. And steals their money. And enjoys himself with their wives and daughters. In the end, enough is enough, Caligula is slain by his own guard and by a fluke, Claudius is appointed emperor. It´s all very farcical.
It´s chilling to think this is all "based on a true story". I actually think Graves has tried to be as historically correct as possible.
If I had read the english original, I would have quoted a bit from the last page. I really cracked me up. Caligula has been killed, finally, and because he has no heir and there is noone else around, the reluctant Claudius is proclaimed emperor. And what does he think of as the guards lift him up and carries him to the senate? Books! His first imperial wish is to arrange public readings of his historical works (at fifty, he has had time to write a few), and he falls into a state of total bliss at the thought that all the roman archives are now open to him and he can find out the truth about everything.
Claudius is a man easy to like. He is honest, frightened, trusts his mistress and loves his wife, is loyal to his friends. What kind of emperor will he be? To find out, I will have to read the sequel, "Claudius the God and his wife Messalina".