Bestselling classical historian Barry Strauss delivers “an exceptionally accessible history of the Roman Empire…much of Ten Caesars reads like a script for Game of Thrones” (The Wall Street Journal)—a summation of three and a half centuries of the Roman Empire as seen through the lives of ten of the most important emperors, from Augustus to Constantine.
In this essential and “enlightening” (The New York Times Book Review) work, Barry Strauss tells the story of the Roman Empire from rise to reinvention, from Augustus, who founded the empire, to Constantine, who made it Christian and moved the capital east to Constantinople.
During these centuries Rome gained in splendor and territory, then lost both. By the fourth century, the time of Constantine, the Roman Empire had changed so dramatically in geography, ethnicity, religion, and culture that it would have been virtually unrecognizable to Augustus. Rome’s legacy remains today in so many ways, from language, law, and architecture to the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. Strauss examines this enduring heritage through the lives of the men who shaped it: Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, Vespasian, Trajan, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Septimius Severus, Diocletian, and Constantine. Over the ages, they learned to maintain the family business—the government of an empire—by adapting when necessary and always persevering no matter the cost.
Ten Caesars is a “captivating narrative that breathes new life into a host of transformative figures” (Publishers Weekly). This “superb summation of four centuries of Roman history, a masterpiece of compression, confirms Barry Strauss as the foremost academic classicist writing for the general reader today” (The Wall Street Journal).
History professor Strauss (The Death of Caesar: The Story of History's Most Famous Assassination) explores the reigns of Rome's ten most influential emperors in his captivating modern take on Suetonius's 121 CE history, The Twelve Caesars. He covers most of the emperors who ruled during the empire's first 300 years of existence, a crowded timeline that begins with the bloody end of the republic under Augustus and ends with the reforms of Diocletian and the startling religious conversion of his successor Constantine. Strauss persuasively argues that each man brought his own personality and peccadilloes to his rule, and that each was successful and revolutionary in his own way: Vespasian and Severus won the throne via civil wars and stabilized a broken empire; Trajan expanded the empire to its greatest extent; and Hadrian and Tiberius both retreated from wars of expansion to focus on domestic projects. Even Nero transformed Rome with his building projects and exhibitionism. The women surrounding these emperors are also given their share of the credit and vividly portrayed. Citing numerous primary and secondary sources and providing modern analogies to convey complex relationships and ruling styles, this captivating narrative breathes new life into a host of transformative figures.)