The story of one of the most colorful dynasties in history, from Caesar's rise to power in the first century BC to Nero's death in AD 68
This engaging new study reviews the long history of the Julian and Claudian families in the Roman Republic and the social and political background of Rome. At the heart of the account are the lives of six men—Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Neromen—who mastered Rome and then changed it from a democracy to a personal possession. It was no easy task: Caesar and Caligula were assassinated, Nero committed suicide, and Claudius was poisoned. Only Augustus and Tiberius died natural deaths and even that is uncertain.
The Julio-Claudian saga has a host of other intriguing characters, from Cicero, the last great statesman of the Republic, to Livia, matriarch of the Empire; the passionate Mark Antony and the scheming Sejanus; and Agrippina, mother of Nero and sister of Caligula, who probably murdered her husband and was in turn killed by her son. Set against a background of foreign wars and domestic intrigue, the story of Rome's greatest dynasty is also the story of the birth of an imperial system that shaped the Europe of today.
When Rome became a republic in 509 BC, its citizens so deplored the idea of monarchy they would not even allow a foreign king into the city. Despite such thinking, the Republic's institutions were vulnerable to the power, money and influence of its aristocracy. Matyszak's book is an engrossing and expertly assembled presentation of Rome's first families, the Julio-Claudian line of leaders whose example, Matyszak argues, "continues to convince many that an effective autocracy is superior to a dysfunctional democracy." Two of Matyszak's main reasons for re-examining this oft-explored era are to overturn common myths, including the widely-accepted, "facile" explanation for Rome's downfall-strain caused by expansion and military campaigns-and to prove that empire is not always a dirty word. Matyszak follows the slow transformation of a republican government into an expansive imperial power, beginning with the awkward reconciliation between Julius Caesar's declaration of dictatorship and the existing Roman constitution, and continuing in small but significant steps amid civil wars and familial infighting. His profiles, from Julius to Nero, are fresh looks at characters marred by caricature and misconception, and his analysis of Rome's transformation is both instructive and precient, and will give those who employ the term "empire" in contemporary public dialogue much to consider. 90 illustrations.