Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Review: Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine by Barry S. Strauss

Title: Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine
Author: Barry S. Strauss
Publication: March 5th 2019 by Simon & Schuster
Genre: Nonfiction, Ancient History
Purchase it on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Google Play | Kobo
Rating: 4/5

Bestselling classical historian Barry Strauss tells the story of three and a half centuries of the Roman Empire through the lives of ten of the most important emperors, from Augustus to Constantine.
Barry Strauss’s Ten Caesars is 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. The empire reached from modern-day Britain to Iraq, and gradually emperors came not from the old families of the first century but from men born in the provinces, some of whom had never even seen Rome. 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.

In the imperial era Roman women—mothers, wives, mistresses—had substantial influence over the emperors, and Strauss also profiles the most important among them, from Livia, Augustus’s wife, to Helena, Constantine’s mother. But even women in the imperial family faced limits and the emperors often forced them to marry or divorce for purely political reasons.

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 essential history as well as fascinating biography.

I'm gonna jump right in and say that I highly enjoyed Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine by Barry S. Strauss. I randomly decided to read it when I saw it available to read on NetGalley because I craved some ancient history nonfiction. And I'm really glad that I did because I almost couldn't stop reading it. I'll even go as far to say that it's one of my favorite books of 2019 so far, especially in the nonfiction genre. 

I do have to admit that before starting to read the book I was a tiny bit apprehensive about it because in each chapter one of the ten Roman emperors that are featured in this book is highlighted and the reason why that worried me a little is that most books like this (at least the ones I've read) don't go as deeply into the people or topics as much as I like. But I was actually pleasantly surprised with how the author tackled each emperor and I wasn't left disappointed in that way at all.

As the synopsis says, the emperors featured in the book are: Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, Vespasian, Trajan, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Septimius Severus, Diocletian and Constantine. As a huge ancient history fan I knew a little about most of these men but after reading this book I feel like my knowledge of them and the ancient world in general has grown so much more and that's exactly why I enjoy reading this kind of nonfiction. I just can't seem to learn enough about ancient history and the ancient Romans were so very fascinating.

My favorite chapters probably were the ones about Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius. Why? I'm not entirely sure. I've always been pretty fascinated by these particular emperors and reading this book only made my interest in them grow. I also liked that, even though Caligula didn't get a chapter dedicated to him, the author did mention and talked a little about him in another chapter. 

This review is getting quite long by now so I'm gonna round it up now but I also really wanted to say that at 432 pages this isn't a particularly short book but even so it didn't take me that long to read it and I found most of the chapters going by really fast because the way Barry S. Strauss wrote the book made it pretty easy to read and honestly it was just a great book that was really enjoyable. I definitely want to check out his other books as well. Also, I really want to buy a physical copy of Ten Caesars now. I need it on my nonfiction shelf!

About the author:
Barry Strauss is Professor of History and Classics, Bryce and Edith M. Bowmar Professor in Humanistic Studies at Cornell University, and a military and naval historian and consultant. As the Series Editor of the Princeton History of the Ancient World and author of eight books on ancient history, Professor Strauss is a recognized authority on the subject of leadership and the lessons that can be learned from the experiences of the greatest political and military leaders of the ancient world (Caesar, Hannibal, Alexander among many others). These lessons apply to the corporate leaders of today who are faced with complex issues that are both challenging and often defy easy solutions.

Professor Strauss has spent years of researching and studying the leaders of the ancient world and has written and spoken widely of their mistakes and successes. He is also a widely acclaimed military and naval historian whose analyses of the strategies and campaigns of some of history’s great commanders reveal the successful rules of engagement that were true on the battlefield and resonate in today’s boardrooms and executive suites.

He is a former director of Cornell’s Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, where he studied modern engagements from Bosnia to Iraq and from Afghanistan to the streets of Europe. Professor Strauss is an expert on geopolitics including the Middle East, terrorism, Europe, the Mediterranean and US alliances. He is currently director as well as a founder of Cornell’s Program on Freedom and Free Societies, which investigates challenges to constitutional liberty at home and abroad. He holds fellowships from the American Academy at Rome, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, the German Academic Exchange Program, the Korea Foundation, the MacDowell Colony and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among others, and is the recipient of Cornell’s Clark Award for Excellence in Teaching.

He is the author of eight books on ancient history, including “Ten Caesars” (now available for pre-order), “The Death of Caesar” (2016), “The Battle of Salamis” (named one of the Best Books of 2004 by the Washington Post), and “The Trojan War: A New History” (2006). Writing in the Washington Post, Tom Holland hailed his “The Spartacus War” (2009) for having “all the excitement of a thriller.” Books & Culture named it one of its favorite books of 2009. His books have been translated into 14 foreign languages, from French to Korean. Professor Strauss holds a B.A. from Cornell University and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University.
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  1. hefty book but it sounds like it's filled with interesting information! My husband would love this, he really likes anything with Aurelius

  2. It was very fascinating and the Marcus Aurelius chapter was one of my favorites. Very interesting!

  3. Does this mean you are back now? :D I hope so! This is quite a long book but if you were able to race through it it just goes to show good it is. Great review x


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