Paperback / ISBN-13: 9780753829158

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‘Masterly’ – Robert Harris, author of Imperium
‘Essential reading for anyone interested in Ancient Rome’ Independent


Caesar Augustus schemed and fought his way to absolute power. He became Rome’s first emperor and ruled for forty-four years before dying peacefully in his bed. The system he created would endure for centuries.

Yet, despite his exceptional success, he is a difficult man to pin down, and far less well-known than his great-uncle, Julius Caesar. His story is not always edifying: he murdered his opponents, exiled his daughter when she failed to conform and freely made and broke alliances as he climbed ever higher. However, the peace and stability he fostered were real, and under his rule the empire prospered. Adrian Goldsworthy examines the ancient sources to understand the man and his times.


Historian and biographer Goldsworthy (Caesar) showcases his deep knowledge of Ancient Rome in this masterful document of a life whose themes still resonate in modern times ... A strong narrative emphasis ties the work together and is enriched by evocative details of Roman life, whether it be bathing practices, voting tendencies, or the contemporary significance of Virgil. Readers may be surprised to find ancient precedents for still-visible cultural phenomena, such as the celebrity status accorded to politicians, public delight in scandal, and leadership "constantly reinforced by... propaganda"... The overall effect that Goldsworthy generates is of meeting a man whose life seems hardly distant from the modern experience
A timely biography of Augustus. He was Julius Caesar's adopted son who saw off his rivals and gave to Rome and its colonies a stability and a form of democracy which has a surprising significance to our own weary company of statesmen... 500 pages of solid and often exciting history
Illtyd Harrington, CAMDEN NEW JOURNAL
Patiently, imaginatively but without recourse to flashy surmise, Goldsworthy offers reappraisals that inspire confidence because of their balance and good sense. Such an elusive man is never going to leap off these pages but he does begin to live and breathe
Noonie Minogue, THE TABLET
Goldsworthy examines the life of Augustus Caesar, who rose from obscurity to become Rome's first emperor and the most powerful and enduring in the history of the Empire. He killed and manipulated his way to the top, then reinvented himself as 'the father of his country', achieving peace and prosperity
Goldsworthy admits that pinning Augustus down is a tricky task. But he never allows any aspect of the Augustan project to slip away. The focus shifts easily from Augustus' military might to his love of poetry ... He shines a light on the many contradictions of Augustus' character ... Goldsworthy doesn't hesitate to describe the emperor for what he was: a mass-murderer and then a military dictator. But he reminds us of Augustus' charm and humanity too ... Augustus took the Roman world from civil war to lasting peace and prosperity, and the mechanisms he used to obtain and maintain power were extraordinary. Like Goldsworthy's biography of Julius Caesar, this is essential reading for anyone interested in Ancient Rome
Natalie Haynes, INDEPENDENT
Goldsworthy is a master storyteller ... This is the account of the man who remade Rome in his image ... it's a tale that never loses it's appeal
Adrian Goldsworthy does not hesitate to describe Emperor Augustus as he really was: a mass-murderer and then a military dictator
Goldsworthy's true expertise is as a military historian and this is what really gives his biography its strength and bite: his depiction of Augustus's relationship with his legions is masterly
Robert Harris, SUNDAY TIMES
Adrian Goldsworthy's portrait is the most trustworthy we are likely to get
Nicholas Shakespeare, DAILY TELEGRAPH 'Books for Christmas'
This is a very fine story, very skilfully told
Adrian Goldsworthy does justice to the many sides of Augustus's character: devoted husband, ruthless politician, masterly tactician. He makes complex Roman politics digestible with generous illustrations; quotations from the emperor's own writings; a glossary to help with technical terms from Roman law and politics; a list of dramatis personae; helpful end-notes, index and bibliography... The biography mixes vivid anecdotes... with narrative detail of military and political developments.
Cally Hammond, CHURCH TIMES
Embarrassed by his short stature Augustus is said to have worn build-up shoes. He also had a love of crude jokes and poems, which he wrote himself. He was one part of the ultimate power couple. Aged 24 and on the verge of great power he fell in love with the beautiful, clever Livia, who was 20. Both were already married and while Augustus had a daughter, Livia was pregnant by her first husband. Livia and Augustus married three days after she gave birth. Extraordinary ... This vast accomplished book ... is a book to read avidly but also dip into, to enjoy the huge range of characters and the events
Superb, unputdownable and scholarly
Simon Sebag Montefiore, EVENING STANDARD
Authoritative and always interesting
Goldsworthy capably guides us over the rapids of modern scholarship ... Goldsworthy is particularly sound on senatorial power struggles and the use of marriage to cement or break political alliances. Augustus was, incredibly, both brother-in-law and son-in-law of Antony, having previously married the under-age daughter of Antony's first wife
Nicholas Shakespeare, DAILY TELEGRAPH
Goldsworthy has fashioned an engrossing account of this extraordinary man, pointing out his many contradictions; fiercely ambitious but publicly reluctant to accept state triumphs, his power built on the success of his legions but never an outstanding soldier himself, adulterous in the extreme but a determined public supporter of traditional marriage. Augustus has been somewhat neglected in recent years, and Goldsworthy skilfully and painstakingly builds his case for greater prominence using the detail of his daily conduct and administration expertly ... This is an excellent biography, which succeeds in ranking Augustus once more high amongst the great leaders in world history
Goldsworthy has made a name for himself writing biographies of the great and the good of the Roman world. A careful scholar, he wears his knowledge lightly and is a skilled narrator and engaging writer. He brings all these attributes to play in his biography of Augustus... Goldworthy's biography demolishes some of the half-truths and tales that dog any successful ruler, and his book also acts as a brilliant history of Rome under Augustus