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Augustus: First Emperor of Rome

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  1,391 Ratings  ·  115 Reviews
The dramatic story of Rome’s first emperor, who plunged into Rome’s violent power struggles at the age of nineteen, proceeded to destroy all rivals, and more than anyone else created the Roman Empire
Caesar Augustus’ story, one of the most riveting in Western history, is filled with drama and contradiction, risky gambles and unexpected success. Thrusting himself into Rom
Hardcover, 624 pages
Published August 26th 2014 by Yale University Press (first published 2014)
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While in my thirteenth consulship, the Senate and the equestrian order and the Roman people as a whole called me the father of my country.
-Deeds of the Divine Augustus

Who is Augustus? Who is the man behind this stone face? His adoptive father, Julius Caesar, is a household name thanks to television and to Shakespeare, and some of Augustus' contemporaries have reached a more enduring fame. There is the story of Marc Anthony and Cleopatra, but also Jesus of Nazareth, who was born in the first dec
Oct 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Augustus: First Emperor of Rome, by Adrian Goldsworthy, is an excellent biographical account of Caesar Octavian's rise to power and his subsequent creation of the Roman Empire. The work chronicles his life from his birth to death. He was born Caius Octavian Thurinus of a fairly well off but relatively unknown aristocratic family from an Italian city outside of Rome. His great grandfather had become an important politician in the area, and the subsequent generations were important politicians, ba ...more
Carol Storm
Mar 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Passable biography but if you're looking for entertainment THE TWELVE CAESARS by Suetonius is actually a lot more fun. The original is still the greatest!
Steven Peterson
Sep 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am not an expert in Roman history, so I cannot speak to the accuracy of this work. However, I am, in the end, impressed by the work. First, the author has an extensive background in Roman history, having written an excellent biography of Julius Caesar, as well as works on battles and military matters. Second, he does not seem to me to go beyond the evidence. At any number of points, he notes that we cannot know what happened, although he sometimes makes an informed guess (some biographers have ...more
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Augustus was the nephew and adopted son and heir of Julius Caesar. As such he led one of the factions in the civil war that followed Caesar's murder and emerged as sole ruler from 27BC, ruling the empire for forty years.

Augustus skilfully developed the role of emperor, co-opting the major families and politicians of Rome into a system that proved stable for the four decades of his rule. He expanded the empire, reformed the state and encouraged massive investment and huge public works to make Rom
Tudor Ciocarlie
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Goldsworthy is in my opinion, the best non-fiction writer about the Roman Empire living today and Augustus is another excelent book by him.
Aug 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
A few months back I read Goldsworthy's biography of Julius Caesar, so it made sense to continue the story by reading the biography of Augustus Caesar. Simply put, this book is a fantastic account of the first Roman Emperor.

What I most appreciated was the story after Augustus had won the battle of Actium and the civil wars. Most overviews of history I've read go on to simply note that Augustus reigned until his death at 14 AD. But that's 45 years, a long reign in any era! Goldsworthy does not di
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This review will combine something very old with something very new. The very old, of course, is the title character, the Emperor Augustus, and his times. The very new is a continuation of my thoughts on reaction as a modern political movement. You will see how these things fit together, and in fact are much the same thing, for today, more than ever, everything old is new again. And I will begin to distinguish “conservatives” from “reactionaries,” as I recently promised I would.

Adrian Goldsworth
Aug 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
When in Rome...

“…as military dictators go, Caesar Augustus was not such a bad one.”

Great-nephew and principal heir to Julius Caesar, Augustus was just nineteen when Caesar was murdered, but it seems he was never in doubt of his right to take over the honours of the older man. His early career was as a warlord, using the wealth he had inherited and borrowing extensively to ensure that he had the largest army as the Roman republic descended into civil war. He was also helped by the loyalty of Juli
Oct 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A gift from a friend (who knows I am a confirmed ‘Roman nut’), ‘Augustus’ was a treat to read. Densely packed with information and analysis, written in a clear style and a consistent narrative pace, I found the whole account balanced and eminently readable.

Augustus is such an important figure; a ruthless warlord who brought peace, a clever political operator, propagandist, but energetic and dedicated, a writer, wit, autocrat, a family man, but as unfaithful as any Roman man of the period. He wa
Ross Cohen
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Adrian Goldsworthy's "Augustus" completes a trilogy that began with "Julius Caesar" and "Antony and Cleopatra." Of these three excellent books, "Augustus" is the best. This is mostly due to the nature of Goldsworthy's subject and to the duration for which he ruled. Caesar embodies dynamism, Antony and Cleopatra embody passion, Augustus embodies Rome. And, like Rome, he is complex: Augustus possessed mercy and ruthlessness, ambition and service, cowardice and audacity. Goldsworthy's triumphant bi ...more
Jasmeet Matharoo
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
this book is for anyone interested in the transition of roman republic to roman empire and the life and power struggle of first roman emperor Augustus.this book gives detailed information about the working of roman elite or its history book one can feel the book becoming long and tedious at some points but overall its a really good.
Peter Mcloughlin
The first half of Augustus's life was involved in conquest and pursuit of title of first man of Rome and Imperator. The second have is about the less dramatic but probably much more important part of ruling over the Roman Empire and making sure the frontiers were secure, The Aquaducts flowed and the population was tended to for tranquility. In terms of excitement the civil wars and battles is stuff to keep ones interest but of course an ordinary Roman would have appreciated much more the compara ...more
Jun 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Heel uitgebreid gedocumenteerd werk dat een helder beeld schetst van een van de grootste leiders uit de wereldgeschiedenis. Zowel zijn positieve kanten als de negatieve, denk maar aan de proscripties onder andere, worden belicht. Bij deze een welgemeend applaus voor zijn rol in de komedie van het leven.
Mark Gray
May 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful take on the life of Augustus presented in a fresh way. I thought I knew about his life but soon realised the gaps that the author skilfully filled. I really like his style and have just downloaded all his other books

Well recommended
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Adrian Goldsworthy’s biography of the first Roman emperor has been hailed as a triumph by many but to me it feels like a rather cautious affair. He is, understandably, reluctant to engage in speculation about reasons for Augustus’s decisions unless they are clearly supported by the evidence. As a result, there is nothing remarkable here. What we get instead is a comprehensive assemblage of everything that is known about the princeps, his family, and the powerful individuals and institutions with ...more
Alexander Seifert
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The first book I’ve read entirely dedicated to the life of Rome’s first ‘emperor’. While the book is thick and covers a long time period (Augustus lived a long life in a tumultuous period of history), it reads quickly. The style of writing is very engaging, so it never felt like a slog. I snatched the book at the library hoping to get a great biography of the man and a history of the period, and I wasn’t disappointed. The author is upfront with some of the struggles (sources, methodology) in try ...more
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolute world class from the best writer on ancient history there is.
Andrew Dockrill
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The book was fantastic!

I can definitely see why Augustus is considered one of the most important Romans to have lived and Adrian Goldsworthy is considered one of the best modern classicist biographers. His books are so accessible and easy to read. I look forward to reading more of them in the future!
Nicholas Renner
Jan 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Adrian did a good job on explaining Augustus not like a textbook.
The book is about The first emperor of rome. Adrian didnt make it seem like he was some god but showed his mistakes. The book highlights military victory's,diplomatic success and the tense relationship rome was in with the eastern powers.And its explained with a story tellers style.I like it becuase he says he was inevitably a dictator but not a bad one he did kill alot of people but not like hitler or stalin. The book was well res
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Adrian Goldsworthy never fails to please. Another winner. Informative, accessible, and engaging. You can't ask for anything better when reading history.
A really well written account of Augustus' life, coupled with a rational and moderate view of what a man who lived 2000 years ago might have been like. Thoroughly enjoyed the details about lifestyle, military operations and relationships, and as always, can appreciate when the author draws from original sources which would normally be very difficult for a reader to go through and get the same wealth of information, unless fanatically obsessed with the subject. Goldsworthy is a highly capable aut ...more
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The last assessment of the principate with this level of depth was written more than 70 years ago. After savoring Goldsworthy's efforts I think we are good for another few decades.
Sep 05, 2016 rated it liked it
I have read and liked several of Goldsworthy's previous books on ancient Rome, but this one did not grab me quite as much. Possibly, I just did not see it to its best advantage: any biography that requires no fewer than nine family trees (all of the same extended family, in different configurations) is probably going to demand focus and attention to keep track of who is doing what, yet, mostly not through the fault of the book, I ended up reading this in dollops over the course of several months ...more
Oct 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was a fascinating biography by Adrian Goldsworthy on the first emperor of Rome. It is intriguing to me that we can know so much about someone who lived so long ago and have so many artifacts left from that period of time!
Augustus started out very ruthlessly, killing many people in order to gain power and stay there. However, as his life and reign continued, the killing evened out (perhaps he didn't need to as much later on because people knew what would happen if they crossed him
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. I can't get enough of these times and author, Adrian Goldsworthy gives an excellent picture of the life and times of Octavian soon to become princeps, Augustus Caesar. We are presented with Octavian/Augustus as the central character with the connecting branches, being the influences of his adoptive uncle Julius Caesar, who we knew was murdered at a young age, influenced and guided my Agrippa who he missed terribly. The reader can't help but see that the young Augustus protected h ...more
Nov 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, biography
This is a fantastic telling of the accounts of the first emperor of Rome. His military triumphs and conquests gave rise to his rule over Rome. From the time of his youth and being adopted by his uncle Julius Caesar to his death of old age in 14 AD we learn of a most popular figure and follow him through his political and military triumphs. The reasons for his continued popularity aren't readily clear but probably has a lot to do with his being non-corrupt and non abuse of power. He was obviously ...more
Daniel Kukwa
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
If there is another candidate for "current definitive biography of Augustus", then please step forward...because until that happens, I'm content to champion this magnificent volume by Mr. Goldsworthy. If you think you know all there is to know about Rome's first emperor, think again...and make no mistake, this book will make you think quite a bit. A truly excellent piece of scholarship.
John Bohnert
Mar 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
I admire Caesar Augustus. I learned a lot about him while watching "I,Claudius" on PBS many years ago. I have a bust of Caesar Augustus by my living room recliner.
This biography was an enjoyable read. I'm glad I have two more books written by Adrian Goldsworthy.
Sep 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Awesome book! I normally don't like to read biographies but this was a nice exception about the most powerful men in the roman world.. Loved it !!
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Adrian Goldsworthy was born in 1969 in Cardiff. He was educated in Penarth and then read Ancient and Modern History at St. John's College, Oxford, where he subsequently completed his doctorate in ancient history. His D.Phil. Thesis was the basis for his first book, The Roman Army At War 100 BC - AD 200, which looked at how the Roman army actually operated on campaign and in battle.

For several yea
“For what is the life of a man, if it is not interwoven with the life of former generations by as sense of history. [Cicero, quoted by Goldsworthy in his Augustus]” 4 likes
“Personal hatreds and rivalry loomed larger in most senator's minds than the good of the Republic. [A big problem then and now]” 4 likes
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