IClaudiusTiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, better known as "Claudius" was a small child afflicted with a limp and a stammer. His family assumed he was mentally impaired, and he spent most of his time studying and writing history. So, he was largely ignored as other members of his family conspired to rule the Roman Empire.

In I, Claudius, Robert Graves gives a first-person narrative of Claudius's life and the early Roman Empire and those that shaped it.

The story begins with the assassination of Julius Caesar and the ascension of Augustus as the first Roman Emperor a few decades before Claudius's birth in 10BC. It concludes with the assassination of the Emperor Caligula, which led to Claudius being named Emperor.

In between are numerous assassinations, betrayals, and political maneuverings as many vie for power in the Empire.

Claudius is the perfect narrator because he is close to the power, without being part of the power. Through him, we encounter some startling evil people, such as:

Claudius's grandmother Livia. She is ruthless in her quest to see her line on the throne - destroying and murdering rivals, including some in her own family.

Caligula, whose extravagance quickly bankrupts Rome when he becomes Emperor, so he resorts to arresting and executing rich men to justify stealing their fortunes.

Tiberius, whose paranoia prevents him from effectively ruling his Empire.

In fact, we encounter very few good people in this "autobiography" (or "Game of Romes", as I like to call it). In addition to murder and assassination, many in power see nothing wrong with incest, adultery, and robbery.

Claudius survives because everyone underestimates him. No one considers him a threat or rival, thanks to his bookishness, submissiveness, and physical shortcomings.

I cannot attest to the historical accuracy of this novel, but I've read that Graves did extensive research before writing it. I can tell you that it is very entertaining. If you enjoy a story of political intrigue and conspiracies, you will likely enjoy I, Claudius.