Robert Ranke Graves (1895-1985) was a British poet, novelist, and critic. He is best known for the historical novel I, Claudius and the critical study of myth and poetry The White Goddess. He wrote his autobiography, Goodbye to All That, in 1929, and it was soon established as a modern classic. He also translated Apuleius, Lucan and Suetonius for the Penguin Classics, and compiled the first modern dictionary of Greek Mythology, The Greek Myths. His translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (with Omar Ali-Shah) is also published in Penguin. Barry Unsworth is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and holds an honorary doctorate from Manchester University. He is the author of 15 novels, among them 'Sacred Hunger', which won the 1992 Booker Prize. 'Pascali's Island' (1980) and 'Morality Play' (1995) were shortlisted for the same prize. His most recent novel 'The Ruby in Her Navel' is due for publication in 2006. He lives in Italy.
May 2014 Guest Editor Daisy Goodwin on I, Claudius... Discovered this in my early teens and was completely hooked by the story of the rise to power of the most unlikely Roman Emperor. Graves was a classical scholar, but he never forgets that his primary role as a novelist is to tell a story. He inhabits Ancient Rome, as surely as Hilary Mantel breathes the air of the Tudor Court. Great historical novels are the ones that show us the past rather than tell us about it.
Continuing the saga begun in I, Claudius, Robert Graves's Claudius the God is a compelling fictional autobiography of the Roman emperor, published with an introduction by Barry Unsworth in Penguin Modern Classics. Claudius has survived the murderous intrigues of his predecessors to become, reluctantly, Emperor of Rome. Here he recounts his surprisingly successful reign: how he cultivates the loyalty of the army and the common people to repair the damage caused by Caligula; his relations with the Jewish King Herod Agrippa; and his invasion of Britain. But the growing paranoia of absolute power and the infidelity of his promiscuous young wife Messalina mean that his good fortune will not last forever. In this second part of Robert Graves's fictionalized autobiography, Claudius - wry, rueful, always inquisitive - brings to life some of the most scandalous and violent times in history. If you enjoyed Claudius the God, you might like Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian, also available in Penguin Modern Classics. 'I, Claudius and Claudius the God are an imaginative and hugely readable account of the early decades of the Roman Empire ... racy, inventive, often comic' Daily Telegraph 'One of the really remarkable books of our day, a novel of learning and imagination, fortunately conceived and brilliantly executed' The New York Times 'Graves made Roman history funny and familiar' Guardian