The Julio-Claudian family possessed all the brutality and dysfunctionality of the Sopranos, but with fewer (or no) constraints on their power to injure outsiders or each other. From this raw material Robert Graves brilliantly recreates a world of power, intrigue and cruelty, a world permeated through and through with the threat of sudden and violent death. In the process he raises striking, sometimes unanswerable questions: was Tiberius really as depraved as Suetonius suggests? Was Livia the true power behind Augustus' throne? And did she really poison all those people? Did Caligula seriously plan to make his horse a consul? Whether or not we can answer these questions, this was certainly a world in which such things could happen.
With an Afterword by Tom Griffith.