Augustus: The Life of Rome’s First Emperor by Anthony Everitt

Anyone attempting to write a biography of Augustus faces a monumentous task. Not only are sources limited during the era, but the information that is available is often biased. Not to mention the fact that so many important events occurred during such a short period of time. Everitt manages to take all this in stride and presents a readable and interesting portrait of a man who transformed a crumbling republic into the world’s largest empire with his new book. Beginning with Augustus’s rise through Roman society including his adoption by Julius Caesar to his power struggle with Mark Antony to his becoming the head of state, the author makes all of this fairly easy to follow. Names and dates can be a little confusing. Some diagrams and family trees interspersed throughout the book might have helped. Instead they were unhelpfully placed at the beginning with no information that would tell you what part of the book they were relevant to. Everitt paints a thorough picture of a man who worked hard to create an image of power, simplicity, and above all else a near mythic aura. His novelistic reconstruction of Augustus’s last days offers a bold new interpretation, which he carefully backs up with historical research. Written to reach a wider audience than Classicists, Everitt even attempts to make some comparisons to today’s world events. Overall, I found the book a fresh recounting of historical events.