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Chapters 4 - 6

#30: Sept. - Oct. 2006 (Non-Fiction)
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Chris OConnor

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Chapters 4 - 6

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Chapters 4 - 6Talk about Chapters 4 - 6 here please.
MadArchitect

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Re: Chapters 4 - 6

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Before I dish some of my thoughts on this section, this is probably as good a place as any to announce that I'll be MIA for close to two weeks, starting Thursday. I'm taking a little European vacay with my family, but I'll definitely be taking "I, Claudius" with me, and I'm sure I'll have plenty to say about it when I get back. In the meantime...Chapter IV.The relationship between Tiberius and Claudius' father Drusus makes for good reading. The whole book, in some sense, seems to be about the tension between the good Claudiuses and the bad Claudiuses, as though the family itself were trying to navigate through morality. Presumably, Claudius himself is a kind of pivot for the whole struggle...Drusus' estimation of Rome is telling, as well. He depicts it as slipping unintentionally into tyranny due to the complacency, hearo-worship and fear of its leading citizens. One detail I found interesting is Claudius' suggestion that Augustus retained his position as caesar not so much to satisfy his own ambition as from fear of the enemies he had made since his rise to power. He's afraid of being a private citizen again, because that opens him up to reprisal and revenge, which his enemies presumably would not seek against the emperor.Again, there's a kind of tenuous line between credulity and piety when it comes to religion. Drusus mentions in his letter several odd portents he sees in Germany, but rather than note them with piety, Augustus, Tiberius and Livia treat them as evidence that he's ill to the point of hallucination. The complexity of the scene is that they all have different reasons for saying as much: Augustus to protect both himself and Drusus from Livia' wrath, Tiberius because defending his brother would implicate him too directly in what could be interpreted as a conspiracy, and Livia in order to discredit the visions as portents.And finally, I wonder if there wasn't some symbolic content implied in the fact that Drusus' death brought Claudius' family back to Rome, just when Claudius' own life hung in the balance. Without that reversal of fortune for the family, Claudius likely would have died in infancy, and Rome itself might have taken a different course.
MadArchitect

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Re: Chapters 4 - 6

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Chapter 5.There's a neat literary turn in this chapter that probably echoes throughout the book: Claudius' infirmities are described in such a way that they reflect Rome's political tensions. The sentence I have in mind runs, "I was a very sickly child -- ' a very battleground of diseases', the doctors said -- and perhaps only lived because the diseases could not agree as to which should have the honour of carrying me off." The battleground quote is what set me along that train of thought, and it wouldn't shock me to find out that Graves had intended to set off the analogy with that quote.Towards the end of the chapter I realized that it presented a kind of catalogue of the men (and two women, not including Livia) who shaped the young Claudius. There's Athenodorus, Augustus, Cato, Marcus Porcius Cato, Germanicus, Castor, and so on. Some stand up for Claudius and treat him as a human, others mistreat him and make him out to be a degenerate form of life, but there's an interplay between them that makes him who he is.In particular, I was struck by the depiction of M.P. Cato and his ancestor Cato the Censor. Claudius (Graves) goes on for several pages about the latter, even though his importance to the narrative is pretty indirect. Fortunately, Graves' style here is so natural and engaging that I felt that the whole thing was part of the sort of twisty, fascinating story one of your friends would tell you.What's important about the Cato digressions, I think, is Claudius' depiction of Cato as a kind of wreckless moralizer. Cato is constantly making the case for "ancient virtues", but his behavior seems to stem more from petty vices and arrogance. And Claudius holds him responsible for the Punic Curse -- the chief symptom of which, Claudius says in Ch. I, is money-madness -- so Rome several generations later is still paying for (or buying up, depending on how you look at it) the consequences of Cato's moral ambiguities.Ooh, and how about that description of the eagles fighting over the wolf cub, and the portent it becomes? Vivid, fascinating stuff!
funda62

OT: European Vacation

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Hey, if your headed this way let me know! Maybe our families can meet up for lunch! I'm in Germany btw. funda "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, prehaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." -Henry David Thoreau
MadArchitect

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Re: OT: European Vacation

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Won't be making it to Germany. In fact, I was being unnecessarily vague in my previous post: we'll be travelling around Italy, so I have the luxury of reading a novel about ancient Rome in and around the places where it actually took place. Should be cool.
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Re: Chapters 4-6

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Since Mad is off traveling (lucky sod!), I'll continue with some thoughts on C. 6Tiberius is the focus here, and the whole Julia story. I must admit, I didn't really make the connection between the character Tiberius described in these chapters, and the emperor (hope that's not a spoiler!). At this point, he's just another of the 'bad' Claudians, and he's a (somewhat willing) victim of Livia's manipulations. He is, for a bad Claudian, only mildly cruel at this point, he likes boyish women, he had "begun cautiously experimenting in those ludicrously filthy practices which later made his name detestable to all decent-minded people."I wanted to comment on the ad hoc ergo propter hoc way of thinking that people in Claudius' time indulged in...we know better. We know that Spanish fly doesn't actually work, we know that fortune-tellers are BS, but I'm really enjoying how Graves is so subtly planting these assumptions in Claudius & his world. Julia was addicted to Spanish fly (given to her by Livia, of course), and that explains her wild sexual adventures...not that she just wanted to have sex with a lot of people. [I'm trying to write intelligently, but my husband is listening to a Lewis Black comedy show on the other computer in our office, and I'm a bit distracted!] Now that I'm re-reading with an eye to the style & content to be able to comment here, I'm noticing things I really like about Graves' style, and the subtleties of Claudius' character & assumptions.Example: Augustus goes into his room and hides in shame when he hears about Julia's behaviour: Quote:"...he locked himself in and was seen by nobody, not even by Livia, for four whole days, during which time he took no food or drink, nor any sleep, and what was still stronger proof -- if any was required -- of the violence of his grief, went all that time unshaved."Ooooh, he was unshaved. Obviously he was upset. Another funny bit I enjoyed: Livia, writing the recommendation for Julia's banishment in Augustus' style according to Claudius, Quote:"which was easy to to imitate because it always sacrificed elegance to clarity -- for example, by a determined repetition of the same word, where it occurred often in a passage, instead of hunting about for a synonym or periphrasis (which is a common literary practice)."Of course, Claudius would use a synonym for a synonym! "All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds." Loricat's Book NookCelebrating the Absurd
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