Robert Grave’s I, Claudius is a pseudo-historical novel in the form of the autobiography of Emperor Tiberius Claudius of Rome. My first exposure to the work was actually a few episodes of the BBC productions. From what little I recalled of the show, it seemed faithful to the book in retrospect. While the book is classified as fiction (or historical fiction), in my limited knowledge of the period, it seem very strongly grounded in the actual events as they were understood in Grave’s time (and many remain so). Claudius has definitely been transformed into a sympathetic, if not heroic figure by Graves, but I suspect that would have been the result in most real autobiographies.
Interesting side note about I, Claudius that I was unaware of until after finishing it… Graves claimed that Claudius came to him in a dream one night after reading Suetonius, and demanded that his real story be told. Maybe Mr. Graves was indulging Coleridge’s inspirational methods. :-)
Whatever the case, Graves constructed a novel that appealed to me deeply. It added depth, personality and motivation to a series of historical events in an era that is often heavily stereotyped. Anyone who admires the labyrinthian twists and turns of some of the more intriguing periods would probably greatly enjoy the winding course of events from Augustus, through Tiberius and Caligua and ending with Claudius as Emperor. I feel that even those that normally shy away from history would enjoy the novelization.