Building on impeccable research, John Williams brings the legendary figure of Augustus vividly to life. After the brutal murder of his great-uncle, Julius Caesar, Octavian, a shy and scholarly youth of nineteen, suddenly finds himself heir to the vast power of Rome. He is destined, despite vicious power struggles, bloody wars and family strife, to transform his realm and become the greatest ruler the western world had ever seen: Augustus Caesar, the first Roman Emperor.
Reviewed by Patrick Welland in Slightly Foxed Issue 58.
The Price of Power
It was only after reading Stoner that I looked at the brief list of Williams’s previous works (they include a fourth novel – his first, written in 1948 – which he later disowned). The title Augustus immediately attracted me. Direct me to novels about the classical world and I am as a white bull with gilded horns to the slaughter. It has been so ever since I read an easily digestible version of the Odyssey as a child. Could this match Marguerite Yourcenar’s Hadrian (SF no. 2), Robert Graves’s Claudius, Mary Renault’s Alexander and Theseus, and Henry Treece’s Oedipus, Jason and Electra? Yes.
Extract from Slightly Foxed Issue 58, Summer 2018