I, Claudius: Part Three

Well, I'm back from Vegas, only to find out that a literary legend has been lost. Even though I have only read one novel of Ray Bradbury's, Fahrenheit 451, I will definitely read more of his work, as he is celebrated as one of the greatest speculative fiction writers of all time. We owe so much to his words, and for that he will be missed.

In other news, I'm 300 pages into I, Claudius (only 150 pages to go!). I really hope I can finish it before I hop the pond to Japan, because my package from Amazon just showed up at my door today with some new books and manga.

Don't you hate it when your to-read list is taunting you, reminding you of how impossible it is to even make a decent dent in the amount of fantastic literature out there?

Anyway, Chapters 15-21 are an improvement from the previous 100 pages. After Augustus dies, the Roman soldiers start to create mutinies due to the limited reward they received from his will. Tiberius proves to be an ineffective ruler, so his commander son Germanicus must forge a letter in his name to appease the troops.

This doesn't work too well, and Germanicus has to send his family away for their own safety. This decision upsets the soldiers even more, as they have fallen in love with Germanicus' son Caligula. They agree to behave if the little boy can return to camp.

One hilarious scene narrates an exchange between Hermann, a German chieftain, and his brother Flavius, who served in the Roman army. On opposite ends of the Rhine, they yell at each other about their treacheries--Hermann in German and Flavius in Latin, as neither man wants to offend their fellow soldiers.

The dialogue is so funny, since the brothers shout insults, ranging from one's drinking problem to losing an eye in battle. Things get especially cruel when they each lie about their mother and wives' lack of love for the brothers. It was amusing to picture these armed men yelling essentially what were "Yo Mama" jokes to each other across a river.

Meanwhile, Claudius moves to Capua and spends his days writing and enjoying time with his beloved prostitute-companion Calpurnia. He receives a secret message that Postumus is still alive (as his doppelganger slave was executed in his place), but sadly Tiberius finds out the news as well. Postumus is soon captured, tortured, and beheaded.

Tiberius then plots against his own son Germanicus. He sends Germanicus to Syria and appoints a man named Piso as governor to spy on him. Piso poisons the emperor's mind, convincing him that his son is trying to overthrow him.

Eventually, Germanicus gets sick and strange things start occurring. He finds bloody rooster feathers and dead babies and animals hidden in his home. Suspicious of witchcraft, he keeps a talisman under his pillow. After 25 days (25 being Germanicus' most-feared number), the talisman goes missing and he dies.

The rest of this section follows Rome's mourning of Germanicus and anger at their despicable emperor. Livia convinces Piso's wife Plancina to murder Piso and stage it as a suicide, in exchange for her own freedom. Germanicus receives many semi-divine honors, and his wife Agrippina becomes a martyr among the Roman populace.

These chapters further illustrate how messed up this imperial family is, with all the back-stabbing and assassinations. The only reason Claudius has lasted this long is because none of his relatives consider him a threat. I enjoyed this section much more than the previous, because I remember studying Germanicus' death in Roman history class and finding it fascinating. So I'm intrigued to read how the rest of the story will go!

If I read 30 pages a day, I can wrap up I, Claudius by Thursday. Wish me luck!