Thursday, December 10, 2015

Count Belisarius


I finished I, Claudius, Claudius the God, and King Jesus, all by Robert Graves. I needed more Robert Graves. For the first time ever, I bought an e-book because I couldn't wait for a hard copy to arrive. The book is Count Belisarius, and it's one of my favorites so far. If you like historical novels, especially early medieval military history, this one's for you. Set in the waning days of the Eastern Roman Empire, it's fast-paced yet crammed full of scholarly detail - just like all of Graves' books. Here's a good description from the Historical Novel Society:

"Originally published in 1936, Count Belisarius has not basked in the same limelight as Robert Graves’s two earlier masterpieces set in the early Roman Empire. Instead, in Count Belisarius the focus shifts east from Rome to Constantinople. The cast is full and complex but essentially can be summarised as a foursome: the Emperor Justinian and his wife, Theodora, whose closest friend, Antonina, marries Justinian’s general, Belisarius. The story is narrated by a eunuch, Eugenius, a devoted slave in Antonina’s household. The scope of the book is massive – encompassing religious controversy and cultural developments as well as military history – yet, throughout, Graves succeeds in blending historical details with the development of his main characters. For anyone who has seen the beautiful mosaic of Justinian and Theodora in Ravenna, their characters here come as a surprise: for all its ideals and renewed hope, the Eastern Roman Empire was as corrupt as its Western predecessor. Belisarius alone rises above this as a man of principle and integrity and a renowned military leader. He leads Justinian’s army to victory in the campaigns against Persia, Carthage, Sicily and Northern Italy, often against astonishing odds and with little backing."

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