Page 276. " To conclude the proceedings Livia gave a reading of Augustus's letters "

The letters themselves are Graves's invention, but they incorporate phrases from the classical sources, which he weaves skilfully into his own fictional account.

For example, the phrase about the Roman people being at the mercy of "such slow-grinding jaws" is attributed by Suetonius to Augustus, speaking of Tiberius.

Page 287. " Does Thrasyllus never make mistakes? "

Once again, prophecy provides a link between what we as readers may know, and what Claudius could not yet know by any other means.

Here, Livia tells Claudius that Thrasyllus, an astrologer at the court of Tiberius (mentioned by both Tacitus and Suetonius), has predicted that Caligula will be murdered and that he (Claudius) will be the man to avenge his death.

Page 288. " the greatest deity the world has ever known "
Crucifixion by Velazquez
Public DomainCrucifixion by Velazquez

This prophecy by Thrasyllus (an invention by Graves) is Delphic. Livia assumes that the prophecy relates to herself (that she will become the greatest Deity the world has ever known) whereas we can see, with the benefit of hindsight, that it relates to Jesus Christ.

Page 289. " suffering the most frightful torments "
A scene from Dante's Inferno, showing heretics in burning tombs, engraved by Gustave Doré
Public DomainA scene from Dante's Inferno, showing heretics in burning tombs, engraved by Gustave Doré

This is a rare anachronism on Graves's part. The fear that he attributes to Livia is not a fear that a First Century pagan Roman would have entertained. The Hell that she fears is that of Dante, not Virgil.

Page 292. " she told me everything that I wanted to know "

Interestingly, Claudius does not ask Livia about the death of his fiancée, Livia Medullina Camilla. It is also interesting that, if we believe Claudius's account of this conversation with Livia, we must assume her (that is, the fictional character, not the historical one) to have been guilty of most of the murders that he suspected her of. The question for the reader is: do we trust Claudius at this point, given what we know about his background, and his feelings about his grandmother? He goes on to say that "it all seemed like a drunken dream." Perhaps it was?

Page 293. " Little by little the City Warden would have all the real power "

Lucius Aelius Seianus (20 BC - 31 AD) was left in control of the Roman State from 26 AD, when Tiberius retired to his Villa on the island of Capri. His ambitions were widely suspected, and Tiberius refused his request to marry his daughter.

Page 294. " Capri is an island in the Bay of Naples "

Villa Jovis
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeVilla Jovis - Credit: Satoshi Nakagawa
Villa Jovis, Tiberius's hilltop villa on the island of Capri, covers 1.7 acres.


Page 296. " He was only a simple fisherman "

This story of the unfortunate fisherman is based on an account in Suetonius's The Twelve Caesars, and is just one example among many of Tiberius's arbitrary cruelty during his period on Capri. As with the stories of his sexual depravity, it is impossible to know how much truth there is in such claims.