Page 54. " she does not buy a pet marmoset "

Pan, a satyr and a monkey, Museo dall'Ara Pacis
Creative Commons AttributionPan, a satyr and a monkey, Museo dall'Ara Pacis - Credit: Giovanni Dall'Orto
The choice of the word "marmoset" is surely a mistake on Graves's part. Marmosets are New World monkeys, which neither Claudius nor his mother would ever have seen. Old World monkeys, on the other hand, were not uncommonly kept as pets. Augustus's joke about Claudius's mother breeding the creatures herself gives rise, later in the novel, to a nickname used by Claudius himself.

Page 58. " But I was on the subject of Cato the Censor "

Marcus Porcius Cato (234 BC - 139 BC), the illustrious ancestor of Claudius's less than illustrious tutor, was a Roman general, statesman and magistrate, known for his upholding of traditional morality.

Page 63. " When he called me Cercopithecion [little marmoset] "

Cercopithecus neglectus
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCercopithecus neglectus - Credit: Hans Hillewaert
Cercopithecus is a genus of old world monkeys, native to sub-Saharan Africa.


Page 64. " Six months later he took me into the Apollo Library "

The Bibliotheca Apollinis was on the Palatine Hill in Rome, attached to Augustus's palace, and to the Temple of Apollo Palatinus. Parts of the temple survive, but the library does not.

Page 72. " Julia's nocturnal orgies in the Market Place and on the Oration Platform "

Julia Augusti Filia (39 BC - 14 AD), the daughter of Augustus and second wife of Tiberius, was accused of adultery and licentiousness, and exiled, on Augustus's orders, to the island of Ventotene in 2 BC. Both Cassius Dio (in The Roman Histories) and Seneca (in On Benefits) refer to her conducting "revels" and "debaucheries" in the Forum, "and even on the Rostra," with a number of male partners. Seneca explicitly states that she prostituted herself.

The Rostra in the Roman Forum
GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe Rostra in the Roman Forum - Credit: Sailko

The Rostra was a platform at the western end of the Forum, and was the point from which orators, including Emperors, addressed the masses. Although secular in nature, it had a near sacred significance to the Roman state. It was a place where no woman should ever have been seen, and on which no man should be seen without a toga. The equivalent would be a member of the British Royal Family fornicating in the middle of Trafalgar Square. This specific claim, however, may well have been apocryphal.

Elaine Fantham's book, Julia Augusti (Routledge 2006), gives a balanced historical account of her life).


Page 75. " There is a soldiers' marching-ballad "
The Battle of Teutoburg Forest
Public DomainThe Battle of Teutoburg Forest - Credit: Otto Albert Koch

The ballad itself is Grave's own, though composed in the irreverent style of the ballads that Roman soldiers are known to have sung at triumphal processions.

It refers to the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD, where General Publius Quinctilius Varus lost three entire legions (18,000 men plus auxiliaries) along with his own life.

Suetonius, in The Twelve Caesars, records that in the aftermath of the disaster Augustus 'was so disturbed that, for months at a time, he let his beard and hair grow, and would hit his head against the door, shouting: "Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!"'