The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar

Tom Holland

Introduced by the author

In Dynasty, classical historian Tom Holland chronicles the murderous, decadent reigns of the first five emperors of Rome – a sensational narrative presented in a lavishly illustrated Folio edition.

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‘Fascinating … [Dynasty] has Holland’s usual novelistic ability to bring a narrative alive, together with his extraordinary command of ancient sources’

  1. New York Times

Tom Holland’s best-selling Rubicon depicted the last, bloody days of the Roman Republic. In Dynasty, he picks up the thread, chronicling the lives of the first five emperors: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero. With a novelist’s verve and a historian’s mastery of detail, Holland lays bare the glamour and decadence of Rome, and the unrelenting brutality beneath its veneer of civilisation – all under the absolute power of history’s most infamous imperial house, fated to become known as ‘the very archetypes of feuding and murderous dynasts’. He pays due attention to its women, from Livia, the self-possessed matriarch of the clan, to Agrippina, killed on the orders of her son Nero after masterminding his rise. Like its sister Folio edition Persian Fire, Holland’s acclaimed book on the Greco-Persian Wars, Dynasty is handsomely presented. It has 24 pages of colour illustrations – including frescoes, sculptures, mosaics and coinage – plus family trees and newly hand-drawn maps, in a distinctive green binding bearing an image of Nero designed by Kent Barton.

Bound in printed and blocked cloth with a design by Kent Barton

Set in Spectrum with Castellar as display

480 pages

Frontispiece plus 24 pages of colour plates

11 integrated hand-drawn maps and 3 family trees 

Plain slipcase

10˝ x 6¾˝ 

‘Holland is a master of narrative history. On the strength of Dynasty, he deserves a laurel wreath.’
  1. Washington Post

From the aftermath of Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC to the suicide of Nero in AD 48, the Julio-Claudian dynasty exercised near-total domination of Rome. Tom Holland creates vivid portraits of the five Caesars, beginning with Augustus, the master strategist who tightened his grip on power while affecting to shun it, and the sly, aristocratic Tiberius, who entrusted Rome to the tyrant Sejanus while indulging in orgies on the island of Capri. Holland is unsparing about the psychotic cruelty of Caligula, a man ‘as familiar to pornographers as classicists’, and depicts his successor Claudius as a surprisingly ruthless, calculating figure. The line ends with the mad narcissist Nero – responsible for untold violent deaths, including those of his own mother and wife, and possibly for the burning of Rome, yet mourned by a people dazzled by the ‘wonder and horror’ that radiated from the Julio-Claudian dynasty.

Dynasty is narrative history at its most thrilling, from one of Britain’s foremost writers on the classical world. Drawing on rigorous scholarship, and a critical approach to ancient historians such as Suetonius and Tacitus, Holland immerses the reader in all the contradictions of Imperial Rome – such as how the women of the Julio-Claudian dynasty could steer the course of history, even in a rigidly patriarchal society where a father literally possessed the power of life and death over his family. Holland’s dynamic narrative touches on the Empire’s founding myths, the massacres of its military campaigns – mirrored in the savagery of the gladiatorial arena – and the question of why a civilisation wedded to republican ideals so quickly accepted submission to the rule of a single man.

Tom Holland is one of Britain’s foremost writers on the ancient world. He is the author of Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic (2003); Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West (2005); Millennium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom (2008); In the Shadow of the Sword (2012), which covers the collapse of Roman and Persian power in the Near East and the rise of Islam; Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar (2015); Athelstan: The Making of England (2016); and Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind (2019). Persian Fire won the Anglo-Hellenic League’s Runciman Award, and Rubicon was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History. Holland has also published a translation of Herodotus’ Histories (2013) and has adapted Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides and Virgil for BBC Radio. In 2007, he was the winner of the Classical Association prize, awarded to ‘the individual who has done most to promote the study of the language, literature and civilisation of Ancient Greece and Rome’.


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