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Return to Book Page. Preview — Count Belisarius by Robert Graves. Count Belisarius by Robert Graves. The sixth century was not a peaceful time for the Roman empire. Invaders threatened on all fronties, but they grew to respect and fear the name of Belisarius, belksario Emperor Justinian’s greatest general.

With this book Robert Graves again demonstrates his command of a vast historical subject, creating a startling and vivid picture of a decadent era. Paperbackpages. Published Gravee 1st by Farrar, Straus and Giroux first published bslisario RomeItaly Byzantine Empire.

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Robert Graves’s sources for Count Belisarius include some of the great historical works of classical antiquity: Livy, Thucydides, Herodotus, and certainly Xenophon in the Persian war sections.

The novel is set in the sixth century of our era. Belisarius is perhaps the last loyal general the Roman Empire can still count on. He is deeply Christian Orthodox but with an admirable tolerance for divergent views Arianism, Monophysitism, etc. He is also a military leader of genius.

belsiario The accounts of Robert Graves’s sources for Count Belisarius include some of the great historical works of classical antiquity: The accounts of his successes in Persia, Carthage, and Italy, are depicted at length. The Seige of Rome by an Ostrogoth army ten times the size of Belisarius’s own constitutes a set piece of extraordinary brilliance. If you like any of the classical histories mentioned, you will like this book. Be advised, however, that it tends to be better written than its models–or, I should say, than the English translations of those models that I have read.

I wanted to read it because I liked the lethal palace intrigue so abundant in I, Claudius. That’s here alright but the ramp up is longish. Rohert first bits of intrigue don’t begin until p. But then gravea on to your hoody because the last pages are wonderful. The book is narrated by Eugenius, the eunuch slave of Antonina, the entertainer and prostitute whom we first meet at a soiree given by the fourteen year old Belisarius’s tutor. The Empress herself, Theodora, also a former prostitute, is an old friend of Antonina.

In their youth they clubbed together with other girls and opened a brothel in Adrianople. Emperor Justinian, who met his code in rober house of pain, Graves’s depicts as not very smart and easily led by those motivated almost solely by self interest. They ruthlessly smear Belisarius’s squeaky-clean reputation and eventually succeed in driving this brilliant man from Justinian’s good graces. I can’t begin to hint at the intrigue and casuistry on display here.


The sheer cruelty and malice.

Count Belisarius

The incompetence, usually driven by jealousy, of Belisarius’s generals. You simply must read it for yourself.

Suffice it to say that the last pages are on a fonde with I, Claudius and somewhat better in my view than Rohert the God. I think Graves’s may have wanted to provide a more in-depth opening since details of the late Roman Empire are less well known than those of the classical period. That’s my guess, anyway. Exuberantly recommended despite the slow start, especially for lovers of the historical novel. This beautiful edition was produced by The Folio Society London. View all 15 comments. Did Robert Beljsario abuse history in writing this?

I certainly hope so. By the end, however, I didn’t really care if Belisarius was as good as Graves made him out to be, if the narrator, Eugenius, Belisarius’ wife Antonia’s manservant is unreliable, or if Antonia slept with one man or many after marrying this ‘Last Great Roman’.

Graves bends this story into “For not by numbers of men, nor by measure of code, but by valor of soul is war to be decided. Graves bends this story into his own parable about power, corruption, honor and ingenuity. Other generals and the emperor Justinian serve as counter-examples of Belisaurius condw also reflect the time he lived. The book wasn’t perfect, but it was a great book about a near perfect man. I think the brilliance of writers like Robert Graves and Hilary Mantel is their ability through historical fiction to capture something MORE than history.

Much of Belisarius’ life is lost.

Count Belisarius by Robert Graves

What is grzves is known through histories written with their own agenda and perspective. Graves novel gives us room to imagine a world that may not be accurate, but is an idealized version of what we WANT to believe we are capable. With the void of the past containing almost an infinite number of possibilities, it is reasonable to want to find pure motives and heroics in those figures of the past.

Procopius can keep conse cuckolded history, I’ll take Grave’s virtuous fiction any day. View all 6 comments. Mar 06, Hadrian rated it really liked it Shelves: Belisarius was a tragic hero, deserving of the title “The Last Roman”. An honest and principled man, who reconquered Rome and Carthage with a miniscule force, and died, according to legend, a blind beggar, fallen to the intrigues of the Robret court.

Graves, who is no slouch when it comes to historical fiction, does well here. He does his research on an all too obscure period of history, and writes a gripping novel. Late Roman historical fiction with a solid base in fact. Belisarius was a roman general who served Justinian in the sixth century. Graves beilsario Procopius as a base for his account and has the story told by of of Antonina’s Belisarius’s wife eunuchs.


Justinian is well drawn as the monster he was and there are entertaining accounts of early Christian heresies. It’s been a while since I’ve read about Monophysites and Arians. Belisarius is portrayed as impossibly good and honourable and both of the Late Roman historical fiction with a solid base in fact.

Belisarius is portrayed as impossibly good and honourable and both of the main female characters Antonina and Theodora, Justinian’s wife spend much time scheming. There is glut of battle scenes, descriptions of campaigns, seiges and the deployment of soldiers.

I suppose I am churlish to complain as it is a novel about a general! I enjoyed it and it reads easily. If you like noble soldiers, a general in the Russell Crowe mould, corrupt bishops and popes, a homicidal emperor, lots of intrigue, courtesans and numerous battles; you will love this.

For me, I was a little disappointed; not the same calibre as I Claudius. I seem to be in the minority on this, but I found Count Belisarius to be a little disappointing. Graves writes in the style of Classical authors.

This is a nice approach — ggaves women are fascinating figures in their own right, but it wasn’t enough in cconde to really hook me. The dialogue is often very stilted and formal. Belisarius is more of an archetypal Roman hero than an actual character, with his only flaws being an excess of virtue.

Many other bleisario suffer similarly, being a collection of identifiable traits rather than fleshed out personalities. By the halfway mark I found myself skimming, and I read the rest of the book in that fashion, hoping it would grab me again at some point, but it never really did.

View all 3 comments. Fact-based fiction from the Byzantine era.

El Conde Belisario – Robert Graves – Google Books

Lots of battles, but surprisingly, given the author unspooled in a cond. Belisarius fights off the Persians; he captures Carthage; next Sicily; and soon all of Italy south of the Po. But all the while, undermined by the Eastern Emperor Justinian, jealous of his popularity. Sounds like the makings of a plot. Yet, because there’s so little dialogue, the book becomes a term paper–and a hagiography.

Were Robert Graves alive today, a shorter version — Fact-based fiction from the Byzantine era. Were Robert Graves alive today, a shorter version — for this is an ox-stunner of a book — could be a Wikipedia entry.

Nov 22, Brad Lyerla rated it really liked it. The first is that I loved Graves’ Claudius novels and welcomed the opportunity to read another of his books. Second, seeing another review of this book on GoodReads some months ago caused me to realize that I know almost nothing about the Eastern Roman Empire, even though I have read quite a bit about the Roman Republic and the early decades of the Western Empire.