Both an educational and titillating look at [Rome’s most notable Emperors] in this highly readable work ... While he chose ten men to focus on, Professor Strauss provides excellent narrative continuity of the entire Roman Empire, particularly when decades occur between his chosen subjects ... A couple of remarkable themes emerge in this book that make it an even more fascinating and relevant read. First, each of these men was a complex mix of cruelty and generosity, intrigue and wisdom, and ego combined with virtue. Above all, their lives and actions confirm the truth that not much changes concerning human nature regardless of supposed civilizational or technological advancement ... More thought-provoking to modern readers will be learning about the outsized influence of women on Roman politics and the succession of emperors to the throne ... As the author winds down the book with a post-script describing the final days of the divided Roman Empire, the reader is left with a much better sense of how this fairly small and impoverished city was able to rise and rule the Mediterranean basin for over 1000 years. Each of these men played their part and their stories are fascinating case studies of politics, family drama, and ultimately, leadership, both good and bad.
... engaging ... even before opening the first page of Ten Caesars, the reader feels a debt of gratitude to Strauss for scything off a superfluous 60-plus rulers and concentrating on a manageable number. The table of contents shows that he has further simplified things by giving each emperor an epithet ... The strength of [this book's] approach is that it offers perspective. All too often books on Rome, like literary grand tourists, revisit the familiar sites, lingering over the naughty Neros, the effective armies and the efficient bureaucracy. But, as Strauss shows, Rome was far more complex and far more interesting than that ... Strauss is not an author to balk either at cliché... or anachronism ... [Passages containing such clichés or anachronisms,] even in passing, is not merely oversimplification but misrepresentation — and mars an otherwise enlightening book.
Much of Ten Caesars reads like a script for Game of Thrones ... Meanwhile, this superb summation of four centuries of Roman history, a masterpiece of compression, confirms Barry Strauss as the foremost academic classicist writing for the general reader today.