Thursday, November 21, 2013

Book Review: I Am A Barbarian by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The Story: A young barbarian is spared from death because a child named Caligula, the future emperor of Rome, wants him as a slave and playmate. As the barbarian grows up alongside the increasingly mad Caligula, he tries to stay true to his code of honor, while secretly fearing that he will one day be crucified for offending his master. When Caligula finally becomes emperor, the barbarian will see up close all the horrifying ways that Caligula’s insanity will affect the already troubled Roman Empire.

My Thoughts: I’m guessing that this book takes a lot of artistic liberties with history, but I also wonder if its depiction of the depravity of a troubled Roman Empire is somewhat accurate in spirit. It’s certainly a fascinating and disturbing read. None of the characters are paragons of virtue, but the comparatively mild flaws of the barbarian who tells the tale are contrasted effectively with the significantly more malevolent flaws of his Roman captors. I wish, however, that I could have understood the barbarian a bit better. The story ends on a grim note, so whether or not you would enjoy this book will partly depend on what you think of books with tragic endings.

Content Overview: Violence is pervasive, including the numerous cruel executions Caligula participates in, such as having people beheaded as entertainment during a meal, but it is not described graphically. The sexual promiscuity and perversity of the Romans is referenced frequently, though always with tact, and no problematic details are given. There are some mild swear words.


  1. Though this doesn't have to do with the book or your review, I like the art on that book cover a lot. And thanks for sharing your review, Jonathan. :) I keep being interested in this book, because of the tragic ending... :P

    1. Thank you for commenting, Amy! I didn't like the tragic ending. ;)