Listen free for 30 days

  • Twelve Caesars

  • Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern (Bollingen Series)
  • By: Mary Beard
  • Narrated by: Mary Beard
  • Length: 10 hrs and 11 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (61 ratings)

Pick 1 audiobook a month from our unmatched collection - including bestsellers and new releases.
Listen all you want to thousands of included audiobooks, Originals, celeb exclusives, and podcasts.
Access exclusive sales and deals.
£7.99/month after 30 days. Renews automatically. See here for eligibility.
Twelve Caesars cover art

Twelve Caesars

By: Mary Beard
Narrated by: Mary Beard
Try for £0.00

£7.99/month after 30 days. Renews automatically. See here for eligibility.

Buy Now for £17.99

Buy Now for £17.99

Pay using card ending in
By completing your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and authorise Audible to charge your designated card or any other card on file. Please see our Privacy Notice, Cookies Notice and Interest-based Ads Notice.

Listeners also enjoyed...

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them cover art
Healing Crystals: The Beginner’s Guide to Healing Crystals and Their Meanings and Uses cover art
Rubicon cover art
In Our Time: 25 Key Figures in Ancient History cover art
Helen of Troy cover art
The Devil in the Gallery cover art
Through a Glass Darkly cover art
Last Light cover art
Nero cover art
Coffee cover art
Last One to Lie cover art
Trajan cover art
A Little History of Art cover art
Reductionism in Art and Brain Science cover art
Germany: Memories of a Nation cover art
Cosmic Queries cover art

Summary

This audiobook narrated by best-selling author Mary Beard explores how images of Roman autocrats have influenced art, culture, and the representation of power.

What does the face of power look like? Who gets commemorated in art and why? And how do we react to statues of politicians we deplore? In this book - against a background of today’s “sculpture wars” - Mary Beard tells the story of how for more than two millennia portraits of the rich, powerful, and famous in the Western world have been shaped by the image of Roman emperors, especially the “Twelve Caesars”, from the ruthless Julius Caesar to the fly-torturing Domitian. Twelve Caesars asks why these murderous autocrats have loomed so large in art from antiquity and the Renaissance to today, when hapless leaders are still caricatured as Neros fiddling while Rome burns.

Beginning with the importance of imperial portraits in Roman politics, this book offers a tour through 2,000 years of art and cultural history, presenting a fresh look at works by artists from Memling and Mantegna to the 19th-century African American sculptor Edmonia Lewis, as well as by generations of now-forgotten weavers, cabinetmakers, silversmiths, printers, and ceramicists. Rather than a story of a simple repetition of stable, blandly conservative images of imperial men and women, Twelve Caesars is an unexpected tale of changing identities, clueless or deliberate misidentifications, fakes, and often ambivalent representations of authority.

From Beard’s reconstruction of Titian’s extraordinary lost Room of the Emperors to her reinterpretation of Henry VIII’s famous Caesarian tapestries, Twelve Caesars includes some fascinating detective work and offers a gripping story of some of the most challenging and disturbing portraits of power ever created.

Published in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2021 Mary Beard (P)2021 Princeton University Press

Critic reviews

“Deftly weaving together past and present, this elegantly written book analyzes the allure of Roman imperial iconography from the early modern period up to the present day. Often reading like a detective novel, it focuses on the formation of a canonical group of 12 Caesars that were invented and reinvented, interpreted and reinterpreted, for purposes that varied from a simple lust for collecting to political self-fashioning.” (Patricia Fortini Brown, author of The Venetian Bride: Bloodlines and Blood Feuds in Venice and Its Empire)

“An exceptionally well written and lively book, there is nothing like Twelve Caesars. The book is consistently informative and entertaining. The range of reference across art history from the 15th to the 19th centuries, as well as in the author’s more expected arena of command in antiquity, is staggering and deeply impressive.” (Jaś Elsner, author of Roman Eyes: Visuality and Subjectivity in Art and Text)

What listeners say about Twelve Caesars

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    37
  • 4 Stars
    13
  • 3 Stars
    6
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    2
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    41
  • 4 Stars
    7
  • 3 Stars
    2
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    0
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    31
  • 4 Stars
    11
  • 3 Stars
    6
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    1

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating tour of history

This work explores the imagery of various Roman Caesars in different artistic forms throughout the ages. It is not intended to be a linear history of the Caesars, and the form of looking at imagery through various media actually makes it way more interesting. There was a lot to learn here, I really enjoyed it. The recording/sound quality didn’t really do it justice, but it was good that Beard herself narrated as she is an engaging reader.

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Not very well produced at all.

I found this book difficult to follow. I feel it would have made for a much better TV series, in light of it's focus. The PDF that accompanies the audiobook is quite poor. If listening on your phone you can't zoom into the images, in addition to which it doesn't remember where you got to. The images are quite badly indexed too!

Production quality is notably poor, quite clearly not done in a studio, as far as I can tell. The sound quality isn't particularly great, in addition to which there is noise, most often on account of apparent desk and mic knocks.

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Not what I thought it would be

It’s not classical history, but more renaissance art history. Especially lots about coins. I was hoping for a history of the first part of the Roman Empire, but this wasn’t it. Beard narrates well and enthusiastically despite some clunky editing. A bit of a disappointment unfortunately

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

it's an art book, not histories of caesars

If the title of the book has captured your attention and you're expecting an informative book on the histories of the Twelve Caesars, then think again... instead, this is a book about busts and paintings of the Caesars. its an art book. it really needs a different book title, something like Art of the Twelve Caesars... it's like calling a book Supercars but only talking about seatbelts... this book was such a letdown.

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Mary Beard on form.

I could listen to Mary Beard all day long. this fascinating look at how images of power have shaped and been shaped by the forces of history as well as the impossibility of certainty in ancient history is well read and presented as Beard comes at the topic from all angles

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!