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  • 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
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Art
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (46 ratings)

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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

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  • Stephen J Chiulli
  • 10-11-21

This foray into art history is a disappointment.

I have read most or all of Professor B's books but gave up on this one. I found that I didn't care about which copy of a painting ended up in one collection or another. I was unwilling to go to th he pdf for images so had only the narration to follow. Not an appropriate book for listening on Audible in my humble opinion.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 12-03-22

Love it!

Usually audio books don't keep my attention, my mind wanders, but the info in this and Prof. Beard's learned yet snarky delivery kept me hooked.

Production was good although a little more removal of "ssss" and popping sounds would have been nice. Liked having the PDF of pictures, but it would have been INFINITELY better if the pix could have been enlarged and you didn't have to scroll through all of them every time.

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  • John Dubronski
  • 06-07-22

Mary is amazing!

I've read countless books on Caesar and the Roman Empire. Mary Beard is by far my favorite source of information. Nothing beats pouring a glass of wine and watching one of her documentaries or listening to an audiobook at the end of a long day.

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  • B. Coleman
  • 03-06-22

A let down.

I adore Mary Beard, and I'm fascinated by Rome. But this feels more like one of those cash-grab albums a fading musician puts out - a third stuff you've heard before, a third stuff you've heard before but with new production, and a third stuff you could honestly do without.

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  • victor ochoa
  • 11-04-22

avoid this

disappointing, not what i expected . intended audience needs to be made very very clear

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  • C. S. Wynne
  • 11-03-22

Not what I was expecting

I love Mary Beard’s writing and was expecting a concise history of the twelve Caesars. I got a report on Roman coins and statues and how they were perceived in the time after the fall of the Roman Empire. Very disappointing.