ERB Book Reviews
Edgar Rice Burroughs book reviews from fans like you.
I Am A Barbarian
Reviewed by: Dale Monahan 2000-04-15
As a young Briton boy of ten, the hero of the story is captured by the Romans and made a slave. His parents also taken captive are chained and later killed. However this is only after being paraded as spoils of war.
This young Briton becomes, Britannicus Caligulae Servus, the personal slave of "Little Boots" a child of four. He is the barbarian.
"Little Boots" is a favorite, as a child of the Roman soldiers. He is the child of Germanicus, a nephew and adopted son of the Emperior Tiberius and in the family line of Caesars. And when he grows up, becomes the mad Roman emperor, Caligula, hated and feared by all.
This book follows the life of "Little Boots" and through the eyes of Brit, his personal slave, and watches him as he develops into the mad emperor.
Soon after becoming a slave, Brit is spit upon by Caligula who is just a child of four. He also calls him a vile barbarian. Brit slapped him. The mother of Caligula, Agrippina wants to have the slave killed but his father, Germanicus will not allow it. He questions Caligula and finds out that he had indeed spit upon Brit.
"He is my slave; I can spit on him if I choose."
"A gentleman does not do such things," said Germanicus, gravely, "much less a prince of the imperial house."
This forever remains with Caligula who is always a little afraid of Brit, even though he is his slave.
Throughout the book, Brit witnesses the debauched life of the Romans. This only make him feel superior to the Romans and makes him proud to be a Barbarian slave. Many of the atrocities of the mad Caligula are listed. He takes the wifes of any man as he so pleases. He insults the Senators, every chance that he gets. Once he even announced that he was going to make his horse a consul in the senate. Although he started out being their darling, they all soon learn to hate him. But fear him.
Of course, since this is a Burroughs book, there is romance. Brit, saves the life of a slave girl, Attica. To save her, he kills a Roman citizen. He didn't realize that he had killed him until later when his friend, Tibur, an ex-gladiator and Roman soldier, is accused of the crime. To save him, Brit comes forward and announces that he did it. Being just a slave, he is sentenced to be crucified. He is saved by none other than the then emperor, Tiberius.
Later Brit witnesses Caligula holding a pillow over the face of Tiberius. All he did was turn and make sure that Caligula didn't see him. After all, he was just a slave. On his part, this was prudent, because the free Roman citizen who had been present was crucified after having his tongue removed. Of course, the man was on his death bed. This could have colored his actions, because Brit had a great deal of respect for Tiberius. Later Caligula forces Gemellus to kill himself. This was the grandson of Tiberius that he had adopted and sworn to protect.
One of the things that he is permitted to do, is drive a chariot in a race. He becomes very good charioteer. During a race when Caligula has a great deal of money on the outcome, Brit throws the race by not running over his friend, Numerius, with a chariot. This would have been prefectly acceptable in the theater. Caligula is furious. After Brit explains why he didn't run over his friend, Caligula decides that he will just have the man killed to whom he owes the wager. Then he can just take his money. There is no end to his devious behavior.
"Every dirty trick to which a charioteer might resort in order to win, even though they might result in the injury or death of horses and men, was countanced and applauded. It was typically Roman."
No wonder he had little respect for any Roman.
He later is permitted to marry and marries the slave girl,Attica, who he had saved earlier. Once when Attica, is about to be killed, he jumped into the arena and saves her with the help of Tibur.
He saw Caligula perform many, many acts of torture, beheading, etc. and did nothing. Perhaps it was because he was a slave. Perhaps it was because they were Romans. His high disregard for Romans is highlighted throughout the book.
Caligua tells Brit that if his wife were a patrician, that he would take her from him and marry her himself.
Once he said to me, "Do not you, a slave with a beautiful wife, fear lest some man win her away from you?"
"I have no fear on that score," I said. "I trust Attica."
"But suppose some man should take her by force?" he persisted.
"I would kill him," I said.
"No matter who he was?"
I looked Cais Caesar Caligula straight in the eye. "Even if it were Caesar."
"No other man in all the world dares say to me the things that you are always saying," he grumbled. "I do not know why I let you live." Then he walked away. I breathed more easily, for now I felt that Attica was safe. I thought that I knew my Caligula.
Apparently he didn't.
After being sent away on an errand by Caligula, Brit comes back to his apartment. There he finds his wife dying. She has slit her wrists. As he picks her up she whispers "Caesar" and then dies. All the pent up hate, surged through him and he ran down the passage where Caligula was being attacked by his senators (they had enough of the fellow) and thrust him with his sword.
The story, which is written to his son, ends this way:
I have not the heart to write more, my son. What followed the assassination of Caius Caesar Caligula in the twenty-ninth year of his life and the fourth of his reign, you may read in your history books - probably greatly garbled, as is all history.
I must say, from both this book and the show, if anyone deserved death, it was Caligula. The barbarian is a noble fellow and I found the book interesting. However, he only took action the few mentions times.
- To save - a girl from two thugs
- To save - His friend Tibur by coming forward and confessing to the killing because Tibur was accused of the crime
- To save - His friend, Numerius by not running over him with a chariot-which would have been prefectly acceptable in the theater
- To save - his wife,Attica, who was about to be killed in the arena
- His final act is to help kill the mad emperor