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Robert Graves and the Classical Tradition$
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A. G. G. Gibson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198738053

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198738053.001.0001

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Robert Graves as Historical Novelist

Robert Graves as Historical Novelist

Count Belisarius—Genesis, Gender, and Truth

Chapter:
(p.77) 4 Robert Graves as Historical Novelist
Source:
Robert Graves and the Classical Tradition
Author(s):

Shaun Tougher

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198738053.003.0005

This chapter focuses on Robert Graves’ less-celebrated historical novel Count Belisarius (1938), an account of the career of the general who led the reconquest of the west for the emperor Justinian in the sixth century AD. The chapter explores its genesis (suggested to Graves by T. E. Lawrence), the theme of gender in the novel (represented by the use of a eunuch narrator), and Graves’s stated concern for historical truth (undercut by his inclusion of the story of the blinding of Belisarius by the emperor and his subsequent begging for alms on the streets of Constantinople). Despite the perceived problem of the character of Belisarius in the novel (as a one-dimensional noble hero and an innocent victim), the novel sheds much light on Graves’s life and concerns, such as his relationships with men and women, his interest in war, his need for money, his historical sensibilities and his public reputation.

Keywords:   Robert Graves, historical fiction, Count Belisarius, Belisarius, Justinian, eunuchs, gender

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