This novel was written between April and September, 1941.
He only wrote one more full length novel after this one, Tarzan and
"The Foreign Legion" (1944). Burroughs died in 1950. I
Am a Barbarian was not published during his lifetime, first appearing
in hardback on September 1, 1967 published by ERB Inc.
Porges wrote: "Burroughs' fascination with Roman history
had led him, in Tarzan and the Lost Empire, written in 1928,
to devise the strangest of anachronisms -- a Roman civilization, its ancient
customs unchanged, existing in the heat of Africa. This interest
was revived in 1941, but Burroughs, instead of a fantasy work, chose to
create a pseudohistorical novel about the Roman emperors. The main
character, son the a chief of the Britons made captive by the Romans, becomes
the personal slave and companion to a four-year-old boy whom he calls "Little
Boots." Only ten himself, Britannicus soon realizes that he is serving
the grandnephew of the emperor, one who bore a name that would be indelibly
recorded on the pages of history -- Caligula."
Lupoff wrote: "This lightly fictionalized biography of
the emperor Caligula, as told by the slave Britannicus, is a radical departure
in style and attitude from any other work of Burroughs. In my opinion
it is an excellent work, one of his best, and deserving of wide attention."
This is a free translation of the memoirs of Britannicus, 25 years the
slave of Caligula, emperor of Rome from A.D. 37 to 41. They were
written on papyrus sheets (indicated in chapter 2). Burroughs used
the following works while writing this historical novel. Trevelyan,
George Macaulay - History of England Caesar - Caesar's Commentaries Suetonius,
Gaius - Lives of the Twelve Caesars Baring-Gould, S. - The Tragedy of the
Caesars Capes, W.W. - The Early Empire Mooney, William West - Travel among
the Ancient Romans Preston, Harriet Waters, and Dodge, Louise - The Private
Life of the Romans Showerman, Grant - Rome and the Romans Tucker, T.G.
- Life in the Roman World Jones, H. Stuart - The Roman Empire Dill, Samuel
- Roman Society Ferrero, Guglielmo - Women of the Caesars Johnston, Harold
Whetstone - The Private Life of the Romans
"The book is dedicated to: my son, Numerius Tiber Britannicus"
A.U.C. 769 [A.D. 16]
The father of the writer [Britannicus] was the grandson of Cingetorix
was a painted blue barbarian. His grandfather had been king of Kent,
but he was merely the chief of a small tribe in the north of England.
This warlord decided it would be a good idea to conquer the Belgians,
however, he [and his family] was defeated and sold in slavery to the Chatti,
a German tribe. From thence, he passed into the hands of a Roman
general, Germanicus, who defeated the Chatti. The general's
wife, Agrippina was there and their son, Caligula, who chooses Britannicus
as their personal slave.
Britannicus is only ten-years- old, but he comes from a noble class
of Britons, and he does not know fear. Caligula is only four.
He is known affectionately as "Little Boots" because of the caligae that
Britannicus learns to speak Latin, the oaths of the soldiers first.
He is named Britannicus Caligulae Servus by Agrippina. Little Boots
called him Brit. Agrippina hates Brit, but she has to put up with
his presence for her son's sake. The Julian line of emperors are
Brit and Little Boots play together in the Roman camp. Once when
Caligula spit on Brit, he was slapped by him which nearly led to his death.
Brit makes friends with a legionary who was an ex-gladiator, Tibur,
a man with more brawn than brain, but a man with a great heart. He
learns that Little Boots may someday become the emperor. After a
year in Germany, they all went back to Rome.
A.U.C. 770 [A.D. 17]
Brit is impressed with the size of Rome, but thinks it is a brutal
place. They go to live at the villa of Antonia, the mother
of Germanicus. Agrippina gives birth to Drusilla. Agrippina gets
mad a Brit again and threatens to have his throat cut, so he runs away
and finds Tibur at the camp of the Praetorian Guard with the aid of Vibiu,
a legionary he meets along the way. The Praetorian's are called out
to look for Brit and easily find him when he is spotted in camp by Antonia's
majordomo, Serenus. Next, Brit and Little Boots put a frog in Agrippina's
bed. Caligula confesses that he hates his brothers, Drusus (age 10)
and Nero (age 11) and wishes they were dead. Agrippina bad-mouths the emperor,
Tiberius. Brit blames Nero for the frog.
A.U.C. 770 (A.D. 17)
Nero comes to get revenge, but Little Boots screams and lies to his
mother that Nero has struck him with a big stick and threatened him with
a dagger. Germanicus comes in, and Brit tells the truth, so Caligula
gets a spanking. They all go to the Forum to watch the triumph of Germanicus.
They sit in the loge of the Emperor Tiberius, who was of "the scrofulous
rather than the epileptic branch of the family." Tiberius gives
Brit a good place to see the parade, and Brit would gladly have died for
him. The procession is described in detail. Brit sees his father
and mother in chains. They held their heads high. He never
saw them again.
A.U.C. 770 [A.D.17]
Brit attends lessons with the 5-year-old Little Boots and learns to
read and write Latin and Greek. He reads Homer, Livy and Cicero,
but he also listens to the wild stories of his friend, Tiber, the ex-gladiator.
Agrippina is mad at Brit again (actually, Caligula has tried to drown his
own sister) so he wanders into the rougher section of Rome to escape punishment.
He gets in a fight with a Roman boy and is dragged off to a filthy prison.
Two men fight over him, and one is killed. The "winner" is hauled
off by a guard, and Brit fears that he might be crucified before he gets
"home" again. The man is then beaten to death by the guards. When
the guards learn that Brit belongs to Caligula, he is returned. Caligula
has screamed himself voiceless in his absence. Germanicus tells him
not to run away again and that he will protect him from Agrippina.
A.U.C. 770 [A.D. 17]
Brit begins to keep notes on his observations of the family in a code
developed by Marcus Tullius Tiro, the private secretary of Cicero, which
was known as Notae Tironianae. Germanicus and his family are transferred
to Syria. Through the machinations of Brit and Caligula, Tiber is
brought along. On the way to the ship, several points of interest
are discussed: The Campus Martius, the theater of Marcellus, the
Portico of Octavia, the Theater of Pompey, and the mausoleum of Augustus.
They travel on a trireme warship, which is also described in detail in
comparison with the ship of Hiero, the tyrant of Syracuse. Brit sees
a body floating in the Tiber, and his friend, Tiber, tells him that his
father and mother probably ended up there as well. From this moment
Brit hates Rome "with a bitterness that has never receded."
He vows that someday he will get vengeance by killing a Caesar.
A.U.C. 770-771-772-775 [A.D.
Germanicus learns that Piso has been made governor in Syria. Agrippina
thinks is placed there to spy on him. Agrippina has another daughter,
Julia Livilla (who was later murdered by Messalina, wife of Claudius, the
emperor who succeeded Caligula.) Germanicus banishes Piso and suddenly
dies himself. Agrippina thinks he has been poisoned. The family
of Germanicus returns to Rome. Brit studies for 10 years:
the works of Cicero, Flaccus, Livy, Aristotle, Homer, Aristophanes, Euripides,
Euclid. Tiber is assigned to the Imperial Guard stationed at their house.
Caligula develops a taste for bloody contests in the arena. Claudius
is fondly described and the treacherous Sejanus. Tiberius favors
the children of Germanicus, and Brit says that the vilification of his
name came largely through the lies of Agrippina. "A slave in an imperial
household knows more of history than the historians."
Some Thoughts on I Am A Barbarian