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The Twelve Caesars: The Dramatic Lives of the Emperors of Rome Paperback – August 19, 2014
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Title: The Twelve Caesars( The Dramatic Lives of the Emperors of Rome) <>Binding: Paperback <>Author: MatthewDennison <>Publisher: St.Martin'sGriffin
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The number of quotations from primary sources was also questionable due to the annotated nature of them which leaves questions as to why they needed to be annotated. For example see page 9 of the text; there is no reason to annotate that quotation from Suetonius and it makes a person wonder why the middle was left out. I simply do not know, but also am reluctant to trust a text that does this without reason.
It is a damned lie that "Nero fiddled while Rome burned"! He was actually 35 miles away in the town of Antium by the sea on the night Rome caught fire; besides, his preferred instrument was the lyre.
Shakespeare summed up Nero best in King Lear describing him as "an angler in the lake of darkness."
According to Suetonius The Twelve Caesars (Penguin Classics), Nero raped the Vestal Virgin Rubria. He dressed in the skins of wild animals and "attacked the private parts of men and women who stood bound to stakes."
Suetonius informs us that he killed his second wife Poppaea by kicking her to death. She was pregnant and had complained about him coming "home late from the races". He was rumored to have had a hand in the death of Claudius. He did poison Britannicus who was a rival to the throne.
Suetonius blandly informs us that under Nero, "punishments were inflicted on Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous superstition."
Nero embarrassed Romans with his extravagant philhellenism and grotesque vanity. He visited Greece and participated in Lyre competitions always managing to win the laurel. Nero really didn't want to be emperor; he wanted to be a contestant on Rome's Got Talent. Some of the crowd at these competitions feigned death in order to escape these excruciating performances. Nero was angler who didn't mind fishing for compliments in a stocked pond.
Inevitably Nero's excesses led to the formation of a conspiracy. Before being stabbed to death by one of his slaves, "he muttered through his tears, 'Dead! And so great an artist!'"
On Nero's death the aged Galba assumed the purple. He would only reign for seven months. His accession marked the beginning of 69 AD an orgy of civil violence known as the "year of the four emperors". Successive Roman generals of dubious pedigree would battle to win the Roman game of thrones.
Galba committed the unpardonable sin of slighting the Roman army. Suetonius tells us simply that "he outraged all classes at rome, but the most virulent hatred of him smouldered in the army."
He was murdered and decapitated by Roman soldiers beside the Curtian lake.
Otho led the rebellion against Galba. On the night of his ascension he was said to have been haunted "by Galba's ghost in a terrible nightmare."
Just before his death, he told his nephew, "Do not altogether forget, and do not too well remember, that you had a Caesar for an uncle."
According to Matthew Dennison Vitellius' nickname was..."Sphincter Artist"!
His own name, Vitellius, says it all -- "emperor veal"! Could you imagine in America a President Porkchop or Senator Sausage?
Suetonius confirms his eternal status as a glutton. He writes, "Vitellius' ruling vices were gluttony and cruelty. He banqueted three and often four times a day, namely morning, noon, afternoon, and evening -- the last meal being mainly a drinking bout -- and survived the ordeal well enough by vomiting frequently."
Roman legions began repudiating him. Soldiers grabbed while a rabble began hurling insutls such as "Greedy guts" before he was tortured, killed and beheaded. His pathetic final words were, "And yet I was your emperor."
The ascension of Vespasian, acclaimed "divine" after this death, ended the brutal civil war that wracked Rome throughout the 'Annus horribilis' of 69 AD. He was the founder of the Flavian dynasty that brought a measure of stability back to an empire in turmoil.
In Matthew Dennison's Twelve Caesars he tells us that Vespasian "was a stranger to snobbery and too canny to allow himself to be rebranded in the Julio-Claudian mould. Even in his portraiture he eschewed their model, a bull-necked, bald-headed, warts and all imagery of age and its imperfections replacing the classicized perfection of those god-like Augustans."
Vespasian rolled up his sleeves and set to work rebuilding a shattered Rome. Suetonius writes that "he personally inaugurated the restoration of the burned Capitol by collecting the first basketful of rubble and carrying it away on his shoulders."
Vespasian delivered the funniest line attributed to ANY Roman emperor. On his deathbed Vespasian said, "I think that I am becoming a god."
My advice: Read Suetonius first, then Dennison's book a try.
If you like The Twelve Caesars you may also enjoy America Invades: How We've Invaded or been Militarily Involved with almost Every Country on Earth by Kelly / Laycock and Italy Invades
The book is written in an academic style which will not suit every reader's taste. The book contains many names of families and personages which will be unfamiliar to most readers. The book shows us how depraved and evil were most of the men who ruled Rome with fists of steel. The ancient world was a cruel and brutish place in which to govern and live. The author makes frequent references to such classical authors as Suetonius whose Lives of the Caesars is the classic work on this topic. This book and Michael Grant's tome on the emperors are good places to start your study of the Caesars, Another work to begin your exploration of the Roman Empire is the books "I Claudius" and "Claudius the God" by Robert Graves. These two works are fine novels by a great author.
No matter how much we American citizens complain about our elected officials we should be thankful that we live in a democratic republic instead of under the iron boot of the Roman legions!