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The Twelve Caesars (Penguin Classics) Paperback – May 6, 2003
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Suetonius became a scribe and noted secretary to the military set, eventually ending up in the service of Hadrian, who was emperor from A.D. 117-138. He was dismissed for 'indiscreet behaviour' with Hadrian's empress, Sabina, but not before doing sufficient research to complete many books of a historical nature. His attempts at philosophy were much less well received, and most of his history has been overlooked by all but classical scholars, but this work, 'The Twelve Caesars' has held the imagination of more than just the scholarly set since it was first written.
Suetonius had the good fortune of speaking to eyewitnesses from the time of the early Caesars. Much of his information about Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero in fact comes from those who observed and/or participated in their lives. Suetonius is in many ways more of a reporter than an historian--he would record conflicting statements without worrying about the reconciliation (this set him apart from Tacitus and other classical historians who tried to find a consistency in stories and facts.
Suetonius has been described as the tabloid journalist of ancient Rome, because not only did he not appear to check facts (which in fact is not true--he did check, he just didn't try to smooth over the conflicting facts), but he choose to concentrate on the private lives, motivations and personality quirks of his subjects rather than their grand plans, policies and military/political victories. Thus, many details of the lurid scene appear.Read more ›
The rulers covered by this book include Julius Caesar; his adopted son Octavian who ruled as Augustus, and his descendents; the warlords who contended for power in the "Year of Four Caesars" after Nero was overthrown, and the Flavians who came out on top in that struggle.
In other words, the full list of twelve is:
If you want to understand the early Roman Empire, you need to read this book. If you are a budding novelist and want to write about the early Empire, you need to read this book. Reading Suetonius is not perhaps a sufficient condition to allow you to understand or write convincingly about the period, but it is a necessary condition.
Robert Graves, author of "I Claudius" and "Claudius the God" translated this version: not surprisingly many of the snippets of gossip and fascinating little stories from Suetonius find their way into his novels. They also find their way into every good novel about first century Rome that I have ever read, absolutely without exception.
You should not take for granted that every word of Suetonius's account is accurate. Reading carefully, you will see that where he heard two conflicting accounts of an issue or event he quotes both, usually without attempt to reconcile them.Read more ›
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus was a Roman of the equestrian class, born around the year 69. Little is known of his life, but his friend, Pliny the Younger, tells us that he practised law briefly, avoided politics and eventually became chief secretary to the Emperor Hadrian. His prominent position in the palace would have been extremely helpful to his writings, providing him with ready access to imperial and senatorial archives and to people who had first-hand knowledge of the events Suetonius was writing about. He uses this material well by writing more than just a dry accounting of public events. Along with the major occurrences, we are also treated to the private lives of his subjects: personal anecdotes, scandalous details, and amusing incidents that only palace intimates would have known. Suetonius presents this material in an even-handed style, avoiding any obvious personal bias and freely admitting when he tells of something that he is unable to verify.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Big Graves fan and this did not disappoint. Enjoying my Rome/Caesars phasePublished 20 days ago by Ed Terrell
It's misleading for Amazon to link this version from the print book published by Penguin and translated by Robert Graves. This $.99 translation is inferior.Published 26 days ago by three_rivers
My local museum, the Nelson Atkins in Kansas City, has an outstanding exhibition on Roman Empire Luxury. I have some catching up to do on Roman history...Published 27 days ago by Richard T. Fredrick
Amazing read! Especially considering that it was written in the second century.Published 27 days ago by Cheryl
I was looking for something less a list of facts, with more narrativePublished 1 month ago by larrunce
The Kindle version is not the proper translation, and apparently Amazon mustn't care as it is not the first time this has been drawn to their attention.Published 1 month ago by D. Schopflocher
An excellent, concise, and entertaining history of the early Roman emperors.Published 1 month ago by Daniel Teal
I wanted the Penguin Graves translation, which is marvelous and was left on a train. I accidentally bought the preposterous edition with 12 photos on the cover (see my attached... Read morePublished 2 months ago by C. Williams