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The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius (translated by Robert graves) and reviews

The Twelve Caesars (Penguin Classics) by Suetonius

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As private secretary to the Emperor Hadrian, the scholar Suetonius had access to the imperial archives and used them (along with eyewitness accounts) to produce one of the most colourful biographical works in history. The Twelve Caesars chronicles the public careers and private lives of the men who wielded absolute power over Rome, from the foundation of the empire under Julius Caesar and Augustus, to the decline into depravity and civil war under Nero and the recovery that came with his successors. A masterpiece of observation, anecdote and detailed physical description, The Twelve Caesars presents us with a gallery of vividly drawn and all too human  individuals.

About the Author

Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus was probably born in AD69 - the famous ‘year of the four Emperors’. From the letters of Suetonius’ close friend Pliny the Younger we learn that he practiced briefly at the bar, avoided political life, and became chief secretary to the Emperor Hadrian (AD117-38). Suetonius seems to have lived to a good age and probably died around the year AD140.

The Twelve Caesars (History)
Suetonius (Author)
customer reviews (Yes)
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Reviews from Amazon:

Do you want real gossip about Julius Caesar and the Roman emperors? Then, buy this book. It's a modern translation of an ancient Roman book, written by the historian Suetonius. It's most famous for two passing references to Christians, but if that's all you know about it, you are missing out...

Did you know that Julius Caesar had a reputation for being gay? I always thought of Caesar as the essence of manliness, but apparently he dressed in an effeminate manner, and was rumored to be the gay lover of a certain king in Asia Minor. As Caesar was also a notorious womanizer, he was called "the man of all women, and the woman of all men".

From Suetonius, we also learn that Nero regarded himself as an accomplished singer with a really sweet singing voice (apparently, everyone else had a different idea about it), that Caligula wanted to appoint his horse to the Roman Senate, that Domitian had an advisor who turned out to be a handicapped child, that Julius Caesar was pro-Jewish, and countless other strange claims.

Ironically, the emperor most favored by Suetonius seem to be Titus, generally regarded as a villain today, since he smashed the Jewish rebellion and destroyed the Jewish temple. Are we to believe Suetonius, Titus was like a father to his people, very generous, so moral that he stopped seeing his sexy mistresses when becoming emperor, so righteous that he had all finks and snitches banished to wild islands, while he was looking for medecine to cure a plague in Rome...

Oh my, sounds almost to good to be true!

Regardless of whether the stories of Suetonius are tall-tales or true, they at least tell us a lot about how Romans wanted, and didn't want, their rulers to behave. And a lot about how Romans slandered each other.

I have seldom read such an entertaining ancient work. Buy it! Yes, punk, I was talking to you...