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An Essential Primary Source On Roman History, Suetonius The Twelve Caesars Is A Fascinating Achievement Of Scholarship Covering A Critical Period In The Empire This Penguin Classics Edition Is Translated From The Latin By Robert Graves, Author Of I, Claudius, Revised With An Introduction And Notes By James B RivesAs 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 IndividualsJames B Rives Has Sensitively Updated Robert Graves S Now Classic Translation, Reinstating Latin Terms And Updating Vocabulary While Retaining The Liveliness Of The Original This Edition Contains A New Chronology, Further Reading, Glossaries, Maps, Notes And An Introduction Discussing Suetonius Life And WorksGaius Suetonius Tranquillus Was Probably Born In AD 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 AD Suetonius Seems To Have Lived To A Good Age And Probably Died Around The Year ADIf You Enjoyed The Twelve Caesars, You Might Like Tacitus S The Annals Of Imperial Rome, Also Available In Penguin Classics Suetonius, In Holding Up A Mirror To Those Caesars Of Diverting Legend, Reflects Not Only Them But Ourselves Half Tempted Creatures, Whose Great Moral Task Is To Hold In Balance The Angel And The Monster Within Gore Vidal Stranger than any fictionthe chapter on Caligula is truly disturbing. No words Each and every member of that family and ahherm non family who acquired that infamous title ceasar is such a massive wrecking case of extreams that I can t even begin to fathom that these men are real Let alone contemplate what citizens must of thought of them in their day Really If Suetonius is to be belived how many of these men would in our day be catergorized as legally insane I literally about fell out of my chair this weekend when I read that Nero had the gates blocked during his preformances and women were forced to bear children in the audience while listening to his work with the lyre Its hysterical, and who is around to counter suetoniuses descriptions of these men No one Therefore he gets five stars because seriously this is the best ancient gossip column still in print. It is a great overview of Rome s emperors from the Julians to the Flavians The mixture of historical biography and, what must have been, a political gossip tatler Suetonius was a senator during the reign of Hadrian 2 Caesars after Domitian , so the futher back, the less direct knowledge Suetonius had which given his style of writing could be both good and bad Still, despite some reservations about Suetonius style and accuracy, it is hard to underestimate his influence on the narrative of the Caesars He was a grand story teller and many of the narratives we have about these men and some of the women around them comes from his writing.The book comprises shocker 12 chapters 1 Julius Caesar2 Augustus3 Tiberius4 Caligula5 Claudius6 Nero7 Galba8 Otho9 Vitellius10 Vespasian11 Titus12 Domitian Reading this book makes me kind of thankful that the sociopaths who we choose to govern us are relatively harmless men with only strange dreams of imperialism and desires for fame, riches, and adulation Sure we have a Vice President who shot a friend in the face and who brazenly admits to authorizing acts that make him a war criminal, and yes there are Greek bastards who have made a living off of sanctioning genocide for their own twisted ends, and this is just naming two high points in the Hall of Fame of War Criminals that we have allowed to consistently run and or advise this country for the past forty years or so Yes we have allowed a constant stream of sociopaths to be our guiding light for so many unbroken years I m trying to come up with a number, I m having trouble figuring if Carter and Ford were war criminals, all the rest of the leaders since Reagen have been, and the ones before Ford going back quite a bit were too, oh it hurts the mind to think of all the charges our living former leaders could face at Hague and which would put nooses around their necks We have our fair share of these people, but not one of them even holds a candle to 11 out of 12 of the leaders of Rome covered in this book Even the nice ones still had a brutality to them that would make Jeffery Dhamer probably say, hey wait a minute that shit is just fucked up Rape, murder, torture, incest, torture, murder, all kinds of killing of family members, add some torture and then throw in a whole bunch of sexual deviancy and you get the outlines of the Caesars Fun times. Suetonius 70 140 AD was a biographer, librarian and high official under Trajanus and head of the royal archives under Hadrian This biography of the twelve emperors is thought to have been published around 121 AD The lives of the emperors of the Caesarian Claudian lineage, thus up to and including Nero, are extensively discussed, while there are only concise biographies of the emperors following Nero It is said that this was due to the fact that Hadrian dismissed Suetonius for having an affair with his wife Consequently, Suetonius did not have access to the imperial archives any longer and just had to rely on oral history which should have been quite possible at that time, as there must have been enough people still alive to be able to give first hand accounts of facts and events.It is quite remarkable that the biography is still so enjoyable to read I will refrain to comment on each emperor s life The life stories of especially the Caesarian Claudian emperors are in general well known Suetonius used the same formula to describe the life of an emperor, first starting with family connections vis a vis the previous emperor, how he gained power, description of vice and virtues, whether he was a mild or murderous person and, if so, how murderous factually, most of them very murderous beyond belief , and ending each biography in a gossipy way as to what this particular emperor s general behaviour was, also elaborating extensively on sexual preferences, description and names of wives, sons and daughters, how he looked and how his life ended As to the latter, I think there were only three emperors who died natural deaths All the others were murdered and quite a few certainly deserved it as did Caligula and Nero If you are interested in imperial Rome and have read other novels or biographies on the subject, I still think it is enjoyable to read this biography as it is amazing how accessible it is to the 21st century reader. This was a fascinating book Translated by Graves, who wroteI, Claudius, it is, in many ways, a shorter version of those books Although, Claudius does not come out of this history nearly as well as he does from Graves novels You may never have seen Monty Python s The Piranha Brothers, if not you should really try looking it up on youtube If only because I m quite certain that Nero is Doug Piranha in a toga.There were bits of this where I laughed outright and other bits where I ve laughed after thinking about it for a while The best example of the later is how often we are told one of the Caesars was cruel It was the way this was brought up that amused me the most almost like it was one of their many hobbies, as if they were saying, he liked to go to the theatre and also watch people being tortured to death.The bits that made me laugh outright were mostly sexual illusions Such as the quote about Julius having sex with just about anyone He was a man to every woman and a woman to every man Gaius also known as Caligula was an utter maniac, but was probably bettered by Nero I really didn t think I would ever be shocked by anything anyone could do after Caligula, but Nero having sex with his mother as he was being driven around Rome like an incestuous version of Madame Bovary without the tissues and then having his mother killed after his elaborate plans to have houses fall on her or getting her to take a boat that would fall apart on schedule, really takes the cake.But the best bit of the book is all the omens that happen Eagles fighting and lightning striking and branches of trees growing or not growing and how these all foretold who was going to be the next Caesar or win a war or whatever else people where interested in Vespasian is a good example because when he saw the signs that would signify the end of his life a comet in this case he made a joke about it being a bad sign for some other king of another kingdom of the time Imagine living at a time when omens like wandering chickens would be taken quite so seriously I also liked the idea of Caligula changing the heads of all the gods so that they all had his head If you are going to have ultimate power Some people say power corrupts if you ever wondered, this is the book for you Here are people of near infinite power for their time and what did they do with it If you ever wanted to convert to being a misanthrope I can think of no better book This is the sort of book that makes one despair about human nature At times this book is a bit like a Russian novel, with many names too hard to remember, it is an incredible insight into life at the time And unlike the Piranha Brothers it would be hard to say the Caesars were cruel, but fair though definitely cruel, there really is no question about them being cruel. Julius Caesar the catamite of King of Bithnyia Augustus singeing off his leg hair with hot walnut shells Caligula s seductive maiden dance Oh my Simply delicious This Penguin Classic of The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius is the perfect place to start for anybody interested in ancient Greco Roman history and culture Not only is this a most engaging translation by Robert Graves, author of I Claudius, but there is a short Forward by classics scholar, Michael Grant Additionally, there are ten maps of the city of Rome and the Roman Empire along with a glossary of key terms From my own experience, once I started reading, I couldn t stop Matter of fact, I was inspired to write a Goodreads review of each of the twelve Caesars Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian Specifically, here are a couple of quotes from Michael Grant along with my brief comments Suetonius principal contribution lies in his relatively high degree of objectivity With him, we have moved away from the traditional eulogistic treatment, and have entered a much astringent atmosphere, in which the men whom he is describing are looked at with a cooler and disenchanted eye This disenchanted eye is a thoroughly modern perspective, one having synchronicity with our 21st century sensibilities The best quality of his work is his power to create rapid, dramatic, and often moving narratives, including, at times, impressive set pieces, among which the death of Nero is especially notable Unlike a dry academic writing, Suetonius is lively, vivid and sometimes racy.And excerpts from the translation by Robert Graves During gladiatorial shows he would have the canopies removed as the hottest time of the day and forbid anyone to leave or take away the usual equipment and pit feeble old fighters against decrepit wild animals or stage comic duels between respectable householders who happened to be physically disabled in some way or other Nero s unreasonable craving for immortal fame made him change a number of well known names of things and places in his own favor The month of April, for instance, became Neroneus and Rome was on the point of being renamed Neropolis Again, once I started reading this book, I couldn t stop Who would think a classic work of history and biography would be so engaging This is in my Top 10 books I love it so much, i think i have read it 3 times no joke I took this book with me on my travels in Rome and I bored Matt with my constant readings whilst we were visiting all of the historic sites I have a huge facination with Roman History, so I do appreciate that most people will find this utterly boring, but i love it, love it, love it, love it.