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Lives of the Caesars (Oxford World's Classics) [Paperback]

Suetonius , Catharine Edwards
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

9 Oct 2008 Oxford World's Classics
The Lives of the Caesars include the biographies of Julius Caesar and the eleven subsequent emperors: Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitelius, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian. Suetonius composed his material from a variety of sources, without much concern for their reliability. His biographies consist the ancestry and career of each emperor in turn; however, his interest is not so much analytical or historical, but anecdotal and salacious which gives rise to a lively and provocative succession of portraits. The account of Julius Caesar does not simply mention his crossing of the Rubicon and his assassination, but draws attention to his dark piercing eyes and attempts to conceal his baldness. The Live of Caligula presents a vivid picture of the emperor's grotesque appearance, his waywardness, and his insane cruelties. The format and style of Suetonius' Lives of the Caesars was to set the tone for biography throughout western literature - his work remains thoroughly readable and full of interest. ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; Reissue edition (9 Oct 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199537569
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199537563
  • Product Dimensions: 20.2 x 12 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 200,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scurrilous, gossipy and fascinating 12 July 2012
By Roman Clodia TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Suetonius is probably one of the most accessible of ancient historians/biographers. His Twelve Caesars tells the life stories of the first emperors from Julius Caesar, via Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasion and Titus to Domitian.

It's interesting to compare his life of Julius Caesar with Plutarch's (which was Shakespeare's source). Unlike Tacitus, who covers the period of Augustus to Nero, Suetonius isn't ostensibly concerned with the politics of empire, but instead focuses around the individual and fills his pages with the delicious gossip that inspired Robert Graves' I, Claudius.

We do, of course, have to take the historical accuracy of this with a very large pinch of salt: Suetonius, like other Roman historians, has both a political and literary agenda that is as much to do with a response to the lost republic as with the caesars.

Edwards' translation is fine, elegant and sensitive to the Latin, and is far better than the Penguin Michael Grant. So if you're looking for Suetonius in English, this is the edition I would recommend.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Hard Going 11 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
More for the student fraternity than the plebs! Very factual and akin to a solicitors writ, but still very informative.
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1 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lives of the Caesars (Oxford Worlts Classics) 3 Oct 2011
By Nick
Format:Paperback
Was exactly what I ordered, in very good condition and delivered on time ready for starting university at the end of Septamber
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2 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good 3 Mar 2009
Format:Paperback
A classic review of the Roman royal family, at points difficult to engage with, but this is to be expected for a source as old as this.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On Ancient Gossip 29 April 2002
By Rob - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
When you need a break from memorizing the dates of the Punic Wars, are bored speculating over what kind of salt the Romans used to sow Carthaginian fields, have given up on finding Philippi on any modern map, and can't quite recall the names of the dramatis personae during the year of the three emperors, this book will re-stimulate your interest in history by gratifying the natural human desire to learn more about crime in high places.
Imagine, all the gravitas reeking Romans were up to treason, homicide, intrigue, incest, bestiality, gifting poison mushrooms and assorted produce, adultery, simple theft, complex theft, tax cheating, forgery, perjury, matricide, patricide, fratricide, suicide, sistercide, and murdering or marrying thier neices, and all sorts of stuff not normal entertainment at church family picnics nor encouraged at the office.
A question does arise - was Suetonius accurate or fair? I think not; he is a delightful scandalmonger who makes no pretense at being fair and his sources undoubtedly included talk show hosts from the Forum's late night hour. Tiberius is for example portrayed as a monster; but he seemed to be a talented administrator himself or had the sense to hire those who were. Claudius while making very poor choices in wives and prone to some silly enthusiasms was very prudent in his foreign policy, by-and-large avoiding killling foreign folks who didn't enlist for suicide.

Overall a great book; just take it with a pinch of Roman salt.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A spendid read that kept my attention throughout 26 July 2009
By Nick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Books published as part of the Oxford World's Classics are unlikely to disappoint, and some even delight. This translation of Suetonius' Lives of the Caesars is lively, easy to read, and interesting throughout.

I've recently read a number of works by Seneca, including his biting satire upon the deification of Claudius. Much of Suetonius' work covers the Julio-Claudian emperors and offers readers much background on the reigns and the city of these first Roman Emperors. It is a different perspective than Plutarch's and adds much to the knowledge of Imperial Rome. Lives of the Caesars adds a perspective (generally iconoclastic)that helps students of Roman letters, theater and history have a broader understanding of the place and the era.

I also found the extensive end notes very valuable. In addition to a valuable translation, these notes make this volume a worthy edition to any library or shelf dedicated to the world of ancient Rome.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The ancient writer captivates the reader! 17 Nov 2004
By Dimitrios - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I have read many biographies of famous historical figures, written by modern scholars, but none had the immediacy, the thrilling emphasis to minor details and the power of words that Suetonius' work features. The Roman historian proves that he was a true child of the classical world, having the gift of telling his stories in a few but full of meaning sentences. I think that after reading Suetonius one has a powerful image of every emperor as a human being first and as a ruler second. Hats off to the ancient writers who are the top specialists to explain the inner secrets of their society and epoch!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book used to be marred by poor rendering of text-now fixed! 20 Aug 2010
By Michael - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The publisher has fixed the issues with the kindle edition (see below). This book is a great read and the kindle edition is now as it should be.

Below is the first review when the text was flawed by poor rendering of the text: First, there are no hyperlinks to the end notes, which are essential in a work that can sometimes be obscure. A real pain in this work. Also, the rendering of this text and another Oxford world classics text I bought (Tacitus' Annals) is rendered very poorly so that when you search for a term, that term will often not show up because it does not recognize the word. This is also shown when you highlight a passage and go to "my highlights and notes" to find that the text often shows up garbled because it has been rendered poorly. The translation and notes are fine, but the problems I'm having with the text make this a bad purchase.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The stories of a dozen Caesars and their lives and times 27 Oct 2013
By Nick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I can't get enough of reading about ancient Rome and the Caesars, and I've only recently gotten around to reading Suetonius' work. The book itself covers 12 of the Caesars, and does so in varied detail. In a way, it's like reading a National Enquirer article about the Caesars. Some of the research into Suetonius' tales are based on gossip, but it's juicy gossip with some truth in there somewhere. But great reading nonetheless.

The translation is very readable, and is able to clearly tell us about those 12 men who led Rome to various degrees of success. But I think that's kept this book from falling into forgotten literature is that the book is highly readable due to the salacious stories about the dalliances of the Caesars. Still, a highly worthy read and would make for a great place on your bookshelf, digital or otherwise.

PS: Amazon needs to fix the description of the book and include Suetonius as the author and list the translator second. I've noticed this as a trend among Oxford World's Classics.
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