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The Twelve Caesars Paperback – 1 Jan 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 102 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Digireads.com (1 Jan. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 142092933X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1420929331
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,650,618 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (c.69-c.140) was a Roman biographer and antiquarian. He served as a member of the Imperial service and as secretary to the Emperor Hadrian. Robert Graves fought in the First World War, after which he published his autobiography, Goodbye To All That. Michael Grant's academic titles include Chancellor's Medallist and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and President of the Classical Association. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Gaius Julius Caesar lost his father at the age of fifteen [85-84 bc]. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Format: Paperback
The Twelve Caesars was the first ancient book I ever read. Before then I had only known Classical history from the books written by modern day historians. In the intervening years I have read many other primary sources from this period, but Suetonius's work still stands as the richest and most readable look on Rome's Emperors.

Suetonius recounts the successes and failures as well as the private lives of the first twelve rulers of Rome after the fall of the Republic . He begins with Julius Caesar, then discusses Augustus at length before covering Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.

What makes the book a joy to read are the inclusion of many fascinating anecdotes - many of them are highly amusing, disgusting, bizarre or funny.
He tells us about Caesar's embarassment about his baldhead, Claudius's mocked fight with a giant whale at the port of Ostia, Augustus's love of having the hairs on his legs flattened by warm walnuts and Caligula's ban on the mention of goats in his presence. These descriptions help bring the old emperors to life - You'll never see them in the same light the next time you see a solemn bust of Galba or Domitian at a museum.

Suetonius has often been considered an unreliable witness by many historians, but Michael Grant discusses the veracity of his work at the beginning of the book, showing us that the old court historian was much more reliable and less biased than many would suppose.

Robert Graves's translation is wonderful. The text is lucid and very readable. Graves would go on to use the information gained from this work to write his seminal novels 'I, Claudius' and 'Claudius the God', which were made into a highly acclaimed series in 1976.
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Format: Paperback
Not much is known about the life of Gaius Suetonius Tranquillis. He was probably born in A.D. 69--the famous 'year of four Emperors'--when his father, a Roman knight, served as a colonel in a regular legion and took part in the Battle of Baetricum.
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.
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Format: Paperback
You could never write a coherent, balanced historical account of the early empire based on Suetonius alone, and he lacks the elegantly vicious phrasings that make Tacitus such a delight to read. But for sheer, scurrilous detail, Suetonius' words still speak volumes in this entertaining (if slightly dated) translation. Uniquely for his time, he creates rounded biographical portraits of the people on his stage, rather than concentrating solely on military and political happenings. In exploring specific individuals and how they were perceived (usually in the worst light), Suetonius gives an interesting insight into the social mores of his day - albeit a partial and narrowly-focused one.
He also frankly acknowledges his sources, from official documents to lampoons doing the rounds, and comments on their veracity - although, for all his caveats, he still includes even the most outlandish tales of vice. Which is all part of the entertainment, of course...
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By A Customer on 1 Sept. 2003
Format: Paperback
Suetonius' The Twelve Caesars must be considered one of the most crucial, if not the most fun, of any biographical accounts of the rulers of ancient Rome. Lewd, often bawdy, but always entertaining, Suetonius is testament to the power of tabloid journalism down the ages, but the tales of sexual excess and murder by the insane emperors are tempered by quite a lot of good factual information about the logistics required to hold such a vast empire together, which is of great importance to anyone attempting to study the period. Besides which, the stories about Tiberius' pederastic tendencies, Nero's incestuous relationship with his mother, and Domitian's utter paranoia about assassination will keep readers entertained in between the dry factual stuff. A rattling good read, although as Suetonius was writing fifty years after the death of Domitian - the last of the twelve - the conclusions he draws concerning actual historical events must be taken with a pinch of salt. Great fun.
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