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The Twelve Caesars [Hardcover]

Suetonius , Michael Grant , Robert Graves
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 Oct 1979
Suetonius' honesty makes this the most vivid account we have of such Roman rulers as Julius Caesar, Augustus, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; 2nd Revised edition edition (25 Oct 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713911956
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713911954
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.5 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 325,348 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

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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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gutter history... and full of personality 18 Dec 2003
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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50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If ancient Rome had tabloids... 1 Dec 2004
By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME
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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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gloriously Over The Top 1 Sep 2003
By A Customer
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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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good and enjoyable book. 16 July 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Suetonius sets an nice example how to make history interesting. The book starts with the story of Julius Caesar and covers among others the stars of the imperial period: Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius (Caligula) and Nero. The life stories of emperors are well balanced. First, the contributions to the state are covered and only then the malevolent deeds get space. Stories are spiced with fitting dose of gossip. Thanks to the good translation (Mr Graves) and editing (Mr Grant) the book is easy and satisfying read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and thoroughly entertaining ! 24 Aug 2001
Although personally having a serious interest in the subject matter , even those who are not , would find this book totally enthralling . After picking through it one day in a shop I had to buy it and I read it right the way through in a few days it was so engrossing . Even if parts may just be rumours or assumptions Suetonius ( as he writes after the events ) paints a very colourful picture of the first 11 Emperors of Rome ( plus Julius Caesar ) , covering births , marriages , divorces , affairs of state ( and the heart ) , social activities , Imperial extravagance , political intrigue , conspiracies , battles , executions and more - everything that you could possibly want ! Truly , a classical page turner if ever there was one .
The maps , glossary and family trees at the back of the book are helpful as the reader can visualise where in the world the events are taking place ( eg: where Tiberius took his holidays ) , who everyone is and what they are talking about ( eg: currency , types of gladiators etc.. ).
I recommend it to anyone and bet they will not be able to put it down !
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Those brutal and sexy bods in the Roman empire!
I can't believe you are asking for a review of a book about 1,700 years old. Anyway, full of Roman scandal, brutality, gossip and sex. This is the original!
Published 10 months ago by bookworm
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
For those interested in Ancient Rome it's a must. The Caesars were mad, bad and brilliant. They founded our world.
Published 14 months ago by JdC
5.0 out of 5 stars Book
Very good. A very well written book that is crammed with all the useful info on the Caesars. A must for students.
Published 16 months ago by A Black
5.0 out of 5 stars Good condition!
No rips or broken spine.

Well writen. What more can I say. If your interested in Roman history, you can't go wrong with this book.
Published 16 months ago by Che
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent classic text in the Penguin range
I agree with another reader in that it is unfortunate we don't have similar biographies of the later Roman emperors such as Hadrian, Trajan and Marcus Aurelius; but here in the... Read more
Published on 1 Dec 2009 by Frank Bierbrauer
3.0 out of 5 stars The book is Average
I'm sure if you were into the Roman Empire you would love this book, but for the average reader it's, well, average.

There are two problems the book has. Read more
Published on 21 Jun 2009 by Peyman Askari
4.0 out of 5 stars Accesible and interesting
To be honest, I'm not exactly sure why I bought this book. But I'm glad I did, it proved very readable and very informative. Read more
Published on 12 April 2007 by Mr. D. J. Read
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable guide to the early Roman Empire
This is a collection of essays about the first twelve rulers to bear the name Caesar. It is the definitive collection of eyewitness stories about the early emperors as they were... Read more
Published on 15 Mar 2007 by Marshall Lord
5.0 out of 5 stars If ancient Rome had tabloids
'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,... Read more
Published on 22 Dec 2005 by Kurt Messick
5.0 out of 5 stars If ancient Rome had tabloids...
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... Read more
Published on 15 Dec 2005 by Kurt Messick
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