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Title: The Twelve Caesars Paperback – 29 Nov 1979


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Paperback, 29 Nov 1979
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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Penguin (29 Nov 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140054162
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140054163
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 2.5 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,600,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
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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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By N. Clarke on 18 Dec 2003
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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50 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 1 Dec 2004
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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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 1 Sep 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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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Heino Viik on 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 By "lujarab" on 24 Aug 2001
Format: Paperback
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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