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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amusing, shocking and above all, fascinating
This book gives a fascinating insight into the lives of the twelve men who ruled the early Roman empire. These Ceasars were the most powerful men on earth in their time... and some of them were as mad as March hares.
'Lives of the Twelve Ceasars' will amuse, shock and fascinate you in equal measure as Suetonius guides you through the (often sordid) private affairs...
Published on 3 Feb 2001

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Suetonius is a good read, but this is a very loose translation.
As a Classics student, I often use a translation to skim through when I need to find a piece of text quickly. However, this particular translation is so loose that in places, it is nearly impossible to match the English to the Latin, making it next to useless if you are studying Suetonius. I would recommend the Penguin Classics translation (by Robert Graves) as both more...
Published 23 months ago by Asha Hartland


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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amusing, shocking and above all, fascinating, 3 Feb 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Lives of the Twelve Caesars (Classics of World Literature) (Paperback)
This book gives a fascinating insight into the lives of the twelve men who ruled the early Roman empire. These Ceasars were the most powerful men on earth in their time... and some of them were as mad as March hares.
'Lives of the Twelve Ceasars' will amuse, shock and fascinate you in equal measure as Suetonius guides you through the (often sordid) private affairs. Our author introduces us to the dozy Augustus, the perverse Caligula and the great Julius Ceasar and regales us with a series of 'what the butler saw' tales, jokes, rhymes and rumour.
Many classicists would tell you that as an historian, Suetonius is not worth reading-if you are after an accurate account of the leaders of the Roman empire, he is perhaps not the author for you. However, if you have an interest in the classics and a love of gossip then take a large pinch of salt and prepare to be entertained by one of the world's finest gossip mongerers!
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If ancient Rome had tabloids..., 4 Jan 2006
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lives of the Twelve Caesars (Classics of World Literature) (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. Suetonius, and this volume in particular, formed much of the basis for Robert Graves as he wrote 'I, Claudius' and 'Claudius the God', which in turn pulled up the popularity of Suetonius in this generation.
Suetonius had first hand knowledge of many of the Caesars who followed the Claudians, and ready access to the archives of the imperial family and the Senate, given his imperial posting.
This translation is not intended to be a faithful rendering of the language (which might well result in a stilted English construct) but rather a faithful account of the stories Suetonius tells. Graves has taken the liberty of changing monetary, date, and technical terms into standard English measurements of close kinship of meaning.
For the record, the twelve Caesars, about whom Suetonius writes, are:
+ Julius Caesar
+ Augustus
+ Tiberius
+ Gaius Caligula
+ Claudius
+ Nero
+ Galba
+ Otho
+ Vitellius
+ Vespasian
+ Titus
+ Domitian
Suetonius held nothing back in writing about the personal habits of the emperors and their families, nor did he hold back in his moral judgement of them. Of Tiberius, for instance, he wrote that Tiberius did so many other wicked deeds under the pretext of reforming public morals--but in reality to gratify his lust for seeing people suffer--that many satires were written against the evils of the day, incidentally expressing gloomy fears about the future.... At first Tiberius dismissed these verses as the work of bilious malcontents who were impatient with his reforms and did not really mean what they said. He would remark: 'Let them hate me, so long as they fear me!' But, as time went on, his conduct justified every line they had written.
Graves' edition of Suetonius is available under many covers, from hard-back study editions to Penguin paperbacks, including a wonderful, finely printed edition by the Folio Society. Take a step back into the seemier side of ancient Rome, the side most history courses overlook in favour of more traditional historical events, and hie thee to the bookstore for this work.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Suetonius is a good read, but this is a very loose translation., 18 Oct 2012
This review is from: Lives of the Twelve Caesars (Classics of World Literature) (Paperback)
As a Classics student, I often use a translation to skim through when I need to find a piece of text quickly. However, this particular translation is so loose that in places, it is nearly impossible to match the English to the Latin, making it next to useless if you are studying Suetonius. I would recommend the Penguin Classics translation (by Robert Graves) as both more readable in English and more useful for parallel reading.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, 31 Jan 2007
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N. Clarke "genco1901" (Birmingham, England) - See all my reviews
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Suetonius' gossipy palimpsest of the reigns of the first twelve rulers of the Roman Empire has long inspired other writers to incorporate his observations into films and books, due to the attention he gives to the Emperors' physical appearance, habits, dress, and eccentricities. The most famous interpretation of this remains the BBC's superlative 'I,Claudius', written by Jack Pulman and based on the novels by Robert Graves. But these were based on Suetonius' works, and the 6-disc edition features the resonant voice of Derek Jacobi, who of course played Claudius so memorably (and yes, he reprises the role, complete with stutter!). This is very entertaining stuff, and powerfully recreates the atmosphere of paranoia and intrigue in an Empire where the supreme ruler was invested with almost divine power, but agonisingly aware that somewhere, waiting in the wings, someone is poised to bump him off.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars the lives of the twelve caesars, 10 Nov 2013
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although it was informative it seemed very heavy on politics and complicated roman structure i felt it could have been simplified in terms of the structure of roman leadership and the way roman hierachy operated may be it was to indepth but i am still enjoying reading it but in small doses
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Simple Suetonius, 18 Feb 2009
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R. Denton (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lives of the Twelve Caesars (Classics of World Literature) (Paperback)
This Wordsworth edition of Suetonius' "Lives of the Twelve Caesars" presents an easy to read translation of the original latin text. Unfortunately, being a "bargain basement" imprint, it does not include any notes giving further details of the historical background, such as one might expect from a Penguin edition. However, it represents great overall value for money.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Scolars Only, 13 July 2013
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Ronald Scott - See all my reviews
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It was tough going to get through I have not finished it yet I use it as a sleeping pill
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5.0 out of 5 stars Twelve Caesars, 4 April 2014
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This review is from: Lives of the Twelve Caesars (Classics of World Literature) (Paperback)
This a a great translation of Suetonius, whom I consider the John Aubrey of his day. Historically interesting and surprisingly gossipy in parts it is a glimpse into the distant past, making it come alive with real, though often flawed people..
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lives of the 12 Caesars, 28 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Lives of the Twelve Caesars (Classics of World Literature) (Paperback)
Jolly good read. Great to dip in and out of, pick your favourite emperor and lose yourself in ancient Rome for a while.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Educational reading, 29 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Lives of the Twelve Caesars (Classics of World Literature) (Paperback)
Took me some time to sort out the characters,after that, I loved it.
Will definitely be passing it on to my children
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