The Twelve Caesars Hardcover – 1 Jan 1998
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Attractive Folio Society edition of Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus' biographies of the first twelve Caesars: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian. Cloth covers with gilt design. Endpapers decorated with Maps of the Roman Empire. Very minor shelfwear to book and slipcase. Contents crisp and clean. Very good overall.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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...
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is not the Robert Graves translation but a turgid alternative.Published 4 days ago by Tony Fisher
I took this along to read on a recent visit to southern France, having been vaguely aware that the Romans - and in particular Julius Caesar (who's the first of the eponymous Twelve... Read morePublished 23 days ago by Jeremy Walton
Fascinating to get the historical sense of this dynasty. I knew that they were ruthless, but not to that extent, living always in the shadow of potential assassination. Read morePublished 5 months ago by mirobola
This book brings one "up close and personal" to the 12 Caesars, with their strengths and weaknesses. For those interested in ancient Rome, this book is a must! Read morePublished 6 months ago by Samadhi World