The Twelve Caesars
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The Twelve Caesars

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4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  8,755 ratings  ·  328 reviews
Born in 60 A.D., Suetonius served for several years as secretary to the Roman emperor Hadrian. His years in the palaces and halls of imperial government served him well when he set out to write this oftentimes eye-popping, tell-all account of the doings of the first 12 emperors, from Julius to Domitian, who make the good fellas of Mafia renown seem tame by comparison. From...more
Paperback, illustrated, 288 pages
Published November 29th 1979 by Penguin Books (first published 121)
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Cassandra Kay Silva
No words. Each and every member of that "family" and ahherm non family who acquired that infamous title ceasar is such a massive wrecking case of extreams that I can't even begin to fathom that these men are real. Let alone contemplate what citizens must of thought of them in their day. Really? If Suetonius is to be belived how many of these men would in our day be catergorized as legally insane? I literally about fell out of my chair this weekend when I read that Nero had the gates blocked duri...more
Jan-Maat
This Roman bedtime reading gives the reader a mixed experience. The length of the lives is uneven - the first three lives in the Robert Graves (he'd go on to recycle much of the material here into his novels I Claudius and Claudius the God) translation alone make up half the book, the division of each life into public (civil and military exploits) and private parts (adventures in bedroom and dining room) works against presenting each life as an organic whole and Suetonius' sense of cause and eff...more
Brenna
Julius Caesar the catamite of King of Bithnyia?? Augustus singeing off his leg hair with hot walnut shells!! Caligula's seductive maiden dance!! Oh my! Simply delicious!
Greg
Reading this book makes me kind of thankful that the sociopaths who we choose to govern us are relatively harmless men with only strange dreams of imperialism and desires for fame, riches, and adulation. Sure we have a Vice President who shot a friend in the face and who brazenly admits to authorizing acts that make him a war criminal, and yes there are Greek bastards who have made a living off of sanctioning genocide for their own twisted ends, and this is just naming two high points in the Hal...more
Evan Leach
The Lives of the Caesars is one of the best surviving sources covering the early Roman Empire. In these 12 biographies, Suetonius discusses the lives of Julius Caesar and his 11 successors, from the mid first century BC to the death of Domitian in 96 AD.

img: Augustus of Porta
“I found a city of brick and left it marble.” – Augustus Caesar

Now given that these biographies come from the second century, this could make for dry reading. Fortunately, two things prevent this. First, many of the emperors under discussion her...more
umberto
While reading this biography of 'The Twelve Caesars', one word popped in my mind, that is, 'nobility' since all emperors in question were of course noble, feared and thus honored according to their own deeds. However, such nobility and deeds might intensify admiration or hatred due to each emperor himself. You can compare or assess each reign from your views acquired from reading unbelievably episodes of kindness or ruthlessness since they wielded absolute power within their families, colleages,...more
Lois
Jul 08, 2007 Lois rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Shelves: lobagsbooks
This is in my Top 10 books. I love it so much, i think i have read it 3 times (no joke). I took this book with me on my travels in Rome and I bored Matt with my constant readings whilst we were visiting all of the historic sites. I have a huge facination with Roman History, so I do appreciate that most people will find this utterly boring, but i love it, love it, love it, love it.
Trevor
This was a fascinating book. Translated by Graves, who wrote I, Claudius, it is, in many ways, a shorter version of those books. Although, Claudius does not come out of this history nearly as well as he does from Graves’ novels.

You may never have seen Monty Python’s The Piranha Brothers, if not you should really try looking it up on youtube. If only because I’m quite certain that Nero is Doug Piranha in a toga.

There were bits of this where I laughed outright and other bits where I’ve laughed a...more
Bryn Hammond
The mad, the bad and the dangerous to know. I don't care if he's a gossip. It's hilarious, and I gluttoned on the worst bits in my teens.
F.R.
Did you know that the Emperor Augustus had a collection of dinosaur bones? Or that one of the many perversities Caligula exhibited was a liking for bathing in hot oils? Or that Nero once had a man killed simply because he looked like a cross schoolmaster?

These titbits and many others are detailed in this highly entertaining and amusing volume. I’d thought that a history (and a fairly contemporary one at that) of such great men would have detailed the various great exploits of their lives, but cl...more
Sarah Sammis
Back in 2005 I learned of The Twelve Caesars on Radio 4. It was part of "A Good Read" or some similar program. Anyway, I was intrigued by the sound of this book that has so influenced writers ever since it was published nearly two thousand years ago. I was not disappointed by the book and managed to read it in a course of an afternoon!

Suetonius's history of the early Roman empire covers Julius Caesar and the eleven emperors who followed: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho,...more
Alessandra
"My dear Tiberius, you must not give way to youthful emotion, or take it to heart if anyone speaks ill of me; let us be satisfied if we can make people stop short at unkind words,"Chapter 2, pg. 76.

"The fox changes his skin but not his habits"

Like a great documentary thriller Suetonius's novel is exceptional in that his documentation of the fantastical is rooted in a foundation of reality. As the notable historian of the Roman Empire, Suetonius perfected the historical novel. The lives of the Tw...more
Marty
Suetonius gives a warts-and-all portrait of Julius Caesar and the first Roman emperors. And what warts! This is apparently the only source for these guys as people. Everything we commonly know about them is here, down to ribald popular jokes. A portrait of the beating heart of fascism. No wonder our founders abhorred a standing army. Not exactly a felicitous read (I used Robert Graves's translation--the remnants of my high-school Latin wouldn't have got me through one sentence), but fascinating.
B.R. Stateham
Frankly, I'm an ex-History teacher, so I eat these kinds of books up for dessert. By modern standards of form an style this book is very stodgy in construction. But the images Suetonius paints of these twelve emporors is fascinating!
Jo
Suetonius is like a gossipy old woman. Loved it!
James
A good, gossipy dish on the life of the Caesars, from Julius Caesar himself to Domitian. Suetonius covers the range of their lives, from birth to death, public works and private debaucheries--even height, diet and temperament.

The results are surprisingly personal, for persons often viewed as iconic. The decadence of absolute power is amply captured, as many of the Caesars embrace poisoning, incest and torture. The faults of imperial Rome are laid open as well: the cruelty of conquest and the gl...more
umberto
While reading this biography of 'The Twelve Caesars', one word popped in my mind, that is, 'nobility' since all emperors in question were of course noble, feared and thus honored according to their own deeds. However, such nobility and deeds might intensify admiration or hatred due to each emperor himself. You can compare or assess each reign from your views acquired from reading unbelievably episodes of kindness or ruthlessness since they wielded absolute power within their families, colleages...more
Mick
Oct 28, 2010 Mick rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who has an interest in this area and wants a good laugh.
Shelves: history
This book was awesome!! Written about 1700 yrs ago it was like reading something written today.

Tho I can't understand how the empire didnt fragment under the psycho rulers who were the twelve ceasars, what with all the proscriptions (executions) that each did. Usually from jealousy for being a decent general, cause they wanted to bang someone's wife, or to fill up the imperial treasury was also popular, I like the line one of em pulled out saying get me a list of the 100 richest men in the empir...more
Luke Peterson
Feb 20, 2007 Luke Peterson rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: folks interested in compartmentalizing ancient roman history
The Twelve Caesars is a great resource for anyone looking to get a general understanding of Roman history from Julius Caesar to Domitian (50 B.C.E.-96 C.E.).

This particular version is translated by Michael Grant and introduced by Robert Graves, both of whom are easy to read and are pretty well-known and well-respected 20th-century popularizers of ancient history.

The writing of History, as a Roman professional pursuit, involved the use of imagination as much as factual research. As such, histori...more
Professor
My first encounter with Suetonius was in high school Latin class, when the class laughed at my translation of the passage where Suetonius indicates that Julius Caesar plucked his pubic hairs. They assumed that I, the worst student in class, made a mistake, but I was correct. Later I read several of his lives in Roman history courses. This was my first time reading the book from start to finish, and it was an interesting journey. Absolutely fascinating passages on the character and actions of the...more
TarasProkopyuk
Очень познавательная книга о 12 римских правителях.

Если верить автору, то он довольно хорошо передал нам в своей книге образы каждого из описанных в книге правителей великой империи. Описано их жизнь до правления государством, их способ жизни, дела, их облик и репутация, приход к власти, могущество, их сторонников и врагов, управление республикой, воинские походы, их великие дела и доблесть. Также здесь есть и множество казней, развратных, алчных и недостойных их поступков.

Книга будет очень поле...more
Graeme Hinde
This book is pretty scandalous, and at times almost to gross to keep reading. It's what Robert Graves based his "I, Clavdivs" novels on, and frankly if you're looking for some good Roman atrociousness you're better off sticking with those. Seutonius has some excellent lyrical passages, particularly when emperors are fleeing for their lives from assassins and armies, but other times the writing is exceedingly casual and frequently devolves to simple lists of characteristics. He had another book,...more
Karolinde (Kari)
This book is actually kind of fun, if a little dry at times. Think if someone wrote about the last 12 presidents, including those they remember and the ones they don't. That gives you a pretty good idea what this book is like. Suetonius was a Roman who wrote both from memory and from what sources he could find. It's really fun though when he reports the unverified rumours, some he debunks and others he says, "Hey, there's not proof." A fun history to read and equally fun to recognize his quotes...more
John
Charlton Griffin does a great job with the audio - if you enjoyed I, Claudius as I did, Suetonius' account gives the bigger picture of the emperors before and after Claudius - he seemed the best of a truly bad lot, but was far-from-perfect himself.
Robert Farwell
It is a great overview of Rome's emperors from the Julians to the Flavians. The mixture of historical biography and, what must have been, a political gossip tatler.
Rick Davis
It's an ancient tabloid. What's not to love?
Lee Foust
I'm not qualified to actually critique Suetonius's history--and, anyway, what would be the point? I'm not going to help him to be better on his next book, nor are any contemporary historians likely to emulate his methods. Therefore my stars represent my own pleasure in reading the text and no actual particular critical abilities on my part.

I was inspired to turn to The Twelve Caesars because I recently returned to the BBC series I, Claudius and was interested to see Graves's source material--I k...more
Pierce
Gaius Suetonius was a dorky Roman Knight living in Rome during the early second century BC during the reigns of Emperors Trajan and Hadrian. Suetonius' history consolidates 150 years of records, legends, and lots of gossip into twelve books describing the sordid lives and predictably unpleasant deaths of each of the first twelve "Caesars." By "Caesars," Suetonius means Julius Caesar and the first eleven Emperors of Rome that followed him.

Suetonius' history is certainly not always accurate but it...more
Rob Atkinson
One of those classics that is a genuine, even salacious pleasure to read, and the historical basis for Robert Graves's "I, Claudius", "The Twelve Caesars" covers the first twelve emperors of Ancient Rome (Including Julius Caesar, though Augustus was the first officially); the Julio-Claudians through Nero, his very brief successors Galba,Otho and Vitellius (in the tumultuous 'year of three Emperors', A.D. 69), and finally the Flavians Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian. Secretary to Hadrian, Suetoniu...more
Peter
I really enjoyed this book, although reading it is a double edged sword.

Although I enjoyed it, I would not recommend it to any of my friends.

Reading it is an exercise in revelation of how the world was 2000 years ago in the Roman Empire. The fact that I was educated is the good part. The fact that much of that revelation was disgusting and vile is the kicker which sours it.

It gives a horrific insight into the depths of depravity which humans can sink to. For instance, it relates the story of on...more
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16319
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius (ca. 69/75 – after 130), was a Roman historian belonging to the equestrian order in the early Imperial era. His most important surviving work is a set of biographies of twelve successive Roman rulers, from Julius Caesar until Domitian, entitled De Vita Caesarum. Other works by Suetonius concern the daily life of Rome, politics, oratory, and...more
More about Suetonius...
Julius/Augustus/Tiberius/Gaius/Caligula (Lives of the Caesars 1) Claudius/Nero/Galba/Otho/Vitellius/Vespasian/Titus/Domitian/Lives of Illustrious Men/Grammarians & Rhetoricians (lives of the caesars 2) Julius Caesar: The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Vol 1 Domitian: The Lives of the Twelve Caesars 12 Claudius: The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Vol 5

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