umberto's Reviews > The Twelve Caesars

The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius
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Dec 22, 12

bookshelves: ancient-history
Read from February 01, 2009 to August 15, 2011 — I own a copy

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, subjects, etc. as written by Suetonius and read by posterity interested in their biographies.

I think I won't waste my time here describing unspeakble, unthinkable and notorius horror instigated/done by Tiberius, Caligula or Nero because many scholars have written in volumes for those readers to read and condemn them more or less. Therefore, I can't help admiring Divus Julius (aka Julius Caesar) as one of the great 'Caesars' since, as far as I know, he never claimed/called himself 'emperor' but I guess it's the celebrated aftermath by Augustus, his imperial successor.

I've long admired Julius Caesar because he did his assigned tasks with greatness, with a heart of gold. From his famous "The Conquest of Gauls" written in Latin, he wrote about his expeditions as a matter of fact without any boastful words or complacency. For instance: "Moreover, when given the chance, he would always cheerfully come to terms with his bitterest enemies. He supported Gaius Memmius' candidature for the consulship, though they had both spoken most damagingly against each other. ... Valerius Catullus had also libelled him in his verses about Mamurra, yet Caesar, while admitting that these were a permanent blot on his name, accepted Catullus' apology and invited him to dinner that same afternoon, and never interrupted his friendship with Catullus' father." (p. 33)

Moreover, captivated by his educated mind and sense of humour, I've respected him more when I came across his tolerance and mercy towards those native Britons, "from whom he exacted a large sum of money as well as hostages for future good behaviour." (p. 12) I think this is still one of the key strategic policies essential to charismatic leaders in politcal organizations in the world nowadays.

Finally, I'd like to invite my Goodreads friends to find a copy and browse any 'Caesar' you like and you'd be delighted to be more informed and thus learned on those obscure famous/notorius twelve Roman 'Caesars'. As for me, I will definitely reread my favourite Julius Caesar to learn more from his character and nobility.


Endnote: I think I'd post my review/comments (briefly scribbled as my notes in the book) as soon as I have some ideas on writing some for my GR friends, this takes time to reflect and decide what I should say to share my view as part of our pleasure derived from reading.
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Reading Progress

08/11/2011 page 234
59.0% "As quaestor, Caesar was appointed to Further Spain, where the praetorian governor sent him off to an assize circuit. At Gades, he saw a statue of Alexander the Great in the Temple of Hercules, and was overheard to sigh impatiently - vexed, it seems, that at an age when Alexander had already conquered the whole world, he himself had done nothing in the least epoch-making. (p. 3)"
08/11/2011 page 254
64.0% "Caesar was the first Roman to build a military bridge across the Rhine and cause the Germans on the further bank heavy losses. He also invaded Britain, a hithero unknown country, and defeated the natives, from whom he exacted a large sum of money as well as hostages for future good behaviour. He met with only three serious reverses: in Britain, when his fleet was all but destroyed by a gale, ...(pp. 11-12)"
08/13/2011 page 278
70.0% "A party of shepherds gathered around to listen, and, when some of Caesar's men broke ranks to do the same, the apparition snatched a trumpet from one of them, ran down to the river, blew a thunderous blast, and crossed over. Caesar exclaimed, 'Let us accept this as a sign from the gods and follow where they beckon in vengeance on our double-dealing enemies. the die is cast.' (p. 16)"

Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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Mark Don't get too excited by Julius Caesar--remember that Suetonius had to flatter the founder of the Empire. Caesar's proscriptions killed many decent men, and he drove the final stake into the heart of the Republic.

By the way, check out Sallust's history of the Catiline conspiracy for more on the Memmius/Caesar relationship. Sallust records speeches by both that are very interesting.


umberto Thanks, Mark, for your kind reprimand and Sallust's history.


umberto Thanks, Lisa, for your encouragement.


umberto Thanks, Karima, for your encouragement.


message 5: by Julian (new)

Julian I would assume that every leader did some immoralities in the cause of getting to the top. As you mentioned "De Bello Gallico": In School we read this book in original Latin and on the process of translating it one finds many euphemisms and exaggerations. It reads more like a novel then a report.


umberto Thanks, Julian, for your message. I think that's why Plato wrote "The Republic" and the ideal 'philosopher kings' proposed to rule a state, for instance, Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-80) honored as a Roman emperor and a philosopher wrote his "Meditations". Moreover, reading the book in Latin for schoolboys is sheer wisdom in the syllabus wisely designed by your honorable, formidable and great professors of literature/education.


umberto Thanks, matt, I appreciate your encouragement.


umberto Thanks, Clif, I appreciate your encouragement.


umberto Thanks, Sarah, I appreciate your encouragement.


message 10: by Rob (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rob Atkinson One of my all-time favorites. Yes, likely colored by an anti-Julio-Claudian bias, but such fun juicy reading! And I think, largely true, for all that. If only he'd not lost access to the Imperial archives and could have written on Hadrian, his employer!


umberto Thanks, Rob, I appreciate your comment and information.


umberto Thanks, Garima, I appreciate your encouragement.


umberto Thanks, William, I appreciate your encouragement.


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