Luke Peterson's Reviews > The Twelve Caesars

The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius
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's review
Feb 20, 2007

it was ok
Recommended for: folks interested in compartmentalizing ancient roman history
Read in November, 2005

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, historians were expected to be speechwriters, using their creativity to put words into the mouths of their subjects at critical points in their careers. In this effort, Suetonius is brief. He's gossipy and not very imaginative. He's pretty good at getting the historical details to background all of his characters, but fairly useless at inspiring imagination while reading (much like the academic nonfiction writers of today). Of course, it could also just be the translation.

If you want to read a serious man's writing of the first 150 years of the Roman Empire, grab a copy of Suetonius' Twelve Caesars and go forth.
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Patrick Link Umm, Graves did the translation and was imaginative enough to also write "I, Claudius."

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