Suetonius “The Twelve Cesars”If a friend asked me to tell him if it is worth it to read Suetonius’ book “The Twelve Cesars”, I would say it is. This book, though old, is still very interesting and informative today. It is important to note however, that the writing style of Suetonius’ day was much different from our own. Some readers might be confused and exasperated with Suetonius’ diction and syntax. He uses very long expressions and details to describe people and events that may not even be necessary to describe.
But it is because of this extreme attention to detail that “The Twelve Cesars” is important to read.Even if you do not like Suetonius’ style, you must agree that he has achieved his goal of adequately exploring the lives of these 12 men. He wrote more than an adequate biography; he wrote an exquisite history of a very important period in the Roman world. Suetonius wrote so accurately that many historians today use his writings to describe the lives of the Caesars. Before reading the book, I must admit I did not know very much about the Caesars that ruled Rome. I had only heard of Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus, and between the two, I only had a vague idea of what they did. Now after reading “The Twelve Caesars” I have a much clearer understanding of who these men were and what they did. Each one of them impacted the world in different ways, and some of their decisions still echo through the modern world.
Suetonius has given me a better understanding of the Caesars and Rome. The two Caesars that caught my attention the most were Augustus and Gaius. These two represent a stark contrast between the rulers f Rome. One was a visionary and a leader, the other was an insane megalomaniac. Suetonius did a good job of describing not only the men and their actions, but how these actions affected the Romans and the world. All of the men were important and influential, but Suetonius’ description of these two captured my attention. What impressed me most about the book was the incredible detail he used to describe people, places, events, and things. As I said, some people may find all this detail to be tedious.
I however think that it was important to have such details to paint an accurate picture of ancient Rome. Also, the way that Suetonius presented the different Caesars’ lives gave a very well-balanced view of each man. He would start off with the virtues of the men, describing their good deeds and positive influences on the citizens of Rome.
Then, he would switch sides and tell of the man’s most hideous vices. The end result is a mix of respect and disgust for the Caesar, which is probably the best way to look at these rulers of Rome. Each Caesar committed both wonderful and vile deeds while in power, so none are totally free from sin.
I think that Suetonius did a very good job of collecting information about the Caesars. Many times, modern historians use his writings to get a clearer view of what the Roman civilization was really like. He obviously did many years of research to get the level of detail he wanted for this book.
Now, one can not know for sure that everything in Suetonius’ writings is the truth, but for the most part his sources seem creditable. His use of the imperial archives of Emperor Hadrian is proof enough that he really did work diligently to have truthful information. Of all of the Caesars, two of them captured my attention the most. First was Caesar Augustus who seemed to be a god among men. His rule was truly the golden age for the people of Rome. The other was Gaius, who is a stark contrast to Augustus. His rule plunged Rome into bankruptcy, riots, and madness. He inspired pity and hatred in equal amounts in the citizens.
The fact that these two men held the same power over Rome astonishes.