The Twelve Caesars (Penguin Classics)

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9780140449211: The Twelve Caesars (Penguin Classics)

As private secretary to the Emporer Hadrian, Suetonius gained access to the imperial archives and used them (along with carefully gathered eye-witness accounts ) to produce one of the most colourful biographical works in history. "The Twelve Caesars" chronicles the lives of the men who wielded absolute power over Rome, from the foundation of the empire under Julius Caesar and Augustus, to the decline into depravity and civil war under Nero, and the recovery and stability that came with his successors. A masterpiece of anecdote, wry observation and detailed physical description, this text presents us with a gallery of vividly drawn - and all too human - individuals.

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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 Suetonius we learn that Augustus was afraid of lightning and thunder and carried a piece of seal skin as protection against them; that Caligula slept with his mother and his sister; and that Nero outlawed mimes in Rome--which may mean that he wasn't such a bad man after all. Suetonius doesn't hesitate to say when he's reporting gossip that he has not personally verified, but what gossip it is! This translation, by the noted classicist Robert Graves, serves the ancient chronicler very well indeed.

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