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About the book
  • Published: 21 January 2008
  • ISBN: 9780140455168
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 464
  • RRP: $17.99

The Twelve Caesars




An essential primary source on Roman history, Suetonius' The Twelve Caesars is a fascinating achievement of scholarship covering a critical period in the Empire. This Penguin Classics edition is translated from the Latin by Robert Graves, author of I, Claudius, revised with an introduction and notes by James B. Rives.
As private secretary to the Emperor Hadrian, the scholar Suetonius had access to the imperial archives and used them (along with eyewitness accounts) to produce one of the most colourful biographical works in history. The Twelve Caesars chronicles the public careers and private 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 that came with his successors. A masterpiece of observation, anecdote and detailed physical description, The Twelve Caesars presents us with a gallery of vividly drawn - and all too human - individuals.
James B. Rives has sensitively updated Robert Graves's now classic translation, reinstating Latin terms and updating vocabulary while retaining the liveliness of the original. This edition contains a new chronology, further reading, glossaries, maps, notes and an introduction discussing Suetonius' life and works.
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus was probably born in AD69 - the famous 'year of the four Emperors'. From the letters of Suetonius' close friend Pliny the Younger we learn that he practiced briefly at the bar, avoided political life, and became chief secretary to the Emperor Hadrian (AD117-38). Suetonius seems to have lived to a good age and probably died around the year AD140.
If you enjoyed The Twelve Caesars, you might like Tacitus's The Annals of Imperial Rome, also available in Penguin Classics.
'Suetonius, in holding up a mirror to those Caesars of diverting legend, reflects not only them but ourselves: half-tempted creatures, whose great moral task is to hold in balance the angel and the monster within'
Gore Vidal

  • Pub date: 21 January 2008
  • ISBN: 9780140455168
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 464
  • RRP: $17.99

About the Authors

Suetonius

Not much is known about the life of Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus. He was probably born in AD 69— the famous 'year of the four Emperors'— when his father, a Roman knight, served as a colonel in a regular legion and took part in the Battle of Betriacum. From the letters of Suetonius' close friend Pliny the Younger we learn that he practiced briefly at the bar, avoided political life, and became chief secretary to the Emperor Hadrian (AD 117-38).

He was one of several Palace officials, including the Guards Commander, whom Hadrian, when he returned from Britain, dismissed for behaving impolitely to the Empress Sabina. Suetonius seems to have lived to a good age and probably died around the year AD 140. The titles of his books are recorded as follows: The Twelve Caesars, Royal Biographies, Lives of Famous Whores, Roman Masters and Customs, The Roman Year, Roman Festivals, Roman Dress, Greek Games, On Public Offices, Cicero's Republic, The Physical Defects of Mankind, Methods of Reckoning Time, An Essay on Nature, Greek Terms of Abuse, Grammatical Problems and Critical Signs Used in Books. But apart from fragments of his Illustrious Writers, which include short biographies of Virgil, Horace and Lucan, the only extant book is The Twelve Caesars, one of the most fascinating and colorful of all Latin histories.

Robert Graves


Robert Graves was born in 1895 in Wimbledon, the son of Irish writer Perceval Graves and Amalia Von Ranke. He went from school to the First World War, where he became a captain in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. After this, apart from a year as Professor of English Literature at Cairo University in 1926, he earned his living by writing, mostly historical novels, including: I, Claudius; Claudius the God; Count Belisarius; Wife of Mr Milton; Sergeant Lamb of the Ninth; Proceed, Sergeant Lamb; The Golden Fleece; They Hanged My Saintly Billy; and The Isles of Unwisdom. He wrote his autobiography, Goodbye to All That, in 1929, and it was soon established as a modern classic. The Times Literary Supplement acclaimed it as 'one of the most candid self portraits of a poet, warts and all, ever painted', as well as being of exceptional value as a war document. Two of his most discussed non-fiction works are The White Goddess, which presents a new view of the poetic impulse, and The Nazarine Gospel Restored (with Joshua Podro), a re-examination of primitive Christianity. He also translated Apuleius, Lucan and Suetonius for the Penguin Classics, and compiled the first modern dictionary of Greek Mythology, The Greek Myths. His translation of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (with Omar Ali-Shah) is also published in Penguin. He was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford in 1961 and made an Honorary Fellow of St John's College, Oxford, in 1971.

Robert Graves died on 7 December 1985 in Majorca, his home since 1929. On his death The Times wrote of him, 'He will be remembered for his achievements as a prose stylist, historical novelist and memorist, but above all as the great paradigm of the dedicated poet, 'the greatest love poet in English since Donne'.'


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