In the Twelve Caesars (De Vita Caesarum) Suetonius provides us with biographies of Julius Caesar and the eleven Roman Emperors who followed him. The work, probably written around 121AD in the reign of Hadrian, therefore covers the crucial and highly eventful period of Roman history from the end of the Republic to the reign of Domitian.
Suetonius delved into the Imperial archives to research eyewitness accounts, obtain factual information, and compile related material to produce his summary, as well as gathering anecdotal and other evidence from writers and historians of the period. The work is dramatic, and packed with incident. It provides valuable information on the heritage, personal habits, physical appearance, lives and political careers of the protagonists, and mentions details that other sources do not.
Suetonius is a major source of information on the life of Caligula, his uncle Claudius, and the heritage of Vespasian (the relevant sections of the Annals by Tacitus his contemporary being lost).
Though often questioned regarding its ultimate reliability as history, the Twelve Caesars provides an unforgettable portrait of Rome under the early Emperors, and of the Emperors themselves
This and other texts available from Poetry in Translation (www.poetryintranslation.com).
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