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Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius (ca. 69/75 – after 130), was an equestrian and a historian during the Roman Empire. His most important surviving work is a set of biographies of twelve successive Roman rulers, from Julius Caesar until Domitian, entitled De Vita Caesarum. Other works by Suetonius concern the daily life of Romemarker, politics, oratory, and the lives of famous writers, including poets, historians, and grammarians. A few of these books have partially survived, but many are entirely lost.

Life

Marble bust of Trajan.
Suetonius was born the son of Suetonius Laetus, who probably came from Hippo Regiusmarker (Annabamarker, Algeriamarker). Laetus was an equestrian who served and took part in the first Battle of Bedriacum for the Emperor Otho and against the future Emperor Vitellius in 69.-Suetonius was a close friend to Senator and letter-writer Pliny the Younger. Pliny describes him as "quiet and studious, a man dedicated to writing." Pliny helped him buy a small property in Italy and interceded with the Emperor Trajan to grant Suetonius immunities usually granted to a father of three, the ius trium liberorum, because his marriage was childless. Through Pliny, Suetonius came into favour with Trajan and Hadrian.Suetonius may have served on Pliny’s staff when Pliny was Proconsul of Bithynia Pontus (northern Asia Minormarker) between 110 and 112. Under Trajan he served as secretary of studies (precise functions are uncertain) and director of Imperial archives. Under Hadrian, he became the Emperor's secretary. But, In 119, Hadrian dismissed Suetonius for an affair between him and Empress Vibia Sabina. Suetonius may have later regained imperial favor under Hadrian and returned to his position. This hypothesis is based on the suggestion that Offices of State was one of his last works, and that the subject was chosen to reflect Hadrian's administrative reforms; however, there is no certain evidence for a public career after 120.

Works

Twelve Caesars

He is mainly remembered as the author of De Vita Caesarum ("The Lives of the Caesars", best known in English as "The Twelve Caesars"), his only extant work except for the brief lives and other fragments noted below. The Twelve Caesars, probably written in Hadrian's time, is a collective biography of the Roman Empire's first leaders, Julius Caesar (the first few chapters are missing), Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian. The book was dedicated to a friend Gaius Septicius Clarus, a prefect of the Praetorian Guard in 119. The work tells the tale of each Caesar's life according to a set formula: the descriptions of appearance, omens, family history, quotes, and then a history are given in a consistent order for each Caesar.

Other works

Partly extant

  • De Viris Illustribus ("On Famous Men" — in the field of literature), to which belong:
    • De Illustribus Grammaticis ("Lives Of The Grammarians"; 20 brief lives, apparently complete)
    • De Claris Rhetoribus ("Lives Of The Rhetoricians"; 5 brief lives out of an original 16 survive) There might be a discrepancy attributing this work to Suetonius because Cicero wrote De Oratore which was his treatise on the lives of Rhetoricians. Someone should should clarify.
    • De Poetis ("Lives Of The Poets"; the life of Virgil, as well as fragments from the lives of Terence, Horace and Lucan, survive)
    • De historicis ("Lives of the historians"; a brief life of Pliny the Elder is attributed to this work)
  • Peri ton par' Hellesi paidion ("Greek Games")
  • Peri blasphemion ("Greek Terms of Abuse")
The two last works were written in Greek. They apparently survive in part in the form of extracts in later Greek glossaries.

Lost works

  • Royal Biographies
  • Lives of Famous Whores
  • Roman Manners and Customs
  • The Roman Year
  • The Roman Festivals
  • Roman Dress
  • Offices of State
  • On Cicero’s Republic
  • Physical Defects of Mankind
  • Methods of Reckoning Time
  • An Essay on Nature
  • Grammatical Problems
  • Critical Signs Used in Books


References

  1. Pliny the Younger, Letters 10.95
  2. L.D.Reynolds, Texts and Transmissions: a survey of the Latin classics, Oxford, 1980. The dedication, in the lost preface, is recorded by a sixth century source when the text was still complete.
  3. According to the flyleaf of the Penguin edition of The Twelve Caesars


External links

Primary sources Secondary sources

Bibliography

  • Barry Baldwin, Suetonius: Biographer of the Caesars. Amsterdam: A. M. Hakkert, 1983.




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