Suetonius wrote his Lives of the Twelve Caesars in the reign of Vespasian around 70AD. He chronicled the extraordinary careers of Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Vespasian, and Domitian and the rest in technicolour terms. They presented some high and low times at the heart of the Roman Empire. The accounts provide us with perspicacious insights into the men as much as their reigns, and it was from Suetoniaus that subsequent writers such as Robert Graves drew so much of their material.
(P)2005 NAXOS AudioBooks Ltd.; ©2005 NAXOS AudioBooks Ltd.
Jacobi reads beautifully (he played Claudius, one of the Caesars in question), but Naxos, the publisher, seems strangely coy about the translator--not even in its catalog does it reveal whose English version Jacobi is reading. It's certainly not the celebrated Robert Graves translation (for that go to the Audio Connoisseurs edition) but a far looser one, and, of course, heavily abridged. Information about the translator would seem a basic courtesy to the buyer. This buyer, at least, is disappointed by the lack of it.
I found myself fixated on the reader's pronounciation rather than the book itself. Think Pontius Pilate/Michael Palin from the movie "Life of Brian", because I do whenever I listen to it.
Perhaps the choice of reader was intentional.
"Perfect narrator, great text, poor translation"
A sadly wasted opportunity. Unfortunately this audiobook is very abridged. Some unusual and odd choices were also made in Latin pronunciations, which can be off putting or confusing. The translation of the text itself (done by person/s unknown and difficult to discover) is strange and archaic, occasionally making the text difficult to understand (even for a classics scholar!). This includes the bizarre miss-use of technical terms, to give just one example, the term ‘poignard’ is often repeated (a fairly obscure term for a specific medieval type of dagger) instead of using the generic simple translation of ‘dagger’ or a specific correct term like the Latin ‘pugio’.
The fact that, despite all this, I still think it deserves 4 stars it testament to both the original text of Suetonius and the fantastic narrating of the great Sir Derek Jacobi, but could have been so much better, so easily!
"Useful history, but of its time."
3 stars for performance are because of poor presentation. Derek Jacobi's reading is fine, but nowhere is the translator named, even though every bit of intrusive music is detailed in the pdf notes. It is arbitrarily divided into 6 chapters, presumably reflecting the original Naxos recording from pre-digital days. This makes it difficult to locate any individual Caesar - they are 12, after all, some meriting more space than others! - and since Audible on the iPhone tends to lose one's place, it can be confusing trying to get back to where you were before.
I was slightly taken aback when it began with a perky American child announcing "This is Audible KIDS!" this is an abridged version; did that mean all the salacious scandal had been censored and only the politics and warfare left in? (US media have a reputation for being much less squeamish about violence than sex, after all.)
Not so. More outrageous allegations than Robert Graves dared to include in his novels. I admit they supplemented my Latin studies at school, but they weren't marketed for "kids"....
Narrated with great skill by Derek Jacobi who brings ancient history up to date and very much to life. Seutonius is a skilled eloquent writer who makes history enjoyable. If you know nothing of the early roman emperors this will go a long way to enlighten you. I would recommend this book to all readers aged 16+
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