The Twelve Caesars was written based on the information of eyewitnesses and public records. It conveys a very accurate picture of court life in Rome and contains some of the raciest and most salacious material to be found in all of ancient literature. The writing is clear, simple and easy to understand, and the numerous anecdotes of juicy scandal, bitter court intrigue, and murderous brigandage easily hold their own against the most spirited content of today's tabloids.
"A pleasure to read..."
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 colorful 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.
"Heavily modified and softly translated"
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.
The emperor Caligula was one of the strangest and cruelest rulers that ever lived, and most of what is known about his reign comes from Suetonius. The first six months of his reign appear to have been moderate and successful; but after that, he fell into a spiral of sadism, sexual perversity, and plain insanity that made him one of the most hated tyrants of all time.
The emperor Nero's reign is one weird tale of sexual depravity and extravagant sadism. He was a gifted musician, and is said to have given great concerts of which attendance was compulsory; women were said to have given birth during the performance, and men were driven to fake death to escape. Nero kicked his pregnant wife to death and then had a young boy castrated to replace her as his spouse; then, during the great fire of Rome, he is said to have played the lyre to emphasize the beauty of the destruction. His eccentricities are a continuation of the tradition of his predecessors, only more perverted; Suetonius' account portray a strange man in strange times.