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Suetonius: Strengths and Weaknesses

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Essay title: Suetonius: Strengths and Weaknesses

The ancient historian Suetonius was born in the year AD 69, when his father, a Roman knight, served as a colonel in a regular legion and took part in the Battle of Baetricum. From the letters of Suetonius's 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. The historian Spartianus records that he was one of several Palace officials, including the Guards Commander, whom Hadrian, when he returned from Britain, dismissed for behaving indiscreetly with the Empress Sabina. Suetonius lived a great life as a historian and biographer and wrote many books. The titles of his books are recorded as follows: The Twelve Caesars; Royal Biographies; Lives of Famous Whores; Roman Manners and Customs; The Roman Year; Roman Festivals; Roman Dress; Greek Games; Offices of State; Cicero's Republic; The Physical Defects of Mankind; Methods of Reckoning Time; An Essay on Nature; Greek Objurgations; Grammatical Problems; Critical Signs Used in Books. The only present book is The Twelve Caesars, the most fascinating and richest of all Latin histories. As Suetonius lived his life he became a very well known historian and biographer to the roman world. Although Suetonius had many great books of worth, the only one available to us today is The Twelve Caesars. In this essay an effort will be made to discuss the literary strengths and weaknesses of Suetonius in his book, The Twelve Caesars.

Suetonius is told to be one of the greatest and most interesting historians of all time in the world today. He was one of the best biographers to the date, but Suetonius's work did not have the structure that most would have put their works into when he wrote about the Caesars. A biography is supposed to be chronological in order of the person's life. Suetonius does have the Caesars in chronologic order one by one, but as far as he has them in their time, he is a little off. Suetonius has Julius Caesar as a great general, but does forget about the Gallic war in writing about him. This bypasses years of work that Julius Caesar accomplished as a general. Suetonius also has a little structure problem in just thinking that the reader would just know the knowledge of some of the Caesars. He does this in talking about a time Augustus was in court and his friend Maecenas let him down by telling his wife Terenta that he had been discovered. Suetonius fails to let us know that Meacens and Terenta are relatives and just assumes that we as a reader would know that. Omitting these things as a historian can be a big weakness in the credibility of your works.

Although the people of Rome did not like the structure, there was one thing they loved. In Suetonius's writings he seems to be able to connect with the people in a different way such as if he knew exactly what they were thinking. He has a dominant feature of writing that is the deep penetration of Hellenistic culture and using methods those of a Hellenistic scholar would use. Suetonius writings revolved around questions related to that of the Hellenistic culture, even more so in how he talked of men learning and literary figures in Roman society. His book is a very good narrative to the lives of the Caesars. He talks more about the lives they lived rather than the historical events they may have taken place in. He goes deep into the Caesars sex lives in the end of his book talking of the "private

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