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Twelve Caesars: 02/06/07

Twelve Casars

Back in 2005 I learned of The Twelve Caesars on Radio 4. It was part of "A Good Read" or some similar program. Anyway, I was intrigued by the sound of this book that has so influenced writers ever since it was published nearly two thousand years ago. I was not disappointed by the book and managed to read it in a course of an afternoon!

Suetonius's history of the early Roman empire covers Julius Caesar and the eleven emperors who followed: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian. Each chapter is a combination of political critique, straight history and best of all a scandal sheet. The combination paints a perfect picture of both how modern Rome was and how little we've changed over the millennia.

Each chapter is only about 40 pages and the version I read didn't bloat the text with a bunch of unnecessary annotations. It was nice to read Seutonius's history (translated, of course) without interruption from overly helpful editors. It's such a rare thing now to be able to read a classic without the editor or translator breaking in with notes on things that don't need annotation (like definition of words or a quick who's who for some mentioned historical figure).

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