Western Civ I Suetonius Lives of the Caesars
Suetonius • Five [-and-a-half] things: • Author • Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (Suetonius) - 70ad-130's ad • Title • De vita caesarum; lives of the caesars • Date • sometime in the 120's or 130's ad (during the reign of Hadrian) • Location • Rome • Language • Latin
Suetonius • [textual tradition/edition] • There is better history written (Tacitus), which is why it wasn't as copied and recopied in the modern period, but it had a strong reception in Late Antiquity which declined during the middle ages. Brill's new pauly: "Our text relies on an already mutilated minuscule archetype manuscript from Fulda, dating from the beginning of the 9th cent.; this was sent for by Lupus of Ferrières (Ep. 91,4), and probably used by Einhard. Besides the pure traditions (family X: above all the Codex Memmianus, Paris. Lat. 6115, c. 820), a group exists with a textual transposition in the Galba vita (family Z: e.g. Dunelmensis Cath. C III 18, 11th cent.), alongside contaminated manuscripts. The strong reception in Late Antiquity (Ausonius) declined during the Middle Ages ; during the modern period, while decidedly in the shadow of Tacitus, S. has been a favourite source for literary writers (Albert Camus, Caligula, 1938; Robert Graves, I Claudius; Claudius the God, 1934)" (Klaus Sallmann).
Suetonius • Major literary concerns: • You need to know about the reigns of all 12 of these “Caesars,” and get some idea about the course of history from the end of the Republic through the Flavian age. • This is biography by and large, so you need to know some facts about their lives, too: birth, death, relationships with other members of the dynasties
Suetonius • The author’s basic program is to follow a topical structure: • The origins of the historical figure • Details about his career • Observations about his behavior in public and private life • Conclusions about his appearance and his character • Suetonius is not always this systematic, so pay attention to what you’re reading!
Suetonius • I. BACKGROUND • a. family origin (ancestors and parents)b. circumstances of birth (often with omens)c. childhood
Suetonius • II. CAREER • a. entry into public lifeb. circumstances of accession to principatec. aspects of governmenti. legislationii. behavior as magistrateiii. public worksiv. gamesv. wars
Suetonius • III. PERSONAL • a. private and public behaviorb. appearancec. character
Suetonius • Draw a conclusion from each emperor: • Does Suetonius consider him a “good” or a “bad” emperor? • What oddities does the author point out about his rule? • Finally, what oddities of his personal life help you to caricature the emperor?