Suetonius: Strengths And WeaknessesThis print version free essay Suetonius: Strengths And Weaknesses.
Category: History Other
Autor: reviewessays 03 March 2011
Words: 1044 | Pages: 5
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 life" of the Caesar. The public then cared about the "private life" of the Caesars much like a tabloid magazine would today. Ways in which rulers dressed, decorated their hose, or what they did on their free time was what was important to the people of Suetonius's time. Suetonius tried to give his readers insights into the characters of individual Caesars through a wide variety of means, including, for instance, descriptions of their physical appearance which was thought by ancient people to be a clear index of a person's character. That brings about the question of if Suetonius is a credible source for the lives of the Caesars. People could say that it has nothing to do with how the Caesars worked as Caesars and the material he gives is of unimportance to us, therefore being a weakness in his works. The Romans did care of how the Caesars lived in their personal lives though because that was of great importance to them. This to the people of Rome is a great strength is Suetonius works.
To build upon a greater strength for Suetonius he did understand the emperors were administrators to the Roman world. When writing about the emperor's job he does add everything that being an emperor is all about. He talks about the geography. He subdivides socially, the treatment of the senate, the equestrian order, the Roman citizens, and the slaves. He deals with the areas of public life, religion, military, and civilian. So all though he talks a lot about the personal lives of the Caesars he does include a big amount of how the Caesars did their jobs.
Suetonius brought about a new style of biographies of the Caesars. Some believe it was to be for the good of society, and some believed it to be bad. Suetonius had a lot of knowledge in writing about the 12 Caesars and took a big part of doing research to be able to give all the information he did. Suetonius did not have much success with the structure of how he wrote The Twelve Caesars with leaving important information out, to jumbling together information. He was able to bring strengths out of his work with bringing his knowledge of the Hellenistic culture into it, and knowing what went on in being a Caesar and explaining that to the reader. Suetonius seemed to be a great strength in the ancient history world.