February 20, 2024 | Rome, Italy

The Twelve Caesars

By |2020-04-11T00:19:54+02:00January 1st, 2006|Books, Recent Reviews|

By Suetonius, translated from the Latin by Robert Graves

Penguin Classics, 2003. 384 pages.


here’s a reason why Suetonius’ “The Twelve Caesars” is a classic: it’s the closest you’ll ever get to a real life Roman emperor. From Julius Caesar to Domitian, a span of about 200 years, Suetonius reconstructs the lives of the famous and infamous rulers of Rome using eye witness accounts, private letters and extensive library records. Suetonius, writing during Hadrian’s reign, cuts to the meat of some of the most powerful rulers in history.

Their respective histories and military glories are explored in depth, but the allure of this book is the gossip of their sexual exploits, murderous appetites, questionable daily habits, and weird-ass quirks.

For example, Claudius enjoyed gassing it up so much that he wanted to pass a law allowing obstreperous flatulence in public meetings. Also, for those shrinks to-be out there, the importance of auguries is fascinating. If you’re interested in Rome or Roman history, this is a must-read.

About the Author:

After graduating from the University of North Carolina with a degree in music composition, Matthew Fiorentino flew to Italy to have a look around. While attending language classes in Sorrento, he fell in love with his Italian teacher. Matt has an unhealthy obsession with Italian volcanoes (Stromboli is sick), late Beethoven, Salman Rushdie, Totó, Dante, and Sicilian cannoli. He now lives in Boston.