The Twelve Caesars: Suetonius

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Suetonius was born around 68-9 AD, possibly in Hippo Regius (Suetonius xviii). His mentor described him as ‘scholarly and honorable’ and many held him in high regard (xix). Suetonius completed The Twelve Caesars sometime around the 120s during the peak of his career (xxiii). Suetonius conveys his opinion of each emperor indirectly through how he portrays their vices and virtues. According to Suetonius, a Roman leader’s good and bad qualities included their military successes, relations with the citizens of Rome, mental stability, and private relationships.
The military campaigns of the Caesars made Rome one of the largest empires of the ancient world. Suetonius conveys through his writings that being a good military leader and a good Caesar
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Augustus had no mental issues that Suetonius mentions. Suetonius states that Augustus treated his slaves strictly but kindly (67) and was conscientious and lenient (62). Caligula and Nero were clearly both insane, although in different capacities and to differing extents. Caligula was a sadist, which is derived from the fact that he enjoyed watching tortures and executions, even while he was eating (162). Incestuous tendencies further illustrates his mental instability, which he even acknowledged (172). Nero also was mentally unstable, although in a different capacity than Caligula. He, like Caligula, had incestuous tendencies (223) but his other mental demons manifested differently. Nero turned a boy into a girl and married him (222), as well as burn down a portion of Rome (230). Augustus was level-headed and treated people with respect. He also followed social norms, such as not sleeping with your relatives. In contrast, Nero and Caligula both acted cruelly toward the people around them and both were compelled by their insanity to commit …show more content…
Augustus treated his friends quite well and showed great devotion towards them. He accepted their flaws and shortcomings as any good friend would (80). He was also close friends with some of his servants, showing he valued character over status (81). Augustus was slow to forgive, even when regarding his family. He exiled his wife and daughter and refused to let his daughter out of exile (79-80). This is indicative of his strong and unrelenting personality. His one shortcoming was his adulterous nature, which Suetonius downplays. Suetonius is willing to forgive this character flaw because Augustus his positive traits, such as his unyielding and humble nature, are more important than not being adulterous. Suetonius does not forgive Caligula and Nero’s similar vices because they had no positive leadership traits outweigh any negatives. Caligula’s personal relationships have a dominate-submissive nature. Those close to him are in constant danger. Drusilla, his sister, was his sexual object before he had even come of age, as were his other sisters (157). “He never kissed the neck of his wife or mistress without saying,’And this beautiful throat will be cut whenever I please.’” (163). Suetonius does not even make mention of Caligula’s personal friendships. Nero’s personal relationships were equally as twisted. Nero slept with his mother (223) and eventually had her killed. He had his aunt killed as

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