Suétone (in Latin Caius Suetonius Tranquillus ) is a polygraph and a Roman scholar having lived between the first century and the 2nd century. It is mainly known for its Vie of the twelve Césars , which includes/understands the biographies of Jules César with Domitien.
Few things are known life of Suétone. Two or three passages of its works, some letters of Pline the Young person, a mention of Spartien in the Vita Hadriani , a sentence of Johannes Lydus, are the only elements which enable us to reconstitute his biography.
Suétone was probably born with Rome towards 69 a. J. - C., of a family belonging to the equestrian order. His/her father, Suetonius Laetus, were powerful orator angusticlave and fought in the army of Othon to the battle of Bédriac, where Vitellius triumphed.
One of the letters of his/her friend and protective Pline the Young person presents Suétone, then old to us approximately 28 years, being prepared to plead as lawyer; another, written towards 101, we shows Suétone which aspires to a military station of Tribun, requirement to be able to claim with the equestrian career. It seems however that Suétone succeeds in being made exempt military service.
To died of Pline the Young person, in 113, Suétone sticks to a new guard, C. Septicius Clarus, which obtains to him under Hadrian the important function of secretary ab epistolis latinis (i.e. responsible for the correspondence of the Emperor). This load made it possible in particular Suétone to have access to the imperial files. It then writes its first book, the De Viris illustribus (appeared towards 113). Between 119 and 122, appears the Vies of the twelve Césars , culminating point of its career.
A passage of Spartien teaches us that Suétone, in spite of the friendly relations which it had always maintained with Hadrian, incurred, in 122, a brutal and final disgrace, probably due to some intrigue of court. Always it is that we do not know anything any more Suétone after this date; undoubtedly he lived consequently in the retirement, while devoting himself entire to his work of grammar, literature and history. We do not know the date of its death, which perhaps occurred towards 140.
Suétone was a very fertile author if one believes the long list of works of it that the Souda and certain authors allot to him. It was a scholar who wrote on the most various subjects, an animated polygraph of an incredible curiosity, which had an encyclopedic knowledge with the manner of Varron.
- a treaty on the costumes of the Romans.
- a treaty on the uses and manners of the Romans.
- a treaty on the famous courtesans.
- a treaty on the public plays of the Romans.
- a treaty on the Of republica of Cicéron.
- a treaty on the signs of abbreviation.
- a treaty on the sets of children among Greeks.
- a treaty on the abusive words.
- a treaty on the kings: Of regibus .
- an encyclopedia of natural history: Prata ( the Meadows ).
Of the famous Men ( Of uiris illustribus )
This work is devoted to glories of the Latin literature. It is divided into 5 parts:
- poets since Livius Andronicus.
- speakers since Cicéron.
- historians since Salluste.
Only remained to us the major part of the last division on the grammairiens and the rhéteurs, of which we lost the end, like some other fragments, in particular the biography of Terence.
Life of the twelve Césars ( Of uita duodecim Caesarum libri )
See also: Life of the twelve Césars
We lost the first quaternion of this work, i.e. the title, the dedication and the first chapter of the life of César. The work was published between 119 and 122 and corresponds to the biographies of those which followed one another the capacity in Rome, of Jules César to Domitien. It is composed as follows:
- Book I to VI: César, Auguste, Tibère, Caligula, Claude, Néron.
- Book VII to IX: Bent, Othon, Vitellius.
- Book X to XII: Vespasien, Titus, Domitien.
Each biography is organized not according to an chronological order, but by species , i.e. by heading: description of the family origins, career before the rise with the capacity, public actions, various private life, physical appearance, death, wonders.
As a secretary of Hadrian, Suétone had access to the imperial files, which enabled him to consult the contemporary sources such as the official reports of the meetings of the Sénat, the Sénatus-consulte S, of the letters and the wills of emperors. However, Suétone carries little interest to the history and the administration of the Empire; it is interested only in the acts and the personality of the first Césars, and more particularly in their defects and theirs through, which was worth in Suétone the reputation of gossipmonger. It thus collected during its career many anecdotes and of stories hawked by the rumor, whose authenticity is often doubtful, but that it did not certainly invent and who give a rather faithful idea of what was said about the emperors to his time. It was even said that, to write its book, Suétone had listened with the doors and that he had often badly heard what one said… Nevertheless, its Vies of the twelve Césars are of great interest for the historian of the Antiquité, because they give us over the first century of the empire of the invaluable information, which does not meet elsewhere.
The style of Suétone is cold and without large ornament. Its literary star suffers especially from the comparison with that of its contemporary Tacite, the author of the Histoires and the Annales , regarded as the largest Latin historian. The prose of Suétone is that of a compiler, which expresses emotion only with caution. It has neither the political intelligence nor the penetration of Tacite, whose work is tinted pessimism that it conceives in front of the decline of the Roman political practices, that it allots to the advent absolute imperial capacity starting from Auguste. But the critic generally recognizes the promptness of the portraits of Suétone, written in a simple prose and specifies, aiming above all to the effectiveness, and deprived of the antiquated and invaluable phraseology which encumbers the contemporary literature. The historical fortune of Suétone was considerable besides: with the the Middle Ages, Eginhard was inspired some to write the history of Charlemagne and its heirs; its works were then republished during the Renaissance, as of the birth of the Imprimerie.
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