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Suetonius: The Twelve Caesars

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Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars followed an established convention of the short biographical essay, which lent itself to convivial sharing before an audience but could also be used to explore important themes. Suetonius, who lived through a period of stable but despotic imperial rule, wanted to explore the nature of imperial power and how a city with a strong republican tradition had ended up handing absolute power to individuals and dynasties, some of whom abused it flagrantly. His eye for salacious detail has led some to dismiss Suetonius as a sort of Roman gossip-columnist; more recently, however, historians have recognised the value of his work as a reflection of 1st and 2nd century attitudes towards power.

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