views updated May 21 2018


Roman biographer, b. Rome? c. a.d. 69 of an equestrian military family; d. c. 140. Gaius Tranquillus Suetonius was dismissed as a private secretary under Hadrian c. 121 for reasons unknown. A reference in the letters of his friend pliny the younger and an article in Suidas are the main sources for his life. He wrote much in Latin and Greek, but only the Lives of the Twelve Caesars and fragments of De viris illustribus (Famous Men ) survive. From the latter work (c. 106113) the lives of Terence, Horace, Lucan, and Pliny are substantially preserved. The Lives of the Caesars from Julius to Domitian is a garrulous, uncritical work but fills a void in knowledge of the early Empire; Suetonius's racy style makes his characters come alive. His motive in writing would seem to have been to show the frailty of the Julio-Claudian line. An interesting but garbled reference puts Christ at the time of Claudius (Claud. 25.4). Suetonius exercised an influence on jerome's Lives and, centuries later, on einhard's Life of Charlemagne.

Bibliography: g. funaioli, Paulys Realenzyklopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. g. wissowa, et al. (Stuttgart 1893) 4A.1:593641. j. rolfe, The Oxford Classical Dictionary, ed. m. cary et al. (Oxford 1949) 865866. m. schanz, c. hosius and g. krÜger, Geschichte der römischen Literatur, 4 v. in 5 (Munich 191435) 3:4867. J. W. and a. m. duff, A Literary History of Rome in the Silver Age (2d ed. London 1960), bibliography.

[h. musurillo]


views updated May 23 2018


c. 69 c.e.–c. 140 c.e.

Civil servant

Caesar Biographer.

Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus had a distinguished career in the Roman imperial civil service and was most likely secretary to the emperor Hadrian. He was a scholarly man, recognized for his qualities by Pliny the Younger and others. His Lives of the Caesars is a history consisting of twelve biographies from Julius Caesar to Domitian, but it is also a valuable source for information about the buildings erected during their reigns. His work is particularly useful as a source of information on architecture that no longer exists.


N. G. L. Hammond and H. H. Scullard, The Oxford Classical Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989): 1020.


views updated May 18 2018

Suetonius (c.69–c.150 ad) Roman biographer and historian. His surviving works include Lives of the Caesars, covering Julius Caesar and the Roman emperors who followed him, up to Domitian.