In “Twelve Caesars”, Suetonius writes the anecdotal memoirs of the 12 kings of the Roman Empire, starting from Julius Caesar all the way till Domitian. His work is unparalleled in detail and is a rich primary source on the history of Rome. Suetonius writes a detailed memoir about each of the kings, outlining in vivid detail their actions, their lives, their accession to the seat of power and their deaths. There seems to be a general mix of virtue and vice in the character of these kings. Using the real life incidents occurring in their lives, Suetonius gives the reader an idea of the different good and bad qualities of these illustrious men as emperors. These kings exhibit qualities of being modest, just, doing public good, improving and repairing the building and infrastructure of the empire and improve the administration of the empire as well as vices of cruelty, incest, extravagance, decadence and vanity. In what follows, these qualities of what constitutes a good emperor and a bad emperor will be discussed with the help of Suetonius’ biographical memoirs in Twelve Caesars.
When Tiberius succeeded Augustus, he was modest in his way of looking over the empire. He “played a most unassuming part, almost humbler than that of a private citizen” (Suetonius, Tiberius, 26). He showed utmost modesty by not allowing himself to be worshipped alongside Gods and not allowing any statues of him be placed next to any of the Gods. He believed himself to be a public servant and did not take to flattery. One such instance of his humility is evident when he is once referred to as Lord and he asked not to be addressed to in such a fashion. When someone spoke of his “sacred” duties he insisted they refer to them as laborious and not sacred. Finally, when someone mentioned they have appeared before the senate “by the emperor’s authority” he interjected pleading the speaker to use the term “persuasion” instead of “authority” (Suetonius, Tiberius, 27). It is evident that...
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