Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (Roman Biographer)

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Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (c. 69 – c. 122 AD) was a Roman biographer and writer who, according to his friend of Pliny the Younger, was a quiet, studious person, as well as a scholar as evident in his literary work. Although his was born into the equestrian order, no-one knows the precise date and place of his birth or when he died.

Prior to his literary projects he studied law which he later abandoned. Under the rulership of Emperor Hadrian in 117 AD, Suetonius entered the imperial service and was likely the controller of the Roman libraries, the keeper of the archives, and adviser to the emperor on cultural matters. This meant that he was able to access important sources for his work, such as the private letters of previous emperors. A few years later in 122 AD, he was dismissed from his position after which he turned his attention to writing and producing his literary works.

Suetonius penned works touching on numerous topics including Greek and Roman culture, physical defects, grammar, spectacles, games, shows, clothing, civil service, customs, and more. His writings were also detailed ranging from discussions on the ancestries and family histories of individuals to the activities they engaged in (such as wars, public events, political reforms etc.) while in power and in their public lives. As a scholar, Suetonius’ most famous and enduring work was The Twelve Caesars, which where biographies of the first 12 Caesars and includes biographies on Julius Caesar.

Suetonius penned numerous other books which have been lost or come down to us in incomplete fragments. On Illustrious Men is a collection of biographies which describe the lives and works of various poets, scholars, and rhetoricians.


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