Suetonius Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Because his father was military tribune of the XIII Legion, Gaius Suetonius (sew-TOH-nee-uhs) Tranquillus may have been born in Rome, Britain, or Africa; the year was around 69 c.e. He studied in Rome and became a lawyer and teacher of rhetoric. He also traveled widely. He accompanied Governor Pliny (Pliny the Younger) to Bithynia in 112. He also served for a time (119-121) as private secretary to Emperor Hadrian, but he lost favor, apparently for inattention to Empress Sabina while Hadrian was in Britain.{$S[A]Tranquillus, Gaius Suetonius;Suetonius}{$S[A]Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus;Suetonius}

Suetonius’s fame rests on his historical biographies of famous men. He collected anecdotes about figures in the public eye and set them down with more attention to their interest than to their accuracy. He eschewed a straight chronological method, grouping his material by subject and personality traits. He made little attempt at general assessment or psychological interpretation, but his stories about Horace and Terence, among others, and his private lives of the twelve caesars cover ground untouched by any contemporary except Tacitus and Dio Cassius. His approach is relatively free of bias and his tone one of detachment. Many later biographers took him as a model, including Einhard (in his ninth century biography of Charlemagne). Suetonius wrote about some of the most fascinating figures—as well as about one of the most important formative eras—in the Western tradition. His work therefore is an invaluable source for scholars of the Roman Imperial period. It is believed that he died in Rome sometime after 122, perhaps about 140.