« IndietroContinua »
orator. He has a cataloguer's fondness for divisions and classifications. From the rhetorical point of view he would have avoided the numerous verbatim citations which he incorporated into his text. He constantly seeks precision of detail ; the rhetorical historians sought in their themes the opportunity to display their eloquence. But
his style the extreme plainness of his style is by no means the result of carelessness or indifference to form. His style is marked by a high degree of technical correctness, and his clausulae, that is, the metrical cadences which conclude his periods, show that his attention to form was both conscious and constant. In thus writing
In thus writing "metrical prose", he was following the example of writers whose spirit was as different from his as their style — Cicero and Pliny. But above all he ever seeks accuracy, precision, clarity and correctness, in statement and in expression, in fact and in language. His style is not ill described in his own words about that of Augustus : Genus eloquendi secutus est elegans et temperatum, vitatis sententiarum ineptiis atque concinnitate et reconditorum verborum, ut ipse dicit, fetoribus, praecipuamque curam duxit sensum animi quam apertissime exprimere.
We have no record of any public or official position held by Suetonius before his appointment by Hadrian as secretary ab epistulis, about 119 A.D., nor after his dismissal
Earliest hisfrom that position. Whether he saw any military
torical work service is doubtful, though he was an officer's son. Pliny's letter (III. 8), from which we learn that he declined the military tribunate offered to him, is the only information we have on this subject. It may have been that, after this, he became a grammaticus, feeling himself unfit for the army or the bar. It was in 105–6 A.D. that Pliny upbraided him for the long delay in publishing his writings. The work alluded to can hardly have been the XII Caesars, which appeared some fifteen years later. It probably was the De
1 Aug. 86. 1.
Viris Illustribus. This, however, is not mentioned in the later letters of Pliny, which extend to 109 A.D., nor does Pliny allude to any published work of Suetonius in his 94th letter to Trajan urging his claims to the ius trium liberorum. We may therefore conclude that this work did not appear before the date of the letter (111-113 A.D.). On the other hand, it is perhaps a fair inference from St. Jerome's confusion of the two Plinys in his De Viris Illustribus, which was based in large measure upon Suetonius's work of the same name, that the younger Pliny was not included in the latter. The probable reason for this fact, if it was a fact, is that Pliny was still alive when it was published. Now Pliny died, as we suppose, in 113 A.D.
Tacitus and Suetonius, so far as their extant works are concerned, never mentioned each other. They were doubtless
acquainted, both being friends of Pliny, but Relation to
Tacitus was so superior in age, in position and in Tacitus
genius that the modest grammaticus would never think of him as an equal. Suetonius chose for himself a bypath in history, and never classed himself among historians of rank. His powers and his tastes fitted him for a lower function in literature. His work was a valuable supplement, but in no sense a rival to that of the great historian of the emperors. Though their books covered the same period, they were quite independent of each other.
Suetonius must have been acquainted with men, among the group of Pliny's friends, who could supply him with rich
material from their personal recollections, and he Aristocratic
must have had access for years to many private friends
records of the senatorial party, as he had later, when Hadrian's secretary, to the imperial archives. His associations with the senatorial party manifestly affected his sympathies, which throughout the XII Caesars led him to favor those emperors who, like Augustus, treated the Senate with deference and respect, and to take the most unfavorable
It is Protected by
view of those who, like Tiberius and Domitian, were at no pains to conceal their dislike and suspicion of that venerable body. We can also discover some traces of pride and interest in the equestrian order, to which he himself belonged by birth. Consciously or unconsciously, he appears to have shared the prejudices, sympathies and illusions of the aristocratic classes.
Septicius Clarus, his second patron, was an intimate friend of Pliny, his first. To him were dedicated the Letters of Pliny, as well as Suetonius’s XII Caesars. probable that Suetonius was made secretary ab Septicius epistulis by Hadrian at about the same time that Clarus Septicius Clarus became praetorian prefect. The office was an important one. The modest title recalls the time when the early Caesars were developing their freedmen into ministers of state, concealing departments of state administration under the humble forms of household functions. We readily recall the case of Narcissus, the powerful minister of Claudius, whose title was simply ab epistulis. One of Hadrian's administrative reforms was to employ regularly, and not merely occasionally, in such offices members of the eques- with Hadrian trian order. It was one way of playing off this order against the senatorial. Many of the imperial secretaries were men distinguished for their learning or as writers. Some of them may have composed speeches for their masters, but this can hardly have been true in Suetonius's case, for Hadrian prided himself on his own literary powers and his ideals of style were in complete contrast with Suetonius’s severe correctness. The scanty remains of Hadrian's writings are marked by quaintness and “preciosity”; he indulged at the same time in archaisms and neologisms. Yet the two men had many interests in common — prodigies, curiosities, antiquities, witticisms, grammar which must have made their intercourse a pleasure to both.
The principal duty of the secretary ab epistulis seems to have been to read and digest the correspondence coming to the
emperor from all parts of the imperial administration and even from foreign states. He must have had under his direc
tion a large staff of clerks and assistants. We His official
have little exact information as to his functions, duties
but there is a description of them in the florid verses of Statius 1 addressed to Flavius Abascantus, secretary of Domitian. No doubt Suetonius's relations with the emperor were cordial. Hadrian was entirely simple in his manners and assumed no pomp and circumstance to support his dignity : - he was far too clever a man to be haughty or dull.
We may reasonably suppose that while at the head of one department, and a very important one, that of the imperial Opportunities correspondence, Suetonius had free access to anfor research in other, that of the imperial archives, and we can the imperial hardly suppose that he failed to make full use of archives
the opportunity thus offered. He cites more letters of Augustus than all other writers combined. There were many letters of this emperor which
had been published. Those which Suetonius cites Letters of
seem rather to be such as would not probably have Augustus
been published, for various reasons which are readily suggested by their contents. And he cites them so carefully, emphasizing the authenticity of his sources, that it seems unlikely he was merely repeating what was already known to the world. One point is significant: he tells us which letters were in Augustus's own handwriting. His giving the key to the ciphers of Julius and of Augustus may also be significant. The dates and other details of the wills of Julius, Augustus and Tiberius are given with extraordinary The Monu
precision, as if he had examined the originals.
That Suetonius was familiar with the original Ancyranum
of the inscription known to-day as the Monumentum Ancyranum now appears to be an assured fact.2
1 Silvae V. 1.
This account of Augustus's achievements was contained in one of three rolls left by him at his death. Suetonius states that Augustus desired that it should be inscribed on bronze tablets to be placed in front of his mausoleum. The inscription was, apparently, set up at Rome in the place designated, but actually engraved not on tabulae, but on bronze pilae, pillars, which have not survived. Suetonius, no doubt, knew this copy at Rome. It is not likely, however, that he would depend upon the copy when the original, in the emperor's own handwriting, was available for his use in the imperial archives. Still less is it to be supposed that he used the copy at Ancyra in Asia Minor, which, but for some slight and insignificant alterations, was probably an exact copy, though in its present condition much mutilated, of the inscription on bronze pillars at Rome.
Many scholars have undertaken the interesting task of comparing Suetonius's Augustus with the Monumentum Ancyranum as it stands to-day. The net result of their investigations seems to indicate Suetonius's thorough acquaintance with the original in the imperial archives and his use of it in composing the “Life of Augustus” wherever it suited his purpose. Some striking verbal coincidences have been noted, while the contents of certain chapters are essentially in agreement with passages in the Monumentum Ancyranum.4 There are also stylistic resemblances which are scarcely fortuitous. Even where discrepancies or deviations
1 Augustus 101. 4. See note to page 108, line 1. 2 See note to page 108, line 2.
8 In addition to Mommsen's edition of the inscription may be mentioned the following:
Guil. Schmidt, De Romanorum Inprimis Suetonii Arte Biographica, Marburg, 1891 ; Walter Dennison, The Epigraphic Sources of the Writings of Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, New York, 1898; Alcide Macé, Essai sur Suétone, Paris, 1900, pp. 135 ff.; Ferdinand Gottanka, Suetons Verhältniss zu der Denkschrift des Augustus, Munich, 1904; Wilhelm Fürst, Suetons Verhältniss zu der Denkschrift des Augustus, Anspach, 1904.
4 These passages have been quoted in the notes of this volume.