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The works of Suetonius, extant in large or small portions, or known to us through citation or mention by Number and other authors, fall readily into four categories. variety of his The titles are given below in forms attested by works ancient writers.
I. Grammar and Literary History.
De Viris Illustribus.
De Rebus Variis.
Περί των παρ' “Έλλησι παιδιών.
Kaloápwv Biol (so named by Joannes Lydus). Certain
MSS. have De XII Caesaribus, de vita Caesarum,
or de vita et moribus XII Caesarum.
v. IV. Natural History, under the general title Pratum, a
kind of encyclopædia, in ten or more books, of which
The mere list of titles gives an idea of the scope and variety of the learning of this Varro of the second century. A description of these works in detail would exceed the limits of this short sketch.
Except the date of the XII Caesars, the only one approximately determinable is that of De Viris Illustribus, 113 A.1.1
This work was a series of short biographical sketches of Roman poets, orators, historians, philosophers,
grammarians and rhetoricians; the only life now extant in virtual completeness is that of Terence. Those of Horace and Lucan also are comparatively well preserved. That of Cicero was one of the sources used by Plutarch in his Life of Cicero. In this collection the books form categories and the Lives follow the chronological order, while in the XII Caesars the Lives are in chronological order, but each one is treated under categories or topics in a regular succession. No doubt the plan of the imperial biographies was merely a further application of the method practiced in the earlier work.
It is not to be inferred, of course, because the title of a work appears in Greek in our list, that the work was written
in that language. It is a mere accident that it Knowledge
happened to be cited by a Greek rather than a of Greek
Latin writer. But there can be no doubt that Suetonius was perfectly familiar with Greek, as
were all cultivated Romans of his age. He mixes Greek freely with his Latin text, and in all probability wrote some of his works in that language. Therein he was only following the example of Cicero, the object of his veneration as the standard of all that was excellent in Latin literature. There are a dozen or more citations of Cicero in the De Viris Illustribus and the XII Caesars, and he never contradicts or even criticizes Cicero's statements. The attitude of unqualified admiration for Cicero was characteristic of Pliny's circle.
Besides the genuine works of Suetonius, a half dozen other real or supposed works were attributed to him. Two of them are no less famous works than Caesar's “Gallic War" and
1 See above, pages xi f.
Tacitus's “Dialogue”; the former error goes back at least as far as the time of Orosius, in the fifth century, and was perpetuated in the titles of several MSS. of Caesar.
Works falsely It may have been due to the prefixing of the twenty- attributed to fifth chapter of the Life of Julius, as a convenient Suetonius summary, to the text of the “Gallic War". The false attribution of the “Dialogue” to Suetonius was perhaps due to the discovery of it by Enoch of Ascoli in the same MS. as the fragments of the De Grammaticis et Rhetoribus, the last book of Suetonius's De Viris Illustribus.
The title Περί επισήμων πορνών is not an evidence of the author's immorality. It was probably concerned with women famous in history, like Aspasia, and with goddesses and other mythological characters.
The Prata was an encyclopædic work the plan of which has been ingeniously reconstructed by SchanzThe word Pratum is the Latin equivalent of depóv, the title given to
The Prata Greek works of this comprehensive character.
The extant fragments of all these works except the Caesars fill only 64 pages in the edition of Roth (Teubner, Meager 1902), in which the Caesars fill 252 pages. fragments
In the biographies of the last three Caesars, the Flavian emperors, Suetonius was dealing with events of his own lifetime and doubtless drew from primary sources.
The XII In the seven preceding Lives, Tiberius to Vitellius, he probably, as was usual for historians in those days, followed in each case some one principal authority, checked and corrected by others. In the case of Galba and Otho we possess the parallel accounts of Tacitus, Suetonius and Plutarch, upon the careful comparison of
Their sources which modern scholars have expended much study. The Lives of Julius and Augustus were evidently composed from a large number of literary sources. The citations of
1 Allversus Pagunos VI. 7.
authorities are numerous and abundant in these two cases, whereas in all the other ten lives there are but five citations of historians by name. Nearly all the authors cited are contemporaries of Julius or Augustus.2
Suetonius was chiefly interested in the first two Caesars, not merely because of antiquarian taste, but especially because
they were part of the Golden Age, the age of Chief interest Cicero and his successors who reached the highest in Julius and
level of attainment in Roman literature. Augustus
Other historians enlarge the scale of their narratives as they approach their own times. Just the reverse is true of Suetonius. Even with the loss of the first quaternio of leaves, the Julius and Augustus are together as long as the last seven Lives, and the Augustus alone is longer than the last five.
Considering the scanty knowledge we have of Suetonius's life and personality, and the meagerness of the remains of
most of his works, it is hard to realize the wide Influence on later authors and persistent reputation enjoyed by them in the
Middle Ages. His impersonal style and the convenient mechanical arrangement of his material lent themselves in an extraordinary degree to convenient citation, and even in the scanty remains of the literature that have come down to us there are countless traces of the use of Suetonius by later writers. Leaving Greek authors out of account, and without attempting to enumerate all the grammarians, historians, biographers and ecclesiastics who show their indebtedness to our author, we may recall a few names in the list which are familiar to all. In the second century we find Aulus Gellius, Apuleius and Tertullian; in the third and fourth, the Scrip
1 Tiberius 73. 2, Seneca the Elder; Caligula 8. 1, Pliny the Elder and Lentulus Gaetulicus; Vitellius 1. 2 and 2. 1, Q. Elogius (?) and Cassius Severus. Macé, 358.
2 In preparing his edition of the Fragments of the Latin Historians, Peter, examining the fragments of Suetonius as well as the XII Caesars, found 25 authors cited, none of whom were of a time earlier than Julius Caesar, and six of whom are known only through Suetonius. Macé, 360.
tores Historiae Augustae, Aurelius Victorand Eutropius, Servius, the commentator of Vergil, and Macrobius either preserve for us curious bits of varied information drawn from Suetonius or base upon his works the form and, in some cases, the substance of their own. Ausonius versified the XII Caesars. Lactantius and Ambrose were familiar with Suetonius, and St. Jerome took for the model and chief source of his De Viris Illustribus Suetonius's work of that name. In the early Middle Ages Paulinus of Milan, Orosius, Aelius Donatus, Cassiodorus, Priscian, Isidore of Seville show knowledge of Suetonius and indebtedness to him. Yet by the beginning of the ninth century the XII Caesars were in danger of being lost to the world, when apparently only one mutilated manuscript was known, the archetype of all that we now possess. This was fortunately multiplied in the reign of Charlemagne by the copyists working at Tours under the direction of Alcuin. Soon after, Eginhard composed his life of that great monarch in close imitation of Suetonius's Augustus. Even in the twelfth century William of Malmesbury cites the Prata and John of Salisbury makes use of excerpts from the Caesars.