Talk:The Twelve Caesars

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Expansions possible[edit]

Please, please,please don't redirect this straight to Suetonius. Wherever Suetonius is just used as a shorthand for this work, I'm linking to here in case Lives of the Twelve Caesars is later split off. It may take me a while as there are about 500, so any help would be gratefully received. Thanks! Neddyseagoon 22:50, 11 March 2006 (UTC)neddyseagoon

Support neddyseagoon's split. Just logical. "Suetonius" is a person (can, e.g., be sorted in an authors category); Twelve Caesars is a text (can be sorted in categories on texts). Both articles can be expanded, they deserve that, and I already have some ideas, to which I'd be prepared to collaborate:

  • Suetonius article:
    • write something about the pseudo-Suetonius, I heard about today [1]
    • Elaborate on comparisons of Suetonius' style/historic reliability, to e.g. Tacitus; Plutarch; Cassius Dio; Robert Graves (note that e.g. the Tacitus bio has two very full pages -that is, apart from a page on each of his works-, a big part of these pages devoted to such topics as his style/importance as historian)
  • Twelve Caesars article:

...etc --Francis Schonken 23:08, 12 March 2006 (UTC)

Many thanks. Would appreciate help in following those up. Neddyseagoon 01:46, 13 March 2006 (UTC)neddyseagoon


Recast the "Influences Sources and veracity" paragraphs into single paragrapgh, "Veracity, criticism, and influences." MOved info about subjecetivity of Claudius section to "Veracity, criticism, and influences" section. Minor cleanup, typos. :) Dlohcierekim 18:49, 18 May 2006 (UTC)

If you're going to write summaries of the bios, at least get the guts to include the juicy parts which this work is famous for. Fornadan (t) 21:22, 5 June 2006 (UTC)

Outlines: length? cleanup needed?[edit]

The outline of Julius Caesar's biography has been expanded and badly needs another cleanup for spelling etc. But isn't it too long, anyway? I would like to see shorter, more critical outlines. I expect someone will say "You write them, then!" ... Andrew Dalby 13:56, 21 October 2006 (UTC)

I am still editing this, and am going to run a spell check in a second. How exactly should we condense the summaries without causing parts of the work to be missed? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

[The following copied across from my user talk page User talk:Andrew Dalby:]

== Seutonius ==
I am editing "The Twelve Caesars." How exactly do you think the entry should be changed? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)
Thanks for your edits, which are adding a lot of interesting material.
One problem is spelling. The author's name, for example, is often misspelt in various ways in the article, and this looks bad. The correct spelling is Suetonius -- but you notice that you have written it differently above.
Another problem for me is that the outlines are just like a short biography of each emperor. If I want the biography, I would read the article on the Emperor concerned, or else I would read the whole text of Suetonius. I would expect a good encyclopedia article about The Twelve Caesars to tell me how many sources and what kind of source materials Suetonius cites, maybe listing them; how he organizes his material on each emperor; how his information compares with other major sources available to us; whether his view of each emperor seems biased, and in what direction, and why; whether there is a significant difference between the way he treats Julius Caesar and the way he treats Domitian (for example), and if there may be a reason for that.
I'm not saying one person has to do all this -- it takes a lot of people to make a good Wikipedia article -- but I think at present there is too much simple biography in the summaries, and I suspect they will get shortened again, by someone else if not by me.
Incidentally, would you think it a good idea to get a username and sign in before editing? You don't have to, but it makes it easier to work with others on improving Wikipedia. Andrew Dalby 14:37, 22 October 2006 (UTC)

Caligula and Nero[edit]

There are some details under Caligula that really belong under Nero: These relate to Nero having a boy castrated and 'turned into a woman': All of this is attributed to Caligula in the article, so I am going to edit this, if nobody minds!android 10:17, 29 November 2006 (UTC)


"White supremacists incorrectly cite Suetonius as evidence that the ancient Roman aristocracy was "Aryan" or "Nordic," (as opposed to Mediterranean or Italianate). Suetonius is often cited for this principle, because he is one of the only ancient sources that includes the physical attributes modern humans consider to be important (e.g., hair color, eye color), which other ancient writers did not deign to include.

Nevertheless, the Suetonius's Latin is often mis-translated or just misunderstood. For example, Galba's eyes are described as "cerulean" -- the color of the ocean at night. Most translations simply write "blue." Augustus's hair is described as changing color as he aged, which is often translated as "yellowing." Nero is described as having hair "that changed color in the sun." This could simply mean a tawny (reddish) brown, or be yet another dig by Suetonius at Nero's effeminacy and homosexuality -- as during Roman times, only women dyed their hair blond.

Those who look for evidence of the Aryan nature of the ancient Roman aristocracy overlook evidence to the contrary in Suetonius, evidence that comports more with an aristocracy that would look like modern Italians. For example, Caesar's eye color is described as "black" -- not brown, but black. Augustus is described as having a "monobrow." Finally, several of the emperors are described to have prominent, hooked noses -- the "Roman nose" present in many Italians, French and Spaniards today."

  • How are these paragraphs relevant to the reliability of suetonius, and why is so much space dedicated to this issue?

-- —Preceding unsigned comment added by Musungu jim (talkcontribs)

I agree with you. These paragraphs were added anonymously on 10 March. I think they are boring and pointless (I never heard any White supremacists cite Suetonius) so I have removed them, just reinserting a couple of useful details (that Suetonius gives good info on the physical appearance of the emperors, and that he took omens seriously). Andrew Dalby 21:35, 20 March 2007 (UTC)


We don't call the Magna Charta the Great Document. Why aren't we calling this De Vita Caesarum?--Ioshus(talk) 15:13, 1 May 2007 (UTC)

Furthermore, the title disagrees with the lemma, and further still, both names are incorrect. The proper translation is "On the life of the Caesars". Twelve is not there...--Ioshus(talk) 15:14, 1 May 2007 (UTC)
The original title is undoubtedly De vita Caesarum. If there were a single accepted English title, we should use it (by the usual Wikipedia rules), but there isn't. The literal translation suggested by Ioshus doesn't seem to me a perfect solution: it seems wrong in English to say "life" in the singular when the book contains twelve lives, though evidently that didn't worry Latin readers. Since there is no consistency in English, I would go for the Latin title, but maybe others disagree? Andrew Dalby 15:48, 1 May 2007 (UTC)
Yes, I agree Andrew, that On the Life of the Caesars sounds awkward in English, but it is far better, by my eyes, than inventing twelve or taking out life/lives. I agree with you that the Latin title should be used, especially since, as you say, there is no consistently used translation of the title in English.--Ioshus(talk) 16:31, 1 May 2007 (UTC)
No one has voiced disapproval. I will move this in two days if I do not hear anything.--Ioshus(talk) 14:45, 7 May 2007 (UTC)
I've read it's vita as in "the lifestyle of the 12 Caesars" ie how the 12 Caesars lived, rather than an 'error' for vitae/lives. I'ld personally leave it as it is (most other similar titles are Anglicised - Tacitus's Histories, Annals, Plutarch's Lives - though they of course are easier to translate), but we'll have to be very thorough with the redirecting from all the possible English titles if this rename goes ahead. Is it easier just to have all other English titles pointing at one designated English title, or all English ones pointing to one Latin one? Neddyseagoon - talk 17:40, 7 May 2007 (UTC)
Welcome to the debate. I don't think Andrew or I were saying vita was an error, we're just saying that it doesn't translate well singularly into English. It's fine in Latin. Easier is one thing...the easiest thing to do is leave it as it is. The encyclopaedic thing to do, on the other hand, is
  1. Clean up the discrepancy between the lemma and the title
  2. Pick a proper title
Again, I think Andrew and I are suggesting (and I certainly defer to his knowledge in Ancient matters, but I also have alot invested in respecting Latin on Wikipedia, where it is often shamefully abused) is that there is no established decided upon name that everyone uses to call this document in the English tongue. Therefore: we should either:
  1. Put it in Latin (my choice) De Vita Caesarum
  2. Translate it with utter literalness (distant second) On the Life of the Caesars
  3. Translate it with a plural for colloquiality and adding a footnote in the first sentence on the translation (I disprefer this, but can see where others might like it over 2) On the Lives of the Caesars
Either way, we must banish this notion of 12, which is nothing but an invention in the title. This lifestyle idea is interesting, but I wonder why I've never heard of it. Can you send me a citation? i will look for one myself. Again, maybe another reason to put it in Latin, the English can be ambiguous...--Ioshus(talk) 00:17, 8 May 2007 (UTC)
Why do we have to banish the idea of Twelve? I would have thought that that is the accepted English title. My Penguin edition says "The Twelve Ceasars". And the notion of the "Twlve Caesars" extends well beyond the book, being also popular in numismatics. StAnselm 00:33, 8 May 2007 (UTC)
It's not in the Latin... surely the idea of the 12 Caesars is pervasive, but that doesn't put it in the title of the work.--Ioshus(talk) 00:39, 8 May 2007 (UTC)
I mean, refer above to the part where Latin gets abused all over Wikipedia. This is a simple thing to do, either translate it properly, or leave it in the original tongue. Why should we put what isn't there? Like I said to start this...the Magna Charta isn't called "the cool document 1215" although someone could certainly publish a translation of it called that.--Ioshus(talk) 00:43, 8 May 2007 (UTC)
Just looking around Wikipedia, though, we have The Divine Comedy, with subheadings "Inferno", "Purgatorio", etc. Has there been a discussion on Wikipedia about this before? Any settled policy? Of course, one must draw the line, somewhere. We can presumably refer to Herodotus' "Histories". StAnselm 00:50, 8 May 2007 (UTC)
Well, if I may... "The Divine Comedy" is an extremely literal translation of La Divina Commedia, wouldn't you say? And yeah, I agree, let's have it "Histories" (which, if I may, is a pretty good translation of ἰστορίαι), but here there is much more ambiguity. Maybe we should start some policy if there is none...--Ioshus(talk) 00:57, 8 May 2007 (UTC)
No, the original title is Commedia. OK, from WP:ENGLISH, use the most commonly used English version of the name for the article, as you would find it in other encyclopedias and reference works. That's why we have "Magna Charta". Also, WP:NC-BK says
For some books it cannot be determined, not even by educated guesswork, which version of the title is the most common. For these books, try to determine which of the widely spread versions of the book in the English-speaking world was the most authoritative original (that is, the version that contributed most to the book's becoming known in the English-speaking world), and stick to the title as it appeared on that edition.' StAnselm 01:03, 8 May 2007 (UTC)
Right! This is what I'm saying. In the English speaking world, the title was surely either Lives of the Caesars or De Vita Caesarum. Look in the article itself, where it's often called Lives of the Caesars. But even that isn't getting the de in there. How does Wikipedia call De Rerum Natura? Aha! On the Nature of Things! Why can't we be literal too? The language deserves it.--Ioshus(talk) 01:36, 8 May 2007 (UTC)

I don't have any opinion as to what the title of this article should be. But as to Vita vs. Lives, we are dealing here with the usual Latin phenomenon of using the singular for a possessed object, even if there are several possessors, provided that each possessor has only one. That is to say dextra nostra = "Our right hands," as opposed to manus nostrae "our hands [both left and right]." Likewise, commonly we say vita nostra even when we mean "Our lives," because each of us has only one. --Iustinus 00:46 , 8 May 2007 (UTC)

Speaking of the Commedia, doesn't it open Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita?--Ioshus(talk) 01:36, 8 May 2007 (UTC)

professional advice[edit]

Here's what [ Professor Rutledge] had to say :

Now, as to your question, I'm a pretty strict conservative when it comes to translation, so I would translate De Vita Caesarum "Concerning the Life of the Caesars". If the author meant "Lives" he would have said de vitis, and if lifestyle he could have said de modo vitae. (And I really hate the term "lifestyle" for a variety of reasons).
That's my opinion for what it is worth. I hope things are going well for you these days and see you around next fall.
Dr. R.

--Ioshus (talk) 14:47, 11 May 2007 (UTC)

impending[edit] of the reasons I don't work at Wikipedia, and prefer Vicipaedia, is that people will just completely forget about something, and it will go unresolved for months. I'm moving this page, based on professional advice, to "On the Life of the Caesars". I will also change all redirects, and the lemma, to this title.--Ioshus (talk) 14:04, 18 May 2007 (UTC)

Done...--Ioshus (talk) 14:29, 18 May 2007 (UTC)
Hang on! I didn't see a consensus back there! This move goes against WP:ENGLISH for mine. StAnselm 00:24, 19 May 2007 (UTC)
Of course you didn't see a consensus. No one bothered to come back to comment. You people are very hard to work with...the title goes against WP:Latin, man!!!--Ioshus (talk) 04:51, 19 May 2007 (UTC)

Sigh...I will once again lay out my reasoning...

  1. There is no consensus on the proper English title. Depending on where you live, what your sphere of exposure is to Latin and the classics in general, you will call this a different title. For instance, none of my friends would even call it by its English name in the first place. Those who do, certainly do not call it "The twelve Caesars" but something along the lines of "On/Concering the life/lives of the Caesars.
  2. Since there is no consensus on a most oft heard English title, it behooves us, and Wikipedia, to translate the title more closely, and have the other titles redirect. We can explain ourselves in the opening paragraph, and everyone will be better off. No one will think that de vita Caesarum translates as "the twelve Caesars". Believe me, the way Latin is abused left and right on this fair project of ours, I would not be surprised if we have already fooled people.
    1. Remember why I say this. The word "twelve" in this title is a complete and utter invention of a fanciful imagination. Probably to draw parallels to other famous/mysterious examples of twelve, especially as concerned the church, who, unfortunately, think they own Latin and can bandy it about to their heart's content.
This is absurd. Completely and totally absurd. The fact that "Twelve" is not in the Latin is completely irrelevant to what the English name is. The official Latin name of The Golden Ass is, in fact Metamorphoses. Moving away from the classical world, there's any number of novels which have had a title in translation which doesn't match up closely to the original title. It's not our job to "correct" such "mistakes". And it certainly doesn't "behoove" us to make up our own title under which the book has never been published. The book is not published in English under the Latin title, and it is certainly not published in English under the title given here, whatever random classics professor's approval of said title. This is a pretty basic rule of naming here, and we should follow it. john k (talk) 05:28, 2 September 2008 (UTC)
  1. There is no reason not to be factual and accurate, as a search for "The twelve Caesars" shall surely redirect. As I said, we can explain ourselves in the opening paragraph. Something like: "On the Lives of the Caesars (a strict translation of the Latin:De vita Caesarum), often called blahblahblah and yadda 12 yadda because of the significance of the idea of the importance of the number twelve (You can even mention the stuff you said about 12 Caesars being such a prevalent idea that it was on coincs), is a set of biographies..."

Why are you so opposed to treating Latin fairly?--Ioshus (talk) 15:09, 19 May 2007 (UTC)

And why do you only notice changes to this talk page at your leisure?--Ioshus (talk) 22:36, 21 May 2007 (UTC)
I have no idea. This was the first time I saw your comment at 15:09 on the 19th. Anyway, I'm not opposed to treating Latin fairly, but I'm dubious that your mates constitute a representative population sample. Rather the Penguin title is most likely to be that which is most familiar. But I'm not going to be upset if the consensus is against me. StAnselm 23:16, 21 May 2007 (UTC)
Isn't it the place of an encyclopaedia to do away with fiction, even, and perhaps especially, if it is familiar? Does the Penguin title get slighted by a redirect and a note in the opening paragraph? Speaking of Penguin, they call De rerum natura "On the Nature of the Universe"... again, fiction, which should not be promoted.--Ioshus (talk) 01:31, 23 May 2007 (UTC)
OK, I'm done here. Feel free to make the move. On the Lives of the Caesars sounds like the best option. StAnselm 01:53, 23 May 2007 (UTC)
Or "Life", I suppose. StAnselm 01:57, 23 May 2007 (UTC)

"Roman history" header[edit]

Is it necessary to include all that information on the Roman Empire on a page about a literary work? I'd rather like to see an image of a bust of Suetonius, or this commons file...--Mofrikaantje (talk) 14:51, 12 June 2008 (UTC) So it got edited. Goody! --Mofrikaantje (talk) 15:24, 6 August 2008 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

This (long dead) argument about the title is incredibly tedious. We are not supposed to be finding the most accurate or literal translation of the Latin title. Nor are we supposed to preserve the original language title. We are supposed to use the most common name in English. Looking at Amazon to see how the title has been translated by, you know, actual English language publishers, I see that Penguin and Amazon's Kindle edition use The Twelve Caesars, while Loeb uses The Lives of the Caesars and Echo and Wordsworth use The Lives of the Twelve Caesars. At any rate, we should certainly use one of the titles under which the book has been published in English, not the title that a random classics professor advises us is closest to the original Latin. john k (talk) 05:20, 2 September 2008 (UTC)

Further: As a compromise, The Lives of the Caesars, which is what Loeb uses, would I think be the title most likely to achieve consensus, although obviously it didn't. At any rate, the current title absolutely goes against wiki naming rules, since it seems to be a neologism, invented solely for Wikipedia. It should be terminated with extreme prejudice. I'm going to move to "The Lives of the Caesars" unless anyone can present a compelling reason why I shouldn't that actually is in line with wiki naming rules. john k (talk) 05:24, 2 September 2008 (UTC)

I agree with the reason for a move (most commonly used English title - which is proven beyond any shadow of a doubt by the Wiki-links towards this article). We should explain that the literal translation of the original (Latin) title is "On the Life of the Caesars" (right at the beginning, such an explanation is also a Wiki standard). However I honestly believe that the best title is "The Twelve Caesars". That's the title of the Penguin edition and of Roberts Graves' translation (and of most links of the other Wiki-articles towards this one). I believe that Loeb's work, while very respected, is simply a bit dated. Flamarande (talk) 11:53, 2 September 2008 (UTC)
I would be very happy with The Twelve Caesars. john k (talk) 04:13, 3 September 2008 (UTC)
Let's make the move this weekend (if no one objects that is). A couple of days won't make a big difference and these things are better done slowly. If someone objects we will have to explain/agree/provide hard evidence. Flamarande (talk) 10:54, 3 September 2008 (UTC)
That sounds fine with me. I think there would be a number of appropriate titles for this article. The current title is very much not one of them. For any work that is currently in print in English, we ought to, at the very least, use one of the titles that an English version of the book uses. john k (talk) 01:49, 4 September 2008 (UTC)
Oh bloody hell, tried to 'move' the article towards "The Twelve Caesars" but I'm unable to do it. Well we will have to follow the slow bureaucratic process then. Flamarande (talk) 19:14, 6 September 2008 (UTC)
I'm an admin, I can do it. john k (talk) 23:20, 6 September 2008 (UTC)

So many blatant errors!!!! "The previous emperors (Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, as well as the earlier dictator Julius Caesar) had all been born into the Julian family." Augustus was born an Octavius, Tiberius a Claudius, Caligula a Claudius. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:35, 25 February 2009 (UTC)


I hate to be that guy, but there really aren't any citations on this page. Shouldn't there be? - JAB, 9:00 AM MST, 8/21/2009 —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:01, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

Hebrew translation, Warsaw, 1940[edit]

In Holdings Registry file No. 3755 in the Archives of the Ghetto Fighters' House, there's a volume of "the Flavians" (Vespasian, Titus, Domitian) from De Vita Caesarum in Hebrew translation by Menachem-Edmund Stein, published by Awraham-Josef Stybel in Warsaw, 1940, and printed in Poland. For now, I'm just recording this information here. -- Deborahjay (talk) 12:26, 2 November 2011 (UTC)

Where did all this text come from?[edit]

It is anyone's guess where this article came from. It seems to have plenty of WP:OR added over the years. Just tagged it. History2007 (talk) 01:32, 16 March 2013 (UTC)

Caesar and the pirates - source?[edit]

I could not find any reference to Caesar increasing his own ransom amount in Suetonius (at least here). Is it really by him, or is the ransom bit rather from Plutarch? Piramidon (talk) 14:29, 28 July 2014 (UTC)