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The History of the Twelve Caesars by Suetonius is one of the most important historical texts of the classical period, and is unique fun in a good translation. Unfortunately, the translator has added long passages of historical context and analysis between the original entry. These passages are overly long and poorly conceived, and are not clearly separated from the translation of the original text. Worse, they contain long passages presented in both Latin and English which destroy any narrative flow in the work.
Finally, apparently for moral reasons, passages describing sexual habits are not translated directly, but paraphrased euphemistically. This is simply not acceptable in a translation of a key historical text.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
This book wasn???t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?
You have to be a hard-core historian to really enjoy this book.
What three words best describe Clive Chafer???s performance?
Cultured, dry, emotionless
If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Twelve Caesars?
Some of the really long passages in Latin.
Any additional comments?
I was doing OK with this book even though it's pretty dry material. I expected it to be a bit on the scholastic side. I know enough about Roman history that I was getting by and enjoying some of the bits and pieces. You have to have a pretty good knowledge of that history to even have a chance at understanding what is going on and recognizing the names. There are so many names to keep track of.
And then, I ran into an extraordinarily long passage in Latin that just about put me to sleep before the narrator finished it. Maybe if I understood Latin, I wouldn't have found this so irritating but it would have been better done by translation to English. I can't imagine that there are many who have a full enough knowledge of Latin to understand the passage.
4 of 6 people found this review helpful
This is an excuse edition of Suetonius's text, whose precise & archaic language lends an appropriate sense of depth to the accounts. The reader is very good, holding one's interest while matching the tone of the text admirably. My only significant criticism is that the editor's commentary which follows each "life" is in no way distinguished from the main text, though of a wildly different age, by a different author, & on a different subject--the literary works of the reigns! This took a lot of getting used to, & required me to find the printed text to note the location of the switch from text to commentary on the first instance: I then learnt to look out for a change in style, but it was not always clear.
Brilliantly written brilliantly narrated not just the story of the twelve Caesars but of there time fantastic