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Suetonius the BiographerStudies in Roman Lives$
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Tristan Power and Roy K. Gibson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199697106

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199697106.001.0001

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Introduction: The Originality of Suetonius

Introduction: The Originality of Suetonius

(p.1) Introduction: The Originality of Suetonius
Suetonius the Biographer

Tristan Power

Oxford University Press

This introduction discusses the biographical form of Suetonius’ Lives of the Caesars, asking what defines a Suetonian biography. Two of its key features are identified: the consistent use of the third person and the division of material into thematic categories. Suetonius is seen as unique in these two regards, with the nearest parallel to the first being Augustus’ continuous use of the first person in the Res Gestae. The possibility that Suetonius was influenced by this text is dealt with briefly, but more likely the two works draw independently on earlier biography and oratory. For the development of Suetonius’ precise divisions, which also separate him from earlier biographers, attention is drawn to his scholarly research, from which he probably originated his distinctive style of organization. The last part of the introduction summarizes the chapters of the book and how each contributes to a new understanding of Suetonius’ works as Lives.

Keywords:   Suetonius, biography, Res Gestae, diuisio, ancient scholarship

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