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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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Suetonius’ Famous Courtesans

Suetonius’ Famous Courtesans

(p.231) 11 Suetonius’ Famous Courtesans
Suetonius the Biographer

Tristan Power

Oxford University Press

This chapter reconstructs the work attested by the sixth-century writer John Lydus as Suetonius’ Famous Courtesans, a title which has long been used as evidence for the biographer’s prurient interests. Misconceptions about the work are refuted first, followed by a survey of what is known about ancient courtesan literature in general. It is argued that the Famous Courtesans was not in fact a collection of biographies at all, but rather a scholarly work on female characters who appear in Roman poetry. Possible fragments identified from the work are examined, and new ones proposed. This study has important implications for the way in which the Romans viewed Roman poetry, especially its depictions of women, as well as for the closeness and interrelation of Suetonius’ biographical and scholarly endeavours.

Keywords:   Suetonius, courtesans, biography, ancient scholarship, Roman poetry

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