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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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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 26 November 2021

Suetonius the Ventriloquist

Suetonius the Ventriloquist

(p.38) 2 Suetonius the Ventriloquist
Suetonius the Biographer

Cynthia Damon

Oxford University Press

This chapter surveys Suetonius’ prose style, particularly his tendency to include the emperors’ own words in verbatim quotation. The metaphor of the ‘ventriloquist’ is apt for Suetonius, who frequently uses his biographical subject’s own language to display their character. This method is in direct contrast with the custom of Roman historians, especially Tacitus, who rewrites the original material in his sources, including speeches, to fit with the overall tone and texture of his own history. Suetonius permits the diction and rhythm of other writers to intrude in his biographies, but he does this for useful effect, and is not devoid of his own signatures of style and authorial voice. Suetonius’ prose is redeemed as more artful than in previous estimations, which have often found it to be plain and monotonous.

Keywords:   Suetonius, style, prose rhythm, sentence structure, quotations

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