12 Emperors

Currently Reading: Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus The 12 Emperors.

  1. Julius Caesar1 (grabs the crown)
  2. Augustus (Octavian)1 (catches it)
  3. Tiberius (dirty old man)
  4. Gaius Caligula (loves horses)
  5. Claudius (a nicer fella)
  6. Nero (not so nice)
  7. Galba (short and brutish — moiduhd!)
  8. Otho (ladies man, or just a lady?)
  9. Vitellius (see Galba)
  10. Vespasian1 (finally, a better rogue)
  11. Titus1 (Vesuvius blows its top, but he’s still loved by the people)
  12. Domitian (another moiduh, but he put up a good fight, we’re told)

1 Afterwards Deified, says Suetonius

Suetonius (circa AD 60-140), Roman historian, and rapscallion, as per the Penguin edition (1958, Robert Graves), which notes:

“[H]e was one of several Palace officials, including the Guards Commander, whom [the emperor] Hadrian when he returned from Britain dismissed for behaving indiscreetly with the Empress Sabina.” You go, boy.

And that’s all he wrote… see Gibbon for the sequel.


Will and Arial Durant’s “Caesar and Christ.” The most enjoyable mini biographies of the kings and queens, lords and ladies of the Roman Republic and Empire that I’ve yet encountered. The Wars, Rebellions and Invasions; The Etruscans and Greeks, Carthaginians (of N.Africa) and Egyptians.

Plus great reading on the lives of Romans, from the many, many Slaves to the Plebians and Equites, to the middle and upper classes. And beyond the empire’s end, the rise of Christianity and Islam, the lives of Jesus and Mohammed. About 700 tall pages. Buy it if you find it.


One Comment

  1. Received via email from old friend J.Madison:

    i’ve already read everything you wrote and already i have bunches of questions. why did you move back to cali?

    Seattle’s boring. Love Boston (but it’s cold 7 to 9 months of the year). And still I love it, but it doesn’t look like a good place to be as oil and natural gas prices kazoominate. So, back to California, but central north.

    why did you move to the desert?

    Not ‘wilderness’ desert – but everything in California that isn’t a mountain is either desert or oasis. Beach or valley. It’s desert. Take away the oil stained parking lots, and Los Angeles (from West L.A. to Riverside to…Las Vegas) is a vast desert valley.

    what does spqr mean?

    Senatus Populusque Romanus (The Senate and People of Rome)

    Love that Roman Empire. They’re us, we’re them, just more nervous about sex and violence, thanks to the advent of Judeo-Christian semi-morality.

    why the bikes?

    I love a good bike, even a middling one. When have I owned a car? (answer: Once, for 10 months, 12 years ago. Drove it four times). Love to walk, bike, trolley, train and now, like a goofy adolescent…Razor scooter.

    why the asian desert?

    Land is cheap, and the people can be pushed to greatness yet. Little jokes, of course. But I’m reading Asian history, thinking of my hidden, surely Mongol roots….

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