A Book for Our Time

The Twelve Caesars: Suetonius, Kline, A. S.: 9781505260922: Amazon.com:  Books

Reading nooze reports of Joe Biden’s erratic carryings-on, I found myself wondering, “Is this a chapter from Suetonius?”

It is to the early Roman historian Suetonius that we owe our picture of the Roman emperors as corrupt, bloodthirsty, hopelessly mad, silly, and a disgrace to their country. Maybe you never read Suetonius and don’t know anyone who has; but most of those juicy imperial scandals came down to us through him. Caligula claiming to be a god, Nero fiddling while Rome burns, Tiberius’ island of total debauchery, Livia poisoning practically everyone–all first recorded by Suetonius.

You can easily get a translation of his book, The Twelve Caesars. It makes for very lively reading! It’s impressive that Rome managed to survive these first dozen emperors, most of whom had more than a few screws loose.

Boy, is it easy to imagine Suetonius writing about Joe Biden! The Dodderer-in-Chief would fit right in. He and Claudius could have a woolgathering contest.

Note: If you’ve ever watched and enjoyed the PBS series, I, Claudius, know that most of the characterization and dialogue there comes from Suetonius more than Robert Graves.

God help us, our country is living out a chapter from Suetonius…

15 comments on “A Book for Our Time

  1. I have thought for some time that we are headed down the same dead end road as Rome. The book, I Claudius, was a fascinating read, and even for some people who did not like reading at all, and seldom read anything. Amazing how history goes round and round. Sad, but true.

  2. Indeed. People so worship sports, it is amazing to see. A friend once said to me in amazement, ‘what, you don’t like football? what’s wrong with you?” Sorry, I guess I’m just not with it, but a bunch of big dudes
    running around on a field, knocking one another down? I can’t see the point.

    1. I’ve watched football games when it was connected with a social event. It’s not something I hate, but I would never be likely to watch it of my own volition.

      Overall, I don’t mind sports, as long as they are not senseless or gratuitously dangerous, but the extreme level of devotion some people have towards various teams. I’ve lived in cities with an NFL team and even decades ago, I couldn’t believe the extremes some people went to in order to publicly display their devotion to a certain team. I can understand rooting for the home team; that seems at least reasonable, but painting your body, wearing strange clothing, and painting one’s automobile in the team colors all strike me as a bit over the top.

      Admiring the skills and fitness of an athlete seems reasonable to me, but it evades me completely that people would worship them as heroes. At least some of these people have demonstrated poor judgment with regard to their life choices. The number of retired athletes that have squandered their fortunes and ended up penniless is staggering, in spite of having made a great deal of money during their sports careers. I have mentioned before, having met a baseball hero of my youth, and only 15 years after having been an MVP, he was in financial trouble, from which he never recovered.

      One other thing that amazes me is how much money is spent on sports. Stadiums and arenas were, at one time, relatively spartan, but these days they are huge “public works” projects which seem to benefit team owners, but are financed by taxpayers. Teams have threatened to move their franchises if a municipality refused to build them a new stadium, but revenue spent on ancillaries, such as nearby restaurants, parking, lodging, etc. are so great that the municipalities frequently acquiesce. This strikes me as a very odd set of priorities, where taxpayers finance something which only benefits a small group of people. Even in a sports crazy city, perhaps a few percent of the population can actually attend a game without exceeding the capacity of the venue.

      The fanaticism is the true problem.

    2. And what do Americans get for their fanatical devotion to their sports teams?
      Our sports leagues despise us and despise the country that has made them rich.
      They don’t even like us!

    3. Somehow, many people have forgotten that they can easily choose to opt out. We don’t have to go to games, we don’t have to watch them on TV, we don’t HP have to watch interviews of sports figures and we don’t have to take an interest in their lives. Unless you have to travel somewhere near the stadium, a game has very little, if any, real influence on your life. So, if sports figures abuse and disdain their fans and patrons, why do people continue to pay attention to them? I don’t understand it.

      Honestly, a major sports event has no influence on my life. Why should I endure abuse by some, even any, of the players. From what I understand viewership is way down for the NFL. If this continues, they will eventually cease to exist. Life will go on without them.

  3. I haven’t read Suetonius since college, but I still remember quite a lot of it. Now you’ve made me want to go back and reread him, comparing the reaction I remember having then with the connections I may make now.

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