Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus.

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C. Suetonius Tranquillus;

To which are added,


The Translation of
Alexander Thomson, M.D.

revised and corrected by
T.Forester, Esq., A.M.



I. The patrician family of the Claudii (for there was a plebeian family
of the same name, no way inferior to the other either in power or
dignity) came originally from Regilli, a town of the Sabines. They
removed thence to Rome soon after the building of the city, with a great
body of their dependants, under Titus Tatius, who reigned jointly with
Romulus in the kingdom; or, perhaps, what is related upon better
authority, under Atta Claudius, the head of the family, who was admitted
by the senate into the patrician order six years after the expulsion of
the Tarquins. They likewise received from the state, lands beyond the
Anio for their followers, and a burying-place for themselves near the
capitol [284]. After this period, in process of time, the family had the
honour of twenty-eight consulships, five dictatorships, seven
censorships, seven triumphs, and two ovations. Their descendants were
distinguished by various praenomina and cognomina [285], but rejected by
common consent the praenomen of (193) Lucius, when, of the two races who
bore it, one individual had been convicted of robbery, and another of
murder. Amongst other cognomina, they assumed that of Nero, which in the
Sabine language signifies strong and valiant.

II. It appears from record, that many of the Claudii have performed
signal services to the state, as well as committed acts of delinquency.
To mention the most remarkable only, Appius Caecus dissuaded the senate
from agreeing to an alliance with Pyrrhus, as prejudicial to the republic
[286]. Claudius Candex first passed the straits of Sicily with a fleet,
and drove the Carthaginians out of the island [287]. Claudius Nero cut
off Hasdrubal with a vast army upon his arrival in Italy from Spain,
before he could form a junction with his brother Hannibal [288]. On the
other hand, Claudius Appius Regillanus, one of the Decemvirs, made a
violent attempt to have a free virgin, of whom he was enamoured, adjudged
a slave; which caused the people to secede a second time from the senate
[289]. Claudius Drusus erected a statue of himself wearing a crown at
Appii Forum [290], and endeavoured, by means of his dependants, to make
himself master of Italy. Claudius Pulcher, when, off the coast of Sicily
[291], the pullets used for taking augury would not eat, in contempt of
the omen threw them overboard, as if they should drink at least, if they
would not eat; and then engaging the enemy, was routed. After his
defeat, when he (194) was ordered by the senate to name a dictator,
making a sort of jest of the public disaster, he named Glycias, his

The women of this family, likewise, exhibited characters equally opposed
to each other. For both the Claudias belonged to it; she, who, when the
ship freighted with things sacred to the Idaean Mother of the Gods [292],
stuck fast in the shallows of the Tiber, got it off, by praying to the
Goddess with a loud voice, "Follow me, if I am chaste;" and she also,
who, contrary to the usual practice in the case of women, was brought to
trial by the people for treason; because, when her litter was stopped by
a great crowd in the streets, she openly exclaimed, "I wish my brother
Pulcher was alive now, to lose another fleet, that Rome might be less
thronged." Besides, it is well known, that all the Claudii, except
Publius Claudius, who, to effect the banishment of Cicero, procured
himself to be adopted by a plebeian [293], and one younger than himself,
were always of the patrician party, as well as great sticklers for the
honour and power of that order; and so violent and obstinate in their
opposition to the plebeians, that not one of them, even in the case of a
trial for life by the people, would ever condescend to put on mourning,
according to custom, or make any supplication to them for favour; and
some of them in their contests, have even proceeded to lay hands on the
tribunes of the people. A Vestal Virgin likewise of the family, when her
brother was resolved to have the honour of a triumph contrary to the will
of the people, mounted the chariot with him, and attended him into the
Capitol, that it might not be lawful for any of the tribunes to interfere
and forbid it. [294]

III. From this family Tiberius Caesar is descended; indeed both by the
father and mother's side; by the former from Tiberius Nero, and by the
latter from Appius Pulcher, who were both sons of Appius Caecus. He
likewise belonged to the family of the Livii, by the adoption of his
mother's grandfather into it; which family, although plebeian, made a
(195) distinguished figure, having had the honour of eight consulships,
two censorships, three triumphs, one dictatorship, and the office of
master of the horse; and was famous for eminent men, particularly,
Salinator and the Drusi. Salinator, in his censorship [295], branded all
the tribes, for their inconstancy in having made him consul a second
time, as well as censor, although they had condemned him to a heavy fine
after his first consulship. Drusus procured for himself and his
posterity a new surname, by killing in single combat Drausus, the enemy's
chief. He is likewise said to have recovered, when pro-praetor in the
province of Gaul, the gold which was formerly given to the Senones, at
the siege of the Capitol, and had not, as is reported, been forced from
them by Camillus. His great-great-grandson, who, for his extraordinary
services against the Gracchi, was styled the "Patron of the Senate," left
a son, who, while plotting in a sedition of the same description, was
treacherously murdered by the opposite party. [296]

IV. But the father of Tiberius Caesar, being quaestor to Caius Caesar,
and commander of his fleet in the war of Alexandria, contributed greatly
to its success. He was therefore made one of the high-priests in the
room of Publius Scipio [297]; and was sent to settle some colonies in
Gaul, and amongst the rest, those of Narbonne and Arles [298]. After the
assassination of Caesar, however, when the rest of the senators, for fear
of public disturbances; were for having the affair buried in oblivion, he
proposed a resolution for rewarding those who had killed the tyrant.
Having filled the office of praetor [299], and at the end of the year a
disturbance breaking out amongst the triumviri, he kept the badges of his
office beyond the legal time; and following Lucius Antonius the consul,
brother of the triumvir, to Perusia [300], though the rest submitted, yet
he himself continued firm to the party, and escaped first to Praeneste,
and then to Naples; whence, having in vain invited the slaves to liberty,
he fled over to Sicily. But resenting (196) his not being immediately
admitted into the presence of Sextus Pompey, and being also prohibited
the use of the fasces, he went over into Achaia to Mark Antony; with
whom, upon a reconciliation soon after brought about amongst the several
contending parties, he returned to Rome; and, at the request of Augustus,
gave up to him his wife Livia Drusilla, although she was then big with
child, and had before borne him a son. He died not long after; leaving
behind him two sons, Tiberius and Drusus Nero.

V. Some have imagined that Tiberius was born at Fundi, but there is only
this trifling foundation for the conjecture, that his mother's
grandmother was of Fundi, and that the image of Good Fortune was, by a
decree of the senate, erected in a public place in that town. But
according to the greatest number of writers, and those too of the best
authority, he was born at Rome, in the Palatine quarter, upon the
sixteenth of the calends of December [16th Nov.], when Marcus Aemilius
Lepidus was second time consul, with Lucius Munatius Plancus [301], after
the battle of Philippi; for so it is registered in the calendar, and the
public acts. According to some, however, he was born the preceding year,
in the consulship of Hirtius and Pansa; and others say, in the year
following, during the consulship of Servilius Isauricus and Antony.

VI. His infancy and childhood were spent in the midst of danger and
trouble; for he accompanied his parents everywhere in their flight, and
twice at Naples nearly betrayed them by his crying, when they were
privately hastening to a ship, as the enemy rushed into the town; once,
when he was snatched from his nurse's breast, and again, from his
mother's bosom, by some of the company, who on the sudden emergency
wished to relieve the women of their burden. Being carried through
Sicily and Achaia, and entrusted for some time to the care of the
Lacedaemonians, who were under the protection of the Claudian family,
upon his departure thence when travelling by night, he ran the hazard of
his life, by a fire which, suddenly bursting out of a wood on all sides,
surrounded the whole party so closely, that part of Livia's dress and
hair was burnt. The presents which were made him (197) by Pompeia,
sister to Sextus Pompey, in Sicily, namely, a cloak, with a clasp, and
bullae of gold, are still in existence, and shewn at Baiae to this day.
After his return to the city, being adopted by Marcus Gallius, a senator,
in his will, he took possession of the estate; but soon afterwards
declined the use of his name, because Gallius had been of the party
opposed to Augustus. When only nine years of age, he pronounced a
funeral oration in praise of his father upon the rostra; and afterwards,
when he had nearly attained the age of manhood, he attended the chariot
of Augustus, in his triumph for the victory at Actium, riding on the
left-hand horse, whilst Marcellus, Octavia's son, rode that on the right.
He likewise presided at the games celebrated on account of that victory;
and in the Trojan games intermixed with the Circensian, he commanded a
troop of the biggest boys.

VII. After assuming the manly habit, he spent his youth, and the rest of
his life until he succeeded to the government, in the following manner:
he gave the people an entertainment of gladiators, in memory of his
father, and another for his grandfather Drusus, at different times and in
different places: the first in the forum, the second in the amphitheatre;
some gladiators who had been honourably discharged, being induced to
engage again, by a reward of a hundred thousand sesterces. He likewise
exhibited public sports, at which he was not present himself. All these
he performed with great magnificence, at the expense of his mother and
father-in-law. He married Agrippina, the daughter of Marcus Agrippa, and
grand-daughter of Caecilius Atticus, a Roman knight, the same person to
whom Cicero has addressed so many epistles. After having by her his son
Drusus, he was obliged to part with her [302], though she retained his
affection, and was again pregnant, to make way for marrying Augustus's
daughter Julia. But this he did with extreme reluctance; for, besides
having the warmest attachment to Agrippina, he was disgusted with the
conduct of Julia, who had made indecent advances to him during the
lifetime of her former husband; and that she was a woman of loose
character, was the general opinion. At divorcing Agrippina he felt the
deepest regret; and upon meeting her afterwards, (198) he looked after
her with eyes so passionately expressive of affection, that care was
taken she should never again come in his sight. At first, however, he
lived quietly and happily with Julia; but a rupture soon ensued, which
became so violent, that after the loss of their son, the pledge of their
union, who was born at Aquileia and died in infancy [303], he never would
sleep with her more. He lost his brother Drusus in Germany, and brought
his body to Rome, travelling all the way on foot before it.

VIII. When he first applied himself to civil affairs, he defended the
several causes of king Archelaus, the Trallians, and the Thessalians,
before Augustus, who sat as judge at the trials. He addressed the senate
on behalf of the Laodiceans, the Thyatireans, and Chians, who had
suffered greatly by an earthquake, and implored relief from Rome. He
prosecuted Fannius Caepio, who had been engaged in a conspiracy with
Varro Muraena against Augustus, and procured sentence of condemnation
against him. Amidst all this, he had besides to superintend two
departments of the administration, that of supplying the city with corn,
which was then very scarce, and that of clearing the houses of correction
[304] throughout Italy, the masters of which had fallen under the odious
suspicion of seizing and keeping confined, not only travellers, but those
whom the fear of being obliged to serve in the army had driven to seek
refuge in such places.

IX. He made his first campaign, as a military tribune, in the Cantabrian
war [305]. Afterwards he led an army into the East [306], where he
restored the kingdom of Armenia to Tigranes; and seated on a tribunal,
put a crown upon his head. He likewise recovered from the Parthians the
standards which they had taken from Crassus. He next governed, for
nearly a year, the province of Gallia Comata, which was then in great
disorder, on account of the incursions of the barbarians, and the feuds
of the chiefs. He afterwards commanded in the several wars against the
Rhaetians, Vindelicians, Pannonians, and Germans. In the Rhaetian and
Vindelician wars, he subdued the nations in the Alps; and in the
Pannonian wars the Bruci, and (199) the Dalmatians. In the German war,
he transplanted into Gaul forty thousand of the enemy who had submitted,
and assigned them lands near the banks of the Rhine. For these actions,
he entered the city with an ovation, but riding in a chariot, and is said
by some to have been the first that ever was honoured with this
distinction. He filled early the principal offices of state; and passed
through the quaestorship [307], praetorship [308], and consulate [309]
almost successively. After some interval, he was chosen consul a second
time, and held the tribunitian authority during five years.

X. Surrounded by all this prosperity, in the prime of life and in
excellent health, he suddenly formed the resolution of withdrawing to a
greater distance from Rome [310]. It is uncertain whether this was the
result of disgust for his wife, whom he neither durst accuse nor divorce,
and the connection with whom became every day more intolerable; or to
prevent that indifference towards him, which his constant residence in
the city might produce; or in the hope of supporting and improving by
absence his authority in the state, if the public should have occasion
for his service. Some are of opinion, that as Augustus's sons were now
grown up to years of maturity, he voluntarily relinquished the possession
he had long enjoyed of the second place in the government, as Agrippa had
done before him; who, when M. Marcellus was advanced to public offices,
retired to Mitylene, that he might not seem to stand in the way of his
promotion, or in any respect lessen him by his presence. The same reason
likewise Tiberius gave afterwards for his retirement; but his pretext at
this time was, that he was satiated with honours, and desirous of being
relieved from the fatigue of business; requesting therefore that he might
have leave to withdraw. And neither the earnest entreaties of his
mother, nor the complaint of his father-in-law made even in the senate,
that he was deserted by him, could prevail upon him to alter his
resolution. Upon their persisting in the design of detaining him, he
refused to take any sustenance for four days together. At last, having
obtained permission, leaving his wife and son at Rome, he proceeded (200)
to Ostia [311], without exchanging a word with those who attended him,
and having embraced but very few persons at parting.

XI. From Ostia, journeying along the coast of Campania, he halted awhile
on receiving intelligence of Augustus's being taken ill, but this giving
rise to a rumour that he stayed with a view to something extraordinary,
he sailed with the wind almost full against him, and arrived at Rhodes,
having been struck with the pleasantness and healthiness of the island at
the time of his landing therein his return from Armenia. Here contenting
himself with a small house, and a villa not much larger, near the town,
he led entirely a private life, taking his walks sometimes about the
Gymnasia [312], without any lictor or other attendant, and returning the
civilities of the Greeks with almost as much complaisance as if he had
been upon a level with them. One morning, in settling the course of his
daily excursion, he happened to say, that he should visit all the sick
people in the town. This being not rightly understood by those about
him, the sick were brought into a public portico, and ranged in order,
according to their several distempers. Being extremely embarrassed by
this unexpected occurrence, he was for some time irresolute how he should
act; but at last he determined to go round them all, and make an apology
for the mistake even to the meanest amongst them, and such as were
entirely unknown to him. One instance only is mentioned, in which he
appeared to exercise his tribunitian authority. Being a constant
attendant upon the schools and lecture-rooms of the professors of the
liberal arts, on occasion of a quarrel amongst the wrangling (201)
sophists, in which he interposed to reconcile them, some person took the
liberty to abuse him as an intruder, and partial in the affair. Upon
this, withdrawing privately home, he suddenly returned attended by his
officers, and summoning his accuser before his tribunal, by a public
crier, ordered him to be taken to prison. Afterwards he received tidings
that his wife Julia had been condemned for her lewdness and adultery, and
that a bill of divorce had been sent to her in his name, by the authority
of Augustus. Though he secretly rejoiced at this intelligence, he
thought it incumbent upon him, in point of decency, to interpose in her
behalf by frequent letters to Augustus, and to allow her to retain the
presents which he had made her, notwithstanding the little regard she
merited from him. When the period of his tribunitian authority expired
[313], declaring at last that he had no other object in his retirement
than to avoid all suspicion of rivalship with Caius and Lucius, he
petitioned that, since he was now secure in that respect, as they were
come to the age of manhood, and would easily maintain themselves in
possession of the second place in the state, he might be permitted to
visit his friends, whom he was very desirous of seeing. But his request
was denied; and he was advised to lay aside all concern for his friends,
whom he had been so eager to greet.

XII. He therefore continued at Rhodes much against his will, obtaining,
with difficulty, through his mother, the title of Augustus's lieutenant,
to cover his disgrace. He thenceforth lived, however, not only as a
private person, but as one suspected and under apprehension, retiring
into the interior of the country, and avoiding the visits of those who
sailed that way, which were very frequent; for no one passed to take
command of an army, or the government of a province, without touching at
Rhodes. But there were fresh reasons for increased anxiety. For
crossing over to Samos, on a visit to his step-son Caius, who had been
appointed governor of the East, he found him prepossessed against him, by
the insinuations of Marcus Lollius, his companion and director. He
likewise fell under suspicion of sending by some centurions who had been
promoted by himself, upon their return to the camp after a furlough,
mysterious messages to several persons there, intended, apparently, to
(202) tamper with them for a revolt. This jealousy respecting his
designs being intimated to him by Augustus, he begged repeatedly that
some person of any of the three Orders might be placed as a spy upon him
in every thing he either said or did.

XIII. He laid aside likewise his usual exercises of riding and arms; and
quitting the Roman habit, made use of the Pallium and Crepida [314]. In
this condition he continued almost two years, becoming daily an object of
increasing contempt and odium; insomuch that the people of Nismes pulled
down all the images and statues of him in their town; and upon mention
being made of him at table one of the company said to Caius, "I will sail
over to Rhodes immediately, if you desire me, and bring you the head of
the exile;" for that was the appellation now given him. Thus alarmed not
only by apprehensions, but real danger, he renewed his solicitations for
leave to return; and, seconded by the most urgent supplications of his
mother, he at last obtained his request; to which an accident somewhat
contributed. Augustus had resolved to determine nothing in the affair,
but with the consent of his eldest son. The latter was at that time out
of humour with Marcus Lollius, and therefore easily disposed to be
favourable to his father-in-law. Caius thus acquiescing, he was
recalled, but upon condition that he should take no concern whatever in
the administration of affairs.

XIV. He returned to Rome after an absence of nearly eight years [315],
with great and confident hopes of his future elevation, which he had
entertained from his youth, in consequence of various prodigies and
predictions. For Livia, when pregnant with him, being anxious to
discover, by different modes of divination, whether her offspring would
be a son, amongst others, took an egg from a hen that was sitting, and
kept it warm with her own hands, and those of her maids, by turns, until
a fine cock-chicken, with a large comb, was hatched. Scribonius, the
astrologer, predicted great things of him when he was a mere child. "He
will come in time," said the prophet, "to be even a king, but without the
usual badge of royal dignity;" the rule of the Caesars being as yet
unknown. When he was (203) making his first expedition, and leading his
army through Macedonia into Syria, the altars which had been formerly
consecrated at Philippi by the victorious legions, blazed suddenly with
spontaneous fires. Soon after, as he was marching to Illyricum, he
stopped to consult the oracle of Geryon, near Padua; and having drawn a
lot by which he was desired to throw golden tali into the fountain of
Aponus [316], for an answer to his inquiries, he did so, and the highest
numbers came up. And those very tali are still to be seen at the bottom
of the fountain. A few days before his leaving Rhodes, an eagle, a bird
never before seen in that island, perched on the top of his house. And
the day before he received intelligence of the permission granted him to
return, as he was changing his dress, his tunic appeared to be all on
fire. He then likewise had a remarkable proof of the skill of
Thrasyllus, the astrologer, whom, for his proficiency in philosophical
researches, he had taken into his family. For, upon sight of the ship
which brought the intelligence, he said, good news was coming whereas
every thing going wrong before, and quite contrary to his predictions,
Tiberius had intended that very moment, when they were walking together,
to throw him into the sea, as an impostor, and one to whom he had too
hastily entrusted his secrets.

XV. Upon his return to Rome, having introduced his son Drusus into the
forum, he immediately removed from Pompey's house, in the Carinae, to the
gardens of Mecaenas, on the Esquiline [317], and resigned himself
entirely to his ease, performing only the common offices of civility in
private life, without any preferment in the government. But Caius and
Lucius being both carried off in the space of three years, he was adopted
by Augustus, along with their brother Agrippa; being obliged in the first
place to adopt Germanicus, his brother's son. After his adoption, he
never more acted as master of a (204) family, nor exercised, in the
smallest degree, the rights which he had lost by it. For he neither
disposed of anything in the way of gift, nor manumitted a slave; nor so

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