Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Twelve Caesars

The Twelve Caesars, Suetonius
(Penguin Classics, 2007), pb. 398 pp
Translated by Robert Graves, revised by James Rives
Ages 15+

My boys and I set out to read this classic piece of Roman history between 120 and 130 AD as part of our study of ancient Rome. It is a recommended part of Veritas Press’s Omnibus curriculum.

The book covers the lives of the first twelve Caesars beginning with Julius and ending with Domitian. Written at such an early date it is invaluable historically and provides some fascinating background for the New Testament since all the of the New Testament is written during the time covered here (Revelation was probably written during the reign of Domitian).

However, I stopped having my boys (ages 10, 12, 13) read this book after the first two chapters (Julius and Augustus). It is fairly difficult reading, but that is not why I stopped them. I stopped because it describes with frankness the wickedness of these men. My boys did not even know (thankfully) what all was being referred to. The book is in many ways a study of depravity, depicting what happens when men have no restraint- spiritually, legally, politically or economically- on their behavior. Cruelty, greed and sexual perversion were foremost. This behavior is not celebrated but is discussed.

So, while the book is valuable historically, parents need to be aware of what is in it, and plan accordingly. A good way to check out this book (and many other classics) is by downloading free audio of it at

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