(A) History in Anecdotes. What Are We (Not) Supposed to Know about Roman Emperors? Suetonius, De vita Caesarum

Subproject by Sophie Buddenhagen
 

An aspect particularly stressed by Roman politicians when representing themselves or others with the intention to reach a wide audience has always been the blending of both public and private life as well as actions (especially in Augustus’ text De vita sua). In the tradition of Augustus, the sovereigns succeeding him have written or commissioned biographies as well. These have, in large part, been integrated into Suetonius’ Lives of the Caesars, twelve biographical representations of rulers published around AD 122 during Hadrian’s reign. This subproject discusses the Lives of the Caesars, which in a generic way combine political biography and historical writing, by taking into consideration specific questions concerning the public dimension of anecdotal knowledge transfer. Panegyric as well as the exact opposite, namely the discrediting of certain ruler personalities (like Claudius, for instance), can be found; the latter is primarily realised through the use of anecdotes that display lack of knowledge and ineptitude of the people involved. Here the question arises which criteria are applied by Suetonius in configuring his anecdotes and what importance is given to knowledge and proficiency of the protagonists.