C. Suetonii Tranquilli Opera Omnia Quae Extant

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by Suetonius

C. Suetonii Tranquilli Opera Omnia Quae Extant

Title page from C. Suetonii Tranquilli Opera Omnia Quae Extant, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author Suetonius
Editor {{{editor}}}
Translator {{{trans}}}
Published Londini: E typographaeo Mariae Matthews : Impensis R. Knaplock, J. & B. Sprint, B. Tooke, H. Clements, F. Gyles, R. Robinson, W. Churchil, & W. Meares
Date 1718
Edition Delphini
Language Latin
Volumes {{{set}}} volume set
Pages [10], 626, [164]
Desc. 8vo (21 cm.)
Location Shelf L-2
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]

Little is known about the private life of Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (c. 69–after 122 CE) beyond his birth into an equestrian (upper-middle class) family and being the son of a military tribune. By around 97 CE, Suetonius had formed a friendship with the lawyer and author Pliny the Younger, and had established a reputation in Rome as an author and scholar. Pliny’s patronage proved important to his rise in fame and power. During the reigns of emperors Trajan and Hadrian, Suetonius “held three important posts in the imperial administration: literary adviser, librarian, correspondence secretary.”[1] In 121 or 122 CE, Suetonius lost his job under Hadrian, and therefore his unrestricted access to the imperial archives, for some form of personal indiscretion – rumored to involve the empress. There is no personal information about him after this time.[2]

Headpiece, first page of text.

Though his writing interests were varied, Suetonius is best known as a biographer – or even more specifically, as an imperial biographer. His On Famous Men is a collection of biographies of well-known and educated Roman men organized into categories of their work. This collection is now incomplete, but originally may have contained as many as 100 biographies. The sections on grammaticians and rhetoricians, as well as other sections and fragments were preserved through other authors’ works. Besides Cornelius Nepos, Suetonius is the earliest Roman biographer whose work has survived.[3] Suetonius’ Lives of the Caesars cover Julius Caesar and the first eleven emperors: Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius (Caligula), Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian. These biographies follow a certain thematic pattern, beginning with the ancestry and early life, then imperial successes and personal characteristics. In most of the biographies, the individual’s death concludes the Life, though in some there is a description of the appearance. The length, use of quotations, and thorough nature of the first two biographies, on Julius Caesar and Augustus, indicate that Suetonius was interested in the changing government and that he had only completed those two biographies before he was dismissed by Hadrian and no longer had access to the imperial archives.[4]

This particular edition is “All the Remaining Works of Suetonius” including both On Famous Men and Lives of the Caesars.

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as "Suetonius. Delph. 8vo." and given by Thomas Jefferson to his grandson Thomas Jefferson Randolph. Both the Brown Bibliography[5] and George Wythe's Library[6] on LibraryThing list the 1718 edition published in London. The Wolf Law Library followed their recommendations and purchased the edition known as the "Delphini" edition.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in recent half marron morocco over marbled boards, black morocco label on gilt-decorated spine. Title page has early owner's name eradicated.

Images of the library's copy of this book are available on Flickr. View the record for this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

See also


  1. John Roberts, ed., "Suētōnius" in Oxford Dictionary of the Classical World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).
  2. M.C. Howatson, ed., "Suetō'nius" in The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).
  3. Roberts, “Suētōnius."
  4. Ibid.
  5. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at: https://digitalarchive.wm.edu/handle/10288/13433.
  6. LibraryThing, s.v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on February 20, 2014.