Suetonius, C. Caligula

Course Expectations and Objectives

We will read Suetonius' Life of Caligula, focusing closely on the grammar, vocabulary, and style of the text, with significant comment on the historical and cultural background. The student is expected to have mastered a basic second year vocabulary and to be prepared to absorb a considerable quantity of new vocabulary. Complete familiarity with basic forms (declension patterns, pronouns, verb tenses, infinitives, participles, and gerundives) is required.

Suetonius' style is generally straightforward, although his vocabulary is wide. The challenge for students approaching him for the first time is his tendency to omit auxiliary verb forms (any form of esse is likely to drop), his very frequent use of indirect speech constructions, complex ablative absolute constructions, and substantive participles (which tend to compress the syntax). As with all authors, Suetonius' style will become easier as you read the text.

Students are expected to have prepared the assigned text well enough to read it with minimal difficulty and discuss grammatical constructions. Our goal is to read with ease the entirety of the work and to articulate a basic understanding of Suetonius' historical approach and his value as a biographer. The work required is considerable, the rewards commensurate.

Text and Commentary

I have prepared a text, grammatical commentary, and vocabulary for your use:


Grammar Resources

A systematic grammar of Latin is recommended. Bennett's New Latin Grammar or, better, Allen and Greenough's New Latin Grammar. Both are available for on-line purchase. Handouts on basic grammar and vocabulary are available at the Latin Handout Page.

A good Latin dictionary is suggested. The complete Lewis & Short is now on-line at the Perseus site. It is also available as an application for you iPhone.

Do not hestitate to make use of a modern translation if needed to comprehend fully the grammar of the Latin. Remember that English translations are not grammatically faithful to the original. The Loeb edition (found often at Borders) has a facing English translation, which may be useful for those tackling Silver Age Latin for the first time. An online version of the Loeb edition may be found here: Life of Caligula. For those interested, here is a version in French: Vie de Caligula.

Genealogies of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty

Julio-Claudian Dynasty (Simple)
Julio-Claudian Dynasty (Simple)
Julio-Claudian Dynasty (Moderate)
Julio-Claudian Dynasty (Complex)
Caligula's Ancestors

Here are some short biographies of some of the persons mentioned in our text:


Outline of the Life of Caligula:

Life of Germanicus (1-7)
Birth of Caligula and Early Life (8-11)
Death of Tiberius and Ascension of Caligula (12)
Initial Popularity (13-14)
First Acts (15-16)
Consulships of Caligula (17)
Largesse, Games, and Buildings (18-21)
Monster and Tyrant (22)
Caligula and His Family (23-26)
Treatment of Senate, the Knights, and the People (26)
Saevitia and Atrocitas (27-35)
Lasciviousness and Extravagance (36-37)
Rapinae (38-42)
Caligula on Campaign (43-49)
Appearance and Health (50-52)
Intellectual Pursuits (53-55)
Assassination (56-60)

Quizzes and Examinations

There will be regular vocabulary quizzes, with the cumulative grade counting as an exam.

There will be 4 exams, covering chapters 1-14, 15-30, 31-45, 46-60. Detailed information on what is expected on the examinations will be provided.

The Instructor

William L. Carey, Esq.
Blankingship & Keith, P.C.
4020 University Drive, Suite 300
Fairfax, Virginia 22030


Other Resources:

Biography of Caligula
Cassius Dio, Book 59
Philo of Alexandria, On the Embassy to Gaius
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 19