In puero statim corporis animique dotes exsplenduerunt, magisque ac magis deinceps per aetatis gradus: forma egregia et cui non minus auctoritatis inesset quam gratiae, praecipuum robur, quamquam neque procera statura et ventre paulo proiectiore; memoria singularis, docilitas ad omnis fere tum belli tum pacis artes. armorum et equitandi peritissimus, Latine Graeceque vel in orando vel in fingendis poematibus promptus et facilis ad extemporalitatem usque; sed ne musicae quidem rudis, ut qui cantaret et psalleret iucunde scienterque. e pluribus comperi, notis quoque excipere velocissime solitum, cum amanuensibus suis per ludum iocumque certantem, imitarique chirographa quaecumque vidisset, ac saepe profiteri maximum falsarium esse potuisse.
(Suetonius, Div. Tit. 3)

His qualities of mind and body at once stood out even when he was a boy but still more so as he advanced towards maturity. His appearance was striking, conveying authority as well as charm, and he was unusually strong, though not tall in stature, while his stomach protruded a little. He had an exceptional memory and a great gift for acquiring almost all the arts of war as well as those of peace. He was highly skilled in the use of weapons and in horsemanship and had a ready fluency in both Latin and Greek to such a degree that he could make a speech or compose a poem without preparation. Even in music he was not without talent and could sing and play the cithara with grace and skill. I have discovered from a number of sources that he used to write shorthand at great speed and for fun would play at competing with his secretaries and that he could imitate any handwriting he had seen and often confessed he could have been the greatest of forgers. (tr. Catharine Edwards)



Secessu vero Caprensi etiam sellaria excogitavit, sedem arcanarum libidinum, in quam undique conquisiti puellarum et exoletorum greges monstrosique concubitus repertores, quos spintrias appellabat, triplici serie conexi, in vicem incestarent coram ipso, ut aspectu deficientis libidines excitaret. cubicula plurifariam disposita tabellis ac sigillis lascivissimarum picturarum et figurarum adornavit librisque Elephantidis instruxit, ne cui in opera edenda exemplar imperatae schemae deesset.
(Suetonius, Tib. 43)

Then, on retiring to Capri, he* even established a suite which was to be the location for his secret pleasures. Here groups of girls and adult pathics selected from all over and the most inventive of sexual deviants whom he used to call ‘tight-bums’, would take it in turns to engage in filthy threesomes in his presence, so that the sight would arouse his flagging libido. The bedrooms were variously decked out with paintings and sculptures showing the most provocative images and figures, while the library was equipped with the works of Elephantis,** so that an illustration of the required position would always be available if anyone needed guidance in completing their performance.

* Tiberius.
** a Greek author notorious for her lewd writings.

(tr. Catharine Edwards, with her note on Elephantis)



Peregrinis in senatum allectis libellus propositus est: ‘Bonum factum: ne quis senatori novo curiam monstrare velit!’ et illa vulgo canebantur:
‘Gallos Caesar in triumphum ducit, idem in curiam;
Galli bracas deposuerunt, latum clavum sumpserunt.’
(Suetonius, Div. Iul. 80.2)

When foreigners were admitted to the senate, the following placard was set up: ‘Well done, those who refuse to show a new senator where the senate house is!’ And the following verse was heard everywhere:
Caesar led Gauls in his triumph – and into the senate house;
The Gauls put aside their trousers and put on the broad stripe*.

* an emblem of senatorial rank.

(tr. Catharine Edwards, with her note)



Mechanico quoque grandes columnas exigua impensa perducturum in Capitolium pollicenti praemium pro commento non mediocre obtulit, operam remisit praefatus sineret se plebiculam pascere.
(Suetonius, Div. Vesp. 18)

To an engineer who promised that he could transport some huge columns up to the Capitol at almost no cost, he* gave a substantial reward for his device but declined to use it, remarking: ‘I must be allowed to feed my poor common people.’

* Vespasian.

(tr. Catharine Edwards)


Gaius Marius

Satis constat Sullam, cum deprecantibus amicissimis et ornatissimis viris aliquamdiu denegasset atque illi pertinaciter contenderent, expugnatum tandem proclamasse sive divinitus sive aliqua coniectura: vincerent ac sibi haberent, dum modo scirent eum, quem incolumem tanto opere cuperent, quandoque optimatium partibus, quas secum simul defendissent, exitio futurum; nam Caesari multos Marios inesse.
(Suetonius, Div. Iul. 1)

Everyone knows that when Sulla had long held out against the most devoted and eminent men of his party who interceded for Caesar, and they obstinately persisted, he at last gave way and cried, either by divine inspiration or a shrewd forecast: “Have your way and take him; only bear in mind that the man you are so eager to save will one day deal the death blow to the cause of the aristocracy, which you have joined with me in upholding; for in this Caesar there is more than one Marius.” (tr. John C. Rolfe)



Statura fuit iusta, capite praecalvo, oculis caeruleis, adunco naso, manibus pedibusque articulari morbo distortissimis, ut neque calceum perpeti nec libellos evolvere aut tenere omnino valeret. excreverat etiam in dexteriore latere eius caro praependebatque adeo ut aegre fascia substringeretur. (Suetonius, Galba 21)

He was of average height, very bald, with blue eyes and a hooked nose. His hands and feet were so distorted by gout that he could not endure a shoe for long, unroll a book, or even hold one. The flesh on his left side too had grown out and hung down to such an extent, that it could with difficulty be held in place by a bandage. (tr. J.C. Rolfe)