Thursday, 28 July 2011

Summarising Suetonius

Ottava Rima is not conducive to speed poetry.

Some years ago, when Hadrian first thought of building walls,
Suetonius (who worked for him) began a mighty tome
That listed all the emperors who'd had the luck or balls
To sit and rule, quite unopposed, from the Imperial throne.
Like Julius, who made his name by conquering the Gauls,
But then earned just opprobrium by marching into Rome.
      Yet won his place in history as first of all the Caesars,
      That's quite a feat, given his propensity to seizures.

Augustus was the next in line – he took his uncle's name -
And kicked the ships of Antony right back across the Med.
He beat all opposition down until, such was his fame,
The Senate had no choice: they put the laurels on his head.
And, all in all, you'd say he had a quite successful reign,
Though one thing always plagued him, right up to his deathbed:
      When Varus lost his legions, ambushed across the Rhine,
      Yet still the Romans went and tried to deify him.

Tiberius, the little shit, was next to take control,
And nobody could stop his evil, no-one even tried, so
Capricious was his nature, and so murderous his soul,
That there was cheering in the streets when finally he died.
Caligula was little better: crazy, mad arsehole,
Who only lasted long because the army took his side,
      And when of 'Little Boots' the troops could stand just no more,
      He's stabbed by some Praetorians, right in the corridor.

Now Claudius, the stutterer, arrives to take his turn:
Some say he was a simpleton, some say he was a saint,
And history records that he was always taciturn,
That prob'ly made him easier to just assassinate.
Then Nero came along, and played, and watched his city burn,
But no man trusted food when it was served upon his plate,
      Cuz Nero poisoned both his brothers, and his uncle too,
      Then finally his mother, which we've all once tried to do.

The next three emperors don't hang around for very long,
A few, frustrating months is all old Galba seems to last,
And who remembers Otho's name in any play or song?
There was no time to write such works, his reign went by so fast.
Vitellius thought he'd last longer, boy, was he sure wrong:
No sooner did he start his reign, he blinked and it was past.
      So, though when his turn comes, he's way across the sea,
      Vespasian comes along, and starts the Flavian dynasty.

He calmed the Empire down a bit, the Colosseum built,
And passed a stable legacy to Titus, his first son.
How so much Jewish blood across the temple floor was spilt
We'll never know – six months it took to take Jerusalem.
But take it Titus did, then later, possibly from guilt,
He left it to his brother, Emperor Domitian.
      Though these last three were seemingly by power uncorrupted,
      They still got blamed by all Pompeii, when Vesuvius erupted.

So there you have it, that completes Suetonius's twelve,
The men who turned a great Republic to a Principate.
Some did it for the power, and some did it for the wealth,
Some simply just believed that they were born to tragic fate.
So when we look at history to learn about ourselves,
The Caesars are a crazy bunch who'll always fascinate.
      I'm recommending that you give Suetonius a look-
      It really is beyond a doubt a damn hilarious book.

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