Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus – The Twelve Caesars

Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius c. AD 69 – after AD 122, was a Roman historian who wrote during the early Imperial era of the Roman Empire. His most important surviving work is a set of biographies of 12 successive Roman rulers, from Julius Caesar to Domitian, probably entitled De vita Caesarum. Other works by Suetonius concerned the daily life of Rome, politics, oratory, and the lives of famous writers, including poets, historians, and grammarians. A few of these books have partially survived, but many have been lost.

There are links to the full text at the bottom of the page.

References to Britain and the Britons

Gaius Julius Caesar

Julius XXV

2 He was the first Roman to build a bridge and attack the Germans beyond the Rhine ; and he inflicted heavy losses upon them. He invaded the Britons too, a people unknown before, vanquished them, and exacted moneys and hostages. Amid all these successes he met with adverse fortune but three times in all: in Britain, where his fleet narrowly escaped destruction in a violent storm ; in Gaul, when one of his legions was routed at Gergovia ; and on the borders of Germany, when his lieutenants Titurius and Aurunculeius were ambushed and slain.

Read Julius XXVwithin the full text of The Life of Julius Caesar.

Julius XLVII

They say that he was led to invade Britain by the hope of getting pearls, and that in comparing their size he sometimes weighed them with his own hand ; that he was always a most enthusiastic collector of gems, carvings, statues, and pictures by early artists ; also of slaves of exceptional figure and training at enormous prices, of which he himself was so ashamed that he forbade their entry in his accounts.

Read Julius XXV within the full text of The Life of Julius Caesar.

Julius LVIII

1 In the conduct of his campaigns it is a question whether he was more cautious or more daring, for he never led his army where ambuscades were possible without carefully reconnoitring the country, and he did not cross to Britain without making personal inquiries about the harbours, the course, and the approach to the island. But on the other hand, when news came that his camp in Germany was beleaguered, he made his way to his men through the enemies’ pickets, disguised as a Gaul.

Read Julius XXV within the full text of The Life of Julius Caesar.

Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus ‘Caligula

Caligula XIX

3 I know that many have supposed that Gaius devised this kind of bridge in rivalry of Xerxes, who excited no little admiration by bridging the much narrower Hellespont ; others that it was to inspire fear in Germany and Britain, on which he had designs, by the fame of some stupendous work. But when I was a boy, I used to hear my grandfather say that the reason for the work, as revealed by the emperor’s confidential courtiers, was that Thrasyllus the astrologer had declared to Tiberius, when he was worried about his successor and inclined towards his natural grandson, that Gaius had no more chance of becoming emperor than of riding about over the Gulf of Baiae with horses.

Read Caligula XIX within the full text of Life of Caligula.

Caligula XLIV

2 All that he accomplished was to receive the surrender of Adminius, son of Cynobellinus king of the Britons, who had been banished by his father and had deserted to the Romans with a small force ; yet as if the entire island had submitted to him, he sent a grandiloquent letter to Rome, commanding the couriers who carried it to ride in their post-chaise all the way to the Forum and the House, and not to deliver it to anyone except the consuls, in the Temple of Mars the Avenger, before a full meeting of the senate.

Read Caligula XLIV within the full text of Life of Caligula.

Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus

Claudius XVII

1 He made but one campaign and that of little importance. When the senate voted him the triumphal regalia, thinking the honour beneath the imperial dignity and desiring the glory of a legitimate triumph, he chose Britain as the best place for gaining it, a land that had been attempted by no one since the Deified Julius and was just at that time in a state of rebellion because of the refusal to return certain deserters.

2 On the voyage thither from Ostia he was nearly cast away twice by furious north-westers, off Liguria and near the Stoechades islands. Therefore he made the journey from Massilia all the way to Gesoriacum by land, crossed from there, and without any battle or bloodshed received the submission of a part of the island, returned to Rome within six months after leaving the city, and celebrated a triumph of great splendour.

3 To witness the sight he allowed not only the governor of the provinces to come to Rome, but even some of the exiles ; and among the tokens of his victory he set a naval crown on the gable of the Palace beside the civic crown, as a sign that he had crossed and, as it were, subdued the Ocean. His wife Messalina followed his chariot in a carriage, as did also those who had won the triumphal regalia in the same war ; the rest marched on foot in purple-bordered togas, except Marcus Crassus Frugi, who rode a caparisoned horse and wore a tunic embroidered with palms, because he was receiving the honour for the second time.

Read Claudius XVII within the full text of Life of Claudius .

Claudius XXI

6 He gave representations in the Campus Martius of the storming and sacking of a town in the manner of real warfare, as well as of the surrender of the kings of the Britons, and presided clad in a general’s cloak. …

Read Claudius XVII within the full text of Life of Claudius.

Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus


So far from being actuated by any wish or hope of increasing or extending the empire, he even thought of withdrawing the army from Britain and changed his purpose only because he was ashamed to seem to belittle the glory of his father. …

Read Nero XVIII within the full text of Life of Nero.

Servius Galba Imperator Caesar Augustus

Galba VII

1 When the murder of Gaius was announced, although many urged Galba to take advantage of the opportunity, he preferred quiet. Hence he was in high favour with Claudius, became one of his staff of intimate friends, and was treated with such consideration that the departure of the expedition to Britain was put off because Galba was taken with a sudden illness, of no great severity. …

Read Galba VII within the full text of Life of Galba.

Titus Flavius Vespasianus Caesar

Vespasian IV

1 In the reign of Claudius he was sent in command of a legion to Germany, through the influence of Narcissus ; from there he was transferred to Britain, where he fought thirty battles with the enemy. He reduced to subjection two powerful nations, more than twenty towns, and the island of Vectis, near Britain, partly under the leadership of Aulus Plautius, the consular governor, and partly under that of Claudius himself.

2 For this he received the triumphal regalia, and shortly after two priesthoods, besides the consulship (in 51AD), which he held for the last two months of the year. The rest of the time up to his proconsulate he spent in rest and retirement, through fear of Agrippina, who still had a strong influence over her son and hated any friend of Narcissus, even after the latter’s death.

Read Vespasian IV within the full text of Life of Vespasian.

Titus Caesar Vespasianus Augustus

Titus IV

1 He served as military tribune both in Germany and in Britain, winning a high reputation for energy and no less for integrity, as is evident from the great number of his statues and busts in both these provinces and from the inscriptions they bear.

Read Titus IV within the full text of Life of Titus.

Imperator Caesar Domitianus Augustus

Domitian X

3 He put to death … ; Sallustius Lucullus, governor of Britain, for allowing some lances of a new pattern to be called ‘Lucullean,’ after his own name ; …

Read Domitian X within the full text of Life of Titus.

More about Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus - The Twelve Caesars