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CL 311 : Semester project
Introduction Guidelines Milestones Resources

Historical commentaries on Suetonius are frequent, but less common are reference guides to reading what he wrote.

In the semester project for CL 311, students will collaborate on a grammatical and stylistic commentary on a portion of Suetonius' Augustus.


Students will collaborate in producing a commentary on chapters 66-78 of the Divus Augustus.  The commentary should be devoted to matters of grammar and style, which means that it will generally consist of two kinds of notes:

— Grammatical notes help students read advanced or difficult points of grammar, sometimes (but not always) with translation.

— Stylistic notes explain points of usage and syntax, and offer rudimentary literary criticism, often with an eye toward the author's work as a whole.

Your target audience is students like you — readers familiar with advanced Latin but newcomers to Suetonius. Your task is to help such readers navigate the text successfully but independently, offering neither too much nor too little assistance.

You will find that writing your commentary will be slow going at first. Keep at it! You will receive periodic feedback from your instructor in order to ensure that you are on the right track. As you proceed, be sure to ask whether or not your comments would be useful to an advanced undergraduate like yourself. If the answer is no, you might consider leaving those comments out.

Obviously, it is difficult to quantify work of this nature. As a general rule of thumb, however, each student should contribute between 8 and 10 single-spaced pages to the final commentary (not counting title pages or bibliography) in addition to completing the other milestones as well.


Your procedure will be to gather outside sources that pertain to the text, to read and evaluate them, and then use what you have learned in your commentary. Generally speaking, your sources will fall into three categories:

1. Reference works about the Latin language (see below).

2. Books and articles about the text.

3. Other commentaries on Suetonius (use sparingly).

It will be imperative that you use the CL 311 Resources Page in your exploration of the secondary literature. Furthermore, you will have to request materials not in Scribner Library via interlibrary loan.

Since this is a group project, it is important that students not only work together but also hold their peers accountable.  One approach is to divide the text into roughly equal sections, with each student producing a commentary on his or her own section. The result, however, is typically not unlike a patchwork quilt, varying greatly in quality, emphasis, and format from section to section.

More difficult, but eminently more rewarding, is when students to work together on the commentary as a whole.  The result is a commentary in which everyone is more or less equally invested, as well as a more cohesive project overall.

Whichever approach is adopted, it will be necessary for students to meet outside class and to discuss the text, the secondary sources, the level of detail in the comments themselves, and how the work should be best synthesized.


When citing the Suetonian text, it is customary to use the "work abbreviation / chapter / section" system of numbering.

EXAMPLE: Aug. 66.2 = Suetonius, Augustus chapter 66, section 2.

When citing other commentators, follow this example:

see [last name of commentator] ad loc.

If you feel your reader should see someone else's comments, ad loc. sends them to the note on the same passage in that commentary (ad locum, "at the passage"). You don't need to cite the commentator by page number or volume or publisher or by any of the conventional bibliographic information. A simple ad loc. is sufficient. (Use ad locc. to indicate more than one passage in another commentary.)

Besides ad loc., two useful Latin abbreviations are cf. (confer, "compare") and sc. (scilicet, "namely").

Use cf. to point your reader to a comparable passage elsewhere in Suetonius:

EXAMPLE: cf. Tib.10.2. = "compare Suetonius, Tiberius chapter10, section 2."

Use sc. to help your reader supply a missing word or words:

EXAMPLE: bibendum est, sc. vinum. = "the noun vinum should be understood with bibendum est."

Note that scilicet is itself short for scire licet ("it is allowed to infer").

Reference works.

Two essential reference works about Latin are Allen and Greenough's New Latin Grammar (available in our Library) and the Oxford Latin Dictionary (available in the reference section of Scribner Library).

You must cite these references whenever you explain a point of grammar or the meaning of a word. Citations follow the structure of each work.


indirect question (AG 330) (= "See section 330 of Allen and Greenough for more information on indirect questions").

fateor, "I confess" (OLD 1b) (= "See entry 1b of fateor in the Oxford Latin Dictionary for the meaning 'confess'").


Several milestones will help keep the project on track.  All of them, with a one exceptions, are due on Friday afternoons by 5:00 p.m.

Secondary sources (April 3, 5:00 p.m. via email)

Email Prof. Curley with four secondary sources you believe will be helpful to constructing a commentary.  No more than two of your sources may be from our in-class readings, and none of them may be a commentary we are using in this class.

Two useful bibliographical surveys:

  • Benediktson, D. T. 1993. “A Survey of Suetonius Scholarship, 1938-1987.” CW 86:377-447.
  • Galand-Hallyn, P. 1991. “Bibliographie suêtonienne (les. 'Vies des XII Césars') 1950-1988. Vers une réhabilitation.” ANRW 2.33.5:3576-3622.

Prof. Curley will synthesize the lists and email them back to the class.

Plan of action (April 10, 5:00 p.m. via email)

One representative of the class should email Professor Curley with the group's plan for getting the commentary done. The following questions must be addressed:

  • Who is doing what?
  • How will equity of work be ensured and maintained?
  • How will continuity of formatting and style be maintained in the commentary as a whole?

Progress report 1 (April 17, 5:00 p.m. via email)

Each member of the class should email to cl-311-list@skidmore.edu an update on which words and phrases he or she intends to comment on, as well as the general direction of the comments:


1.1: multa declarant: multa = subject, declarant triggers ind. statement

1.1: cum...faceret: subjunctive cum-clause.

1.1: nuntiata...incursione: ablative absolute.

The objective is to give your peers a sense of the work you have done and intend to do, as well as to allow Prof. Curley to comment on your work thus far.

Progress report 2 (April 24, 5:00 p.m. via email)

Each member of the class should email to cl-311-list@skidmore.edu an update on which words and phrases he or she intends to comment on, as well as the general direction of the comments.

In addition, each member should provide fleshed out comments on the words/phrases identified in the previous progress report.

Final version (Wednesday, April 29, in class)

A polished-to-perfection, ultimate version of the entire commentary.  This version should include an unannotated bibliography at the end, as well as a list of abbreviations at the beginning.


The following web sites will be helpful when developing your project:

Writing in Classics.  A series of pages developed by Skidmore's Classics Department.  Good advice on every step from thesis to bibliography to final draft.

Skidmore Expository Writing Network.  More trustworthy advice on all aspects of the writing process.

ILLiad, Scribner Library's InterLibrary Loan service.  Allows students to request articles, essays, and books outside of the Library's holdings.  NOTE:  No student requests will be processed after the third week in November.

Searchable index of journals held by Scribner Library (print and electronic).

See our Resources Page for other research tools.

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