Claudius

Claudius

Overview
Claudius was Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

 from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty
Julio-Claudian Dynasty
The Julio-Claudian dynasty normally refers to the first five Roman Emperors: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula , Claudius, and Nero, or the family to which they belonged; they ruled the Roman Empire from its formation, in the second half of the 1st century BC, until AD 68, when the last of the line,...

, he was the son of Drusus
Nero Claudius Drusus
Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus , born Decimus Claudius Drusus also called Drusus, Drusus I, Nero Drusus, or Drusus the Elder was a Roman politician and military commander. He was a fully patrician Claudian on his father's side but his maternal grandmother was from a plebeian family...

 and Antonia Minor
Antonia Minor
Antonia Minor , also known as Antonia the Younger or simply Antonia was the younger of two daughters of Roman politician Mark Antony and Octavia Minor. Tacitus Ann. 4.44.2 and 12.54.2 may have confused the two Antonia sisters...

. He was born at Lugdunum
Lugdunum
Colonia Copia Claudia Augusta Lugdunum was an important Roman city in Gaul. The city was founded in 43 BC by Lucius Munatius Plancus. It served as the capital of the Roman province Gallia Lugdunensis. To 300 years after its foundation Lugdunum was the most important city to the west part of Roman...

 in Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy. Because he was afflicted with a limp and slight deafness due to sickness at a young age, his family ostracized him and excluded him from public office until his consul
Consul
Consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic...

ship, shared with his nephew Caligula
Caligula
Caligula , also known as Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 AD to 41 AD. Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caligula's father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome's most...

 in 37. Claudius' infirmity probably saved him from the fate of many other nobles during the purges of Tiberius
Tiberius
Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

 and Caligula's reigns; potential enemies did not see him as a serious threat.
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Claudius was Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

 from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty
Julio-Claudian Dynasty
The Julio-Claudian dynasty normally refers to the first five Roman Emperors: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula , Claudius, and Nero, or the family to which they belonged; they ruled the Roman Empire from its formation, in the second half of the 1st century BC, until AD 68, when the last of the line,...

, he was the son of Drusus
Nero Claudius Drusus
Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus , born Decimus Claudius Drusus also called Drusus, Drusus I, Nero Drusus, or Drusus the Elder was a Roman politician and military commander. He was a fully patrician Claudian on his father's side but his maternal grandmother was from a plebeian family...

 and Antonia Minor
Antonia Minor
Antonia Minor , also known as Antonia the Younger or simply Antonia was the younger of two daughters of Roman politician Mark Antony and Octavia Minor. Tacitus Ann. 4.44.2 and 12.54.2 may have confused the two Antonia sisters...

. He was born at Lugdunum
Lugdunum
Colonia Copia Claudia Augusta Lugdunum was an important Roman city in Gaul. The city was founded in 43 BC by Lucius Munatius Plancus. It served as the capital of the Roman province Gallia Lugdunensis. To 300 years after its foundation Lugdunum was the most important city to the west part of Roman...

 in Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy. Because he was afflicted with a limp and slight deafness due to sickness at a young age, his family ostracized him and excluded him from public office until his consul
Consul
Consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic...

ship, shared with his nephew Caligula
Caligula
Caligula , also known as Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 AD to 41 AD. Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caligula's father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome's most...

 in 37. Claudius' infirmity probably saved him from the fate of many other nobles during the purges of Tiberius
Tiberius
Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

 and Caligula's reigns; potential enemies did not see him as a serious threat. His survival led to his being declared Emperor by the Praetorian Guard
Praetorian Guard
The Praetorian Guard was a force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors. The title was already used during the Roman Republic for the guards of Roman generals, at least since the rise to prominence of the Scipio family around 275 BC...

 after Caligula's assassination, at which point he was the last adult male of his family.

Despite his lack of experience, Claudius proved to be an able and efficient administrator. He was also an ambitious builder, constructing many new roads, aqueducts, and canals across the Empire. During his reign the Empire conquered Thrace, Noricum
Noricum
Noricum, in ancient geography, was a Celtic kingdom stretching over the area of today's Austria and a part of Slovenia. It became a province of the Roman Empire...

, Pamphylia
Pamphylia
In ancient geography, Pamphylia was the region in the south of Asia Minor, between Lycia and Cilicia, extending from the Mediterranean to Mount Taurus . It was bounded on the north by Pisidia and was therefore a country of small extent, having a coast-line of only about 75 miles with a breadth of...

, Lycia
Lycia
Lycia Lycian: Trm̃mis; ) was a region in Anatolia in what are now the provinces of Antalya and Muğla on the southern coast of Turkey. It was a federation of ancient cities in the region and later a province of the Roman Empire...

 and Judaea, and began the conquest of Britain
Roman conquest of Britain
The Roman conquest of Britain was a gradual process, beginning effectively in AD 43 under Emperor Claudius, whose general Aulus Plautius served as first governor of Britannia. Great Britain had already frequently been the target of invasions, planned and actual, by forces of the Roman Republic and...

. He took a personal interest in law, presided at public trials, and issued up to twenty edicts a day. However, he was seen as vulnerable throughout his reign, particularly by the nobility. Claudius was constantly forced to shore up his position; this resulted in the deaths of many senators. These events damaged his reputation among the ancient writers, though more recent historians have revised this opinion. After his death in 54, his grand-nephew and adopted son Nero
Nero
Nero , was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death....

 succeeded him as Emperor.

Family and early life



Claudius was born on 1 August 10 BC in Lugdunum
Lugdunum
Colonia Copia Claudia Augusta Lugdunum was an important Roman city in Gaul. The city was founded in 43 BC by Lucius Munatius Plancus. It served as the capital of the Roman province Gallia Lugdunensis. To 300 years after its foundation Lugdunum was the most important city to the west part of Roman...

 to Nero Claudius Drusus
Nero Claudius Drusus
Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus , born Decimus Claudius Drusus also called Drusus, Drusus I, Nero Drusus, or Drusus the Elder was a Roman politician and military commander. He was a fully patrician Claudian on his father's side but his maternal grandmother was from a plebeian family...

 and Antonia
Antonia Minor
Antonia Minor , also known as Antonia the Younger or simply Antonia was the younger of two daughters of Roman politician Mark Antony and Octavia Minor. Tacitus Ann. 4.44.2 and 12.54.2 may have confused the two Antonia sisters...

 on the day of the dedication of the altar to Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

 at the Sanctuary of the Three Gauls
Sanctuary of the Three Gauls
The Sanctuary of the Three Gauls was the focal structure within an administrative and religious complex established by Rome in the very late 1st century BC at Lugdunum . Its institution served to federalise and Romanise Gallia Comata as an Imperial province under Augustus, following the Gallic...

. He had two older siblings named Germanicus
Germanicus
Germanicus Julius Caesar , commonly known as Germanicus, was a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and a prominent general of the early Roman Empire. He was born in Rome, Italia, and was named either Nero Claudius Drusus after his father or Tiberius Claudius Nero after his uncle...

 and Livilla
Livilla
Livia Julia was the only daughter of Nero Claudius Drusus and Antonia Minor and sister of the Roman Emperor Claudius and Germanicus...

. Antonia may have had two other children who died young. His maternal grandparents were Mark Antony
Mark Antony
Marcus Antonius , known in English as Mark Antony, was a Roman politician and general. As a military commander and administrator, he was an important supporter and loyal friend of his mother's cousin Julius Caesar...

 and Octavia Minor
Octavia Minor
Octavia the Younger , also known as Octavia Minor or simply Octavia, was the sister of the first Roman Emperor, Augustus , half-sister of Octavia the Elder, and fourth wife of Mark Antony...

, Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

' sister, therefore the great-great grandnephew of Gaius Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

. His paternal grandparents were Livia
Livia
Livia Drusilla, , after her formal adoption into the Julian family in AD 14 also known as Julia Augusta, was a Roman empress as the third wife of the Emperor Augustus and his adviser...

, Augustus' third wife, and Tiberius Claudius Nero
Tiberius Nero
Not to be confused with his son Tiberius or his grandson Germanicus, who both had the name 'Tiberius Claudius Nero' at one time or another. Tiberius Claudius Nero was a member of the Claudian Family of ancient Rome. He was a descendant of the original Tiberius Claudius Nero a consul, son of...

. During his reign, Claudius revived the rumor that his father Drusus was actually the illegitimate son of Augustus, to give the false appearance that Augustus was Claudius' paternal grandfather.

In 9 BC, Drusus unexpectedly died on campaign in Germania, possibly from illness. Claudius was then left to be raised by his mother, who never remarried. When Claudius' disability became evident, the relationship with his family turned sour. Antonia referred to him as a monster, and used him as a standard for stupidity. She seems to have passed her son off on his grandmother Livia for a number of years. Livia was little kinder, and often sent him short, angry letters of reproof. He was put under the care of a "former mule-driver" to keep him disciplined, under the logic that his condition was due to laziness and a lack of will-power. However, by the time he reached his teenage years his symptoms apparently waned and his family took some notice of his scholarly interests. In 7, Livy
Livy
Titus Livius — known as Livy in English — was a Roman historian who wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people. Ab Urbe Condita Libri, "Chapters from the Foundation of the City," covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome well before the traditional foundation in 753 BC...

 was hired to tutor him in history, with the assistance of Sulpicius Flavus. He spent a lot of his time with the latter and the philosopher Athenodorus
Athenodoros Cananites
Athenodorus Cananites was a Stoic philosopher. He was born in Canana, near Tarsus ; his father was Sandon...

. Augustus, according to a letter, was surprised at the clarity of Claudius' oratory. Expectations about his future began to increase.

Ironically, it was his work as a budding historian
Historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

 that destroyed his early career. According to Vincent Scramuzza and others, Claudius began work on a history of the Civil Wars
Roman civil wars
There were several Roman civil wars, especially during the late Republic. The most famous of these are the war in the 40s BC between Julius Caesar and the optimate faction of the senatorial elite initially led by Pompey and the subsequent war between Caesar's successors, Octavian and Mark Antony in...

 that was either too truthful or too critical of Octavian. In either case, it was far too early for such an account, and may have only served to remind Augustus that Claudius was Antony's descendant. His mother and grandmother quickly put a stop to it, and this may have proved to them that Claudius was not fit for public office. He could not be trusted to toe the existing party line. When he returned to the narrative later in life, Claudius skipped over the wars of the second triumvirate altogether. But the damage was done, and his family pushed him to the background. When the Arch
Triumphal arch
A triumphal arch is a monumental structure in the shape of an archway with one or more arched passageways, often designed to span a road. In its simplest form a triumphal arch consists of two massive piers connected by an arch, crowned with a flat entablature or attic on which a statue might be...

 of Pavia
Pavia
Pavia , the ancient Ticinum, is a town and comune of south-western Lombardy, northern Italy, 35 km south of Milan on the lower Ticino river near its confluence with the Po. It is the capital of the province of Pavia. It has a population of c. 71,000...

 was erected to honor the Imperial clan in 8, Claudius' name (now Tiberius Claudius Nero Germanicus after his elevation to paterfamilias of Claudii Nerones on the adoption of his brother) was inscribed on the edge—past the deceased princes, Gaius
Gaius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar , most commonly known as Gaius Caesar or Caius Caesar, was the oldest son of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Julia the Elder...

 and Lucius
Lucius Caesar
Lucius Julius Caesar , most commonly known as Lucius Caesar, was the second son of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Julia the Elder. He was born between 14 of June and 15 July 17 BC with the name Lucius Vipsanius Agrippa, but when he was adopted by his maternal grandfather Roman Emperor Caesar...

, and Germanicus' children. There is some speculation that the inscription was added by Claudius himself decades later, and that he originally did not appear at all.


When Augustus died in 14, Claudius — then 23 — appealed to his uncle Tiberius
Tiberius
Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

 to allow him to begin the cursus honorum
Cursus honorum
The cursus honorum was the sequential order of public offices held by aspiring politicians in both the Roman Republic and the early Empire. It was designed for men of senatorial rank. The cursus honorum comprised a mixture of military and political administration posts. Each office had a minimum...

. Tiberius, the new Emperor, responded by granting Claudius consular ornaments. Claudius requested office once more and was snubbed. Since the new Emperor was not any more generous than the old, Claudius gave up hope of public office and retired to a scholarly, private life.

Despite the disdain of the Imperial family, it seems that from very early on the general public respected Claudius. At Augustus' death, the equites
Equestrian (Roman)
The Roman equestrian order constituted the lower of the two aristocratic classes of ancient Rome, ranking below the patricians , a hereditary caste that monopolised political power during the regal era and during the early Republic . A member of the equestrian order was known as an eques...

, or knights, chose Claudius to head their delegation. When his house burned down, the Senate demanded it be rebuilt at public expense. They also requested that Claudius be allowed to debate in the Senate. Tiberius turned down both motions, but the sentiment remained. During the period immediately after the death of Tiberius' son, Drusus
Julius Caesar Drusus
Nero Claudius Drusus, later Drusus Julius Caesar was the only child of Roman Emperor Tiberius and his first wife, Vipsania Agrippina...

, Claudius was pushed by some quarters as a potential heir. This again suggests the political nature of his exclusion from public life. However, as this was also the period during which the power and terror of the Praetorian Sejanus
Sejanus
Lucius Aelius Seianus , commonly known as Sejanus, was an ambitious soldier, friend and confidant of the Roman Emperor Tiberius...

 was at its peak, Claudius chose to downplay this possibility.

After the death of Tiberius the new emperor Caligula
Caligula
Caligula , also known as Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 AD to 41 AD. Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caligula's father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome's most...

 (the son of Claudius' brother Germanicus
Germanicus
Germanicus Julius Caesar , commonly known as Germanicus, was a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and a prominent general of the early Roman Empire. He was born in Rome, Italia, and was named either Nero Claudius Drusus after his father or Tiberius Claudius Nero after his uncle...

) recognized Claudius to be of some use. He appointed Claudius his co-consul in 37 in order to emphasize the memory of Caligula's deceased father Germanicus. Despite this, Caligula relentlessly tormented his uncle: playing practical jokes, charging him enormous sums of money, humiliating him before the Senate, and the like. According to Cassius Dio Claudius became very sickly and thin by the end of Caligula's reign, most likely due to stress. A possible surviving portrait of Claudius from this period may support this.

Assassination of Caligula


On 24 January, 41, Caligula was assassinated in a broad-based conspiracy
Conspiracy (political)
In a political sense, conspiracy refers to a group of persons united in the goal of usurping or overthrowing an established political power. Typically, the final goal is to gain power through a revolutionary coup d'état or through assassination....

 involving the Praetorian commander Cassius Chaerea
Cassius Chaerea
Cassius Chaerea was a centurion in the army of Germanicus and served in the Praetorian Guard under the emperor Caligula, whom he eventually assassinated....

 and several Senators
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

. There is no evidence that Claudius had a direct hand in the assassination
Assassination
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

, although it has been argued that he knew about the plot — particularly since he left the scene of the crime shortly before his nephew was murdered. However, after the deaths of Caligula's wife and daughter, it became apparent that Cassius intended to go beyond the terms of the conspiracy and wipe out the Imperial family. In the chaos following the murder, Claudius witnessed the German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 guard cut down several uninvolved noblemen, including many of his friends. He fled to the palace to hide. According to tradition, a Praetorian named Gratus found him hiding behind a curtain and suddenly declared him princeps
Princeps
Princeps is a Latin word meaning "first in time or order; the first, chief, the most eminent, distinguished, or noble; the first man, first person."...

. A section of the guard may have planned in advance to seek out Claudius, perhaps with his approval. They reassured him that they were not one of the battalions looking for revenge. He was spirited away to the Praetorian camp and put under their protection.


The Senate quickly met and began debating a change of government, but this eventually devolved into an argument over which of them would be the new Princeps
Princeps
Princeps is a Latin word meaning "first in time or order; the first, chief, the most eminent, distinguished, or noble; the first man, first person."...

. When they heard of the Praetorians' claim, they demanded that Claudius be delivered to them for approval, but he refused, sensing the danger that would come with complying. Some historians, particularly Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

, claim that Claudius was directed in his actions by the Judean
Iudaea Province
Judaea or Iudaea are terms used by historians to refer to the Roman province that extended over parts of the former regions of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms of Israel...

 King Herod Agrippa. However, an earlier version of events by the same ancient author downplays Agrippa's role — so it is not known how large a hand he had in things. Eventually the Senate was forced to give in and, in return, Claudius pardoned nearly all the assassins.


As Emperor


Claudius took several steps to legitimize his rule against potential usurpers, most of them emphasizing his place within the Julio-Claudian family. He adopted the name "Caesar" as a cognomen
Cognomen
The cognomen nōmen "name") was the third name of a citizen of Ancient Rome, under Roman naming conventions. The cognomen started as a nickname, but lost that purpose when it became hereditary. Hereditary cognomina were used to augment the second name in order to identify a particular branch within...

 — the name still carried great weight with the populace. In order to do so, he dropped the cognomen "Nero" which he had adopted as paterfamilias of the Claudii Nerones when his brother Germanicus was adopted out. While he had never been adopted by Augustus or his successors, he was the grandson of Octavia, and so felt he had the right. He also adopted the name "Augustus" as the two previous emperors had done at their accessions. He kept the honorific "Germanicus" in order to display the connection with his heroic brother. He deified his paternal grandmother Livia in order to highlight her position as wife of the divine Augustus. Claudius frequently used the term "filius Drusi" (son of Drusus) in his titles, in order to remind the people of his legendary father and lay claim to his reputation.

Because he was proclaimed Emperor on the initiative of the Praetorian Guard instead of the Senate — the first Emperor thus proclaimed — Claudius' repute suffered at the hands of commentators (such as Seneca
Seneca the Younger
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero...

). Moreover, he was the first Emperor who resorted to bribery
Bribery
Bribery, a form of corruption, is an act implying money or gift giving that alters the behavior of the recipient. Bribery constitutes a crime and is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions of an official or...

 as a means to secure army loyalty . Tiberius and Augustus had both left gifts to the army and guard in their wills
Will (law)
A will or testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his/her estate and provides for the transfer of his/her property at death...

, and upon Caligula's death the same would have been expected, even if no will existed. Claudius remained grateful to the guard, however, issuing coins with tributes to the Praetorians in the early part of his reign.

Expansion of the Empire


Under Claudius, the Empire underwent its first major expansion since the reign of Augustus. The provinces of Thrace
Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

, Noricum
Noricum
Noricum, in ancient geography, was a Celtic kingdom stretching over the area of today's Austria and a part of Slovenia. It became a province of the Roman Empire...

, Pamphylia
Pamphylia
In ancient geography, Pamphylia was the region in the south of Asia Minor, between Lycia and Cilicia, extending from the Mediterranean to Mount Taurus . It was bounded on the north by Pisidia and was therefore a country of small extent, having a coast-line of only about 75 miles with a breadth of...

, Lycia
Lycia
Lycia Lycian: Trm̃mis; ) was a region in Anatolia in what are now the provinces of Antalya and Muğla on the southern coast of Turkey. It was a federation of ancient cities in the region and later a province of the Roman Empire...

, and Judea
Judea
Judea or Judæa was the name of the mountainous southern part of the historic Land of Israel from the 8th century BCE to the 2nd century CE, when Roman Judea was renamed Syria Palaestina following the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt.-Etymology:The...

 were annexed
Annexation
Annexation is the de jure incorporation of some territory into another geo-political entity . Usually, it is implied that the territory and population being annexed is the smaller, more peripheral, and weaker of the two merging entities, barring physical size...

 under various circumstances during his term. The annexation of Mauretania
Mauretania
Mauretania is a part of the historical Ancient Libyan land in North Africa. It corresponds to present day Morocco and a part of western Algeria...

, begun under Caligula, was completed after the defeat of rebel forces, and the official division of the former client kingdom into two Imperial provinces. The most far-reaching conquest was the conquest of Britannia
Roman conquest of Britain
The Roman conquest of Britain was a gradual process, beginning effectively in AD 43 under Emperor Claudius, whose general Aulus Plautius served as first governor of Britannia. Great Britain had already frequently been the target of invasions, planned and actual, by forces of the Roman Republic and...

.
In 43, Claudius sent Aulus Plautius
Aulus Plautius
Aulus Plautius was a Roman politician and general of the mid-1st century. He began the Roman conquest of Britain in 43, and became the first governor of the new province, serving from 43 to 47.-Career:...

 with four legions
Roman legion
A Roman legion normally indicates the basic ancient Roman army unit recruited specifically from Roman citizens. The organization of legions varied greatly over time but they were typically composed of perhaps 5,000 soldiers, divided into maniples and later into "cohorts"...

 to Britain (Britannia) after an appeal from an ousted tribal ally. Britain was an attractive target for Rome because of its material wealth — particularly mines and slaves
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

. It was also a haven for Gallic
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 rebels and the like, and so could not be left alone much longer. Claudius himself traveled to the island after the completion of initial offensives, bringing with him reinforcements and elephants. The latter must have made an impression on the Britons
British people
The British are citizens of the United Kingdom, of the Isle of Man, any of the Channel Islands, or of any of the British overseas territories, and their descendants...

 when they were used in the capture of Camulodunum
Camulodunum
Camulodunum is the Roman name for the ancient settlement which is today's Colchester, a town in Essex, England. Camulodunum is claimed to be the oldest town in Britain as recorded by the Romans, existing as a Celtic settlement before the Roman conquest, when it became the first Roman town, and...

.

He left after 16 days, but remained in the provinces for some time. The Senate granted him a triumph
Roman triumph
The Roman triumph was a civil ceremony and religious rite of ancient Rome, held to publicly celebrate and sanctify the military achievement of an army commander who had won great military successes, or originally and traditionally, one who had successfully completed a foreign war. In Republican...

 for his efforts, as only members of the Imperial family were allowed such honours. Claudius later lifted this restriction for some of his conquering generals. He was granted the honorific "Britannicus" but only accepted it on behalf of his son, never using the title himself. When the British general Caractacus was captured in 50, Claudius granted him clemency. Caractacus lived out his days on land provided by the Roman state, an unusual end for an enemy commander.

Claudius conducted a census
Census
A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common...

 in 48 that found 5,984,072 Roman citizens, an increase of around a million since the census conducted at Augustus' death. He had helped increase this number through the foundation of Roman colonies that were granted blanket citizenship
Roman citizenship
Citizenship in ancient Rome was a privileged political and legal status afforded to certain free-born individuals with respect to laws, property, and governance....

. These colonies were often made out of existing communities, especially those with elites who could rally the populace to the Roman cause. Several colonies were placed in new provinces or on the border of the Empire in order to secure Roman holdings as quickly as possible.

Judicial and legislative affairs



Claudius personally judged many of the legal cases tried during his reign. Ancient historians have many complaints about this, stating that his judgments were variable and sometimes did not follow the law. He was also easily swayed. Nevertheless, Claudius paid detailed attention to the operation of the judicial system. He extended the summer court session, as well as the winter term, by shortening the traditional breaks. Claudius also made a law requiring plaintiffs to remain in the city while their cases were pending, as defendants had previously been required to do. These measures had the effect of clearing out the docket. The minimum age for jurors was also raised to 25 in order to ensure a more experienced jury pool.

Claudius also settled disputes in the provinces. He freed the island of Rhodes
Rhodes
Rhodes is an island in Greece, located in the eastern Aegean Sea. It is the largest of the Dodecanese islands in terms of both land area and population, with a population of 117,007, and also the island group's historical capital. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within...

 from Roman rule for their good faith and exempted Troy
Troy
Troy was a city, both factual and legendary, located in northwest Anatolia in what is now Turkey, southeast of the Dardanelles and beside Mount Ida...

 from taxes. Early in his reign, the Greeks
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 and Jews
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

 of Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

 sent him two embassies at once after riots broke out between the two communities. This resulted in the famous "Letter to the Alexandrians", which reaffirmed Jewish rights in the city but also forbade them to move in more families en masse. According to Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

, he then reaffirmed the rights and freedoms of all the Jews in the Empire. One of Claudius's investigators discovered that many old Roman citizens based in the modern city of Trento
Trento
Trento is an Italian city located in the Adige River valley in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. It is the capital of Trentino...

 were not in fact citizens. The Emperor issued a declaration that they would be considered to hold citizenship from then on, since to strip them of their status would cause major problems. However, in individual cases, Claudius punished false assumption of citizenship harshly, making it a capital offense. Similarly, any freedmen found to be impersonating equestrians were sold back into slavery.

Numerous edicts were issued throughout Claudius' reign. These were on a number of topics, everything from medical advice to moral judgments. Two famous medical examples are one promoting Yew
Taxus baccata
Taxus baccata is a conifer native to western, central and southern Europe, northwest Africa, northern Iran and southwest Asia. It is the tree originally known as yew, though with other related trees becoming known, it may be now known as the English yew, or European yew.-Description:It is a small-...

 juice as a cure for snakebite, and another promoting public flatulence for good health. One of the more famous edicts concerned the status of sick slaves. Masters had been abandoning ailing slaves at the temple of Aesculapius
Tiber Island
The Tiber Island , is a boat-shaped island which has long been associated with healing. It is an ait, and is one of the two islands in the Tiber river, which runs through Rome; the other one, much larger, is near the mouth. The island is located in the southern bend of the Tiber. It is...

 to die, and then reclaiming them if they lived. Claudius ruled that slaves who recovered after such treatment would be free. Furthermore, masters who chose to kill slaves rather than take the risk were liable to be charged with murder.

Public works


Claudius embarked on many public works throughout his reign, both in the capital and in the provinces. He built two aqueducts, the Aqua Claudia
Aqua Claudia
Aqua Claudia was an aqueduct of ancient Rome that, like the Anio Novus, was begun by emperor Caligula in 38 AD and completed by Emperor Claudius in 52 AD. Its main springs, the Caeruleus and Curtius, were situated 300 paces to the left of the thirty-eighth milestone of the Via Sublacensis...

, begun by Caligula
Caligula
Caligula , also known as Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 AD to 41 AD. Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caligula's father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome's most...

, and the Anio Novus
Anio Novus
Anio Novus is an aqueduct of Rome. Together with the Aqua Claudia, it was begun by emperor Caligula in 38 AD and completed in 52 AD by Claudius, who dedicated them both on August 1.-Details:...

. These entered the city in 52 and met at the famous Porta Maggiore
Porta Maggiore
The Porta Maggiore , or Porta Prenestina, is one of the eastern gates in the ancient but well-preserved 3rd-century Aurelian Walls of Rome....

. He also restored a third, the Aqua Virgo
Aqua Virgo
The Aqua Virgo was one of the 11 aqueducts that supplied the city of ancient Rome. The aqueduct fell into disuse with the fall of the Roman Empire, but was fully restored nearly a whole millennium later during the Renaissance to take its current form as the Acqua Vergine.The Aqua Virgo was...

.
He paid special attention to transportation. Throughout Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 and the provinces he built roads and canals. Among these was a large canal leading from the Rhine to the sea, as well as a road from Italy to Germany — both begun by his father, Drusus. Closer to Rome, he built a navigable canal on the Tiber
Tiber
The Tiber is the third-longest river in Italy, rising in the Apennine Mountains in Emilia-Romagna and flowing through Umbria and Lazio to the Tyrrhenian Sea. It drains a basin estimated at...

, leading to Portus
Portus
Porto or Portus was a town in Lazio or Latium, just south of Rome, Italy. It was an ancient harbour on the right bank of the mouth of the Tiber.-Claudian phase:Rome's original harbour was Ostia...

, his new port just north of Ostia. This port was constructed in a semicircle with two moles
Mole (architecture)
A mole is a massive structure, usually of stone, used as a pier, breakwater, or a causeway between places separated by water. The word comes from Middle French mole and ultimately Latin mōlēs meaning a large mass, especially of rock and has the same root as molecule.Historically, the term "mole"...

 and a lighthouse at its mouth. The construction also had the effect of reducing flooding in Rome.

The port at Ostia was part of Claudius' solution to the constant grain shortages that occurred in winter, after the Roman shipping season. The other part of his solution was to insure the ships of grain merchants who were willing to risk traveling to Egypt in the off-season. He also granted their sailors special privileges, including citizenship and exemption from the Lex Papia-Poppaea
Lex Papia Poppaea
The Lex Papia Poppaea was a Roman law introduced in AD 9 to encourage and strengthen marriage. It included provisions against adultery and celibacy and complemented and supplemented Augustus' Lex Julia de Maritandis Ordinibus of 18 BC and the Lex Iulia de Adulteriis Coercendis of 17 BC. The lex...

, a law that regulated marriage. In addition, he repealed the taxes that Caligula
Caligula
Caligula , also known as Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 AD to 41 AD. Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caligula's father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome's most...

 had instituted on food, and further reduced taxes on communities suffering drought
Drought
A drought is an extended period of months or years when a region notes a deficiency in its water supply. Generally, this occurs when a region receives consistently below average precipitation. It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region...

 or famine
Famine
A famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including crop failure, overpopulation, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Every continent in the world has...

.

The last part of Claudius' plan was to increase the amount of arable land in Italy. This was to be achieved by draining the Fucine lake
Fucine Lake
The Fucine Lake was a large lake in central Italy, stretching from Avezzano in the northwest to Ortuccio in the southeast, and touching Trasacco in the southwest. It was drained in 1875.-Roman drainage:...

, which would have the added benefit of making the nearby river navigable year-round. A tunnel was dug through the lake bed, but the plan was a failure. The tunnel was crooked and not large enough to carry the water, which caused it to back up when opened. The resultant flood washed out a large gladiatorial exhibition held to commemorate the opening, causing Claudius to run for his life along with the other spectators. The draining of the lake was revisited many times in history, including by Emperors Trajan
Trajan
Trajan , was Roman Emperor from 98 to 117 AD. Born into a non-patrician family in the province of Hispania Baetica, in Spain Trajan rose to prominence during the reign of emperor Domitian. Serving as a legatus legionis in Hispania Tarraconensis, in Spain, in 89 Trajan supported the emperor against...

 and Hadrian
Hadrian
Hadrian , was Roman Emperor from 117 to 138. He is best known for building Hadrian's Wall, which marked the northern limit of Roman Britain. In Rome, he re-built the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus and Roma. In addition to being emperor, Hadrian was a humanist and was philhellene in...

, and Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

 Frederick II
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick II , was one of the most powerful Holy Roman Emperors of the Middle Ages and head of the House of Hohenstaufen. His political and cultural ambitions, based in Sicily and stretching through Italy to Germany, and even to Jerusalem, were enormous...

 in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

. It was finally achieved by the Prince Torlonia
Torlonia
200px|thumb|Coat of arms of the House of Torlonia.The princes Torlonia are an Italian noble family from Rome, who acquired a huge fortune in the 18th and 19th centuries through administering the finances of the Vatican.-History:...

 in the 19th century, producing over 160000 acres (647.5 km²) of new arable land. He expanded the Claudian tunnel to three times its original size.

Claudius and the Senate


Because of the circumstances of his accession, Claudius took great pains to please the Senate. During regular sessions, the Emperor sat among the Senate body, speaking in turn. When introducing a law, he sat on a bench between the consuls in his position as Holder of the Power of Tribune
Tribune
Tribune was a title shared by elected officials in the Roman Republic. Tribunes had the power to convene the Plebeian Council and to act as its president, which also gave them the right to propose legislation before it. They were sacrosanct, in the sense that any assault on their person was...

 (The Emperor could not officially serve as a Tribune of the Plebes as he was a Patrician, but it was a power taken by previous rulers). He refused to accept all his predecessors' titles (including Imperator
Imperator
The Latin word Imperator was originally a title roughly equivalent to commander under the Roman Republic. Later it became a part of the titulature of the Roman Emperors as part of their cognomen. The English word emperor derives from imperator via Old French Empreur...

) at the beginning of his reign, preferring to earn them in due course. He allowed the Senate to issue its own bronze coinage for the first time since Augustus. He also put the Imperial provinces of Macedonia
Macedonia (Roman province)
The Roman province of Macedonia was officially established in 146 BC, after the Roman general Quintus Caecilius Metellus defeated Andriscus of Macedon, the last Ancient King of Macedon in 148 BC, and after the four client republics established by Rome in the region were dissolved...

 and Achaea
Achaea (Roman province)
Achaea, or Achaia, was a province of the Roman Empire, consisting of the Peloponnese, eastern Central Greece and parts of Thessaly. It bordered on the north by the provinces of Epirus vetus and Macedonia...

 back under Senate control.

Claudius set about remodeling the Senate into a more efficient, representative body. He chided the senators about their reluctance to debate bills introduced by himself, as noted in the fragments of a surviving speech:
In 47 he assumed the office of Censor
Censor (ancient Rome)
The censor was an officer in ancient Rome who was responsible for maintaining the census, supervising public morality, and overseeing certain aspects of the government's finances....

 with Lucius Vitellius
Lucius Vitellius
Lucius Vitellius the Elder was the youngest of four sons of quaestor Publius Vitellius and the only one that did not die through politics. Under Emperor Tiberius, he was Consul in 34 and Governor of Syria in 35. He deposed Pontius Pilate in 36 after complaints from the people in Samaria...

, which had been allowed to lapse for some time. He struck the names of many senators and equites who no longer met qualifications, but showed respect by allowing them to resign in advance. At the same time, he sought to admit eligible men from the provinces. The Lyon Tablet
Lyon Tablet
The Lyon Tablet is an ancient bronze tablet that bears the transcript of a speech given by the Roman emperor Claudius. The surviving bottom portion of the tablet was discovered in 1528 by a draper in his vineyard on Croix Rousse Hill , in Lyon, France...

 preserves his speech on the admittance of Gallic senators, in which he addresses the Senate with reverence but also with criticism for their disdain of these men. He also increased the number of Patricians by adding new families to the dwindling number of noble lines. Here he followed the precedent of Lucius Junius Brutus
Lucius Junius Brutus
Lucius Junius Brutus was the founder of the Roman Republic and traditionally one of the first consuls in 509 BC. He was claimed as an ancestor of the Roman gens Junia, including Marcus Junius Brutus, the most famous of Caesar's assassins.- Background :...

 and Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

.

Nevertheless, many in the Senate remained hostile to Claudius, and many plots were made on his life. This hostility carried over into the historical accounts. As a result, Claudius was forced to reduce the Senate's power for efficiency. The administration of Ostia was turned over to an Imperial Procurator
Promagistrate
A promagistrate is a person who acts in and with the authority and capacity of a magistrate, but without holding a magisterial office. A legal innovation of the Roman Republic, the promagistracy was invented in order to provide Rome with governors of overseas territories instead of having to elect...

 after construction of the port. Administration of many of the empire's financial concerns was turned over to Imperial appointees and freedmen. This led to further resentment and suggestions that these same freedmen were ruling the Emperor.

Several coup attempts were made during Claudius' reign, resulting in the deaths of many senators. Appius Silanus was executed early in Claudius' reign under questionable circumstances. Shortly after, a large rebellion was undertaken by the Senator Vinicianus and Scribonianus
Lucius Arruntius Camillus Scribonianus
Lucius Arruntius Camillus Scribonianus was a Roman usurper who attempted to overthrow the newly installed Emperor Claudius in 41 CE.- Career :...

, the governor of Dalmatia
Dalmatia (Roman province)
Dalmatia was an ancient Roman province. Its name is probably derived from the name of an Illyrian tribe called the Dalmatae which lived in the area of the eastern Adriatic coast in Classical antiquity....

 and gained quite a few senatorial supporters. It ultimately failed because of the reluctance of Scribonianus' troops, and the suicide
Suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

 of the main conspirators. Many other senators tried different conspiracies and were condemned. Claudius' son-in-law Pompeius Magnus was executed for his part in a conspiracy with his father Crassus Frugi. Another plot involved the consulars Lusiius Saturninus, Cornelius Lupus, and Pompeius Pedo.

In 46, Asinius Gallus, the grandson of Asinius Pollio
Gaius Asinius Pollio (consul 40 BC)
Gaius Asinius Pollio was a Roman soldier, politician, orator, poet, playwright, literary critic and historian, whose lost contemporary history, provided much of the material for the historians Appian and Plutarch...

, and Statilius Corvinus were exiled for a plot hatched with several of Claudius' own freedmen. Valerius Asiaticus was executed without public trial for unknown reasons. The ancient sources say the charge was adultery
Adultery
Adultery is sexual infidelity to one's spouse, and is a form of extramarital sex. It originally referred only to sex between a woman who was married and a person other than her spouse. Even in cases of separation from one's spouse, an extramarital affair is still considered adultery.Adultery is...

, and that Claudius was tricked into issuing the punishment. However, Claudius singles out Asiaticus for special damnation in his speech on the Gauls, which dates over a year later, suggesting that the charge must have been much more serious. Asiaticus had been a claimant to the throne in the chaos following Caligula's death and a co-consul with the Statilius Corvinus mentioned above. Most of these conspiracies took place before Claudius' term as Censor
Censor (ancient Rome)
The censor was an officer in ancient Rome who was responsible for maintaining the census, supervising public morality, and overseeing certain aspects of the government's finances....

, and may have induced him to review the Senatorial rolls. The conspiracy of Gaius Silius
Gaius Silius
Gaius Silius was the name of two consuls of the Roman Empire, during the 1st century. The elder was a consul and commander in the Roman Army during the reign of Emperors Augustus and Tiberius and the younger a consul in the reign of Emperor Claudius....

 in the year after his Censorship, 48, is detailed in the section discussing Claudius' third wife, Messalina
Messalina
Valeria Messalina, sometimes spelled Messallina, was a Roman empress as the third wife of the Emperor Claudius. She was also a paternal cousin of the Emperor Nero, second cousin of the Emperor Caligula, and great-grandniece of the Emperor Augustus...

. Suetonius states that a total of 35 senators and 300 knights were executed for offenses during Claudius' reign. Needless to say, the necessary responses to these conspiracies could not have helped Senate-emperor relations.

The Secretariat and centralization of powers


Claudius was hardly the first emperor to use freedmen
Freedman
A freedman is a former slave who has been released from slavery, usually by legal means. Historically, slaves became freedmen either by manumission or emancipation ....

 to help with the day-to-day running of the Empire. He was, however, forced to increase their role as the powers of the Princeps
Princeps
Princeps is a Latin word meaning "first in time or order; the first, chief, the most eminent, distinguished, or noble; the first man, first person."...

 became more centralized and the burden larger. This was partly due to the ongoing hostility of the Senate, as mentioned above, but also due to his respect for the senators. Claudius did not want free-born magistrates to have to serve under him, as if they were not peers.

The secretariat was divided into bureaus, with each being placed under the leadership of one freedman. Narcissus
Tiberius Claudius Narcissus
Tiberius Claudius Narcissus was one of the freedmen who formed the core of the imperial court under the Roman emperor Claudius. He is described as praepositus ab epistulis ....

 was the secretary of correspondence. Pallas
Pallas (freedman)
Marcus Antonius Pallas was a prominent Greek freedman and secretary during the reigns of the Roman Emperors Claudius and Nero. His younger brother was Marcus Antonius Felix, a procurator of Iudaea Province...

 became the secretary of the treasury. Callistus
Gaius Julius Callistus
Gaius Julius Callistus was a Greek imperial freedman during the reigns of Roman Emperors Caligula and Claudius. Callistus was originally a freedman of Caligula, and was given great authority during his reign, which he used to amass even greater wealth...

 became secretary of justice. There was a fourth bureau for miscellaneous issues, which was put under Polybius
Polybius (freedman)
Gaius Iulius Polybius was a freedman of Emperor Claudius who was elevated to the secretariat during his reign. He assisted Claudius in his literary, judicial, and historical pursuits as a researcher before the emperor's accession and this became Polybius' official role in the imperial...

 until his execution for treason. The freedmen could also officially speak for the Emperor, as when Narcissus addressed the troops in Claudius' stead before the conquest of Britain. Since these were important positions, the senators were aghast at their being placed in the hands of former slaves. If freedmen had total control of money, letters, and law, it seemed it would not be hard for them to manipulate the Emperor. This is exactly the accusation put forth by the ancient sources. However, these same sources admit that the freedmen were loyal to Claudius. He was similarly appreciative of them and gave them due credit for policies where he had used their advice. However, if they showed treasonous inclinations, the Emperor did punish them with just force, as in the case of Polybius and Pallas' brother, Felix
Antonius Felix
Marcus Antonius Felix was the Roman procurator of Iudaea Province 52-58, in succession to Ventidius Cumanus.- Life :...

. There is no evidence that the character of Claudius' policies and edicts changed with the rise and fall of the various freedmen, suggesting that he was firmly in control throughout.

Regardless of the extent of their political power, the freedmen did manage to amass wealth through their positions. Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 notes that several of them were richer than Crassus, the richest man of the Republican
Republicanism
Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by means other than heredity, often elections. The exact meaning of republicanism varies depending on the cultural and historical context...

 era.

Religious reforms


Claudius, as the author of a treatise on Augustus' religious reforms, felt himself in a good position to institute some of his own. He had strong opinions about the proper form for state religion. He refused the request of Alexandrian Greeks to dedicate a temple to his divinity, saying that only gods may choose new gods. He restored lost days to festivals and got rid of many extraneous celebrations added by Caligula. He re-instituted old observances and archaic language. Claudius was concerned with the spread of eastern mysteries within the city and searched for more Roman replacements. He emphasized the Eleusinian mysteries
Eleusinian Mysteries
The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiation ceremonies held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. Of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times, these were held to be the ones of greatest importance...

 which had been practiced by so many during the Republic. He expelled foreign astrologers, and at the same time rehabilitated the old Roman soothsayers (known as haruspices) as a replacement. He was especially hard on Druidism, because of its incompatibility with the Roman state religion and its proselytizing
Proselytism
Proselytizing is the act of attempting to convert people to another opinion and, particularly, another religion. The word proselytize is derived ultimately from the Greek language prefix προσ- and the verb ἔρχομαι in the form of προσήλυτος...

 activities.

It is also reported that at one time he expelled the Jews from Rome, probably because because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus. Claudius opposed proselytizing in any religion, even in those regions where he allowed natives to worship freely. The results of all these efforts were recognized even by Seneca, who has an ancient Latin god defend Claudius in his satire.

Public games and entertainments


According to Suetonius, Claudius was extraordinarily fond of games. He is said to have risen with the crowd after gladiatorial matches and given unrestrained praise to the fighters. Claudius also presided over many new and original events. Soon after coming into power, Claudius instituted games to be held in honor of his father on the latter's birthday. Annual games were also held in honor of his accession, and took place at the Praetorian camp where Claudius had first been proclaimed Emperor. Claudius performed the Secular games
Secular games
The Secular Games were a religious celebration, involving sacrifices and theatrical performances, held in ancient Rome for three days and nights to mark the end of a saeculum and the beginning of the next...

, marking the 800th anniversary of the founding of Rome. Augustus had performed the same games less than a century prior. Augustus' excuse was that the interval for the games was 110 years, not 100, but his date actually did not qualify under either reasoning. Claudius also presented naval battles to mark the attempted draining of the Fucine lake, as well as many other public games and shows.

At Ostia, in front of a crowd of spectators, Claudius fought a killer whale which was trapped in the harbor. The event was witnessed by Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

:
Claudius also restored and adorned many of the venues around Rome. The old wooden barriers of the Circus Maximus were replaced with ones made of gold-ornamented marble. A new section of the Circus was designated for seating the senators, who previously had sat among the general public. Claudius rebuilt Pompey's Theater after it had been destroyed by fire, throwing special fights at the re-dedication which he observed from a special platform in the orchestra box.

Death, deification and reputation



The consensus of ancient historians was that Claudius was murdered by poison — possibly contained in mushrooms or on a feather — and died in the early hours of 13 October 54. Accounts vary greatly. Some claim Claudius was in Rome while others claim he was in Sinuessa
Sinuessa
Sinuessa was a city of Latium, in the more extended sense of the name, situated on the Tyrrhenian Sea, about 10 km north of the mouth of the Volturno River . It was on the line of the Via Appia, and was the last place where that great highroad touched on the sea-coast...

. Some implicate either Halotus
Halotus
Halotus was a servant to the Roman Emperor Claudius , the fourth member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He served Claudius as a taster and as a chief steward, and it was because of his occupation, which entailed close contact with Claudius at all times, that he is and was a suspect in the murder of...

, his taster, Xenophon
Gaius Stertinius Xenophon
Gaius Stertinius Xenophon , often referred to in ancient literature as simply Xenophon, was a physician who served the Roman Emperor, Claudius, the fourth member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

, his doctor, or the infamous poisoner Locusta
Locusta
Locusta was a Roman serial killer during the 1st century AD.Locusta was born in the Roman province of Gaul. In AD 54, she may have been hired by Agrippina the Younger to kill the Emperor Claudius, possibly with a poisoned dish of mushrooms. In 55, she was convicted of poisoning another victim...

 as the administrator of the fatal substance. Some say he died after prolonged suffering following a single dose at dinner, and some have him recovering only to be poisoned again. Nearly all implicate his final wife, Agrippina
Agrippina the Younger
Julia Agrippina, most commonly referred to as Agrippina Minor or Agrippina the Younger, and after 50 known as Julia Augusta Agrippina was a Roman Empress and one of the more prominent women in the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

, as the instigator. Agrippina and Claudius had become more combative in the months leading up to his death. This carried on to the point where Claudius openly lamented his bad wives, and began to comment on Britannicus' approaching manhood with an eye towards restoring his status within the imperial family. Agrippina had motive in ensuring the succession of Nero before Britannicus could gain power.

In modern times, some authors have cast doubt on whether Claudius was murdered or merely succumbed to illness or old age. Some modern scholars claim the universality of the accusations in ancient texts lends credence to the crime. But history in those days could not be objectively collected or written, so sometimes amounted to committing whispered gossip to parchment, often years after the events, when the writer was no longer in danger of arrest. Claudius' ashes were interred in the Mausoleum of Augustus
Mausoleum of Augustus
The Mausoleum of Augustus is a large tomb built by the Roman Emperor Augustus in 28 BC on the Campus Martius in Rome, Italy. The Mausoleum, now located on the Piazza Augusto Imperatore, is no longer open to tourists, and the ravages of time and carelessness have stripped the ruins bare...

 on 24 October, after a funeral in the manner of Augustus.

Claudius was deified by Nero and the Senate almost immediately. Those who regard this homage as cynical should note that, cynical or not, such a move would hardly have benefited those involved, had Claudius been "hated", as some commentators, both modern and historic, characterize him. Many of Claudius' less solid supporters quickly became Nero's men. Claudius' will had been changed shortly before his death to either recommend Nero and Britannicus jointly or perhaps just Britannicus, who would have been considered an adult man according to Roman law only in a few months.

Agrippina had sent away Narcissus
Tiberius Claudius Narcissus
Tiberius Claudius Narcissus was one of the freedmen who formed the core of the imperial court under the Roman emperor Claudius. He is described as praepositus ab epistulis ....

 shortly before Claudius' death, and now murdered the freedman. The last act of this secretary of letters was to burn all of Claudius' correspondence—most likely so it could not be used against him and others in an already hostile new regime. Thus Claudius' private words about his own policies and motives were lost to history. Just as Claudius had criticized his predecessors in official edicts (see below), Nero often criticized the deceased Emperor and many of Claudius' laws and edicts were disregarded under the reasoning that he was too stupid and senile to have meant them. This opinion of Claudius, that he was indeed an old idiot, remained the official one for the duration of Nero's reign. Eventually Nero stopped referring to his deified adoptive father at all, and realigned with his birth family. Claudius' temple was left unfinished after only some of the foundation had been laid down. Eventually the site was overtaken by Nero's Golden House
Domus Aurea
The Domus Aurea was a large landscaped portico villa, designed to take advantage of artificially created landscapes built in the heart of Ancient Rome by the Emperor Nero after the Great Fire of Rome had cleared away the aristocratic dwellings on the slopes of the Palatine...

.

Flavians' perspectives


The Flavians, who had risen to prominence under Claudius, took a different tack. They were in a position where they needed to shore up their legitimacy, but also justify the fall of the Julio-Claudians. They reached back to Claudius in contrast with Nero, to show that they were good associated with good. Commemorative coins were issued of Claudius and his son Britannicus
Britannicus
Tiberius Claudius Caesar Britannicus was the son of the Roman emperor Claudius and his third wife Valeria Messalina. He became the heir-designate of the empire at his birth, less than a month into his father's reign. He was still a young boy at the time of his mother's downfall and Claudius'...

—who had been a friend of the Emperor Titus
Titus
Titus , was Roman Emperor from 79 to 81. A member of the Flavian dynasty, Titus succeeded his father Vespasian upon his death, thus becoming the first Roman Emperor to come to the throne after his own father....

 (Titus was born in 39, Britannicus was born in 41). When Nero's Golden House
Domus Aurea
The Domus Aurea was a large landscaped portico villa, designed to take advantage of artificially created landscapes built in the heart of Ancient Rome by the Emperor Nero after the Great Fire of Rome had cleared away the aristocratic dwellings on the slopes of the Palatine...

 was burned, the Temple of Claudius was finally completed on Caelian Hill. However, as the Flavians became established, they needed to emphasize their own credentials more, and their references to Claudius ceased. Instead, he was put down with the other Emperors of the fallen dynasty.

Historians' perspectives


The main ancient historians Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

, Suetonius
Lives of the Twelve Caesars
De vita Caesarum commonly known as The Twelve Caesars, is a set of twelve biographies of Julius Caesar and the first 11 emperors of the Roman Empire written by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus.The work, written in AD 121 during the reign of the emperor Hadrian, was the most popular work of Suetonius,...

, and Cassius Dio all wrote after the last of the Flavians had gone. All three were senators or equites. They took the side of the Senate in most conflicts with the Princeps, invariably viewing him as being in the wrong. This resulted in biases, both conscious and unconscious. Suetonius lost access to the official archives shortly after beginning his work. He was forced to rely on second-hand accounts when it came to Claudius (with the exception of Augustus' letters which had been gathered earlier) and does not quote the Emperor. Suetonius painted Claudius as a ridiculous figure, belittling many of his acts and attributing the objectively good works to his retinue.

Tacitus wrote a narrative for his fellow senators and fitted each of the Emperors into a simple mold of his choosing. He wrote Claudius as a passive pawn and an idiot—going so far as to hide his use of Claudius as a source and omit Claudius' character from his works. Even his version of Claudius' Lyons tablet speech is edited to be devoid of the Emperor's personality. Dio was less biased, but seems to have used Suetonius and Tacitus as sources. Thus the conception of Claudius as the weak fool, controlled by those he supposedly ruled, was preserved for the ages.

As time passed, Claudius was mostly forgotten outside of the historians' accounts. His books were lost first, as their antiquarian subjects became unfashionable. In the 2nd century, Pertinax
Pertinax
Pertinax , was Roman Emperor for three months in 193. He is known as the first emperor of the tumultuous Year of the Five Emperors. A high ranking military and Senatorial figure, he tried to restore discipline in the Praetorian Guards, whereupon they rebelled and killed him...

, who shared his birthday, became Emperor, overshadowing commemoration of Claudius.

Marriages and personal life


Claudius' love life was unusual for an upper-class Roman of his day. As Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon was an English historian and Member of Parliament...

 mentions, of the first 15 Emperors, "Claudius was the only one whose taste in love was entirely correct"—the implication being that he was the only one not to take men
Homosexuality
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

 or boys
Pederasty
Pederasty or paederasty is an intimate relationship between an adult and an adolescent boy outside his immediate family. The word pederasty derives from Greek "love of boys", a compound derived from "child, boy" and "lover".Historically, pederasty has existed as a variety of customs and...

 as lovers. Gibbon based this on Suetonius' factual statement that "He had a great passion for women, but had no interest in men." Suetonius and the other ancient authors used this against Claudius. They accused him of being dominated by these same women and wives, of being uxorious, and of being a womanizer.

Claudius married four times, after two failed betrothals. The first betrothal was to his distant cousin Aemilia Lepida
Aemilia Lepida (fiancee of Claudius)
For other women with this name, see Aemilia Lepida.Aemilia Lepida was a noble Roman woman and matron. She was the eldest daughter and first born child of Julia the Younger and consul Lucius Aemilius Paullus. Her father was of a distinguished and ancient patrician family...

, but was broken for political reasons. The second was to Livia Medullina
Livia Medullina
Livia Medullina Camilla was the second fiancee of the Emperor Claudius. She was the daughter of M. Furius Camillus, the consul of 8, who was a close friend of the Emperor Tiberius. Her adoptive brother was L...

, which ended with Medullina's sudden death on the wedding day.

Plautia Urgulanilla


Plautia Urgulanilla
Plautia Urgulanilla
Plautia Urgulanilla was the first wife of the Roman Emperor Claudius. They married sometime around the year 9 CE, when Claudius was 18 years old. According to Suetonius, Claudius divorced her in 24 on grounds of adultery by Plautia and his suspicions of her involvement in the murder of her...

 was the granddaughter of Livia's confidant Urgulania
Urgulania
Urgulania , was a prominent noblewoman during the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius, and a friend of the empress Livia. She was the mother of Marcus Plautius Silvanus , who had distinguished himself with Tiberius in the Balkans...

. During their marriage she gave birth to a son, Claudius Drusus. Unfortunately, Drusus died of asphyxiation in his early teens, shortly after becoming engaged to Junilla, the daughter of Sejanus
Sejanus
Lucius Aelius Seianus , commonly known as Sejanus, was an ambitious soldier, friend and confidant of the Roman Emperor Tiberius...

. Claudius later divorced Urgulanilla for adultery and on suspicion of murdering her sister-in-law Apronia. When Urgulanilla gave birth after the divorce, Claudius repudiated the baby girl, Claudia, as the father was one of his own freedmen.

Aelia Paetina


Soon after (possibly in 28), Claudius married Aelia Paetina
Aelia Paetina
Aelia Paetina or Paetina was the second wife of the Roman Emperor Claudius. Her biological father was consul of 4, Sextus Aelius Catus while her mother is unknown. She was born into the family of the Aelii Tuberones, and thus apparently descended from the consul of 11 BC...

, a relative of Sejanus, if not Sejanus's adoptive sister. During their marriage, Claudius and Paetina had a daughter, Claudia Antonia
Claudia Antonia
Claudia Antonia was the daughter of the Roman Emperor Claudius and his second wife Aelia Paetina...

. He later divorced her after the marriage became a political liability, although Leon (1948) suggests it may have been due to emotional and mental abuse by Paetina.

Valeria Messalina


Some years after divorcing Aelia Paetina, in 38 or early 39, Claudius married Valeria Messalina, who was his first cousin once removed and closely allied with Caligula's circle. Shortly thereafter, she gave birth to a daughter Claudia Octavia
Claudia Octavia
Claudia Octavia was an Empress of Rome. She was a great-niece of the Emperor Tiberius, paternal first cousin of the Emperor Caligula, daughter of the Emperor Claudius, and stepsister and first wife of the Emperor Nero...

. A son, first named Tiberius Claudius Germanicus, and later known as Britannicus
Britannicus
Tiberius Claudius Caesar Britannicus was the son of the Roman emperor Claudius and his third wife Valeria Messalina. He became the heir-designate of the empire at his birth, less than a month into his father's reign. He was still a young boy at the time of his mother's downfall and Claudius'...

, was born just after Claudius' accession. This marriage ended in tragedy. The ancient historians allege that Messalina was a nymphomaniac who was regularly unfaithful to Claudius — Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

 states she went so far as to compete with a prostitute to see who could have the most sexual partners in a night — and manipulated his policies in order to amass wealth. In 48, Messalina married her lover Gaius Silius
Gaius Silius
Gaius Silius was the name of two consuls of the Roman Empire, during the 1st century. The elder was a consul and commander in the Roman Army during the reign of Emperors Augustus and Tiberius and the younger a consul in the reign of Emperor Claudius....

 in a public ceremony while Claudius was at Ostia.

Sources disagree as to whether or not she divorced the Emperor first, and whether the intention was to usurp the throne. Scramuzza, in his biography, suggests that Silius may have convinced Messalina that Claudius was doomed, and the union was her only hope of retaining rank and protecting her children. The historian Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

 suggests that Claudius's ongoing term as Censor may have prevented him from noticing the affair before it reached such a critical point. Whatever the case, the result was the execution of Silius, Messalina, and most of her circle. Claudius made the Praetorians promise to kill him if he ever married again.

Agrippina the Younger


Despite this declaration, Claudius did marry once more. The ancient sources tell that his freedmen pushed three candidates:
  • Caligula
    Caligula
    Caligula , also known as Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 AD to 41 AD. Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caligula's father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome's most...

    's third wife Lollia Paulina
    Lollia Paulina
    Lollia Paulina was a noble Roman woman who lived in the 1st century, and for six months in AD 38 was a Roman Empress as the third wife of the Emperor Caligula.-Life:...

  • Claudius's divorced second wife Aelia Paetina
    Aelia Paetina
    Aelia Paetina or Paetina was the second wife of the Roman Emperor Claudius. Her biological father was consul of 4, Sextus Aelius Catus while her mother is unknown. She was born into the family of the Aelii Tuberones, and thus apparently descended from the consul of 11 BC...

  • Claudius's niece Agrippina the Younger
    Agrippina the Younger
    Julia Agrippina, most commonly referred to as Agrippina Minor or Agrippina the Younger, and after 50 known as Julia Augusta Agrippina was a Roman Empress and one of the more prominent women in the Julio-Claudian dynasty...



According to Suetonius, Agrippina won out through her feminine wiles. The truth is likely more political. The attempted coup d'etat
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 by Silius and Messalina had probably made Claudius realize the weakness of his position as a member of the Claudian but not the Julian family. This weakness was compounded by the fact that he did not have an obvious adult heir, Britannicus being just a boy. Agrippina was one of the few remaining descendants of Augustus, and her son Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (the future Emperor Nero
Nero
Nero , was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death....

) was one of the last males of the Imperial family. Future coup attempts could rally around the pair, and Agrippina was already showing such ambition. It has been suggested in recent times that the Senate may have pushed for the marriage to end the feud between the Julian and Claudian branches. This feud dated back to Agrippina's mother's
Agrippina the elder
Vipsania Agrippina or most commonly known as Agrippina Major or Agrippina the Elder was a distinguished and prominent granddaughter of the Emperor Augustus. Agrippina was the wife of the general, statesman Germanicus and a relative to the first Roman Emperors...

 actions against Tiberius after the death of her husband Germanicus
Germanicus
Germanicus Julius Caesar , commonly known as Germanicus, was a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and a prominent general of the early Roman Empire. He was born in Rome, Italia, and was named either Nero Claudius Drusus after his father or Tiberius Claudius Nero after his uncle...

 (Claudius's brother), actions which Tiberius had gladly punished. In any case, Claudius accepted Agrippina, and later adopted the newly mature Nero as his son.

Nero was made joint heir with the underage Britannicus
Britannicus
Tiberius Claudius Caesar Britannicus was the son of the Roman emperor Claudius and his third wife Valeria Messalina. He became the heir-designate of the empire at his birth, less than a month into his father's reign. He was still a young boy at the time of his mother's downfall and Claudius'...

, married to Octavia and heavily promoted. This was not as unusual as it seems to people acquainted with modern hereditary monarchies. Barbara Levick
Barbara Levick
Barbara M. Levick is a British historian, specializing in ancient history. She was educated at St Hugh's College, Oxford, and, since 1959, has been a Fellow of St Hilda's College, Oxford...

 notes that Augustus had named his grandson Postumus Agrippa and his stepson Tiberius
Tiberius
Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

 as joint heirs. Tiberius named Caligula
Caligula
Caligula , also known as Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 AD to 41 AD. Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caligula's father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome's most...

 joint heir with his grandson Tiberius Gemellus
Tiberius Gemellus
Tiberius Julius Caesar Nero Gemellus, known as Tiberius Gemellus was the son of Drusus and Livilla, the grandson of the Emperor Tiberius, and the cousin of the Emperor Caligula. Gemellus is a nickname meaning "the twin"...

. Adoption of adults or near adults was an old tradition in Rome when a suitable natural adult heir was unavailable. This was the case during Britannicus' minority. S.V. Oost suggests that Claudius had previously looked to adopt one of his sons-in-law to protect his own reign. Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix
Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix
Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix was one of the lesser known figures of the Julio-Claudian dynasty of ancient Rome. His grandmother was Antonia Major, the niece of Emperor Augustus by her husband Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus . His mother was Domitia Lepida, a great niece of Emperor Augustus and...

, married to his daughter Claudia Antonia
Claudia Antonia
Claudia Antonia was the daughter of the Roman Emperor Claudius and his second wife Aelia Paetina...

, was only descended from Octavia and Antony on one side — not close enough to the Imperial family to prevent doubts (that did not stop others from making him the object of a coup attempt against Nero a few years later). Besides which, he was the half brother of Valeria Messalina, and at this time those wounds were still fresh. Nero
Nero
Nero , was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death....

 was more popular with the general public as the grandson of Germanicus and the direct descendant of Augustus.

Claudius' affliction and personality


The historian Suetonius
Lives of the Twelve Caesars
De vita Caesarum commonly known as The Twelve Caesars, is a set of twelve biographies of Julius Caesar and the first 11 emperors of the Roman Empire written by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus.The work, written in AD 121 during the reign of the emperor Hadrian, was the most popular work of Suetonius,...

 describes the physical manifestations of Claudius' affliction in relatively good detail. His knees were weak and gave way under him and his head shook. He stammered and his speech was confused. He slobbered and his nose ran when he was excited. The Stoic
Stoicism
Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early . The Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, and that a sage, or person of "moral and intellectual perfection," would not suffer such emotions.Stoics were concerned...

 Seneca
Seneca the Younger
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero...

 states in his Apocolocyntosis that Claudius' voice belonged to no land animal, and that his hands were weak as well; however, he showed no physical deformity, as Suetonius notes that when calm and seated he was a tall, well-built figure of dignitas. When angered or stressed, his symptoms became worse. Historians agree that this condition improved upon his accession to the throne. Claudius himself claimed that he had exaggerated his ailments to save his own life.

The modern diagnosis has changed several times in the past century. Prior to World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, infantile paralysis (or polio) was widely accepted as the cause. This is the diagnosis used in Robert Graves
Robert Graves
Robert von Ranke Graves 24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985 was an English poet, translator and novelist. During his long life he produced more than 140 works...

' Claudius novels, first published in the 1930s. Polio does not explain many of the described symptoms, however, and a more recent theory implicates cerebral palsy
Cerebral palsy
Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term encompassing a group of non-progressive, non-contagious motor conditions that cause physical disability in human development, chiefly in the various areas of body movement....

 as the cause, as outlined by Ernestine Leon. Tourette syndrome
Tourette syndrome
Tourette syndrome is an inherited neuropsychiatric disorder with onset in childhood, characterized by multiple physical tics and at least one vocal tic; these tics characteristically wax and wane...

 is also a likely candidate for Claudius' symptoms.
As a person, ancient historians described Claudius as generous and lowbrow, a man who sometimes lunched with the plebeians. They also paint him as bloodthirsty and cruel, overly fond of both gladiator
Gladiator
A gladiator was an armed combatant who entertained audiences in the Roman Republic and Roman Empire in violent confrontations with other gladiators, wild animals, and condemned criminals. Some gladiators were volunteers who risked their legal and social standing and their lives by appearing in the...

ial combat and executions, and very quick to anger (though Claudius himself acknowledged the latter trait, and apologized publicly for his temper). To them he was also overly trusting, and easily manipulated by his wives and freedmen. But at the same time they portray him as paranoid and apathetic, dull and easily confused. The extant works of Claudius present a different view, painting a picture of an intelligent, scholarly, well-read, and conscientious administrator with an eye to detail and justice. Thus, Claudius becomes an enigma. Since the discovery of his "Letter to the Alexandrians" in the last century, much work has been done to rehabilitate Claudius and determine where the truth lies.

Scholarly works and their impact


Claudius wrote copiously throughout his life. Arnaldo Momigliano
Arnaldo Momigliano
Arnaldo Dante Momigliano KBE was an Italian historian known for his work in historiography, characterized by Donald Kagan as the "world’s leading student of the writing of history in the ancient world." He became Professor of Roman history at the University of Turin in 1936, but as a Jew soon lost...

 states that during the reign of Tiberius — which covers the peak of Claudius' literary career — it became impolitic to speak of republican Rome. The trend among the young historians was to either write about the new empire or obscure antiquarian subjects. Claudius was the rare scholar who covered both. Besides the history of Augustus' reign that caused him so much grief, his major works included an Etruscan
Etruscan civilization
Etruscan civilization is the modern English name given to a civilization of ancient Italy in the area corresponding roughly to Tuscany. The ancient Romans called its creators the Tusci or Etrusci...

 history and eight volumes on Carthaginian
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

 history, as well as an Etruscan
Etruscan language
The Etruscan language was spoken and written by the Etruscan civilization, in what is present-day Italy, in the ancient region of Etruria and in parts of Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna...

 Dictionary and a book on dice playing. (Claudius is actually the last person known to have been able to read Etruscan.) Despite the general avoidance of the Imperatorial era, he penned a defense of Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

 against the charges of Asinius Gallus. Modern historians have used this to determine both the nature of his politics and of the aborted chapters of his civil war history.

He proposed a reform of the Latin alphabet
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

 by the addition of three new letters
Claudian letters
The Claudian letters were developed by, and named after, the Roman Emperor Claudius . He introduced three new letters:*a reversed C to replace BS and PS, much like X stood in for CS and GS...

, two of which served the function of the modern letters W and Y. He officially instituted the change during his censorship, but they did not survive his reign. Claudius also tried to revive the old custom of putting dots between successive words (Classical Latin was written with no spacing). Finally, he wrote an eight-volume autobiography that Suetonius describes as lacking in taste. Since Claudius (like most of the members of his dynasty) heavily criticized his predecessors and relatives in surviving speeches, it is not hard to imagine the nature of Suetonius' charge.

Unfortunately, none of the actual works survive. They do live on as sources for the surviving histories of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Suetonius quotes Claudius' autobiography once, and must have used it as a source numerous times. Tacitus uses Claudius' own arguments for the orthographical innovations mentioned above, and may have used him for some of the more antiquarian passages in his annals. Claudius is the source for numerous passages of Pliny's
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 Natural History.

The influence of historical study on Claudius is obvious. In his speech on Gallic senators, he uses a version of the founding of Rome identical to that of Livy, his tutor in adolescence. The detail of his speech borders on the pedantic, a common mark of all his extant works, and he goes into long digressions on related matters. This indicates a deep knowledge of a variety of historical subjects that he could not help but share. Many of the public works instituted in his reign were based on plans first suggested by Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

. Levick believes this emulation of Caesar may have spread to all aspects of his policies. His censorship seems to have been based on those of his ancestors, particularly Appius Claudius Caecus
Appius Claudius Caecus
Appius Claudius Caecus was a Roman politician from a wealthy patrician family. He was dictator himself and the son of Gaius Claudius Crassus, dictator in 337 BC.-Life:...

, and he used the office to put into place many policies based on those of Republican times. This is when many of his religious reforms took effect and his building efforts greatly increased during his tenure. In fact, his assumption of the office of Censor may have been motivated by a desire to see his academic labors bear fruit. For example, he believed (as most Romans) that his ancestor Appius Claudius Caecus
Appius Claudius Caecus
Appius Claudius Caecus was a Roman politician from a wealthy patrician family. He was dictator himself and the son of Gaius Claudius Crassus, dictator in 337 BC.-Life:...

 had used the censorship to introduce the letter "R"
R
R is the eighteenth letter of the basic modern Latin alphabet.-History:The original Semitic letter may have been inspired by an Egyptian hieroglyph for tp, "head". It was used for by Semites because in their language, the word for "head" was rêš . It developed into Greek Ρ and Latin R...

 and so used his own term to introduce his new letters.

In literature and film


The best known fictional representation of the Emperor Claudius were the books I, Claudius
I, Claudius
I, Claudius is a novel by English writer Robert Graves, written in the form of an autobiography of the Roman Emperor Claudius. As such, it includes history of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty and Roman Empire, from Julius Caesar's assassination in 44 BC to Caligula's assassination in AD 41...

 and Claudius the God (published in 1934 and 1935) by Robert Graves
Robert Graves
Robert von Ranke Graves 24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985 was an English poet, translator and novelist. During his long life he produced more than 140 works...

, both written in the first-person
Grammatical person
Grammatical person, in linguistics, is deictic reference to a participant in an event; such as the speaker, the addressee, or others. Grammatical person typically defines a language's set of personal pronouns...

 to give the reader the impression that they are Claudius' autobiography
Autobiography
An autobiography is a book about the life of a person, written by that person.-Origin of the term:...

. Graves employed a fictive artifice to suggest that they were recently discovered, genuine translations of Claudius' writings. Claudius' extant letters, speeches, and sayings were incorporated into the text (mostly in the second book, Claudius the God) in order to add authenticity.

In 1937, director Josef von Sternberg
Josef von Sternberg
Josef von Sternberg — born Jonas Sternberg — was an Austrian-American film director. He is particularly noted for his distinctive mise en scène, use of lighting and soft lens, and seven-film collaboration with actress Marlene Dietrich.-Youth:Von Sternberg was born Jonas Sternberg to a Jewish...

 attempted a film version of I, Claudius
I, Claudius (film)
I, Claudius was the proposed 1937 film of the book I, Claudius. It was to have been produced by Alexander Korda, directed by Josef von Sternberg and starring Charles Laughton , Emlyn Williams , Flora Robson , and Merle Oberon , but it was dogged by ill-luck, culminating in a car accident involving...

, with Charles Laughton
Charles Laughton
Charles Laughton was an English-American stage and film actor, screenwriter, producer and director.-Early life and career:...

 as Claudius. Unfortunately, the lead actress Merle Oberon
Merle Oberon
Merle Oberon was an Indian-born British actress best known for her screen performances in The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Cowboy and the Lady . She began her film career in British films as Anne Boleyn in The Private Life of Henry VIII . She travelled to the United States to make films for Samuel...

 suffered a near-fatal accident and the movie was never finished. The surviving reels were featured in the BBC documentary The Epic That Never Was (1965), revealing some of Laughton's most accomplished acting. The motion picture rights for a new film have been obtained by producer Scott Rudin
Scott Rudin
Scott Rudin is an American film producer and a theatrical producer.-Early life and work:Scott Rudin was born in New York City, NY, on July 14, 1958, and raised in the town of Baldwin on Long Island. At the age of sixteen, he started working as an assistant to theatre producer Kermit Bloomgarden...

.

Graves's two books were the basis for a British television adaptation
I, Claudius (TV series)
I, Claudius is a 1976 BBC Television adaptation of Robert Graves' I, Claudius and Claudius the God. Written by Jack Pulman, it proved one of the corporation's most successful drama serials of all time...

 produced by the BBC. The series starred Derek Jacobi
Derek Jacobi
Sir Derek George Jacobi, CBE is an English actor and film director.A "forceful, commanding stage presence", Jacobi has enjoyed a highly successful stage career, appearing in such stage productions as Hamlet, Uncle Vanya, and Oedipus the King. He received a Tony Award for his performance in...

 as Claudius and was broadcast in 1976 on BBC2
BBC Two
BBC Two is the second television channel operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom. It covers a wide range of subject matter, but tending towards more 'highbrow' programmes than the more mainstream and popular BBC One. Like the BBC's other domestic TV and radio...

. It was a substantial critical success, and won several BAFTA
British Academy of Film and Television Arts
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts is a charity in the United Kingdom that hosts annual awards shows for excellence in film, television, television craft, video games and forms of animation.-Introduction:...

 awards. The series was later broadcast in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 on Masterpiece Theatre
Masterpiece Theatre
Masterpiece is a drama anthology television series produced by WGBH Boston. It premiered on Public Broadcasting Service on January 10, 1971, making it America's longest-running weekly prime time drama series. The series has presented numerous acclaimed British productions...

 in 1977. The DVD release of the television series contains the The Epic that Never Was documentary.

Claudius has been portrayed in film on several other occasions, including in the 1979 motion picture Caligula
Caligula (film)
Caligula is a 1979 American-produced Italian biographical film directed by Tinto Brass, with additional scenes filmed by Giancarlo Lui and Penthouse founder Bob Guccione. The film concerns the rise and fall of Roman Emperor Gaius Caesar Germanicus, better known as Caligula...

, the role being performed by Giancarlo Badessi in which the character was depicted as an idiot, in contrast to Robert Graves
Robert Graves
Robert von Ranke Graves 24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985 was an English poet, translator and novelist. During his long life he produced more than 140 works...

' portrait of Claudius as a cunning and deeply intelligent man who is perceived by others to be an idiot. Barry Jones
Barry Jones (actor)
Barry Jones was an actor seen in British and American films, on American television and on the stage.-Biography:...

 also portrayed him sympathetically in Demetrius and the Gladiators
Demetrius and the Gladiators
Demetrius and the Gladiators is a 1954 sword and sandal drama film and a sequel to The Robe. It was made by 20th Century Fox, directed by Delmer Daves and produced by Frank Ross. The screenplay was by Philip Dunne based on characters created by Lloyd C...

.

On television, the actor Rodrigo Adrian La Fuente Soto portrayed Claudius in the 1968 British television
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 series The Caesars
The Caesars (TV series)
The Caesars is a British television series produced by Granada Television for the ITV network in 1968. Made in black-and-white and written and produced by Philip Mackie, it covered similar dramatic territory to the later BBC adaptation of I, Claudius, dealing with the lives of the emperors of...

 while the 1985 made-for-television miniseries
Miniseries
A miniseries , in a serial storytelling medium, is a television show production which tells a story in a limited number of episodes. The exact number is open to interpretation; however, they are usually limited to fewer than a whole season. The term "miniseries" is generally a North American term...

 A.D. features actor Richard Kiley as Claudius. There is also a reference to Claudius' suppression of one of the coups against him in the movie Gladiator
Gladiator (2000 film)
Gladiator is a 2000 historical epic film directed by Ridley Scott, starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Ralf Möller, Oliver Reed, Djimon Hounsou, Derek Jacobi, John Shrapnel and Richard Harris. Crowe portrays the loyal Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius, who is betrayed...

, though the incident is entirely fictional.

In literature, Claudius and his contemporaries appear in the historical novel The Roman by Mika Waltari
Mika Waltari
Mika Toimi Waltari was a Finnish writer, best known for his best-selling novel The Egyptian .- Early life :...

. Canadian-born science fiction writer A. E. van Vogt
A. E. van Vogt
Alfred Elton van Vogt was a Canadian-born science fiction author regarded by some as one of the most popular and complex science fiction writers of the mid-twentieth century: the "Golden Age" of the genre....

 reimagined Robert Graves' Claudius story in his two novels Empire of the Atom
Empire of the Atom
Empire of the Atom is a science fiction novel by A. E. van Vogt. It was first published in 1957 by Shasta Publishers in an edition of 2,000 copies. The novel is a fix-up of the first five of van Vogt's Gods stories which originally appeared in the magazine Astounding. The remaining Gods stories...

 and The Wizard of Linn
The Wizard of Linn
The Wizard of Linn is a science fiction novel written by A. E. van Vogt and a sequel to Empire of the Atom. The novel was originally serialized in the science fiction magazine Astounding Science Fiction...

.

Ancestry





External links


Ancient Sources:


Modern Biographies: