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Claudius crop.jpg
Bust of Claudius at the Naples National Archaeological Museum
Emperor of the Roman Empire
Reign24 January 41 – 13 October 54
(13 years and 9 months)
Predecessor Caligula
Successor Nero
Born1 August 10 BC
Lugdunum, Gaul
Died13 October 54(54-10-13) (aged 63)
Rome, Italia
Regnal name
Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus
Imperial dynasty Julio-Claudian
Father Nero Claudius Drusus
Mother Antonia Minor
Religion ancient Roman religion

Claudius ( /ˈklɔːdiəs/ ; Latin : Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; [lower-alpha 1] [lower-alpha 2] 1 August 10 BC – 13 October AD 54) was Roman emperor from AD 41 to 54. Born to Drusus and Antonia Minor at Lugdunum in Roman Gaul, where his father was stationed as a military legate, he was the first Roman emperor to be born outside Italy. Nonetheless, Claudius was an Italic of Sabine origins and a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. [1] 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 consulship, shared with his nephew Caligula in 37.

Roman emperor ruler of the Roman Empire

The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period. The emperors used a variety of different titles throughout history. Often when a given Roman is described as becoming "emperor" in English, it reflects his taking of the title Augustus or Caesar. Another title often used was imperator, originally a military honorific. Early Emperors also used the title Princeps Civitatis. Emperors frequently amassed republican titles, notably princeps senatus, consul and pontifex maximus.

Nero Claudius Drusus Roman politician and soldier, son of Tiberius Nero and Livia

Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus, born Decimus Claudius Drusus, also called Drusus Claudius Nero, Drusus, Drusus I, Nero Drusus, or Drusus the Elder was a Roman politician and military commander. He was a patrician Claudian on his birth father's side but his maternal grandmother was from a plebeian family. He was the son of Livia Drusilla and the legal stepson of her second husband, the Emperor Augustus. He was also brother of the Emperor Tiberius, father to both the Emperor Claudius and general Germanicus, paternal grandfather of the Emperor Caligula, and maternal great-grandfather of the Emperor Nero.

Antonia Minor

Antonia Minor, also known as Julia Antonia Minor, Antonia the Younger or simply Antonia was the younger of two daughters of Mark Antony and Octavia Minor. She was a niece of the Emperor Augustus, sister of Cleopatra Selene II, sister-in-law of the Emperor Tiberius, paternal grandmother of the Emperor Caligula and Empress Agrippina the Younger, mother of the Emperor Claudius, and both maternal great-grandmother and paternal great-aunt of the Emperor Nero. She was additionally the maternal great-aunt of the Empress Valeria Messalina and Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix, the paternal grandmother of Claudia Antonia, Claudia Octavia, and Britannicus and the maternal grandmother of Julia Livia and Tiberius Gemellus.


Claudius's infirmity probably saved him from the fate of many other nobles during the purges of Tiberius's 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 after Caligula's assassination, at which point he was the last man 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 started its successful conquest of Britain.

Tiberius Second Emperor of Ancient Rome

Tiberius was the second Roman emperor, reigning from 14 AD to 37 AD, succeeding Augustus.

Praetorian Guard Imperial Roman unit who guarded the emperors

The Praetorian Guard was an elite unit of the Imperial Roman army whose members served as personal bodyguards to the Roman emperors. During the era of the Roman Republic, the Praetorians served as a small escort force for high-ranking officials such as senators or provincial governors like procurators, and also serving as bodyguards for high ranking officers within the Roman legions. With the republic's transition into the Roman Empire, however, the first emperor, Augustus, founded the Guard as his personal security detail. Although they continued to serve in this capacity for roughly three centuries, the Guard became notable for its intrigue and interference in Roman politics, to the point of overthrowing emperors and proclaiming their successors. In 312, the Guard was disbanded by Constantine the Great.

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 Roman Britain.

Having a personal interest in law, he presided at public trials, and issued up to twenty edicts a day. He was seen as vulnerable throughout his reign, particularly by elements of 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. Many authors contend that he was murdered by his own wife. After his death in 54 (at the age of 63), his grand-nephew, step-son, and adopted son Nero succeeded him as emperor. His 13-year reign (slightly longer than Nero's) would not be surpassed by any successors until that of Domitian, who reigned for 15 years.

Roman Senate A political institution in ancient Rome

The Roman Senate was a political institution in ancient Rome. It was one of the most enduring institutions in Roman history, being established in the first days of the city of Rome,. It survived the overthrow of the kings in 509 BC, the fall of the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC, the division of the Roman Empire in 395 AD, the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD, and the barbarian rule of Rome in the 5th, 6th, and 7th centuries.

Domitian Emperor of Ancient Rome

Domitian was Roman emperor from 81 to 96. He was the younger brother of Titus and the son of Vespasian, his two predecessors on the throne, and the last member of the Flavian dynasty. During his reign, the authoritarian nature of his rule put him at sharp odds with the Senate, whose powers he drastically curtailed.

He was a descendant of the Octavii Rufi (through Gaius Octavius), Julii Caesares (through Julia Minor and Julia Antonia), and the Claudii Nerones (through Nero Claudius Drusus). He was a step-grandson (through his father Drusus) and great-nephew (through his mother Antonia Minor) of Augustus. He was a nephew of Tiberius through his father, Tiberius's brother. Through his brother Germanicus, Claudius was an uncle of Caligula and a great uncle of Nero. Through his mother Antonia Minor he was a grandson of Mark Antony.

Julii Caesares Roman patrician family

The Julii Caesares were the most illustrious family of the patrician gens Julia. The family first appears in history during the Second Punic War, when Sextus Julius Caesar was praetor in Sicily. His son, Sextus Julius Caesar, obtained the consulship in 157 BC; but the most famous descendant of this stirps is Gaius Julius Caesar, a general who conquered Gaul and became the undisputed master of Rome following the Civil War. Having been granted dictatorial power by the Roman Senate and instituting a number of political and social reforms, he was assassinated in 44 BC. After overcoming several rivals, Caesar's adopted son and heir, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, was proclaimed Augustus by the senate, inaugurating what became the Julio-Claudian line of Roman emperors.

Julia, also known as Julia Minor and Julia the Younger, was the second of two daughters of Gaius Julius Caesar and Aurelia Cotta. She was the sister of the dictator Gaius Julius Caesar, and the maternal grandmother of Augustus.

Augustus First emperor of the Roman Empire

Augustus was a Roman statesman and military leader who was the first emperor of the Roman Empire, reigning from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. His status as the founder of the Roman Principate has consolidated an enduring legacy as one of the most effective and controversial leaders in human history. The reign of Augustus initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana. The Roman world was largely free from large-scale conflict for more than two centuries, despite continuous wars of imperial expansion on the Empire's frontiers and the year-long civil war known as the "Year of the Four Emperors" over the imperial succession.

Family and early life

Roman imperial dynasties
Julio-Claudian dynasty
Augustus 27 BC AD 14
Tiberius AD 14–37
Caligula AD 37–41
Claudius AD 41–54
Nero AD 54–68
Gens Julia
Gens Claudia
Julio-Claudian family tree
Category:Julio-Claudian dynasty
Preceded by
Roman Republic
Followed by
Year of the Four Emperors

Claudius was born on 1 August 10 BC at Lugdunum (modern Lyon, France). He had two older siblings, Germanicus and Livilla. His mother, Antonia, may have had two other children who died young.

Lugdunum Ancient Roman city on the site of modern Lyon, France

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 of Gallia Lugdunensis and was an important city in the western half of the Roman Empire for centuries. Two emperors, Claudius and Caracalla, were born in Lugdunum. In the period AD 69–192 the city's population may have numbered 50,000 to 100,000, and possibly up to 200,000 inhabitants.

Germanicus member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and a general of the early Roman Empire

Germanicus was a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and a prominent general of the Roman Empire, who was known for his campaigns in Germania. The son of Nero Claudius Drusus and Antonia Minor, Germanicus was born into an influential branch of the patrician gens Claudia. The agnomen Germanicus was added to his full name in 9 BC when it was posthumously awarded to his father in honor of his victories in Germania. In AD 4, he was adopted by his paternal uncle, Tiberius, who succeeded Augustus as Roman emperor a decade later. As a result, Germanicus became an official member of the gens Julia, another prominent family which he was related to on his mother's side. His connection to the Julii was further consolidated through a marriage between himself and Agrippina the Elder, a granddaughter of Augustus. He was also the nephew of Tiberius, the father of Caligula, and the maternal grandfather of Nero.


Claudia Livia Julia was the only daughter of Nero Claudius Drusus and Antonia Minor and sister of the Roman Emperor Claudius and general Germanicus, and thus the paternal aunt of the emperor Caligula and maternal great-aunt of emperor Nero, as well as the niece and daughter-in-law of Tiberius. She was named after her grandmother, Augustus' wife Livia Drusilla, and commonly known by her family nickname Livilla. She was born after Germanicus and before Claudius.

His maternal grandparents were Mark Antony and Octavia Minor, Augustus' sister, and he was therefore the great-great grandnephew of Gaius Julius Caesar. His paternal grandparents were Livia, Augustus' third wife, and Tiberius Claudius Nero. During his reign, Claudius revived the rumor that his father Drusus was actually the illegitimate son of Augustus, to give the appearance that Augustus was Claudius' paternal grandfather.

Mark Antony Roman politician and general

Marcus Antonius, commonly known in English as Mark Antony or Anthony, was a Roman politician and general who played a critical role in the transformation of the Roman Republic from an oligarchy into the autocratic Roman Empire.

Julius Caesar 1st-century BC Roman politician and general

Gaius Julius Caesar, known by his nomen and cognomen Julius Caesar, was a populist Roman dictator, politician, military general, and historian who played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. He also wrote Latin prose.

Livia Roman empress

Livia Drusilla, also known as Julia Augusta after her formal adoption into the Julian family in AD 14, was the wife of the Roman emperor Augustus throughout his reign, as well as his adviser. She was the mother of the emperor Tiberius, paternal grandmother of the emperor Claudius, paternal great-grandmother of the emperor Caligula, and maternal great-great-grandmother of the emperor Nero. She was deified by Claudius who acknowledged her title of Augusta.

In 9 BC, his father 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 to his grandmother Livia for a number of years. [2]

Livia was a little kinder, but nevertheless often sent him short, angry letters of reproof. He was put under the care of a "former mule-driver" [3] 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. [4]

In AD 7, Livy 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. Augustus, according to a letter, was surprised at the clarity of Claudius' oratory. [4] Expectations about his future began to increase.

Public life

His work as a budding historian damaged his prospects for advancement in public life. According to Vincent Scramuzza and others, Claudius began work on a history of the Civil Wars that was either too truthful or too critical of Octavian [5] —then reigning as Augustus Caesar. 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 convinced them that Claudius was not fit for public office. He could not be trusted to toe the existing party line. [6]

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 into the background. When the Arch of Pavia was erected to honor the Imperial clan in 8 AD, 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 and Lucius, 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. [6]

When Augustus died in AD 14, Claudius—then aged 23—appealed to his uncle Tiberius to allow him to begin the cursus honorum . Tiberius, the new Emperor, responded by granting Claudius consular ornaments. Claudius requested office once more and was snubbed. Since the new Emperor was no 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 , 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, 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 commander of the Praetorian Guard, Sejanus, was at its peak, Claudius chose to downplay this possibility.

After the death of Tiberius, the new emperor Caligula (the son of Claudius' brother Germanicus) 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. [7] A possible surviving portrait of Claudius from this period may support this.

Assassination of Caligula (AD 41)

A coin of Herod of Chalcis, showing him with his brother Agrippa of Judaea crowning Claudius. British Museum. Herod of Chalcis coin showing Herod of Chalcis with brother Agrippa of Judaea crowning Roman Emperor Claudius I.jpg
A coin of Herod of Chalcis, showing him with his brother Agrippa of Judaea crowning Claudius. British Museum.

On 24 January 41, Caligula was assassinated in a broad-based conspiracy involving the Praetorian commander Cassius Chaerea and several senators. There is no evidence that Claudius had a direct hand in the assassination, 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. [8] 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. [9]

A Roman Emperor AD41 detail.jpg
Detail from A Roman Emperor 41AD, c. 1871.
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Proclaiming Claudius Emperor, 1867.
Two drastically different oil paintings by Lawrence Alma-Tadema of Claudius' being proclaimed Emperor by Gratus of the Praetorian Guard.

In the chaos following the murder, Claudius witnessed the German 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 . [9] 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. 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, [10] claim that Claudius was directed in his actions by the Judaean King Herod Agrippa. However, an earlier version of events by the same ancient author downplays Agrippa's role [11] so it remains uncertain. Eventually the Senate was forced to give in and, in return, Claudius pardoned nearly all the assassins.

As Emperor

Aureus of Claudius, struck at the Lugdunum (Lyon) mint, dated 41-42. The depiction on the reverse meant to commemorate the "reception of the emperor" (imperator receptus) at the Praetorian Camp and the protection the Praetorian Guard afforded Claudius in the days following the assassination of Caligula. Issued over a number of years in both gold and silver, these type of coins were struck to serve as part of the annual military payments Claudius had promised the Guard in return for their role in raising him to the throne. Caption: TI. CLAVD. CAESAR AVG. P. M., TR. P. / IMPER. RECEPT. Aureus of emperor Claudius.jpg
Aureus of Claudius, struck at the Lugdunum (Lyon) mint, dated 41–42. The depiction on the reverse meant to commemorate the "reception of the emperor" (imperator receptus) at the Praetorian Camp and the protection the Praetorian Guard afforded Claudius in the days following the assassination of Caligula. Issued over a number of years in both gold and silver, these type of coins were struck to serve as part of the annual military payments Claudius had promised the Guard in return for their role in raising him to the throne. Caption: TI. CLAVD. CAESAR AVG. P. M., TR. P. / IMPER. RECEPT.
Claudius issued this denarius type to emphasize his clemency after Caligula's assassination. The depiction of the goddess Pax-Nemesis, representing subdued vengeance, would be used on the coins of many later emperors. Caption: TI. CLAVD. CAESAR. AVG. P. M., TR. P. X. P. P., IMP. XVIII / PACI AVGVSTAE Pax-Nemesis standing right holding caduceus over serpent. Claudiuspax.jpg
Claudius issued this denarius type to emphasize his clemency after Caligula's assassination. The depiction of the goddess Pax-Nemesis, representing subdued vengeance, would be used on the coins of many later emperors. Caption: TI. CLAVD. CAESAR. AVG. P. M., TR. P. X. P. P., IMP. XVIII / PACI AVGVSTAE Pax-Nemesis standing right holding caduceus over serpent.

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, as 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.[ citation needed ] As Pharaoh of Egypt, Claudius adopted the royal titulary Tiberios Klaudios, Autokrator Heqaheqau Meryasetptah, Kanakht Djediakhshuemakhet ("Tiberius Claudius, Emperor and ruler of rulers, beloved of Isis and Ptah, the strong bull of the stable moon on the horizon"). [12]

While Claudius had never been formally adopted either by Augustus or his successors, he was nevertheless the grandson of Augustus' sister Octavia, and so he felt that he had the right of family. He also adopted the name "Augustus" as the two previous emperors had done at their accessions. He kept the honorific "Germanicus" to display the connection with his heroic brother. He deified his paternal grandmother Livia 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.[ citation needed ]

Since Claudius was the first Emperor proclaimed on the initiative of the Praetorian Guard instead of the Senate, his repute suffered at the hands of commentators (such as Seneca). Moreover, he was the first Emperor who resorted to bribery as a means to secure army loyalty and rewarded the soldiers of the Praetorian Guard that had elevated him with 15,000 sesterces. [13] Tiberius and Augustus had both left gifts to the army and guard in their wills, 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. [14]

Pliny the Elder noted, according to the 1938 Loeb Classical Library translation by Harris Rackham, "... many people do not allow any gems in a signet-ring, and seal with the gold itself; this was a fashion invented when Claudius Cæsar was emperor." [15]

Claudius restored the status of the peaceful Imperial Roman provinces of Macedonia and Achaea as senatorial provinces. [16]

Expansion of the Empire

Under Claudius, the Empire underwent its first major expansion since the reign of Augustus. The provinces of Thrace, Noricum, Lycia, and Judea were annexed (or put under direct rule) under various circumstances during his term. The annexation of Mauretania, begun under Caligula, was completed after the defeat of rebel forces, and the official division of the former client kingdom into two Imperial provinces. [17] The most far-reaching conquest was that of Britannia. [18]

Bronze head of Claudius found in the River Alde at Rendham, near Saxmundham, Suffolk (British Museum). Potentially taken from the Temple of Claudius in Colonia Victricensis during the Boudican revolt. Roman emperor head.jpg
Bronze head of Claudius found in the River Alde at Rendham, near Saxmundham, Suffolk (British Museum). Potentially taken from the Temple of Claudius in Colonia Victricensis during the Boudican revolt.

In 43, Claudius sent Aulus Plautius with four legions 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. It was also a haven for Gallic 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 when they were displayed in the large tribal centre of Camulodunum, modern day Colchester. The Roman colonia of Colonia Claudia Victricensis was established as the provincial capital of the newly established province of Britannia at Camulodunum, [20] where a large Temple was dedicated in his honour. [20]

He left after 16 days, but remained in the provinces for some time. The Senate granted him a triumph for his efforts. Only members of the Imperial family were allowed such honours, but Claudius subsequently 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 in 48 that found 5,984,072 Roman citizens [21] (adult males with Roman citizenship; women, children, slaves, and free adult males without Roman citizenship were not counted), 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. 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 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. [22] He was also easily swayed. Nevertheless, Claudius paid detailed attention to the operation of the judicial system. [23]

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. [23]

Claudius also settled disputes in the provinces. He freed the island of Rhodes from Roman rule for their good faith and exempted Ilium (Troy) from taxes. Early in his reign, the Greeks and Jews of Alexandria 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, he then reaffirmed the rights and freedoms of all the Jews in the Empire. [24]

One of Claudius's investigators discovered that many old Roman citizens based in the city of Tridentum (modern Trento) were not in fact citizens. [25] The Emperor issued a declaration, contained in the Tabula clesiana , 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 laying false claim to membership of the Roman equestrian order were sold back into slavery. [26]

Numerous edicts were issued throughout Claudius' reign. These were on a number of topics, everything from medical advice to moral judgments. A famous medical example is one promoting yew juice as a cure for snakebite. [27] Suetonius wrote that he is even said to have thought of an edict allowing public flatulence for good health. [28] One of the more famous edicts concerned the status of sick slaves. Masters had been abandoning ailing slaves at the temple of Aesculapius on Tiber Island to die instead of providing them with medical assistance and care, and then reclaiming them if they lived. Claudius ruled that slaves who were thus abandoned and recovered after such treatment would be free. Furthermore, masters who chose to kill slaves rather than take care of them were liable to be charged with murder. [29]

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, begun by Caligula, and the Anio Novus. These entered the city in 52 and met at the Porta Maggiore. He also restored a third, the Aqua Virgo.

The Porta Maggiore aqueduct in Rome Esquilino - Porta Maggiore - st1.JPG
The Porta Maggiore aqueduct in Rome

He paid special attention to transportation. Throughout Italy 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, leading to Portus, his new port just north of Ostia. This port was constructed in a semicircle with two moles 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 travelling to Egypt in the off-season. He also granted their sailors special privileges, including citizenship and exemption from the Lex Papia Poppaea, a law that regulated marriage. In addition, he repealed the taxes that Caligula had instituted on food, and further reduced taxes on communities suffering drought or famine.

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, which would have the added benefit of making the nearby river navigable year-round. [30] 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 continued to present a problem well into the Middle Ages. It was finally achieved by the Prince Torlonia in the 19th century, producing over 160,000 acres (650 km2) of new arable land. [31] He expanded the Claudian tunnel to three times its original size.

Claudius and the Senate

Denarius of Claudius (YORYM 2001 1433) obverse.jpg
Obverse of Claudius' bronze. Bare hed left; Caption: TI. CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG. P. M., TR. P., IMP.
Denarius of Claudius (YORYM 2001 1433) reverse.jpg
Reverse of Claudius' bronze. Constantia helmeted and in military dress, standing left, holding long spear in left hand; CONSTANTIAE AVGVSTI S. C. meaning "Senatus consultum"

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 (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) 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 and Achaea 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:

If you accept these proposals, Conscript Fathers, say so at once and simply, in accordance with your convictions. If you do not accept them, find alternatives, but do so here and now; or if you wish to take time for consideration, take it, provided you do not forget that you must be ready to pronounce your opinion whenever you may be summoned to meet. It ill befits the dignity of the Senate that the consul designate should repeat the phrases of the consuls word for word as his opinion, and that every one else should merely say 'I approve', and that then, after leaving, the assembly should announce 'We debated'. [32]

In 47 he assumed the office of censor with Lucius Vitellius, 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 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 even jokes about how the Senate had admitted members from beyond Gallia Narbonensis (Lyons, France), i.e. himself. 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 and Julius Caesar.

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 reduced the Senate's power for the sake of efficiency. The administration of Ostia was turned over to an Imperial Procurator 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.

Plots and coup attempts

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.[ citation needed ] Shortly after, a large rebellion was undertaken by the Senator Vinicianus and Scribonianus, the governor of Dalmatia, and gained quite a few senatorial supporters. It ultimately failed because of the reluctance of Scribonianus' troops, which led to the suicide 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, and Titus Statilius Taurus 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, 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 Titus Statilius Taurus Corvinus mentioned above. Most of these conspiracies took place before Claudius' term as Censor, and may have induced him to review the Senatorial rolls. The conspiracy of Gaius Silius in the year after his Censorship, 48, is detailed in the section discussing Claudius' third wife, Messalina. Suetonius states that a total of 35 senators and 300 knights were executed for offenses during Claudius' reign. [33] Needless to say, the responses to these conspiracies could not have helped Senateemperor relations.

Secretariat and centralization of powers

Claudius was hardly the first emperor to use freedmen 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 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 was the secretary of correspondence. Pallas became the secretary of the treasury. Callistus became secretary of justice. There was a fourth bureau for miscellaneous issues, which was put under Polybius 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. [34]

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. [34]

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. 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 notes that several of them were richer than Crassus, the richest man of the Republican era. [35]

Religious reforms

Portrait of Claudius, National Archaeological Museum of Spain Claudius (M.A.N. Madrid) 01.jpg
Portrait of Claudius, National Archaeological Museum of Spain

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 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 activities.[ citation needed ]

Claudius forbade proselytizing in any religion, even in those regions where he allowed natives to worship freely.

It is also reported that at one time he expelled the Jews from Rome, probably because the Jews within the city caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus. [lower-alpha 3]

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. [36] 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. [37] Annual games were also held in honour of his accession, and took place at the Praetorian camp where Claudius had first been proclaimed Emperor. [38]

Claudius organised a performance of the Secular Games, 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. [38] 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 harbour. The event was witnessed by Pliny the Elder:

A killer whale was actually seen in the harbour of Ostia, locked in combat with the emperor Claudius. She had come when he was completing the construction of the harbour, drawn there by the wreck of a ship bringing leather hides from Gaul, and feeding there over a number of days, had made a furrow in the shallows: the waves had raised up such a mound of sand that she couldn't turn around at all, and while she was pursuing her banquet as the waves moved it shorewards, her back stuck up out of the water like the overturned keel of a boat. The Emperor ordered that a large array of nets be stretched across the mouths of the harbour, and setting out in person with the Praetorian cohorts gave a show to the Roman people, soldiers showering lances from attacking ships, one of which I saw swamped by the beast's waterspout and sunk.—"Historia Naturalis" IX.14–15. [39]

Claudius also restored and adorned many public venues in Rome. At the Circus Maximus, the turning posts and starting stalls were replaced in marble and embellished, and an embankment was probably added to prevent flooding of the track. [40] Claudius also reinforced or extended the seating rules that reserved front seating at the Circus for senators. [38] Claudius rebuilt Pompey's Theatre after it had been destroyed by fire, organising special fights at the re-dedication which he observed from a special platform in the orchestra box. [38]

Marriages and personal life

Suetonius and the other ancient authors accused Claudius of being dominated by women and wives, and of being a womanizer.

Claudius married four times, after two failed betrothals. The first betrothal was to his distant cousin Aemilia Lepida, but was broken for political reasons. The second was to Livia Medullina, which ended with Medullina's sudden death on their wedding day.

Plautia Urgulanilla

Plautia Urgulanilla was the granddaughter of Livia's confidant Urgulania. During their marriage she gave birth to a son, Claudius Drusus. Drusus died of asphyxiation in his early teens, shortly after becoming engaged to Junilla, the daughter of Sejanus.

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 allegedly one of his own freedmen. This action made him later the target of criticism by his enemies.

Domus Romana, Rabat 0646.jpg
Claudia Antonia
Ritratto di claudia ottavia, da roma, via varese.JPG
Claudia Octavia

Aelia Paetina

Soon after (possibly in 28), Claudius married Aelia Paetina, a relative of Sejanus, if not Sejanus's adoptive sister. During their marriage, Claudius and Paetina had a daughter, Claudia Antonia. 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

Messalina holding her son Britannicus, Louvre Messalinaandbritannicus.jpg
Messalina holding her son Britannicus, Louvre

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. A son, first named Tiberius Claudius Germanicus, and later known as Britannicus, 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 states she went so far as to compete with a prostitute to see who could have the most sexual partners in a night [41] —and manipulated his policies in order to amass wealth. In 48, Messalina married her lover Gaius Silius in a public ceremony while Claudius was at Ostia.

The Death of Messalina by Georges-Antoine Rochegrosse, 1916 Georges Antoine Rochegrosse The Death of Messalina 1916.jpg
The Death of Messalina by Georges-Antoine Rochegrosse, 1916

Sources disagree as to whether or not she divorced the Emperor first, and whether the intention was to usurp the throne. Under Roman law, the spouse needed to be informed that he or she had been divorced before a new marriage could take place; the sources state that Claudius was in total ignorance until after the marriage. [42] 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. [43] [44] [45] The historian Tacitus suggests that Claudius's ongoing term as Censor may have prevented him from noticing the affair before it reached such a critical point. [46] Whatever the case, the result was the execution of Silius, Messalina, and most of her circle. [47]

Agrippina the Younger

Claudius did marry once more. The ancient sources tell that his freedmen put forward three candidates, Caligula's third wife Lollia Paulina, Claudius's divorced second wife Aelia Paetina and Claudius's niece Agrippina the Younger. According to Suetonius, Agrippina won out through her feminine wiles. [48]

Sculpture of Agrippina crowning her young son Nero (c. AD 54-59) Neron y Agripina.jpg
Sculpture of Agrippina crowning her young son Nero (c. AD 54–59)

The truth is probably more political. The attempted coup d'état 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 yet have an obvious adult heir, Britannicus being just a boy. [49]

Agrippina was one of the few remaining descendants of Augustus, and her son Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (the future Emperor Nero) was one of the last males of the Imperial family. Coup attempts could rally around the pair and Agrippina was already showing such ambition. It has been suggested that the Senate may have pushed for the marriage, to end the feud between the Julian and Claudian branches. [49] This feud dated back to Agrippina's mother's actions against Tiberius after the death of her husband Germanicus (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 married to Claudius' daughter Octavia, made joint heir with the underage Britannicus, and promoted; Augustus had similarly named his grandson Postumus Agrippa and his stepson Tiberius as joint heirs, [50] and Tiberius had named Caligula joint heir with his grandson Tiberius Gemellus. Adoption of adults or near adults was an old tradition in Rome, when a suitable natural adult heir was unavailable as was the case during Britannicus' minority. Claudius may have previously looked to adopt one of his sons-in-law to protect his own reign. [51]

Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix, who was married to Claudius's daughter Claudia Antonia, was only descended from Octavia and Antony on one side – not close enough to the Imperial family to prevent doubts (although 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 was more popular with the general public as the grandson of Germanicus and the direct descendant of Augustus.

Claudius' affliction and personality

Claudius depicted as the Roman god Jupiter Statue Claudius Vatikanische Museen.jpg
Claudius depicted as the Roman god Jupiter

The historian Suetonius describes the physical manifestations of Claudius' affliction in relatively good detail. [52] 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 Seneca states in his Apocolocyntosis that Claudius' voice belonged to no land animal, and that his hands were weak as well. [53]

However, he showed no physical deformity, as Suetonius notes that when calm and seated he was a tall, well-built figure of dignitas . [52] When angered or stressed, his symptoms became worse. Historians agree that this condition improved upon his accession to the throne. [54] Claudius himself claimed that he had exaggerated his ailments to save his life. [55]

Modern assessments of his health have changed several times in the past century. Prior to World War II, infantile paralysis (or polio) was widely accepted as the cause. This is the diagnosis used in Robert Graves' 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 as the cause, as outlined by Ernestine Leon. [56] Tourette syndrome has also been considered a possibility. [57] [58]

As a person, ancient historians described Claudius as generous and lowbrow, a man who sometimes lunched with the plebeians. [59] [60] They also paint him as bloodthirsty and cruel, overly fond of gladiatorial combat and executions, and very quick to anger; Claudius himself acknowledged the latter trait, and apologized publicly for his temper. [61] [62] According to the ancient historians he was also overly trusting, and easily manipulated by his wives and freedmen. [63] [64] But at the same time they portray him as paranoid and apathetic, dull and easily confused. [65] [66]

Claudius' extant works 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 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. [67]

Besides the history of Augustus' reign that caused him so much grief, his major works included Tyrrhenica, a twenty-book Etruscan history, and Carchedonica, an eight-volume history of Carthage, [68] as well as an Etruscan dictionary. He also wrote a book on dice-playing. Despite the general avoidance of the Republican era, he penned a defense of Cicero against the charges of Asinius Gallus. Modern historians have used this to determine the nature of his politics and of the aborted chapters of his civil war history.

The Claudian letters. Claudian letters.svg
The Claudian letters.

He proposed a reform of the Latin alphabet by the addition of three new letters, two of which served the function of the modern letters W and Y; the third was equivalent to Greek Ψ . 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. [69] Since Claudius (like most of the members of his dynasty) harshly criticized his predecessors and relatives in surviving speeches, [70] it is not hard to imagine the nature of Suetonius' charge.

None of the works survive but 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' 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 Natural History . [71]

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 speech is meticulous in details, 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. Levick believes this emulation of Caesar may have spread to all aspects of his policies. [72]

His censorship seems to have been based on those of his ancestors, particularly Appius Claudius Caecus, 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 did) that his ancestor Appius Claudius Caecus had used the censorship to introduce the letter "R" [73] and so used his own term to introduce his new letters.


A statue of Claudius in the Vatican museum. Togato con tesa dell'imperatore claudio, inv. 2221.JPG
A statue of Claudius in the Vatican museum.

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. [74]

Nearly all implicate his final wife, Agrippina, 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. [75] Agrippina had motive in ensuring the succession of Nero before Britannicus could gain power.

Some implicate either his taster Halotus, his doctor Xenophon, or the infamous poisoner Locusta as the administrator of the fatal substance. [76] Some say he died after prolonged suffering following a single dose at dinner, and some have him recovering only to be poisoned again. [77] Among contemporary sources, Seneca the Younger ascribed the emperor's death to natural causes, while Josephus only spoke of rumors on his poisoning. [78]

In modern times, some authors have cast doubt on whether Claudius was murdered or merely succumbed to illness or old age. [79] Some modern scholars claim the near universality of the accusations in ancient texts lends credence to the crime. [80] Claudius' ashes were interred in the Mausoleum of Augustus on 24 October 54, after a funeral similar to that of his great-uncle Augustus 40 years earlier.

After death

Divine honours

Already, while alive, he received the widespread private worship of a living princeps [81] and was worshipped in Britannia in his own temple in Camulodunum.

Claudius was deified by Nero and the Senate almost immediately. [82] 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 a few months later.

Views of the new regime

Agrippina had sent away Narcissus 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. [83]

Seneca's Apocolocyntosis mocks the deification of Claudius and reinforces the view of Claudius as an unpleasant fool; this remained the official view 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. [84]

Flavian and later 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, who had been a friend of the Emperor Titus (Titus was born in 39, Britannicus was born in 41). When Nero's Golden House was burned, the Temple of Claudius was finally completed on the Caelian Hill. [84]

However, as the Flavians became established, they needed to emphasize their own credentials more, and their references to Claudius ceased. Instead, he was lumped with the other emperors of the fallen dynasty. His state cult in Rome probably continued until the abolition of all such cults of dead Emperors by Maximinus Thrax in 237–238. [85] The Feriale Duranum , probably identical to the festival calendars of every regular army unit, assigns him a sacrifice of a steer on his birthday, the Kalends of August. [86] And such commemoration (and consequent feasting) probably continued until the Christianization and disintegration of the army in the late 4th century. [87]

Views of ancient historians

The main ancient historians Tacitus, 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). Suetonius painted Claudius as a ridiculous figure, belittling many of his acts and attributing the objectively good works to his retinue. [88]

Tacitus wrote a narrative for his fellow senators and fitted each of the emperors into a simple mold of his choosing. [89] He wrote of Claudius as a passive pawn and an idiot in affairs relating to the palace and often in public life. During his censorship of 47–48 Tacitus allows the reader a glimpse of a Claudius who is more statesmanlike (XI.23–25), but it is a mere glimpse. Tacitus is usually held to have 'hidden' his use of Claudius' writings and to have omitted Claudius' character from his works. [90] 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, who shared his birthday, became emperor, overshadowing commemoration of Claudius. [91]

In modern literature, film and radio

In literature, Claudius and his contemporaries appear in the historical novel The Roman by Mika Waltari. Canadian-born science fiction writer A. E. van Vogt reimagined Robert Graves' Claudius story, in his two novels, Empire of the Atom and The Wizard of Linn .

The historical novel Chariot of the Soul by  Linda Proud  features Claudius as host and mentor of the young Togidubnus, son of King Verica of the Atrebates, during his ten-year stay in Rome. When Togidubnus returns to Britain in advance of the Roman army, it is with a mission given to him by Claudius.

See also


  1. Classical Latin spelling and reconstructed Classical Latin pronunciation of the name of Claudius: TIBERIVS CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVGVSTVS GERMÁNICVSIPA:  [tɪˈbɛ.ri.ʊs ˈklau̯.di.ʊs ˈkae̯.sar au̯ˈɡʊs.tus ɡɛrˈmaː.nɪ.kʊs]
  2. Claudius' regal name has an equivalent English meaning of "Tiberius Claudius Caesar, the Majestic Ruler, Conqueror of the Germans".
  3. There is some debate about what actually happened. It is reported by Suetonius and in Acts (18:2), Cassius Dio minimizes the event and Josephus—who was reporting on Jewish events—does not mention it at all. Some scholars hold that it didn't happen, while others have only a few missionaries expelled for the short term.

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Drusus Caesar was the adopted grandson and heir of the Roman Emperor Tiberius, alongside his brother Nero. Born into the prominent Julio Claudian dynasty, Drusus was the son of Tiberius' general and heir, Germanicus. After the deaths of his father and of Tiberius' son, Drusus the Younger, Drusus and his brother Nero Julius Caesar were adopted together by Tiberius in September AD 23. As a result of being heirs of the emperor, he and his brother enjoyed accelerated political careers.

Julia Livia, sometimes referred to as Julia Drusi Caesaris filia, was the daughter of Drusus Julius Caesar and Livilla, and granddaughter of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. She was also a first cousin of the emperor Caligula, and niece of the emperor Claudius.

Nero Julius Caesar Ancient Roman noble

Nero Julius Caesar Germanicus was the adopted grandson and heir of the Roman Emperor Tiberius, alongside his brother Drusus. Born into the prominent Julio-Claudian dynasty, Nero was the son of Tiberius' general and heir, Germanicus. After the deaths of his father and of Tiberius' son, Drusus the Younger, Nero and his brother Drusus were adopted together by Tiberius in September AD 23. As a result of being heirs of the emperor, he and his brother enjoyed accelerated political careers.

Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus (consul 32) Roman politician (0017-0040)

Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus was a close relative of the five Roman Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Domitius was the only son of Antonia Major and Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus. His only siblings were Domitia Lepida the Elder and Domitia Lepida the Younger, mother of the Empress Valeria Messalina. He was a great-nephew of the Emperor Augustus, brother-in-law and first cousin once removed of the Emperor Caligula; maternal cousin of the Emperor Claudius and the biological father to the Emperor Nero.

Gaius Sallustius Passienus Crispus was a prominent figure in the Roman Empire during the first century. He held the consulship twice, and was stepfather of the future emperor Nero.

<i>The Twelve Caesars</i> 12 biographies of Julius Caesar and the first 11 emperors of the Roman Empire, written by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus in 121 CE

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.

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; it was because of his occupation, which entailed close contact with Claudius, that he is and was a suspect in the murder of the latter by poison. Along with Agrippina the Younger, the wife of Claudius, Halotus was considered one of the most likely to have committed the murder, although speculation by ancient historians suggest that he may have been working under orders of Agrippina.

Lucius Annius Vinicianus was a Roman senator during the Principate. He is best known for his involvement in the assassination of Caligula and a rebellion against Claudius.


  1. Tacitus, Annales, xi. 24.
  2. Dio Hist. LX 2
  3. Suet. Claud. 2. Suet Claud. 4 indicates the reasons for choosing this tutor, as outlined in Leon (1948).
  4. 1 2 Suet. Claud. 4.
  5. Scramuzza (1940) p. 39.
  6. 1 2 Stuart (1936).
  7. Dio Rom. Hist. LX 2. Suhr (1955) suggests that this must refer to before Claudius came to power.
  8. Major (1992)
  9. 1 2 Josephus Antiquitates Iudiacae XIX. Dio Rom. Hist. LX 1.3
  10. Josephus Ant. Iud. XIX.
  11. Josephus Bellum Iudiacum II, 204–233.
  12. "Claudius". The Royal Titulary of Ancient Egypt. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  13. Suetonius, Claud. 10
  14. "Coin, Museum No. R1874,0715.4". British Museum Online Collection. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  15. Harris Rackham (1938). "Pliny The Elder, Natural History". Loeb Classical Library.
  16. A History of the Roman People; 1984, Fritz Heichelheim, Cedric Veo, Allen Ward, Prentice Hall Inc., Englewoods, N.J.
  17. Pliny 5.1–5.2, Cassius Dio, 60.8, 60.9
  18. Scramuzza, Chap. 9
  19. "Head of the Emperor Claudius". British Museum.
  20. 1 2 Crummy, Philip (1997) City of Victory; the story of Colchester – Britain's first Roman town. Published by Colchester Archaeological Trust ( ISBN   1 897719 04 3)
  21. Scramuzza, Chap. 7, p. 142
  22. Suet. Claud. 15. Dio Rom. Hist. LXI 33.
  23. 1 2 Scramuzza (1940), Chap. 6
  24. Josephus Ant. Iud. XIX.5.3 (287).
  25. Scramuzza (1940), Chap. 7, p. 129
  26. Scramuzza (1940), Chap. 7
  27. Suetonius, Claud. 16
  28. Suetonius, Claud. 32
  29. "Suetonius • Life of Claudius".
  30. Tacitus Ann. XII 57
  31. Scramuzza (1940), Chap. 9, pp. 173–4
  32. English translation of Berlin papyrus by W.D. Hogarth, in Momigliano (1934).
  33. Suet. Claud. 29.
  34. 1 2 Tac. Ann. XII 65. Seneca Ad Polybium.
  35. Pliny Natural History 134.
  36. Suet. Claud. 12
  37. Suet. Claud. 11
  38. 1 2 3 4 Suet. Claud. 21
  39. Translation of Pliny's Historia Naturalis
  40. Humphrey, John, Roman circuses: arenas for chariot racing, University of California Press, 1986, pp. 100–101
  41. Tac. Ann. XI 10. Also Dio Rom. Hist. LXI 31, and Pliny Nat. Hist. X 172.
  42. Barbara Levick (1990). Claudius. Yale University Press. p. 67.
  43. Scramuzza (1940) p. 90.
  44. Momigliano (1934) pp. 6–7.
  45. Levick (1990) p. 19.
  46. Tac. Ann. XI. 25, 8.
  47. Farquhar, Michael (2001). A Treasure of Royal Scandals, p.212. Penguin Books, New York. ISBN   0-7394-2025-9.
  48. Suet. Claud. 26.
  49. 1 2 Scramuzza (1940) pp. 91–92. See also Tac. Ann. XII 6, 7; Suet. Claud. 26.
  50. Levick (1990) p. 70. See also Scramuzza (1940) p. 92.
  51. Oost (1958).
  52. 1 2 Suet. Claud. 30.
  53. Seneca Apocolo. 5, 6.
  54. Suet. Claud. 31.
  55. Suet. Claud. 38.
  56. Leon (1948).
  57. Burden, George. The Imperial Gene Archived 11 June 2001 at the Wayback Machine , The Medical Post, 16 July 1996. Retrieved 24 June 2007.
  58. Murad, Ali (2010). "A Neurological Mystery from History: The Case of Claudius Caesar". Journal of the History of the Neurosciences. 19 (3): 221–7. doi:10.1080/09647040902872775. PMID   20628951.
  59. Suet. Claud. 5, 21, 40.
  60. Dio Rom. Hist. LX 2, 5, 12, 31.
  61. Suet. Claud. 34, 38.
  62. Tacitus Ann. XII 20.
  63. Suet. Claud. 29.
  64. Dio Rom. Hist. LX 2, 8.
  65. Suet. Claud. 35, 36, 37, 39, 40.
  66. Dio Rom. Hist. LX 2, 3.
  67. Momigliano (1934) pp. 4–6.
  68. The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, 1937 p. 107
  69. Suet. Claud. 41.
  70. See Claudius' letter to the people of Trent (linked below), in which he refers to the "obstinate retirement" of Tiberius. See also Josephus Ant Iud. XIX, where an edict of Claudius refers to Caligula's "madness and lack of understanding."
  71. See Momigliano (1934) Chap. 1, note 20 (p. 83). Pliny credits him by name in Book VII 35.
  72. Levick (1978).
  73. Ryan (1993) refers to the historian Varro's account of the introduction
  74. cf. Tac. Ann. XII 66–67.
  75. Suet. Claud. 43
  76. Accounts of his death: Suet. Claud. 43, 44. Tac. Ann. XII 64, 66–67. Josephus Ant. Iud. XX 148, 151. Dio Rom. Hist. LX 34. Pliny Natural History II xxiii 92, XI lxxiii 189, XXII xlvi 92.
  77. Suet. Claud. 44
  78. Flavius Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 19:67; 20:148
  79. Scramuzza (1940) pp. 92–93 says that tradition makes every emperor the victim of foul play, so we can't know if Claudius was truly murdered. Indeed, the Emperor appears to have been seriously ill since at least 53. Levick (1990) pp. 76–77 raises the possibility that Claudius was killed by the stress of fighting with Agrippina over the succession, but concludes that the timing makes murder the most likely cause.
  80. Levick (1990); also as opposed to the murder of Augustus, which is only found in Tacitus and Dio where he quotes Tacitus. Suetonius, an inveterate gossip, doesn't mention it at all.
  81. Gradel I. Emperor worship and Roman religion. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2002. ISBN   978-0-19-927548-9
  82. Suet. Nero 9
  83. Suet. Nero 33
  84. 1 2 Levick (1990)
  85. Gradel I. Emperor worship and Roman religion. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2002. ISBN   978-0-19-927548-9 p. 356–341
  86. Hekster, Olivier (2008). Rome and Its Empire, AD 193–284. ISBN   978-0-7486-2304-4.
  87. Gradel I. Emperor worship and Roman religion. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2002. ISBN   978-0-19-927548-9 p. 367
  88. Scramuzza, p. 29
  89. Vessey (1971)
  90. Griffin (1990). Ann. XI 14 is often thought to be a good example: the digression on the history of writing is actually Claudius' own argument for his new letters, and fits in with his personality and extant writings. Tacitus makes no explicit attribution – and so there exists the possibility that the digression is Tacitus' own work or derivative of another source.
  91. Levick. Claudius p. 194
  92. "I, Claudius (2009) – Synopsis" . Retrieved 21 January 2011.
  93. I, Claudius, 6 November 1977, retrieved 14 April 2016


Ancient Sources

Modern Biographies

Born: 1 August 10 BC Died: 13 October 54
Roman Emperors
Preceded by
Gaius (Caligula)
Roman Emperor
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Gnaeus Acerronius Proculus, and
Gaius Petronius Pontius Nigrinus
Suffect consul of the Roman Empire
with Caligula
Succeeded by
Aulus Caecina Paetus, and
Gaius Caninius Rebilus
Preceded by
Caligula, and
Gnaeus Sentius Saturninus
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Gaius Caecina Largus (42)
Lucius Vitellius II (43)
Succeeded by
Titus Statilius Taurus,
and Gaius Sallustius Crispus Passienus
Preceded by
Marcus Junius Silanus Torquatus,
and Gaius Terentius Tullius Geminus
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Lucius Vitellius III
Succeeded by
Aulus Vitellius, and
Lucius Vipstanus Publicola Messalla
Preceded by
Camerinus Antistius Vetus,
and Marcus Suillius Nerullinus
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Servius Cornelius Scipio Salvidienus Orfitus
Succeeded by
Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix,
and Lucius Salvius Otho Titianus
Preceded by
Head of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty
41 AD – 54 AD
Succeeded by