Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus - Claudius

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2016
TIBERIUS CLAUDIUS CAESAR AUGUSTUS GERMANICUS
(CLAUDIUS)

INTRODUCTION

Claudius (Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 1 August 10 BC – 13 October 54 AD) was Roman emperor from 41 to 54.
A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor.
He was born at Lugdunum in Gaul, 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 consulship, shared with his nephew Caligula in 37.
Claudius' infirmity probably saved him from the fate of many other nobles during the purges of Tiberius 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 began the conquest of Britain (if the earlier invasions of Britain by Caesar and Caligula's aborted attempts are not counted).
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 AD (at age of 63), his grand-nephew and adopted son Nero succeeded him as Emperor.
He was a descendant of the Octavii Rufi (through Gaius Octavius), Julii Caesares (through Julia Atii and Julia Antonii) and the Claudii Nerones (through Nero Claudius Drusus); he was a great-nephew of Augustus through his full sister Octavia Minor, an uncle of Caligula and finally a great-uncle of Nero through Caligula's father and Nero's grandfather Germanicus.

Early Life

Claudius was born on 1 August 10 BC at the Sanctuary of the Three Gauls in what is now Lyon, France.
He had two older siblings, Germanicus and Livilla.
His mother, Antonia, may have had two other children who died young.
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.
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 on his grandmother Livia for a number of years.

Livia
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" 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 AD, 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.
Expectations about his future began to increase.
His work as a budding historian damaged his prospects for advancement in public life.
Claudius began work on a history of the Civil Wars that was either too truthful or too critical of Octavian - 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.
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 of Pavia was erected to honor the Imperial family in 8 BC, 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 !
When Augustus died in 14 AD, Claudius  -  then 23 - appealed to his uncle Tiberius to allow him to begin the cursus honorum.
The cursus honorum (course of offices") 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 age for election. There were minimum intervals between holding successive offices and laws forbade repeating an office. To have held each office at the youngest possible age (suo anno, "in his year") was considered a great political success, since to miss out on a praetorship at 39 meant that one could not become consul at 42.
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.
A possible surviving portrait of Claudius from this period may support this.

Assassination of Caligula (41 AD)

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, 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 guard cut down several uninvolved noblemen, including many of his friends.
He fled to the palace to hide.

Gratus proclaims Claudius Emperor - Detail
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tedama
According to tradition, a Praetorian named Gratus found him hiding behind a curtain, and suddenly declared him Princeps.
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, (a possible re-establishment of the Republic), 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.
It has been suggested that Claudius was directed in his actions by the Judaean King Herod Agrippa. However, an earlier version of events downplays Agrippa's role, so it remains uncertain.
Eventually the Senate was forced to give in and, in return, Claudius pardoned nearly all the assassins.

Claudius 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, 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.
While Claudius had never been formally adopted either by Augustus or his successors, he was nevertheless the grandson of his 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.
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.
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.

Expansion of the Empire


Under Claudius, the Empire underwent its first major expansion since the reign of Augustus.
The provinces of Thrace, Noricum, Pamphylia, 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.
The most far-reaching conquest was the conquest of Britannia.
In 43 AD, 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 center of Camulodunum.
The Roman colonia of Colonia Claudia Victricensis was established as the provincial capital of the newly established province of Britannia at Camulodunum, where a large Temple was dedicated in his honour.
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 honors, 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 Briton general Caractacus was captured in 50 AD, 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 (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.

Legal Reforms

Claudius personally judged many of the legal cases tried during his reign, and 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 from Roman rule for their good faith and exempted 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.
One of Claudius's investigators discovered that many old Roman citizens based in the city of Trento were not in fact citizens.
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.
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.
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.

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 famous Porta Maggiore.
He also restored a third, the Aqua Virgo.
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 traveling 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.
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 and Hadrian.

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 (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.
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.
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, and 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.
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.
Needless to say, the responses to these conspiracies could not have helped Senate-emperor relations.

The Secretariat and the 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.
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.
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.

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 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.
It is also reported that at one time he expelled the Jews from Rome, probably because the Jews within the city caused continuous disturbances.
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 organized 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.
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:
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 Theatre after it had been destroyed by fire, organizing special fights at the re-dedication which he observed from a special platform in the orchestra box.

Marriages and Personal Life

Suetonius and the other ancient authors accused Claudius of being dominated by 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, 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.

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 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.
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 - 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.
Sources disagree as to whether or not she divorced the Emperor first, and whether the intention was to usurp the throne.
It is possible 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 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.

Agrippina the Younger


Claudius married once more.

The ancient sources tell that his freedmen pushed 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.
The truth is likely more political.
The attempted coup d'etat 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) 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 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 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 made joint heir with the underage Britannicus, married to Octavia and promoted.
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.
Nero was more popular with the general public as the grandson of Germanicus, and the direct descendant of Augustus.

Claudius' Affliction and His Personality

The historian 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 Seneca 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 life.
Recent theories implicate cerebral palsy as the cause of Claudius' disability.
As a person, ancient historians described Claudius as generous, and a man who sometimes lunched with the plebeians.
They also paint him as overly fond of gladiatorial combat and executions, and very quick to anger; Claudius himself acknowledged the latter trait, and apologized publicly for his temper.
According to the ancient historians he was also overly trusting, and at times could be manipulated by his wives and freedmen.
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.
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, and 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, 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.

Death of Claudius

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 AD.
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.
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.
Among contemporary sources, Seneca the younger ascribed the emperor's death to natural causes, while Josephus only spoke of rumors on his poisoning.
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 near universality of the accusations in ancient texts lends credence to the crime.
Claudius' ashes were interred in the Mausoleum of Augustus on 24 October 54 AD, after a funeral in the manner of Augustus.

Divine Honours - Claudius the God

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


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2016




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