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Roman Emperor - Claudius

Updated on January 18, 2012
This Roman statue of Emperor Claudius, which stands in the Vatican, Rome, portrays him as a strong, muscular man of dignity and authority. However, Claudius was, in fact, physically deformed and walked with a limp. His speech impediment and physical
This Roman statue of Emperor Claudius, which stands in the Vatican, Rome, portrays him as a strong, muscular man of dignity and authority. However, Claudius was, in fact, physically deformed and walked with a limp. His speech impediment and physical

10 BC - 54 AD

Full name Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus. Born Lugdunum (now Lyons, France) in 10 BC.

A scholar, historian and writer, who had escaped assassination only because he was universally regarded as an imbecile. The nephew of Tiberius, Claudius was made Roman emperor by his troops in AD 41, after the murder of Caligula.

The son of Nero Drusus and Antonia, Claudius was the grandson of Emperor Augustus. Nevertheless, he was an unlikely ruler and was shunned by his clan, the Claudii, because of a minor physical deformity and speech impediment.

He was sickly and neglected as a child; but despite undoubted eccentricity, he was not, as is commonly alleged, an imbecile. Claudius had first become a consul in AD 37.

His early life was spent in historical study and writing. Encouraged by Livy, he wrote many volumes, including a defence of the republican orator Cicero. He married three times and fathered five children before he became emperor.

Found hiding in the palace by a soldier the day that his nephew, Emperor Gaius Caligula, was assassinated, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus (10 BC - AD 54) was proclaimed emperor by the Imperial Praetorian Guard on the following day, 25 January 41.

Claudius was the first Roman emperor to assign important executive duties to freedmen. His four chief assistants all were former slaves. In time they became powerful and strongly influenced Claudius, for which the emperor was severely criticized by his enemies. In making use of imperial freedmen, Claudius restricted the freedom and functions of the senators, many of whom were hostile to him. He increased the authority of the equestrian officials, but the chief tendency of his reign was toward greater centralization of power. He was also the first Caesar to secure the support of the army by offering a bribe to each man.

Achievements

Under Claudius, civil administration saw detailed improvements in the judiciary, increased imperial control over the treasury and provinces, and the creation of a cabinet of freedmen.

Claudius extended the rights of Roman citizenship to many Gallic leaders, and he enlarged the senate to include a number of prominent men from the western provinces of the empire.

He put down a revolt by the governor of Dalmatia and many senators and knights in AD 42. In all, 35 senators and several hundred knights were executed throughout Claudius' reign. However, compared with his infamous predecessor and also his successor, Nero, Claudius' rule was mild, even enlightened.

A port was built at Ostia (the port of Rome), and the grain supply of Rome was streamlined.

Games and public ceremonies were staged and old religious traditions revived.

Introduced internal reforms, reorganized trade, extended civic rights to communities outside Italy, and built two great aqueducts, improving Rome's water supply.

During his reign the Roman empire was considerably extended, and in 43 he took part in the invasion of Britain.

Claudius added Mauretania and Thrace to the Roman Empire.

He extended Roman rule in North Africa and Asia Minor, establishing client kingdoms with little use of arms. Although later revolts were led by the client king of Iceni and the queen Boadicea, the settlement established at Camulodunum was secure. He received honours from the Senate upon his return.

Demise

His rule was marked by the increased political power enjoyed by his private secretatirs who exercised ministerial functions. Claudius was dominated by his third wife, Messalina, who he ultimately had executed,after he discovered her plot to depose him.

Her successor, Agrippina, his niece, persuaded him to pass over his heir, Britannicus, whom she later poisoned, in favour of her own son, Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus.

Claudius himself died by poison, which, according to Tacitus, was administered by Agrippina. Claudius was deified during the reign of his step-son Lucius, who ruled as Emperor Nero. His subsequent deification is satirised in Seneca's Apocolocyntosis.

Claudius died in Rome in 54 AD.

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    • profile image

      superturk 

      5 years ago

      thnx i got all the info for project loool coool maaade niceeeeeeee

    • profile image

      Chase 

      6 years ago

      thx..got me 10 xtra credit points.

    • profile image

      Taff 

      6 years ago

      Helped tremendously on my report, thanks! (:

    • profile image

      Taff 

      6 years ago

      What would you say is his greatest achievement?

    • profile image

      !!!!!! 

      6 years ago

      thanks for helping me with my report

    • profile image

      6 years ago

      epic

    • profile image

      big sausage 

      6 years ago

      he was a nice emperor

    • profile image

      kate 

      6 years ago

      didnt really help me with my project...but i guess its pretty good

    • HikeGuy profile image

      Bryce 

      6 years ago from Northern California Coast

      Thanks for this detailed background. This era fascinates me. The aqueducts were a feat. Glad I found this.

      Students -- Because the first comment is from two years ago, I'd use 2009 as the publication date.

    • jimagain profile image

      jimagain 

      7 years ago from Hattiesburg, Mississippi

      I enjoyed this. Just getting interested in learning more about the Roman culture and form of government and how much we adopted from them.

    • profile image

      Roman 

      7 years ago

      I have to write up a bibliography for this site and need to know the date for when this article was published, would you be able to help me with that?

    • profile image

      none of your buisness 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for helping with my report I am sure I'll get an A

      now!!!!! By the way why does everyone keep on saying great hub???? What is that?? From now on that is what I am calling my miidle toe on the left foot until someone tells me what it means!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

    • Sembj profile image

      Sembj 

      7 years ago

      Great Hub. I was introduced to Claudius in Graves two brilliant books. Any history I've read has helped reinforce the view of him being as good a man and leader bring many benefits to both Rome and its provinces.

      I will be back to read more hubs - thanks.

    • profile image

      dumbo 

      7 years ago

      very interesting, just listened to bbc i[player dramatisation of I claudius - did claudius really get dominated by his wives?

    • darkside profile imageAUTHOR

      Glen 

      7 years ago from Australia

      You can put what date it was 'retrieved'. Which is today's date. Or whatever date you used it for reference.

    • profile image

      a.cook 

      7 years ago

      i am doing a report for school and i needd to know what the date of this was written. pleaase help , thank you

    • profile image

      Juliet 

      7 years ago

      Just what I needed 4 this report

    • profile image

      Dean Higgins 

      8 years ago

      It is interesting to read and learn things about men who made changes that are noted in the bible like his decision when the apostle Paul was being persecuted by the Jews for working with gentiles as is noted in the book of Acts.

    • profile image

      spam4brains 

      8 years ago

      I'm trying to imagine a democratic emperor.I don't think the slaves where allowed to vote like they are here.

    • electricsky profile image

      electricsky 

      8 years ago from North Georgia

      Thanks for the great Roman history lesson.

    • profile image

      Janet Maday 

      8 years ago

      Claudius was fascinating. His history of his family is spellbinding to say the least. Yes, he was a Republican at heart and seems as history notes to have ruled wisely and without the bizarre behavior of the two emperors who preceded him (Caligula and Tiberius). Never can seem to can enough of this information!

    • profile image

      8 years ago

      awesome

    • mkott profile image

      Michele 

      8 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      I Claudius, the book and PBS Series turned me onto the Roman Empire. Good hub.

    • Dame Scribe profile image

      Dame Scribe 

      8 years ago from Canada

      Love hearing about Rome :) great Hub, DS

    • heyju profile image

      heyju 

      9 years ago

      Loved the story, thanks again, can't get enough of the romans!!!

    • vivekananda profile image

      vivekananda 

      9 years ago from India

      Interesting piece of history. It's good to read about Claudius and his achievements.

    • darkside profile imageAUTHOR

      Glen 

      9 years ago from Australia

      I'll be skipping the next 3 emperors and working on Vespasian next. But I'll cover them much later, though the information on them is a bit thin.

    • profile image

      J Mockridge 

      9 years ago

      Interesting hub on Claudius.

    • profile image

      Iphigenia 

      9 years ago

      I've been waiting for this one ! Despite his physical deformities it seems to me that Claudius was the best of the Emperors. Ironically, he was a republican ! The scholarship of his early years no doubt informed the achievements and reforms that he instigated as Emperor.

      Another great read on one of my favourite subjects - thanks

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