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Roman Emperor - Claudius
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.
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.
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.