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Emperor of ancient rome

Claudius (/ˈklɔːdiəs/ KLAW-dee-əs; Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 1 August 10 BC – 13 October AD 54) was the fourth Roman emperor, ruling from AD 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Claudius was 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. Because he was afflicted with a limp and slight deafness due to sickness at a young age, he was ostracized by his family and was excluded from public office until his consulship (which was shared with his nephew, Caligula, in 37).

Claudius's infirmity probably saved him from the fate of many other nobles during the purges during the reigns of Tiberius and Caligula as potential enemies did not see him as a serious threat. His survival led to him being declared emperor by the Praetorian Guard after Caligula's assassination, at which point he was the last adult male of his family. Despite his lack of experience, Claudius proved to be an able and efficient administrator. He expanded the imperial bureaucracy to include freedmen, and helped to restore the empire's finances after the excess of Caligula's reign. 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.

Bronze head of Claudius found in the River Alde at Rendham

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, which resulted in the deaths of many senators. Those events damaged his reputation among the ancient writers, though more recent historians have revised that opinion. Many authors contend that he was murdered by his own wife, Agrippina the Younger. After his death at the age of 63, Nero, his grand-nephew and legally adopted step-son, succeeded him as emperor.

Family and early life

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

Claudius's maternal grandparents were Mark Antony and Octavia Minor, Augustus's 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 Nero Claudius Drusus was actually the illegitimate son of Augustus, to give the appearance that Augustus was Claudius' paternal grandfather.

In 9 BC, Claudius's father Drusus unexpectedly died on campaign in Germania after a fall from a horse. He was then left to be raised by his mother, who never remarried. When his 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.

Livia was a little kinder, but nevertheless often sent Claudius 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 willpower. However, by the time he reached his teenage years, his symptoms apparently waned and his family began to take some notice of his scholarly interests.

In AD 7, Livy was hired to tutor Claudius in history, with the assistance of Sulpicius Flavus. He spent a lot of his time with the latter, as well as the philosopher Athenodorus. Augustus, according to a letter, was surprised at the clarity of Claudius's oratory. Expectations about his future began to increase.

Public life

Claudius's work as a budding historian damaged his prospects for advancement in public life. According to Vincent Scramuzza and others, he began work on a history of the Civil Wars that was either too truthful or too critical of Octavian, then reigning as Caesar Augustus. 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, since he could not be trusted to toe the existing party line.


August 1, 10
Claudius was born.


Further Resources


8 Things You May Not Know About Emperor Claudius

Evan Andrews


October 12, 2014

Claudius | Biography, Achievements, Death, Meaning, & Facts


Claudius: Reformer, Conqueror of Britain - Roman Emperors DOCUMENTARY


March 19, 2021


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