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Claudius
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Claudius

        

For other Romans named Claudius see Claudius (gens).

Tiberius Claudius Nero Caesar Drusus (August 1, 10 BC - October 13, 54), originally known as Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus and most often referred to as Claudius, was Roman Emperor from 41 to his death in 54. He was grandson of Augustus's wife Livia, nephew of Tiberius, and brother to Germanicus. Born in Lugdunum in Gaul (modern-day Lyon, France), he was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy.

The son of Drusus and Antonia Minor, Claudius married four times, to Plautia Urgulanilla, then to Aelia Paetina, then to Messalina, whom he ordered to be put to death about ten years later. His last wife, his niece Agrippina, daughter to Germanicus and Agrippina the Elder, reputedly killed him by poisoning some mushrooms he ate. He reputedly walked with a heavy limp his entire life and spoke with a stammer.

With Messalina he had two children: Britannicus (c. 39-55), who might have been fathered by Caligula, and Octavia (c. 41-62), who married her own step-brother, Agrippina's son, the Emperor Nero.

Claudius was considered a rather unlikely man to become emperor. He is the only scholar to ever wear the purple. It was his stutter and lameness that may have prevented him from suffering the same fate as many other Roman nobles during the purges of Tiberius's and Caligula's reigns. After a conspiracy of officers and Senators assassinated Caligula, a group of regular soldiers "appointed" Claudius his successor, thinking that in Claudius they would have a pliant benefactor. Although Claudius had no intention of becoming Emperor, shortly after the Senate confirmed his status he embarked on several ambitious projects, one of which was the expansion of the Roman harbor at Ostia. Rome enjoyed military success under Claudius as well. In 47, his legions finally subdued Britannia, bringing the restive province into the Empire for the next 350 years.

The emperor Claudius was the protagonist of the books I, Claudius and Claudius the God by Robert Graves. The books are written from a first-person perspective, giving the impression of having been written by Claudius himself as his autobiography. Those books were the basis for a thirteen-part BBC series, first broadcast in the U.S. on Masterpiece Theatre in 1977, also titled I, Claudius and starring Sir Derek Jacobi in the title role (before he was knighted).

see: Julio-Claudian Family Tree


Preceded by:
Caligula
Roman Emperor
Succeeded by:
Nero