Emperor Claudius – Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus – was the second last man from Julio-Claudian dynasty. He was born in 1.8. 10 BC and died 13.10. 54 AD. Actually his age was not a bad achievement in the times when men of empirialle family had a habit of dying very young. Father of Claudius was the very famous and capable Roman general Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus. He – Drusus – has been left little unknown for afterworld because he died so young – only at age of 29 years. Probably he was one of the most talented Roman commanders of all time, because he defeated german tribes several times in exemplarily and pacified Germania after eastern bank of Rhein. He died in suspicious conditions – after making some accusations the way emperor Augustus ruled. This may really be true because the real father of Drusus was a republican who fought against Augustus in Philippoi. And actually both boys – Tiberius and Drusus – were raised by his father and not by Livia and Augustus himself. Livia – the mother of both boys – left his family after Drusus was born to be the wife of Augustus. Drusus was also the brother of becoming emperor Tiberius and together these two men were the best Roman soldiers of their times – good advertisement of Roman rule. It is also good to remember that grandparents of Claudius from mother’s side (Antonia) were no other than Marc Antony himself and Augustus’s sister Octavia Minor. A fact that most certainly effected the thoughts and thinking of Claudius.
As his father was a real roman hero, the more contradictory was that Claudius himself was a weak and sickly child. Even in a level that his family – mother Antonia, Augustus, Livia and many others in family felt shame because him. And of course Claudius was not a model for perfect Roman citizen. However that was probably his luck in the end, because every man in family died sooner or later – leaving only Tiberius left. And so he became the next emperor after Augustus. Some believe behind all this was Livia – Augustus wife. She wanted to make his son as an emperor to use him as a tool for ruling. As we know it did not work too long and Tiberius started to hate his mother. Tiberius also despised Claudius like his grandparents (Augustus and Livia) and persecuted his brother Germanicus, who was very talented military commander – as his father Drusus was been. Reason for hatred was the fact that ordinary Roman citizens loved Germanicus but hated Tiberius. Probably later on Tiberius murdered – partly joined with Livia – Germanicus and some other members of family. In the end of his life Tiberius separated from world in his island at Capri. Either helped by Tiberius’s bodyguard officer or just by Tiberius, Galigula was made as a next emperor. As we know he was crazy. Reasons for that are still in discussion. Some believe it was because his childhood was difficult – threat from Tiberius towards his all family. Or because he had a difficult illness – brain fever – when he started his reign. Anyway the time of Galicula as an emperor was a terrible chaos and terror. Nobody was safe. So it was not a wonder that the few who had courage seized the suitable moment and murdered Galicula. But then there was a problem – who is going to take the power? The german bodyguard solved the problem in few minutes. They found Claudius hiding and hailed him as a new emperor. Their existence and money was dependent that they had an emperor – so they made one. The senators and patrisians had to accept the reality – or die – because the only real force was the bodyguard – pretorians – in Rome. So Claudius became a Roman emperor against his own will and against everybody’s first thoughts when he was child.
Claudius as an emperor
Because Claudius was despised by his relatives (probably not by his brother Germanicus) he became a scholar. He studied ancient history and happening from beginning of Rome. He also started a history of Roman civil wars but Augustus and Livia forbid that promptly – it was too close for their times. All this meant that despite of his limping and stuttering Claudius became actually rather wise man. He knew a lot and learned to understand reasons for happenings in his time. So after first chock he became a wise and good ruler. He started to build new harbor to Ostia because Rome needed grain and better supply line for goods. (Ruins of Ostia still stands were it was). After terror of Tiberius and Galicula Claudius also gave a fair government for Rome were there were justice and equality. He also built two new aqveducts – Aqua Claudia and Anio Novus. Emperor Claudius was also interested about transporting and gave special rights to sailors and built new canals. He even renewed somewhat legislation and reduced taxes set by Galicula. It is said he also liked to be a judge in official trials and he was exact with law details. Maybe he is in the end best known from conquering Britannia and adding it as a part of Empire. Also Mauretania, Lycia, Thrace and Judea came a solid part of Rome. Anyway we can say that after terror of earlier Caesar’s Rome was again pleasant place to life. Claudius did many decision which were beneficial for roman citizens and his public works improved living in capital city. All in all he was a good emperor. Still – or maybe because of it – he was murdered by poison. And most likely it was done by his wife – and again followed a bad, insane and incapable emperor. This time Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus who drove realm in chaos and after him ended Julio-Claudian dynasty and military commander emperors took the future.
About his personal life
Even though his reign in Rome was good time, his personal life was always a mess. He had four wifes and all marriages were more or less politically arranged. First one was arranged by Livia. Second wife Aelia Paetina was the sister of Sejanus – commander of pretorians in time of Tiberius. The third one – Valeria Messalina – Claudius married in times when Galicula ruled. It is not known why – maybe it had something to do with Galicula and his mad rule. Later on when Galicula was murdered they could have spent some good times when Claudius was emperor. In the end she betrayed Claudius in all possible ways and even married to Silanus and they tried together seize the power. It ended for the execution of both. The fourth one was his brother’s daughter. Germanicus had many children and the one who survived through all terror was Agrippina the younger. Probably reason for marriage was only political and after Messalina Claudius wanted to make his position stronger by marrying inside his own kin. However in the end it was fatal error because Agrippina was a new Livia – a killing spider. She took care that his son – Nero – was lifted higher than the son of Claudius – Britannicus. Agrippina also married his son Nero to Octavia Claudia and thus moved him closer the throne. Later on Agrippina is said to poison Claudius by swamps. Then she took care that Nero was hailed as a new emperor and soon Britannicus was killed. After killing his own mother Agrippina, Nero spent confused life with dubious women. Then finally 62 AD he killed his first wife Claudia Octavia – the daughter of Claudius. So ended the life of last member of family of Claudius. Later on Nero had to made a suicide when citizens of Rome became too angry. So ended Julio-Claudian dynasty.
We know that Claudius was a learned man because he studied and had written history books. We know that he was also very reasonable man because he built lot of very useful structures all over the realm. We also know that in his time there was a reasonable freedom in Rome – also in senate. He really tried his best to make Rome better and his citizens happy. Also Rome grow bigger in his time by conquering more land. He was overlooked by his physical weaknesses but in the end he was a good emperor. Nobody really knows what was the illness Claudius had but some believe he had a polio when being infant. He liked a lot for gladiator games and they were organized often for the joy of roman people. Even a naval fight was organized in his time for public in lake Fucine. Yes he was a good Ceasar. But he did not reach the love of his closest colleagues and his wifes. I wonder what that tells about us people…
Yet one thing. In many movies gladiators hail Caesar “Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant” so “Hail, Emperor, those who are about to die salute you”. This actually happened in times of Claudius when he was organizing a naval combat – Naumachiarii – in lake Fucine. There fighters – captives and criminals fated to die – hailed Caesar Claudius in the manner “Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant.” Caesar replied grumby – “Aut non” so “Or maybe not”. Never again have that phrase been told elsewhere in written history.