(Tiberius Claudius Nero)


Claudius was the brother of Germanicus and the uncle of Caligula, but at no time during his youth was he seriously considered by his family as heir to the imperial throne. He was clumsy, walked with a limp and had a speech impediment, although he was fairly intelligent. He did not take part in public life, and for the first thirty years of his adult life dedicated himself mostly to scholarship. He is thought to have befriended Livy, who encouraged him to write histories, but all of his literary works have been lost. During this period of his life he married and divorced two wives, and shortly before his accession to the imperial throne, married a third one named Messalina. Messalina bore him two children, Britannicus and Octavia, but was otherwise an utterly wretched wife. Aside from scandalous infidelities, she was involved in much political intrigue and used her influence over Claudius in wicked ways.

The elevation of Claudius to the throne was sudden and unexpected. Claudius was present immediately after the murder of Caligula by the palace guard, and hid himself behind a curtain in fear for his own life. Instead of killing him however, the guards brought him back to their camp and declared him emperor. Since this was done without any consultation with the Senate, it marked the first time that the army had selected an emperor without going though any formal constitutional process. Claudius was widely disliked by the senatorial class, which included his primary historians, but in fact, compared to previous and subsequent emperors, his reign was relatively moderate, and he appeared to be a competent administrator. During his reign he led his troops into Britain, fought a battle with Caractacus, and established Britain as a Roman province. He also annexed the region of Maurentania in Africa, and reabsorbed Judea and Thrace into the empire.

For most of his reign Claudius ignored Messalina's outrageous behavior, but eventually she was caught in a conspiracy and executed along with her lover. Unfortunately, Claudius then married his niece Agrippina the Younger, who was nearly as wicked as Messalina. Agrippina induced him to adopt her son Nero as his heir, and then spent the next few years gaining favor for Nero among the army, while keeping Britannicus in isolation. When she was certain Nero had the support of the army, she poisoned Claudius, and Nero was crowned emperor.

Key events during the life of claudius:

Married first wife, Plautia Urgulanilla.
Divorced first wife for adultery.
Married second wife, Aelia Paetina
Divorced second wife.
Married third wife, Messalina.
Declared emperor on the death of Caligula.
Reabsorbed Judea into the empire on the death of Herod Agrippa.
  Annexed the region of Maurentania (Western Africa) into the Roman Empire.
Led army into Britain, and established it as a province.
Had his third wife, Messalina, put to death for conspiring to kill him.
Married Agrippina, his brother's daughter.
Adopted Nero and made him the imperial heir.
Poisoned by his fourth wife, Agrippina.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Accession of Claudius  in  Nero  by  Jacob Abbott
Furthest Britain  in  Helmet and Spear  by  Alfred J. Church
Caractacus Before Claudius  in  Pictures from Roman Life and Story  by  Alfred J. Church
Deification of Claudius  in  Pictures from Roman Life and Story  by  Alfred J. Church
Wicked Wives of Claudius  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber

Image Links

Discovery of Claudius
 in Nero

The Poisoning of Claudius
 in Nero

 in Pictures from Roman Life and Story

Claudius found by the soldiers
 in The Story of the Romans

Short Biography
Caratacus King of Britons, imprisoned by Claudius.
Messalina Wicked, profligate, and promiscuous wife of Claudius.
Agrippina the Younger Mother of Nero. Murdered Claudius to make way for his rise to the throne.
Seneca Tutor and minister to Nero. Forced to commit suicide after falling from grace.
Caligula Third emperor. Sadistic and probably insane.