Coin showing the head of Claudius

Claudius (Afterwards Deified(10 BC - AD 54))
From The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius
Translated by Robert Graves (1957)

WHEN three months after her marriage to Augustus, Livia gave birth to Decimus (later Nero) Drusus, people naturally suspected that Augustus, not her ex-husband, was the father. This provoked the following epigram:

How fortunate those parents are for whom
their child is only three months in the womb!

Drusus, father of the future Emperor Claudius, commanded an army against the Raetians, and subsequently against the Germans, while holding the successive ranks of quaestor and praetor. He was the first Roman general to navigate the North Sea; and also excavated the Drusus Canal, as they still call it — a remarkable engineering work which connects the Rhine with the Yssel. After defeating the local tribes in a series of battles, Drusus drove them far back into the wild interior until checked by an apparition: a barbarous woman of phenomenal size who warned him in Latin to venture no farther.

These campaigns earned Drusus an ovation, with triumphal regalia; and he became Consul directly the praetorship ended. On resuming the war he died at his summer headquarters, thenceforth known as 'The Accursed Camp'. His body was carried to Rome in a coffin by relays of leading citizens from the various free towns and veterans' colonies which lay along the route. There a waiting deputation of magistrates' clerks took it to a pyre on the Campus Martius. The Army fixed a day for every city in Gaul to pay his ghost their respects with prayers and sacrifices; soldiers in full equipment were to run around the memorial pillar. The Senate voted Drusus many honours, among them a marble arch on the Appian Way decorated with the trophies he had won, and the surname Germanicus to be held by himself and his descendants in perpetuity.

Drusus was, they say, no less eager for personal glory than loyal to the republican institutions then in abeyance. Not content with gaining victories over the enemy, he had a long-standing ambition to win what were called 'The Noblest Spoils', namely the armour of the opposing general taken from him in single combat; and used to chase German chieftains across the battlefield at great risk to his life. He also openly announced that, as soon as he came to power, he would restore the Constitution.

This must be why some writers allege that Augustus suspected him of being a revolutionary, recalled him from his province and, when he did not come back at once, had him poisoned. I think it right not to suppress what seems to me a most improbable view; in point of fact, Augustus felt so deep a love for Drusus that, as he admitted to the Senate on one occasion, he considered him no less his heir than were Julia's sons, whom he had adopted; and his funeral speech in the House not only eulogized Drusus but included a prayer that the gods would make these young Caesars closely resemble him, and grant them as honourable a death. Nor did he think it enough to have an adulatory inscription carved on Drusus's tomb: he also wrote his biography.

Antonia the Younger bore Drusus several children, three of whom survived him: Germanicus, Livilla, and Claudius.

2. Claudius — Tiberius Claudius Drusus — was born at Lyons, in the consulship of Iullus Antonius and Fabius Africanus, on 1 August, 10 B.C. the very day when the first altar was dedicated there to Augustus the God; Drusus died in the following year. Claudius took the surname Germanicus after his brother had been engrafted in the Julian House as Tiberius's adopted son. Nearly the whole of his childhood and youth was so troubled by various diseases that he grew dull-witted and had little physical strength; and on reaching the age at which he should have won a magistracy or chosen a private career, was considered by his family incapable of doing either.

Even the wearing of a man's gown did not free him from the supervision of a tutor, about whom he later wrote:

'The man was a barbarian, an ex-transport officer who had been assigned the task of punishing me savagely whatever I might do.'

Claudius's weak health also accounted for his being muffled in a cloak — an unprecedented sight — while presiding at the gladiatorial games given by Germanicus and himself to honour their father's memory; and, at his coming of age, he was taken up to the Capitol in a litter, about midnight, without the customary solemn procession.

3. Though he applied himself seriously to literature while still a child, and published several samples of his proficiency in its various departments, this did not advance him to public office or inspire the family with brighter hopes for his future.

Claudius's mother often called him 'a monster: a man whom Mother Nature had begun to work upon but then flung aside'; and, if she ever accused anyone of stupidity, would exclaim: 'He is a bigger fool even than my son Claudius!' Livia Augusta, his grandmother, never failed to treat him with the deepest scorn, and seldom addressed him personally; her reproofs came in the form of brief, bitter letters or oral messages. When his sister Livilla heard someone predict that he would one day succeed to the throne, she prayed aloud that the Roman people might be spared so cruel and undeserved a misfortune. Finally, to show what his great-uncle, Augustus, thought of him, I quote the following extracts from the Imperial correspondence;

4. My dear Livia,
As you suggested, I have now discussed with Tiberius what we should do about your grandson Claudius at the coming Festival of Mars the Avenger. We both agreed that an immediate decision ought to be taken. The question is whether he has — shall I say? — full command of his five senses. If so, I can see nothing against sending him through the same degrees of office as his brother; but should he prove physically and mentally deficient, the public (which is always amused by trifles) must not be given a chance of laughing at him and us. I fear that we shall find ourselves in constant trouble if the question of his fitness to officiate in this or that capacity keeps cropping up. We should therefore decide in advance whether he can or cannot be trusted with offices of state generally.

As regards the immediate question in your last letter, I have no objection to his taking charge of the priests' banquet at the Festival, if he lets his cousin, young Silvanus, stand by to see that he does not make a fool of himself. But I am against his watching the Games in the Circus from the Imperial box, where the eyes of the whole audience would be on him. I am also against his being made Germanicus's assistant during the Latin Festival on the Alban Mount, merely to avoid the embarrassment of appointing him City Prefect at Rome while the Senate is absent; because if capable of the former appointment, he is also capable of the latter.

In short, my dear Livia, I am anxious that a decision should be reached on tlus matter once and for all, to save us from further alternations of hope and despair. You are at liberty to show this to Antonia.. .

Augustus wrote to Livia on another occasion:

... While you are away, I shall certainly invite young Tiberius Claudius to dine every afternoon; rather than leave him to the exclusive company of his tutors Athenodorus and Sulpicius. If only he would show greater concentration and behave with less capriciousness! — What he needs is someone to imitate: someone who holds himself up properly, walks well, and has graceful gestures. I ant sorry for the poor fellow, because in serious matters, when not wool-gathering, he shows considerable nobility of principle.

And again:

My dear Livia,
I'll be damned if your grandson Tiberius Claudius hasn't given me a very pleasant surprise! How on earth anyone who talks so confusedly can nevertheless speak so well in public — with such clearness, saying an it needs to be said — I simply do not understand.

However, it is clear what decision Augustus eventually took; cause he gave Claudius no honours except a seat in the College of Augurs, and listed him in his will among heirs to the sixth part of his estate — relatives so distant as to be practically no kin at all — and in the third degree, which meant that if any heir in the first degree died, or refused the bequest, and if the same happened with heirs of the second degree, he might have a prospect of receiving a bequest. The only legacy Claudius got in hard cash was a mere 1,000 gold pieces.

5. When his uncle Tiberius succeeded Augustus, Claudius asked to be given some office of state. Tiberius sent him the consular regalia, Claudius then pressed for the duties as well as the empty title of a Consul. Tiberius's reply ran: 'The forty gold pieces I sent you were meant to be squandered on toys during the Saturnalian holidays.' After that Claudius renounced all hopes of a political career, spending an obscure and idle life between his suburban mansion and a villa in Campania. Since several of his intimates were men of the lowest class, Claudius's reputation for stupidity was further enhanced by stories of his drunkenness and love of gambling. Yet many men of distinction continued to visit him, and he never lost the people's respect.

6. The Knights twice chose Claudius as head of a deputation to the Consuls: the first time was when they requested the privilege of carrying Augustus's body back to Rome on their shoulders; the second, when Sejanus's conspiracy had been suppressed and they were offering felicitations. At Claudius's appearance in the theatre or amphitheatre, the entire Equestrian Order would rise and take off their cloaks as a mark of honour. The Senate, for their part, voted that he should be made an extraordinary member of the Augustan priesthood, who were as a rule chosen by lot; and when one day his mansion burned down they decreed that it should be rebuilt at public expense, and that he should have the honour of addressing the House among men of consular rank. Tiberius, however, vetoed this second decree on the ground that Claudius's ill-health prevented him from participating in debates; and undertook that the cost of rebuilding the mansion would be defrayed by the Privy Purse. Claudius was listed again only with heirs of the third degree — this time to a third part of the estate — in Tiberius's will; but he did secure a legacy of some 25,000 gold pieces and a commendation (in a list of Tiberius's relatives) to the Army, the Senate, and the People of Rome.

7. As soon as Claudius's nephew Gaius Caligula became Emperor and tried every means of gaining popularity, Claudius entered on his belated public career as Caligula's colleague in a two-months' consulship; and when he first entered the Forum with the consular rods, an eagle swooped down and perched on his shoulder. He also drew lots for a second consulship, and won one that would fall due four years later. Claudius often presided as Caligula's substitute at the Games, where the audience greeted him with: 'Long live the Emperor's Uncle!' and 'Long live Germanicus's Brother!'

8. Nevertheless, these honours did not protect him from frequent insults. If ever he arrived a little late in the dining hall, there was nothing for it but to tour the tables in search of a vacant couch; and when he took his usual after-dinner nap the company would pelt him with olives and date stones. Some jokesters exercised their wit by putting slippers on his hands as he lay snoring, and then gave him a sudden blow of a whip or cane to wake him, so that he rubbed his eyes with them.

9. At times he found himself in real danger. He was nearly deposed from his first consulship for having taken so long to set up statues of Caligula's murdered brothers Nero and Drusus; and later had a variety of vexatious accusations brought against him, not only by strangers but by his own servants. When the Senate sent him, with other envoys, to felicitate Caligula, then in Germany, on the detection of a conspiracy headed by Lepidus and Gaetulicus, Caligula felt so annoyed that his uncle, of all people, had been entrusted with this mission — as if to a child in need of a guardian — that he nearly killed him. According to one account, Claudius was thrown fully dressed into the Rhine as soon as he arrived. Afterwards, by way of humiliation, Caligula gave orders that Claudius should be the last man of consular rank called upon to speak in any debate. The Senate even found that a will witnessed by him was a forgery; and, as a climax, he had to pay a fee of 100,000 gold pieces for entering Caligula's new priesthood. This sum he borrowed from the Public Treasurers, pledging his estates as security; but could not meet the obligation, and they were formally advertised for sale in accordance with the law.

10. Having spent the better part of his life in circumstances like these, Claudius became Emperor, at the age of fifty, by an extraordinary accident. When the assassins ordered Caligula's courtiers to disperse, pretending that he wished to be alone, Claudius went off with the rest and retired to a room called the Hermaeum; but presently heard about the murder and slipped away in alarm to a nearby balcony, where he hid trembling behind the door curtains. A Guardsman, wandering vaguely through the Palace, noticed a pair of feet beneath the curtain, pulled their owner out for identification and recognized him. Claudius dropped on the floor and clasped the soldier's knees, but found himself acclaimed Emperor. He was then taken to the Palace guard-house where the men were angry, confused, and at a loss what to do; however, they placed him in a litter and, because his own bearers had decamped, took turns at carrying him to General Headquarters. Claudius looked the picture of terror and despair; in his passage through the streets everyone cast him pitying glances as if he were an innocent man being hurried to execution. Once safely in the Guards' Camp, Claudius spent the night among the sentries, confident now that no immediate danger threatened, but feeling little hope for the future since the consuls, with the approval of the Senate and the aid of City militiamen, had seized the Forum and Capitol, and were determined on restoring the Republic.

When the tribunes of the people summoned him to visit the House and there clarify the situation, Claudius replied that he was being forcibly detained and could not come. The Senate, however, were far from unanimous on questions of practical policy; tiresome recriminations prolonged the debate and prevented the passing of any decree. Meanwhile, crowds surrounded the building and demanded a monarchy, expressly calling for Claudius; so he allowed the Guards to acclaim him Emperor and to swear allegiance. He also promised every man 150 gold pieces, which made him the first of the Caesars to purchase the loyalty of his troops.

11. No sooner had Claudius's power been established than he gave priority to the task of obliterating all records of those two days when there had been talk of a new Constitution. He ordered a general amnesty, and observed it himself, apart from executing a few of the colonels and junior officers who had conspired against Caligula — to make an example of them and because they had, he knew, planned his own murder as well. Next, to show his family devotion, he always used 'By Augustus!' as the most sacred and frequent of his oaths; made the Senate decree his grandmother Livia divine honours, as well as an elephant-drawn carriage for her image, to match Augustus's, during ritual processions around the Circus; and instituted annual Circus Games on his father's birthday, during which the image of his mother — now posthumously given the title of 'Augusta', which she had refused while alive — was paraded in a carriage, and public sacrifices were offered to both his parents. He also never missed a chance of keeping green the fame of his brother Germanicus; he entered a Greek comedy written by him for a theatrical contest at Naples, and had the satisfaction of announcing that the judges awarded it first prize. Nor did he fail to honour Mark Antony; in one proclamation he begged the people 'to celebrate my father Drusus's birthday all the more heartily because it happens likewise to have been that of my maternal grandfather Antony.' Moreover, he completed the marble arch near Pompey's Theatre voted some years before by the Senate, but neglected by Caligula; and while annulling all Caligula's edicts, would not allow the day of his assassination to be proclaimed a public festival, although it marked the beginning of his own reign.

12. Claudius did not presume to accept excessive honorifics, even refusing that of 'The Emperor Claudius'; and let the betrothal of his daughter, and the birthday of his grandson, be privately celebrated. He recalled no exile from banishment without Senatorial permission, and when wishing to bring the Guards' Commander and some colonels into the House, or to have the judicial decisions of his provincial agents ratified, would ask the Senate for these privileges as a favour; and actually approached the Consuls for leave to hold fairs on his private estates. Often he sat on the Advisory Council during trials in magistrates' courts; and at public games would rise with the audience and show his delight by clapping and shouting. When the tribunes of the people appeared before his judge's chair, he apologized for not offering them seats — only lack of room on the platform, he said, condemned them to stand. This sort of behaviour endeared him to the people so soon that when a rumour went around of his having been ambushed and assassinated on the Ostia road, everyone was aghast and began accusing the troops of treachery and the Senators of murder. The magistrates had to bring two or three witnesses forward on the Rostra, followed by several more, to assure the City that he was safe and on the way home.

13. Nevertheless, various attempts were made on his life: by dissident individuals, by a group of conspirators, and by a full-scale rebellion. To be precise: a commoner with a dagger was arrested about midnight near Claudius's bedroom. Two knights were found waiting to kill him — one with a sword-cane, as he left the Theatre; the other with a hunting-knife, as he sacrificed in the Temple of Mars. Then Asinius Gallns and Statilius Corvinus, grandsons respectively of the orators Pollio and Messala, brought some of Claudius's own freedmen and slaves into a plot for his deposition. Lastly, Furius Camillus Scribonianus, Governor-general of Dalmatia, persuaded his legions to revolt; but, on being ordered to march off and rally around their new Emperor, they found that some divine intervention prevented them from dressing the Eagles with garlands and perfumes, and that the standards resisted all attempts to pull them out of the ground. Because of a superstitious fear engendered by these portents, the rebellion was smothered in less than five days.

14. Claudius held four more consulships: the first two in successive years, the others at four-yearly intervals. The fourth lasted for six months, the remainder only for two; and he took over the third from a Consul who had just died — a thing which no other emperor has ever done, before or since. During these terms of office and, indeed, at all times, Claudius was a most conscientious judge: sitting in court even on his own birthday and those of his family, sometimes actually on ancient popular holidays or days of ill-omen. Instead of always observing the letter of the law, he let himself be guided by his sense of equity, and when he thought the punishments prescribed were either too lenient or too severe, changed them accordingly. Thus, should plaintiffs have lost their cases in a lower court by demanding more damages than the law sanctioned, he allowed them to modify the plea and ordered a re-trial. But if anyone were found guilty of some really shocking crime, Claudius condemned him to the wild beasts.

15. However, his behaviour in Court varied unpredictably: sometimes he was wise and prudent, sometimes thoughtless and hasty, sometimes downright foolish and apparently out of his senses. One man had presented himself for jury-service without disclosing that he was exempt, as a father of three children; Claudius, revising the roster, expunged his name, remarking that he showed an unwholesome liking for the jury-box. A juror, challenged in Court on the ground that he had a case of his own pending, replied: 'The objection is irrelevant; I will not be called upon to plead before Caesar.' Claudius intervened, instructing the juryman to bring his case up at once, since the way he handled it would show how far he might be trusted while judging the other.

A woman once refused to admit that she was the mother of a young man produced in Court, and a conflict of evidence arose; but the truth came out when Claudius ordered her to marry the man. He had a tendency to decide against whichever party in a suit happened to be absent, without troubling to ask whether or not this might have been unavoidable. After a man was found guilty of forgery, the crowd shouted: 'He ought to have his hands cut off!' Claudius immediately sent for an executioner, with block and cleaver, to act on this suggestion.

Again, during a wrangle between counsel as to whether a man accused of wrongfully posing as a Roman citizen should wear a Roman gown or a Greek mantle in court, Claudius demonstrated his fair-mindedness by making him wear a mantle when accused and a gown when defended. Before one case opened, it is said, he wrote out the following verdict, which he subsequently delivered: 'I decide in favour of the party which has told the truth.' Such erratic behaviour brought Claudius into open and widespread contempt — so much so that when a lawyer kept apologizing for the non-appearance of a provincial witness whom Claudius had subpoenaed, but would not explain it, Claudius had to browbeat him before at last eliciting the answer: 'He is dead; I trust the excuse is legitimate.' Another lawyer thanked Claudius for letting him defend a client, and added: 'Though this is, of course, established practice.' Old people I know have told me that litigants imposed so rudely on his good nature that they would not only call him back after he had closed the Court, but would catch at the hem of his gown, and even at his foot, in their efforts to detain him. Though all this may sound incredible, I must also record that one nasty little Greek lawyer lost his temper with Claudius during a hearing and burst out: 'And as for you, you're a stupid old idiot!'

It is a matter of common knowledge that when a Roman knight was being falsely accused of unnatural offences against women — the charge had been framed by private enemies who would stop at nothing — and saw that Claudius was admitting the evidence of common prostitutes, he hurled a stylus and set of wax tablets in his face, shouting: 'A curse on your stupid, cruel ways!' Claudius's cheek was badly gashed.

16. The Office of Censor had been allowed to lapse since the days of Plancus and Paulus, sixty years previously, but Claudius assumed it; and here he proved as inconsistent in his general principles as in his particular decisions. He kept the name of a young criminal on a list of knights which he was reviewing, and set no black mark against it; simply because the father denied that he had any complaints to make himself. 'This young man has a Censor in his own home' was Claudius's judgement. Another knight, though a notorious seducer of girls and married women, escaped with a caution: 'Restrain your passions, or at least go more carefully in future. Why should it be any business of mine who your mistress may be?' Once a man's friend persuaded Claudius to remove the black mark which stood against his name. 'But I want the erasure to show,' he insisted. Then there was the Greek nobleman struck from the roster of jurymen and actually deprived of his rights as a Roman citizen, because Claudius would not let anyone employ a lawyer, when asked to give an account of his life, but made him speak for himself as best he could. Several knights were also struck from the list, much to their surprise, on the novel charge of going abroad without a formal demand for leave of absence; since one of them had been acting as adviser to a petty king, Claudius brought up the classical case of Rabirius Postumus who had followed King Ptolemy to Alexandria in the hope of recovering a loan, and was held guilty of high treason when he came back.

His attempts to remove still other names failed, the information collected by his agents proving so inaccurate. He found to his great shame that most of those charged with being bachelors or childless, or too poor to sustain their rank, were in fact married or fathers of familes, or quite comfortably off; and one knight, accused of having attempted suicide with a dagger, tore off his clothes and cried: 'Then show me the scar!' Among Claudius's memorable acts as Censor was the purchase of a beautiful silver chariot, offered for sale in the Silversmiths' Street; he then had it hacked to pieces before his eyes! Two of the twenty edicts which he once published on a single day were: 'This year's vintage is unusually abundant, so everyone must pitch his wine-jars well,' and: 'Yew juice is sovereign against snake-bite.'

17. Claudius's sole campaign was of no great importance. The Senate had already voted him triumphal regalia, but he thought it beneath his dignity to accept these, and decided that Britain was the country where a real triumph could be most readily earned. Its conquest had not been attempted since Julius Caesar's day; and the Britons were now threatening vengeance because the Senate refused to extradite certain deserters who had landed in Gaul during Caligula's reign. Sailing from Ostia, Claudius was nearly wrecked off the Ligurian coast, and again near the Iles d'Hyères, but made port safely at Marseilles. Thence he marched north through Gaul until reaching Boulogne; crossed the Channel without incident; and was back in Rome six months later. He had fought no battles and suffered no casualties, but reduced a large part of the island to submission. His triumph was a very splendid one, and among those whom he invited to witness it were his provincial governors, and several exiles as well. The emblems of his victory included the naval crown — ornamented with the beaks of ships and representing the crossing and conquest, so to speak, of the Ocean — which he set on the Palace gable beside a civic crown of oak-leaves. His wife, Messalina, followed the decorated chariot in a covered carriage, and behind her marched the generals who had won triumphal regalia in Britain. All wore purple-bordered gowns except Marcus Crassus Frugi; having earned this same honour on a previous occasion, he now came dressed in a palm-embroidered tunic and rode a caparisoned charger.

18. Claudius always interested himself in the proper upkeep of City buildings and the regular arrival of corn supplies. When an obstinate fire ravaged the Aemilian quarter, he lodged at the Election hut on the Campus Martius for two nights running; and, because a force of Guards and another of Palace servants proved insufficient to cope with the blaze, made the magistrates summon the commons from every City district and then sat, with bags of coin piled before him, recruiting fire-fighters; whom he paid, on the nail, whatever seemed a suitable fee for their services.

Once, after a series of droughts had caused a scarcity of grain, a mob stopped Claudius in the Forum and pelted him so hard with curses and stale crusts that he had difficulty in regaining the Palace by a side-door; as a result he took all possible steps to import corn, even during the winter months — insuring merchants against the loss of their ships in stormy weather (which guaranteed them a good return on their ventures), and offering a bounty for every new grain-transport built, proportionate to its tonnage.

19. The shipowner, if he happened to be a Roman citizen, was exempted from the Papian-Poppaean Law which made marriage obligatory; if only a Latin, acquired full Roman citizenship; if a woman, enjoyed the privileges granted to mothers of four children. These regulations have never since been modified.

20. Clandius's public works, though not numerous, were important. They included the draining of the Fucine Lake and the building of the harbour at Ostia — though he knew that Augustus had turned down the Marsians' frequent requests for emptying the Lake, and that Julius Caesar, while often on the point of excavating the harbour at Ostia, had always abandoned the project as impractical. Claudius also completed a task begun by Caligula: he brought the cool and abundant springs called the Caerulean and the Curtian, or Albudignan, as well as the New Anio, into Rome; the water ran along a stone aqueduct, with lofty arches, now known by his name, and was then distributed into a number of ornamental reservoirs. He undertook the Fucine drainage scheme as much for profit as for glory: a group of businessmen had offered to shoulder the expense if he awarded them the reclaimed land. The outlet took eleven years to dig, although 30,000 men were kept continuously at work; it was three miles long, and his engineers had to level part of a hill and tunnel through the remainder. At Ostia, Claudius threw out curved breakwaters on either side of the harbour and built a deep-water mole by its entrance. For the base of this mole he used the ship in which Caligula had transported a great obelisk from Heliopolis; it was first sunk, then secured with piles, and finally crowned with a very tall lighthouse — like the Pharos at Alexandria — that guided ships into the harbour at night by the beams of a lamp.

21. Claudius often distributed largesse to the people, and gave numerous magnificent public shows; not only the traditional ones in the customary places, but others, including novelties and ancient revivals, where nobody had ever seen them staged before.

Pompey's Theatre was damaged by fire, and when Claudius held Games at its rededication he first sacrificed in the Temple of Victorious Venus and in the shrines of Honour, Virtue and Felicity — all of which were built above the auditorium — and then walked down the aisle between packed and silent tiers, to inaugurate the Games from a raised seat in the orchestra.

He also celebrated Secular Games, on the excuse that Augustus had staged them before they were really due; though his own History mentions how much trouble Augustus took to reckon the intervals separating their occurrences in the past, and to recommence the series, after the tradition had long been broken, when the correct year came round once more. Therefore, when the Herald invited the people, in the ancient formula, to 'attend games which nobody present has ever seen or will ever see again', a great shout of laughter arose. Not only had many persons present witnessed Secular Games, but some actors were even billed to take part in them for the second time. Claudius often gave chariot races in the Vatican Circus constructed by Caligula; sometimes introducing wild-beast shows between every five events.

The twelve barred-off chariot compartments at the starting-post in the Great Circus had been built of volcanic tufa, and the goals marking the turning-points were of wood. Claudius substituted marble for the tufa, provided goals of gilded metal, and also reserved seats for the senators, who had hitherto sat among the common people. Besides the chariot races he staged the so-called Troy Game; a panther hunt by a squadron of Guards cavalry under their colonels and the Commander in person; and a show in which Thessalian horsemen drove wild bulls across the arena, tired them out, leaped on them, seized hold of their horns and then threw them to the ground.

Among the many gladiatorial Games presented by him in various places, was an annual one in the Guards Camp, without wild beasts or fancy equipment, to celebrate his accession; another of the usual kind in the Enclosure; and a third, also in the Enclosure, but not part of the regular programme. This last show ran for a few days only and he himself called it 'The Picnic', because the first time he invited the people, by his heralds, 'to take pot-luck, as it were'.

Claudius never behaved less formally than at these Picnics — exposing his left hand in plebeian fashion when he distributed prizes, instead of keeping it decently covered by his gown, and counting the number of gold pieces on his fingers — 'One, two, three. . .' he would shout. He urged the audience to enjoy themselves, addressing them all indiscriminately as 'My lords', and cracking stupid and far-fetched jokes. Once, on hearing the cry: 'Bring on The Dove!' — which was the nickname of a famous gladiator — he yelled back: 'Certainly, but he'll take a bit of catching!' Yet when four brothers pleaded for the discharge of their father, a chariot-fighter, Claudius presented him with the customary wooden sword amid resounding cheers, and then wrote a note for the Herald to read aloud: 'You now see the great advantage of having a large family; it can win favour and protection even for a gladiator.' He also staged, on the Campus Martius, the realistic storm and sack of a fortified town, with a tableau of the British king's surrender, at which he presided in his purple campaigning cloak.

Before allowing the water to escape from the Fucine Lake, he arranged to have a sham seafight on it; but when the gladiators shouted: 'Hail, Caesar, we salute you, we who are about to die!' he answered sarcastically: 'Or not, as the case may be.' They took him up on this and refused to fight, insisting that his words amounted to a pardon. Claudius grew so angry that he was on the point of sending troops to massacre them all, or burning them in their ships; however, he changed his mind, jumped from his throne and, hobbling ridiculously down to the lakeside, threatened and coaxed the gladiators into battle. Twelve Rhodian triremes then engaged twelve Sicilian ones; the signal for the fight being given by a mechanical silver Triton, which emerged from the Lake bottom and blew a conch.

22. In matters of religious ritual, civil customs, military punctilio, and the social status of all ranks at home and abroad, Claudius not only revived obsolescent traditions but invented new ones. He never admitted a priest into a college without first taking a personal oath that he thought him worthy of the honour; and required the praetor to call an assembly whenever an earthquake shock was registered at Rome, and proclaim a public holiday. If a bird of evil omen perched on the Capitol, Claudius would go to the Rostra in his capacity as Chief Pontiff, order artisans and slaves to withdraw, and then read out the customary formula of supplication which the commons repeated after him.

23. Until this reign there had been two terms in the Law Courts, the summer and the winter; Claudius prolonged the summer term into the autumn, and abolished the winter one altogether. Another of his changes was to institute permanent courts, both at Rome and in the provinces, for judging fiduciary cases, instead of entrusting them to the annually appointed Roman magistrates. He cancelled Tiberius's supplement to the Papian-Poppaean Law which implied that men over sixty years of age could not beget children; and authorized the Consuls as well as the proper authorities — the urban praetors and their provincial counterparts — to choose guardians for orphans; and ruled that no person who had been exiled from a province might enter Italy.

A new form of punishment which forbade a man to go more than three miles outside Rome was likewise introduced by Claudius. Whenever any business of peculiar importance came up in the House, he would take his seat either between the two Consuls or else on the bench kept for tribunes of the people. Hitherto, when Romans wished to travel abroad, the Senate had considered their applications; Claudius reserved the right to deal with these himself.

24. He awarded consular regalia even to provincial administrators of the second class; and if any of them declined this promotion — usually because they were entitled to engage in business as knights, but not as senators — made commoners of them. At the beginning of his reign Claudius undertook to create no new senator unless he could prove that his ancestors had been Roman citizens for five generations; presently, however, he ennobled the son of a freedman on the sole condition that he should get himself adopted by a knight. Then, to forestall criticism, he gave out that Appius the Blind, who had founded the Claudian House and been appointed Censor, used to allow freedmen's sons into the Senate; yet this was to misread the word 'freedmen' which, in those days, meant the free-born sons of ex-slaves, not the ex-slaves themselves.

Claudius relieved the quaestors of their obligation to keep the roads paved, expecting them to stage gladiatorial shows instead; next, he withdrew those on duty at Ostia and in Gaul and gave them back their custodianship of the Public Treasury in the Temple of Saturn, which was then, as now once more, held by praetors or ex-praetors.

When he awarded triumphal regalia to Lucius Junius Silanus (the prospective husband of his daughter Octavia) and to numerous elder men at Rome, all on the slightest of excuses, the legions in Germany sent him a round-robin begging that he would issue the same honour to every provincial governor-general on his appointment — otherwise he would try to win it in the field by provoking frontier incidents. He granted Aulus Plautius a triumphal ovation, going out to meet him when he entered the City and courteously giving him the wall on his way up to the Capitol and down again. Moreover, Gabinius Secondus was permitted to adopt the surname 'Cauchius' for his victory over the Cauchians, a German tribe.

25. Claudius made new regulations for the military careers of knights: after commanding an infantry battalion, they were promoted to a cavalry squadron, and then rose to a full colonelcy. He also introduced a so-called 'supernumerary' army service for performance in name only, though it counted as effective; and persuaded the House to issue a decree, forbidding soldiers to pay complimentary calls on senators. Any freedman who tried to pass himself off as a knight found his property confiscated; and if one proved ungrateful to his former master and caused him annoyance, back he went to slavery — Claudius told the lawyers engaged in such cases that a patron should not be placed in the disgraceful position of having to sue the man he had himself manumitted.

Finding that a number of sick or worn-out slaves had been marooned by their owners on the island of Aesculapius in the Tiber, to avoid the trouble of giving them proper medical attention, Claudius freed them all and ruled that none who got well again should return to the control of his former owner; furthermore, that any owner who made away with a sick slave, for the same mean reason, should be charged with murder. One of his edicts banned travel through any Italian town except on foot, in a sedan-chair, or in a litter. He also stationed fire brigades at Puteoli and Ostia.

It now became illegal for foreigners to adopt the names of Roman families, and any who usurped the rights of Roman citizens were executed on the slopes of the Esquiline Hill. Tiberius had converted the provinces of Greece and Macedonia into a private domain of his own; Claudius deeded them back to the Senate. He deprived the Lycians of national independence to punish their love of savage vendettas; but restored the Rhodians' independence to express his pleasure at their recent moral improvement. In granting the Trojans, as founders of the Roman race, perpetual exemption from tribute, he supported his act by reading aloud an ancient letter written in Greek to King Seleucus of Pergamum, from the Senate and People of Rome, with a promise of loyal friendship on condition that Seleucus should 'keep their Trojan kinsfolk free from all imposts'. Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from the City. When the German envoys first visited the Theatre, they took their seats among the common people, but, noticing the Parthian and Armenian envoys seated with the Senators in the orchestra, went to join them — were they not just as brave and nobly borne? Claudius admired their simple confidence and let them remain there. Augustus had been content to prohibit any Roman citizen in Gaul from taking part in the savage and terrible Druidic cult; Claudius abolished it altogether. On the other hand, he attempted to transfer the Eleusinian Mysteries from Athens to Rome; and had the ruined Temple of Venus on Mount Eryx in Sicily restored at the expense of the Public Treasury. Whenever he concluded a treaty with foreign rulers, he sacrificed a sow in the Forum, using the ancient formula of the Fetial priests. Yet all these acts, and others like them — indeed, one might say, everything that Claudius did throughout his reign — were dictated by his wives and freedmen: he practically always obeyed their whims rather than his own judgement.

26. Claudius was twice betrothed while still a boy: to Augustus's great-grand-daughter Aemilia Lepida, and to Livia Medullina Camilla, a descendant of the famous dictator Camillus. However, when Aemilia Lepida's parents offended Augustus her engagement was broken off; and Livia Medullina died of some illness on what should have been her wedding day. His first wife, Plautia Urgulanilla, whose father had won a triumph, he divorced for scandalous misbehaviour and the suspicion of murder; his next, Aelia Paetina, daughter of an ex-consul, he also divorced, for slighter offences. Then he married Valeria Messalina, daughter of his cousin Messala Barbatus. It turned out that she was not only guilty of other disgraceful crimes, but had gone so far as to commit bigamy with Gaius Silius, and even sign a formal marriage contract before witnesses; so Claudius executed her and told the Guards Division that, having been unfortunate in his wives, he was resolved to live a celibate life in future — they could kill him if he did not keep his word!

Almost at once, however, he planned either to marry Lollia Paulina, Caligula's widow, or to re-marry his divorced wife Aelia Paetina; but it was Agrippina, daughter of his brother Germanicus, who hooked him. She had a niece's privilege of kissing and caressing Claudius, and exercised it with a noticeable effect on his passions: when the House next met, he persuaded a group of senators to propose that a union between him and her should be compulsorily arranged, in the public interest; and that other uncles should likewise be free to marry their nieces, though this had hitherto counted as incest. The wedding took place without delay, but no other uncle cared to follow Claudius's example, except one freedman, and one leading centurion whose marriage he and Agrippina both attended.

27. He had children by three of his wives. Urgulanilla bore him Drusus and Claudia; Drusus died just before he came of age, choked by a pear which he had playfully thrown up and caught in his open mouth; since he had been betrothed, only a few days previously, to Sejanus's daughter, the tradition that Sejanus murdered him becomes still less plausible. Claudia's real father was Claudius's freedman Bota. Claudius disavowed paternity and, though she was born nearly five months after the divorce, had her laid naked outside Urgulauilla's house-door. Aelia Paetina bore him Antonia, who was twice married: first to Gnaeus Pompey and then to Faustus Sulla, both young noblemen of distinction. Messalina's children were Octavia, who was betrothed to Lucius Silanus before marrying Claudius's step-son, the notorious Nero; and Germanicus, afterwards called Britannicus, born on the twenty-second day of his father's reign, while he was also Consul for the second time. Claudius would often pick little Britannicus up and show him to the troops, or to the audience at the Games, either seated in his lap or held at arms' length. His cry: Good luck to you, my boy!' was loudly echoed on all sides. Of his three sons-in-law, Claudius adopted only Nero; Pompey and Sulla were put to death.

28. Among Claudius's favourite freedmen were Posides the eunuch, to whom he actually awarded, at his British triumph, the honour of a headless spear, along with soldiers who had fought in the field. For Felix he had an equally high regard, giving him command of infantry battalions and cavalry squadrons, and the Governorship of Judaea; this Felix married three queens. Then there was Harpocras, who earned the privileges of riding through Rome in a litter and staging public entertainments as though he were a knight. Claudius had an even higher regard for Polybius, his literary mentor, who often walked between the two Consuls. But his firmest devotion was reserved for Narcissus, his secretary, and Pallas, his treasurer, whom he encouraged the Senate to honour with large gifts of money and the insignia of quaestors and praetors as well. They were able to acquire such riches, by legitimate and illegitimate means, that when one day Claudius complained how little cash was left in the Privy Purse, someone answered neatly that he would have heaps of pocket money if only his two freedmen took him into partnership.

29. As I mention above, Claudius fell so deeply under the influence of these freedmen and wives that he seemed to be their servant rather than their emperor; and distributed titles, army commands, indulgences or punishments according to their wishes, however capricious, seldom even aware of what he was about. I need not dwell on matters of lesser importance: how he revoked grants, cancelled edicts, brazenly amended the texts of letters-patent he had issued, or at least substituted new versions for the old. Suffice it to record that he executed his father-in-law Appius Silanus; Julia, daughter of Tiberius's son Drusus; and Julia, daughter of his own brother Germanicus — all on unsupported charges and without the right to plead in self-defence. Gnaeus Pompey, who had married his daughter Antonia, was stabbed to death while in bed with a favourite catamite; and Lucius Silanus, whom Claudius had betrothed to his daughter Octavia, lost his praetorship and, four days later, had orders to commit suicide; this was the very New Year's Day on which Claudius married Agrippina. He executed thirty-five senators and 300 Roman knights, with so little apparent concern that once, when a centurion reported that So-and-so the ex-Consul was now duly despatched, and Claudius denied having given any such command, his freedmen satisfied him that the soldiers had done right not to wait for instructions before taking vengeance on a public enemy. It is very difficult, however, to believe that they tricked Claudius into signing the marriage contract between Messalina and her lover Silius by an assurance that the marriage was a mere fiction: a transference of portended dangers threatening 'Messalina's husband', from himself to someone else.

30. Claudius had a certain dignity of presence, which showed to best advantage when he happened to be standing or seated and expressing no emotion. This was because, though tall, well-built, handsome, with a fine head of white hair and a firm neck, he stumbled as he walked owing to the weakness of his knees; and because, if excited either by play or serious business, he had several disagreeable traits. These included an uncontrolled laugh, a horrible habit, under the stress of anger, of slobbering at the mouth and running at the nose, a stammer, and a persistent nervous tic — which grew so bad under emotional stress that his head would toss from side to side.

31. His health was wretched until he succeeded to the throne, when it suddenly became excellent, except for violent stomach-aches which often, he said, made him think of suicide.

32. He gave many splendid banquets, usually in large halls, and at times invited no fewer than 600 guests. One banquet was held close to the debouchment of the Fucine Lake on the day it was emptied; but the water came rushing out in a deluge and almost drowned him. His sons and daughters, like those of other important officials, were always expected to dine with him; sitting in old-fashioned style at the ends of the couches on which their parents reclined. Once, when a guest was believed to have pocketed a golden bowl, Claudius invited him again the next evening, this time setting a small earthenware basin in front of him. Some say that he planned an edict to legitimize the breaking of wind at table, either silently or noisily — after hearing about a man who was so modest that he endangered his health by an attempt to restrain himself.

33. No matter where Claudius happened to be, he always felt ready for food or drink. One day, while he was judging a case in Augustus's Forum, the delicious smell of cooking assailed his nostrils. He descended from the Tribunal, closed the court, and went to the dining room of the Leaping Priests in the near-by Temple of Mars, where he immediately took his place at the meal he had scented. It was seldom that Claudius left a dining-hall except gorged and sodden; he would then go to bed and sleep supine with his mouth wide open thus allowing a feather to be put down his throat, which would bring up the superfluous food and drink as vomit.

He slept in short snatches, being usually awake before midnight; but let him begin to nod in Court and the lawyers had difficulty in rousing him, however loud they shouted. His feelings for women were extremely passionate, but boys and men left him cold. So fervent was his devotion to dice that he published a book on the subject, and used to play, while out driving, on a special board fitted to his carriage which kept the dice from rolling off capriciously.

34. His bloodthirstiness appeared equally in great and small matters. For instance, if evidence had to be extracted under torture, or parricide punished, he allowed the Law to take its course without delay and in his own presence. Once, when an old-fashioned execution had been ordered at Tivoli and the criminals had been tied to their stakes, nobody could be found capable of carrying it out; but Claudius summoned a specialist from Rome and was so set on witnessing the procedure that he waited until dusk for the man's arrival. At gladiatorial shows, whether or not they were staged by himself, he ruled that a11 combatants who fell accidentally should have their throats cut — above all net-fighters, the death agony on whose faces was not hidden by any helmets. When a pair of gladiators mortally wounded each other he sent for their swords and had pocketknives made from them for his personal use. Claudius so greatly enjoyed wild-beast shows and the fencing matches during the luncheon interval that, after he had spent the whole morning in the amphitheatre from daybreak until noon, he would dismiss the audience, keep his seat, and not only watch the regular combats but extemporize others between the stage carpenters, and similar members of the theatre staff, as a punishment for the failure of any mechanical device to work as it should. He even forced one of his pages to enter the arena and fight in his gown.

35. Claudius was so timid and suspicious that, though making a show of simplicity in the early days of his reign, as I mention above, he never attended a banquet unless with an escort of javelin-bearing Guards, and waited upon by soldiers. Before entering a sick-room he always had it carefully gone over: pillows and mattresses were prodded, and bedclothes shaken out. Later, he even required all visitors to be searched when they came to pay him a morning call, and excused no one. Indeed, it was not until the end of his reign that he reluctantly gave up the practice of having women, boys, and girls pawed about during these routine examinations, and of removing the stylus-case from every caller's attendant or secretary. Camillus the rebel felt sure that Claudius could be frightened into abdication merely by insolent threats, without the need of declaring war; and Claudius did in fact seriously ask his privy council whether he should comply with Camillus's demands.

36. Baseless rumours of conspiracies caused Claudius such alarm that he wished himself back in private life. After the arrest of the man with the dagger, he sent out town-criers to call an immediate meeting of the Senate, at which he protested tearfully that no place was safe for him any longer; and failed to appear in public during the next few days. Nor did Messalina's insulting behaviour destroy the extravagant love he bore her, so much as terror that she planned to seat her lover Silius on the throne; and when the news of their marriage reached him he fled ignominiously to the Guards' Camp, asking again and again as he went: 'Am I still Emperor?'

37. At the slightest hint of danger he would take instant action against his supposed enemy. Once a morning caller drew Claudius aside and whispered: 'In my dreams last night you were murdered. I would recognize your assailant if I saw him.' Presently he shouted: 'Look! There he is, handing in a petition!' Claudius had the petitioner arrested as if caught in the act, and hurried away to execution; unaware that the two men were at law together. Appius Silanus is said to have been the victim of a similar ruse; for when Messalina and Narcissus decided to get rid of him they agreed that Narcissus should run in alarm to Claudius's bedroom just before dawn and pretend that he had dreamed of a violent attack on him by Appius. Messalina would then awake and exclaim with pretended astonishment: 'Why, it comes back to me now! I have dreamed the same dream for the last few nights.' They would have already sent Appius a summons to visit Claudius, so that when someone else announced that he was forcing his way into the Imperial quarters, Claudius would take this as positive proof that the dreams were true, accuse Appius of attempted murder and sentence him to death. The plan worked; and the next day Claudius blandly told the Senate what had happened, incidentally thanking Narcissus for exercising such vigilance even while asleep.

38. In one edict he confessed to the faults of anger and resentment; but undertook that his anger would never last long, nor his resentment be unjustified. Then there was his bitter letter reprimanding the citizens of Ostia because they had sent no ships to meet him when he sailed up the Tiber, which made him feel 'reduced to the ranks'; yet he as suddenly forgave them and sent what amounted to an apology for the warmth of his remarks.

If pestered in public by applicants of every sort, Claudius used to push them away with his own hands. Among the innocent people whom he banished without a hearing were a quaestor's clerk who had once treated him contemptuously in a court case before his accession; and a senator of praetorian rank who, while aedile, had fined Claudius's tenants for illegally selling cooked food and then whipped his bailiff because he protested. The same resentment made Claudius deprive the aediles of their control over the cookshops.

Instead of keeping quiet about his stupidity, Claudius explained, in a few short speeches, that it had been a mere mask assumed for the benefit of Caligula, and that he owed both life and throne to it. Nobody, however, believed him, and soon a book was published entitled The Fool's Rise to Power; the thesis being that no one would act the fool unless he were a fool already.

39. Claudius's scatter-brainedness and short-sightedness — or if you prefer the Greek terms, his meteoria and ablepsia — were truly remarkable. After executing Messalina, he went in to dinner, and presently asked: 'Why is her ladyship not here?' On several occasions he sent for men to give him advice or throw dice with him; and, when they did not appear, followed this up with a reproachful message calling them slug-a-beds — quite unaware that he had just sentenced them to death.

While planning his technically incestuous marriage with Agrippina, he made certain most unsuitable public references to her: such as 'my daughter and foster-child, born and bred in my lap, so to speak.' And shortly before adopting his step-son Nero — as though this were not wrong enough, when he already possessed a grown-up son — gave out with pride more than once that nobody had ever yet been adopted into the Claudian family.

40. Often, in fact, Claudius showed such absent-mindedness in speech and action that it might have been thought that he neither knew nor cared to whom, or in whose hearing, or when or where, he was speaking. He intervened in a Senatorial debate on the subject of butchers and wine-sellers with the sudden question: 'But I ask you, my lords, how can anyone live without an occasional snack?' Then he rambled off into a speech about the abundance of City taverns in his youth and how he often used to go the round of them himself.

One of his reasons for supporting the candidature of a would-be quaestor was: 'His father brought me a cool drink of water, long ago, when I was sick and very thirsty.' Of a witness who had been presented before the House, he said: 'Though in fact my mother's freedwoman and personal maid, she always treated me as her patron; I stress this point because even now certain members of my household staff refuse to do so.'

Once, when the men of Ostia made a public petition, he lost his temper and shouted from the tribunal that he owed them no consideration, and that surely he was free, if anyone was! Every day, and almost at every hour and minute of the day, he would let fall such remarks as: 'What? Do you take me for a booby?' and: 'Very well, curse me if you like, but hard words break no bones!' with other more inept ones, such as would have come ill even from a private citizen, let alone an emperor who, far from lacking eloquence and education, had devoted his whole life to liberal studies.

41. While still a boy Claudius had started work on a Roman history, encouraged by the famous historian Livy, and assisted by Sulpicius Flavus. But when he gave his first public reading to a packed audience he found it difficult to hold their attention because at the very beginning of his performance a very fat man came in, sat down, and broke a bench — which sent several of his neighbours sprawling and excited considerable merriment. Even when silence had been restored Claudius could not help recalling the sight and going off into peals of laughter.

As Emperor he continued work on this history, from which a professional gave frequent readings. It opened with the murder of Julius Caesar, then skipped a few years and started again at the close of the Civil Wars; because he realized, from his mother's and grandmother's lectures, that he would not be allowed to publish a free and unvarnished report on the intervening period. Of the first part two volumes survive; of the second, forty-one.

Moreover, he wrote eight volumes of an autobiography which are criticizable for their lack of taste rather than any lack of style; as well as A Defence of Cicero against the Aspersions of Asinius Gallus — quite a learned work. Claudius also added three new letters of his own invention to the Latin alphabet — Invented characterto represent a vowel between u and i; Invented characterfor ps; and Invented characterfor consonantal v — maintaining that they were most necessary. He had written a book on the subject before his accession, and afterwards met with no obstacle in getting the letters officially adopted. They may still be found in a number of books, in the Official Gazette, and in public inscriptions.

42. Claudius also studied Greek with great application, and took every opportunity of professing his love for this language, which he declared to be the finest of all. Once, when a barbarian addressed him first in Latin and then in Greek, he replied: 'Since you come armed with both our languages...' Also, while eulogizing Greece to the Senate, he called it a province which had endeared itself to him by a devotion to the same literary studies as he pursued himself; and often answered Greek envoys with a carefully composed oration in their own tongue. Claudius used to quote Homer from the tribunal and, after punishing a personal enemy or conspirator, made a habit of giving the following hexameter line as a watchword to the Colonel of the Guard:

Let him be first to attack, but be sure that you counter him boldly.

To conclude, he even wrote books in Greek: twenty volumes of Etruscan history, and eight of Carthaginian. The City of Alexandria acknowledged these works by adding a new wing to the Museum called 'The Claudian' in his honour; and having the Etruscan history publicly recited from end to end once a year by relays of readers in the old wing; and the Carthaginian history, likewise, in the new.

43. In his last years Claudius made it pretty plain that he repented of having married Agrippina and adopted Nero. For example, when his freedman congratulated him on having found a certain woman guilty of adultery, he remarked that he himself seemed fated to marry wives who 'were unchaste but remained unchastened'; and presently, meeting Britannicus, embraced him with deep affection. 'Grow up quickly, my boy,' he said, 'and I will then explain what my policy has been.' With that he quoted in Greek from the tale of Telephus and Achilles:

The hand that wounded you shall also heal,

and declared his intention of letting Britannicus come of age because although immature, he was tall enough to wear a gown; adding 'which will at last provide Rome with a true-born Caesar.'

44. Soon afterwards he composed his will and made all the City magistrates put their seals to it as witnesses; but Agrippina, being now accused of many crimes by informers as well as her own conscience, prevented him from doing anything further on Britannicus's behalf.

Most people think that Claudius was poisoned; but when, and by whom, is disputed. Some say that the eunuch Halotus, his official taster, administered the drug while he was dining with the priests of Jupiter in the Citadel; others, that Agrippina did so herself at a family banquet, poisoning a dish of mushrooms, his favourite food. An equal discrepancy exists between the accounts of what happened next. According to many of my informants, he lost his power of speech, suffered frightful pain all night long, and died shortly before dawn. A variant version is that he fell into a coma but vomited up the entire contents of his stomach and was then poisoned a second time, either by a gruel — the excuse being that he needed food to revive him — or by means of an enema, the excuse being that his bowels must be emptied too.

45. Claudius's death was not revealed until all arrangements had been completed to secure Nero's succession. As a result, people made vows for his safety as though he still lived, and a troop of actors were summoned, under the pretence that he had asked to be diverted by their antics. He died on 13 October 54 A.D., during the consulship of Asinius Marcellus and Acilius Avola, in his sixty-fourth year, and the fourteenth of his reign. He was given a princely funeral and officially deified, an honour which Nero later neglected and then cancelled; but which Vespasian restored.

46. The main omens of Claudius's death included a comet, lightning that struck his father's tomb, and an unusual mortality among magistrates of all ranks. There is also evidence that he foresaw his end and made no secret of it: while choosing the Consuls he provided for no appointment after the month in which he died; and on his last visit to the House offered an earnest plea for harmony between Britannicus and Nero, begging the Senate to guide both of them with great care through the difficult years of their youth. During a final appearance on the tribunal he said more than once that he had reached the close of his career; though everyone present cried: 'The Gods forbid!'

« NEXT » « Twelve Caesars » « Classics » « Library »