Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus ( Claudius )
August 1, 10 BCE – October 13, 54 CE
Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus was emperor from 41 to 54 CE. Claudius was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor. He was the first Roman emperor to be born outside of Italy in Lugdunum (modern Lyon, France). He had a limp, slight deafness, and even a drooling problem due to a childhood illness, which caused his family to exclude him from public office until his consulship in 37 CE.
Claudius’ infirmity probably saved his life countless times as his political enemies did not see him as a real threat to their aspirations for power. Thinking they had the perfect pawn in their own power grab, the Praetorian Guard declared him emperor shortly after Caligula’s assassination.
But Claudius proved to be an able administrator and a builder. He ordered the construction of roads, aqueducts, and canals across the Empire. He began the conquest of Britain in earnest and presided over public trials.
Claudius was likely murdered by his wife, who wanted her son, Nero (his grand-nephew and adopted son), to take the throne.
Bad at Love
He faced many challenges in his life and though his physical disabilities ranked high on the list, even more trying for him were perhaps his four marriages.
His first three marriages failed. The first because his wife’s behavior was too scandalous – to the point of possibly having been involved in a murder plot. The second failed because she was related to the insurrectionist Praetorian Prefect Sejanus. The third marriage failed because his wife conspired against him and was executed (she also had numerous affairs, but one should keep in mind that ancient Roman writers often made this accusation against women who fell out of favor politically).
His fourth and final marriage, to his young niece Agrippina the Younger, proved fatal to him and his only natural son Britannicus. Some have suggested that he allowed himself knowingly to be poisoned. According to the Roman historian Tacitus, Claudius’ famous statement that “it was his destiny first to endure his wives misdeeds, and then to punish them” may have expedited his own death, for upon hearing him utter these words, Agrippina wasted no time in murdering Claudius by serving him a dish of poisoned mushrooms. Adding insult to injury was his precocious adopted son and teenaged successor Nero, who, after Claudius had been deified by the senate, rudely observed that mushrooms must be the food of the gods.
Timeline of Important Events During the Reign of Claudius
43 – First large-scale Roman invasion of Britain. The charge is headed by general A. Plautius.
47 – Celebrates the Secular Games, as Rome celebrates the 800th Anniversary of the founding of the city.
49 – Passes an edict expelling all Jews from Rome.
50 – Claudius adopts Nero as heir.
51 – Birth of Emperor Domitian in Rome.
54 – Death and deification of Cladius. Nero ascends to the throne.