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Definition: Claudius from Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

The Roman Emperor Tiberius Claudius Nero Germanicus (10 bc-ad 54) suffered from some physical disability and was also generally regarded as being mentally deficient. He took part in the invasion of Britain in ad 43 and was present at the capture of Camulodunum (Colchester). In 48 he divorced his first wife, MESSALINA, and married his niece, Agrippina, who is popularly held to have been responsible for his death, poisoned by a dish of mushrooms. His name appears to represent Latin claudus, ‘lame’, doubtless with regard to his disability. Robert Graves’ novel I, Claudius (1934) and its sequel Claudius the God (1934) portray him as a spastic and epileptic.


Summary Article: Claudius I
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

(Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus) klôd'ēӘs, 10 B.C.–A.D. 54, Roman emperor (A.D. 41–A.D. 54), son of Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus and thus nephew of Tiberius. When Caligula was murdered (A.D. 41), the soldiers found Claudius, who had been of little importance, hiding in abject terror behind a curtain in the palace. They hauled him forth, and the Praetorians proclaimed him emperor. This act offended the senators, who never forgave Claudius. It also made him favor the army. He annexed Mauretania and landed in A.D. 43 in Britain, which he made a province. Agrippa's kingdom of Judaea and the kingdom of Thrace were reabsorbed into the empire, and the authority of the provincial procurators was extended. He caused Messalina, his third wife, to be executed and was in turn supposedly poisoned by her successor, Agrippina the Younger, after she had persuaded him to pass over his son Britannicus as heir in favor of Nero, her son by a former husband. Claudius was much reviled by his enemies and historians have accused him of being only a tool in the hands of his freedmen-secretaries and his wives; there are indications, however, that he had considerable administrative ability. Claudius' literary works are lost. He is the chief figure in two novels by Robert Graves, I, Claudius (1934) and Claudius the God (1935).

  • See studies by A. Momigliano (tr. 1962) and V. M. Scramuzza (1940).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

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