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Claudius I









CLAUDIUS I.- This emperor, the son of (Nero Claudius) Drusus the elder, and of Antonia, was the younger brother of Germanicus. Born at Lugdunum (Lyon), in Gaul, A. U. C. 744 (B.C. 10), on the kalends of August, he was named TIBERIUS CLAUDIUS DRUSUS. (Dion, lx. # 5) Brought up from infancy amidst the baneful influences of a feeble constitution, terror, and the society of debased preceptors, he displayed so extraordinary an amount of obtuseness and stupidity, that his mother used to speak of him as a monster, a being only half fashioned by nature, and when wishing to charge any person with senselessness, she said he was more dull than her son Claudius. (Sueton. Ch. 3.) Being on this account neglected by Augustus himself, he received no distinction except that of Augurship, and was left as heir only among those of the third class, and almost as an alien to the family. (Sueton. c. 4.) On the death of Augustus, he was nominated Sodalis Augustalis (Tacitus, Ann. i. 54); but excluded by his uncle Tiberius from all the offices of the state which he solicited, he abandoned every hope of acquiring dignity, and surrendered himself to ease, drunkenness, and companionship of the most degraded kind.

Caligula, who in the first year of his reign, lavished honours upon all the members of his family, alive or dead, raised his uncle Claudius also from his obscurity, and in 790 (B.C. 37), when he was himself consul suffectus, appointed him and his colleague for two months, from the kalends of July, and designated him consul iterum for the fourth year from that time. In 793, Caligula styled himself Jupiter Latialis, and gave Claudius the title of his priest (sacerdos). In spite of this, however, he was despised by the people even under Caligula for his dullness; but the low estimation in which he was held, in the long run, proved his safeguard. For, when almost all the males of his family were put to death, though he had a narrow escape for his own life, the mental deficiencies of his character stood him in great stead, and he was treated only as a laughing-stock. Caligula having being slain on the 9th kalends of February, 794 (B.C. 41), Claudius, terrified at the circumstance, concealed himself in the palace; but being discovered by a soldier passing that way, and recognised, he was saluted Imperator, and being led to the camp, he passed the night amidst the bivouacs of the soldiers. The Consuls and Conscript Fathers assembled in the capitol to deliberate on the means of re-establishing the government; and, coming to no agreement among themselves, on the following day the soldiers took the oaths in the name of Claudius, and compelled acquiescence by force of arms.

In this manner elevated to the throne in his 49th year, Claudius immediately received all the honours decreed to him, except the titles of Imperator and Pater Patriae; but even the later he soon after permitted to be applied to him. He ordered Cassius Chaerea to be put to death, not from regret for the murder of Caligula, but for fear of a plot against his own safety. He restored to Antiochus, Commagene, which had been taken from him by Caligula.


He sent back to Spain Mithridates, who had been detained in chains by Caius; and on another Mithridates he bestowed the Bosporus, giving Polemon a part of Cilicia. For the benefit of the Jewish King Agrippa, who was then at Rome, and whore advice he had sought on entering upon his reign, he enlarged the kingdom of Judea, and to his brother Herod he gave Chalcidene. In this the first year (A.D. 41) of Claudius’s reign, the Germani were defeated by Galba and Gabinus.

In 795 (A.D. 42). He defeated the Mauritanians and the Numidians in various engagements. He divided Mauritania into Tingitanis and Caesariensis. He constructed the port of Ostia at an immense cost. Furius Camillus Scribonianus, the prefect of Dalmatia, excited a seditious movement against Claudius, which was soon put down, its instigator being slain on the island of Issa.

796 (A.D. 43). He entered upon his third consulate, under novel circumstances for an emperor, viz., as substituted (suffectus) in the place of and individual deceased.- A. Plautius, having been sent forward into Britain, carried on the campaign there strenuously; but a still more serious disturbance arising, he was superseded by Claudius himself, who, aiming at military fame, passed over to the seat of war. Having excellent officers to do the fighting part, he vanquished the Britons, was declared Imperator over and over again, and after remaining in the island no more than seventeen days, he returned to the continent. During his absence a triumph had been decreed to him by the abject Senate, also an arch, and the prefix of Britannicus for himself and his son.- (See Britannia and Britan, pp. 137 and 140 of this dictionary.)

“Whilst speaking of British affairs it may be added, that he evinced generosity of heart, when, charmed with the noble boldness of the captive Caractatus, he ordered the liberation of that prince and his family; and act, the merit of which be immediately felt, on calling to mind the horrid fate too often reserved for royal captives.” Capt. Smyth, pp. 33.]

797 (A.D. 44). Returned to Rome he celebrated his triumph over the Britons. He enlarged the patrimonial dominion of M. Julius Cottius, which he held in the district of the Alps, called by his name (Cottian), and gave him the title of king.

798 and 799 (A.D. 45 and 46). No occurrence of note took place during these two years, with the exception of the vile intrigues of Messalina and the freedmen; not to omit mentioning the directions which he gave respecting the mode in which statues were to be erected.

800 (A.D. 47). He celebrated the 800th anniversary of the building of Rome with the exhibition of secular games, 64 years after their celebration by Augustus. He appointed as King over the Cherusci, Italicus, son of Flavius, the brother of Ariminus. (Tacitus, Ann. Xi. 16). Corbulo continued to command the Roman army in Lower Germania, and reduced the Frisii to submission- whilst Vespasian, with his son Titus, harassed the Britons.

801 (A.D. 48). As Censor, having for his colleague L. Vitellius, the father of Aulus Vitellius, afterwards Emperor, he removed certain members of the Senate, and filled up their places with others. He conferred upon the inhabitants of Gallia Transalpina the privileges of Senators at Rome, and closed the lustrum this year. (Respecting the date of this censorship, see CENSOR II. 193, also the mint of Vitellius.)- During the absence of Claudius at Ostia, his wife Messalina publicly married C. Sillius at Rome. Being informed of the circumstance on his return he ordered her and her paramour to be put to death.- (Tac. Ann. xi.)

802 (A.D. 49). At the beginning of this year, he married his grand-daughter Agrippina. At the entreaty of the Parthians, he sent back Meherdates [one of the Arsacidae, i. e. of the line of the kings of Parthia], ho had been detained as a hostage at Rome, to become their king.- Mithridates of the Bosporus, making fresh attempts against Cotys, was taken prisoner to Rome. The Ituraei and Judaei, on the death of their kings Sohemius and Agrippa, were added to the province of Syria.

803 (A.D. 50). Claudius adopted L. Domitius Ahenobarbus (afterwards the emperor Nero) the son of Agrippina; who herself, the same year, received the title of Augusta. A colony was sent out to the town of the Ubii, her birthplace, and to which the name of Agrippina was given (now Cologne).- L. Pomponius subdued the Catti.- Caractatus, king of Britain, after a war of nine years, was defeated and taken prisoner.

804 (A.D. 51). Nero prematurely assumed the toga virilis, before he completed his fourteenth year, and was designated consul, upon which office he would enter on reaching the age of twenty; a pro-consular jurisdiction without the walls of Rome was decreed to him, and he received the title of Princeps Juventutis.- Burrus was appointed prefect of the pretorians, through the influence of Agrippina.

805 (A.D. 52). The Clitae, a wild race of people in Cilicia, having revolted against their Roman masters, were put down. The famous naumachia, or representation of a sea-fight, took place in the presence of the emperor, on the lake Fucinus, near Rome.- Claudius completed with great magnificence two aqueducts of the purest water, one called Aqua Claudia, the other the New Anio, and dedicated them.- (See AQUA-DUCTUS, p 69 et seq. of this dictionary).- In the succeeding year, Nero Caesar, in his sixteenth year, married Octavia, the daughter of Claudius.

807 (A.D. 54). Whilst confined to his bed by illness, Claudius was put to death, on the 12th of October, by his wife Agrippina, who through the instrumentality of Locusta, the sorceress, administrated poison to him in a dish of mushrooms.

Thus perished in the 63rd year of his age, and 14th of his reign, the Emperor Claudius; one raised by a remarkable turn of fortune to a position, which he had neither expected nor coveted. The empire thus thrust upon him he administered much less at his own discretion than that of his wives and his freedmen, acting in all measures as best suited their convenience or pleasure. It was, therefore, wittily observed of him by Seneca, that he celebrated the month of Saturn the whole year through; the month that is to say, in which slaves used to lord it over masters. The most notorious among these freedmen were Narcissus, Pallas prefect of the exchequer, Callistus master of requests, Felix the eunuch, afterwards procurator of Judaea, Mnestor, the actor, a prime favourite of Messalina, Polybius, Posides, and Harpocras; all of whom, in influencing the conduct of the emperor, availed themselves less of his dullness, than of his timidity, which rendered him absurdly superstitions. Thus it was fear which induced him to put his signature to the deed of settlement, by which the marriage of his own wife Messalina with Silius was ratified; and again, a new terror caused him to order the execution of herself and her paramour. And hence it arose, that all who, during his reign, stood in the way of others cupidity, on a hint from his wives or freedmen of some plot against himself, were forthwith put to death.- Of stupidity he gave numerous specimens, especially in the absurd laws which he introduced during his censorship, and in his habit of inviting to dinner, in a fit of forgetfulness, those whom the day before he had commanded to be destroyed. He had, however, plenty of cruelty in his disposition; for no spectacle gave him more delight than that of gladiators lacerated by each other’s blows, or the attacks of beasts, and to gaze upon the agonies of their last moments.- But this passion extended itself only to gladiators, and the refuse of the people. Yet this man was a fair scholar, and was no mean writer of history; but even in this pursuit he could not refrain from trifling, by either introducing new letters into the alphabet, or by reviving antiquated ones, and thus interfering with the public convenience. Evidence of a loftier and more energetic spirit will be recognized in his presence during the campaign in Britain; the vast works of the port of Ostia; and the aqueducts completed by him. From these it may be concluded that he would have proved himself far from incapable of noble deeds, had his natural abilities been cultivated by an education worthy of a sovereign; a post for which, however, he had never seemed to be destined till he had actually reached it.- See Eckhel, vi. p. 233 et seq.

The coins of Claudius are not numerous, yet for the most part easily to be procured. Gold rare. Silver, with certain exceptions, common. Those of the three sizes in brass also, with few exceptions, common. Some pieces representing him with Agrippina junior, and others restored by Titus and Trajan are very rare. On the products of his mint (as on the first brass engraved p.212), he is styled TI. CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG. P. M. TR. P. IMP.- On some obverses appears the surname of GERMANICVS, which he took in memory of his father and brother. But that of Britannicus, although awarded him, is not assumed amongst his numismatic appellations.

“This emperor (cays Mionnet) constantly abstained from placing on any of his coins struck at Rome, the title of Imperator as a prenomen; but he used, and repeated frequently, that very title as a surname.” In two instances only of colonial coins IMP. is found prefixed to the name CLAVDIVS. “It is a peculiarity (observed Capt. Smyth) of his reign that the tribunitian power is omitted in the legends.”- Amongst the rarest and most remarkable reverses on this emperor’s coinage are the following:-

SILVER MEDALLIONS.- COM. ASIA. Temple and two figures within.- DIANA EPHESIA, with portraits of Claudius and Agrippina- (valued by Mionnet at 80 fr.)

GOLD.- CONSTANTIAE AVGVSTI- (restored by Trajan, priced at 120 fr. By Mionnet.)- DE BRITAN. Triumphal arch- (40 fr.)- DE GERMANIS. Arch- (48 fr)- DIVVS CLAVDIVS- (restored by Trajan, 120 fr.)- IMPER. RECEPT. Praetorian camp- (40 fr.)- Young portrait of Nero (72 fr.)- PRAETOR RECEPT. –(48 fr.)

SILVER- SACERDOS DIVI. AVGVSTI- Two torches- (30 fr.)- Claudius in a quadriga- (34 fr.)- Peace preceded by a serpent.- See PACI. AVGVSTAE.

FIRST BRASS.- DE GERMANIS. Trophy- (valued by Mionnet at 60 fr.)

SECOND BRASS.- CONSTANTIAE AVGVSTI.- Helmeted figure.

There are no Latin coins in honour of any of the wives of Claudius, except of Agrippina. Those of Messalina are Greek and colonial.-

This emperor established colonies in almost all parts of the Roman world.

View whole page from the Dictionary Of Roman Coins