Essay, Research Paper: Claudius

Famous People

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Claudius was found hiding behind some balcony curtains by soldiers in the palace
after the murder of Caligula by the Praetorian Guard. Instead of seizing and
killing him, as Claudius was almost sure they would do, they raised him up on
their shoulders and made him emperor! Many writers have depicted Claudius as
kind of a befuddled, harmless old man who had been made Emperor so that Romans
would have someone in high places to make fun of. In truth, he was an able
administrator and ruled well, making many improvements in the government. He
gave orders for the conquest of Britain, which the famous Julius Caesar had only
invaded and left. The invasion was well planned and carried out. After some of
the early battles had been won, he came to Britain to lead the troops in person.
Most historians, including Tacitus agree that Claudius desperately needed a few
military victories to boost his image amongst the Roman people, and the conquest
of Britain made him quite popular in Rome. Much of what contemporary historians
wrote about the Roman emperors and their families at that time showed them in an
extremely bad light. The passages in Suetonois' Lives of the Caesars read like a
modern soap opera. Tacitus deliberately painted the worst picture he could of
the imperial families. He longed for the values and government of the old Roman
Republic. His attitude was that the only thing good that could be said about the
Empire with its overly powerful and autocratic rulers was that it was better
than the constant civil wars of the Republican era. Claudius was never very
lucky in love. One woman he was to have married died on their wedding day. His
last wife, the infamous Messalina, continuously cheated on him, even giving many
of their household treasures to her lovers. Claudius was very much in love with
her and tried to ignore what was going on. Messalina finally exhausted even
Claudius' patience when she married one of her lovers while still married to
Claudius. Told by his advisors that this was a direct threat to him as emperor,
he sadly signed the order for her execution so eagerly prepared by the men close
to him. According to Tacitus, a centurion found her distraught and begging for
her life. He offered her a dagger so she could kill herself, a death considered
honorable by the Roman aristocracy. When she attempted but could not bring
herself to commit suicide, he ran her through with his short sword. Claudius
finally ended up marrying Agrippina the Younger, mother of the future emperor
Nero. Claudius may have died from an illness but the historians of the period
have charged Agrippina with his murder. She supposedly fed him a dish of
poisoned mushrooms.

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