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Useful Notes / Claudius

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Caligula's uncle and Tiberius' nephew, unexpectedly becoming emperor at age 51 after escaping the murders of his family. Is famous for a certain TV Series, and for conquering Britain. Surviving his murderous family and eventually obtaining the imperial throne due to his Obfuscating Stupidity, he had a fairly successful reign. Poisoned by his wife (and niece) in 54, and succeeded by his adoptive son Nero.


  • Action Survivor: He managed to survive the deadly maze of conspiracies and backstabbings that was the Julio-Claudian family, in no small part due to his Obfuscating Stupidity. The imperial family ripped itself apart, and nobody bothered to kill "Claudius the Idiot" until he was the last man standing (well, crouching behind a curtain).
  • Almighty Janitor: During his nephew Caligula's reign, Claudius was appointed Consul to the Senate and was left in charge of administration. So when Claudius became Emperor, he was already experienced with the job of running the Empire, he was just higher up in the hierarchy.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Whether he actually was as dumb as his mother and nephew claimed or was Obfuscating Stupidity is the subject of much debate among historians. As is the degree to which he was manipulated by his wives and the freedmen who formed his most trusted advisers.
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  • Beware the Silly Ones: Claudius may have appeared like a simpleton to his enemies, but he crushed two conspiracies against him and executed numerous Equestrians and Senators.
  • Black Widow: His death was often believed to be by poison or poison mushroom, and his wife Agrippina is often believed to be responsible. Why would she do such a thing? So her son (and hence, Claudius' adopted son) Nero can become Emperor.
  • Boring, but Practical: Key to his rule was the sound policy of infrastructure projects along with a more meritocratic appointment of an unofficial bureaucracy to manage the Empire. Compared to Caligula's whims and Nero's "art projects", his bland rule was probably much better than what came before and after.
  • Bread and Circuses: Massively expanded during Claudius' reign, and the main reason for his huge popularity with the plebs.
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  • Butt-Monkey: How his nephew Caligula treated him while he was Emperor. It may have actually saved Claudius as numerous people in Caligula's inner-circle were executed.
  • Gasshole: He was quite flatulent. He even encouraged farting in public because, as Shrek put it, "better out than in."
    • One account even states that this almost saved his life: as he was dying from the poisoned mushrooms, he discharged an explosive fart that nearly expelled the poison, prompting an assassin to come in and stick a poison-dipped feather in his mouth.
  • Henpecked Husband: How he was depicted in the sources. His wives Messalina and Agrippina were exceptionally influential and infamous.
  • Hidden Depths: Before becoming Emperor, he wrote several histories, one of which was censored by the Imperial Family for being too truthful. Though people thought he would be a poor Emperor, he turned out to be probably the best Julio-Claudian Emperors after Augustus. Though admittedly that isn't saying much.
  • Kavorka Man: Despite being potbellied, stuttering, and not having a very masculine voice he was a known womanizer, and one of his wives was considered exceptionally beautiful.
  • Sadist: Other Roman Emperors, one of them having been his own nephew and predecessor Caligula, took part in Gladiator Games. What would weak, old Claudius do? Fight against a stranded orca. Granted, Pliny the Elder's account claims the whale managed to sink one of the ships attacking it, so it wasn't entirely one-sided and moving it into an arena would have been impossible for the time.
  • Standardized Leader: Claudius was never really one of the greatest leaders of Rome, in his dynasty he would be the second greatest after Augustus, but many historians agree that at the very least, he was not incompetent as an Emperor. He certainly wasn't, compared to the late rule of Caligula.
  • True Companions: His best friend and most powerful ally was the Senator Lucius Vitellius, who was put temporarily in charge of Rome when Claudius went to Britain. He also was the only man not of the Imperial Bloodline to hold the position of Censor in the Imperial Era. He died before Claudius, who commissioned a statue for Vitellius.
  • Word of Dante: That the modern, academic consensus on Claudius matching what Robert Grave depicted in I, Claudius, particularly the whole idea of him Obfuscating Stupidity, is actually the result of a re-evaluation of the source material sparked by the popularity of Graves' novel and the subsequent mini-series.


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