Anniversary Post: Claudius’ Poisoning

ClaudiusOn this day in 54 CE, Emperor Claudius was murdered. I regret to inform you that he was not as charming as Derek Jacobi in I, Claudius. But the series is mostly right. He did have some handicaps that might have been the result of cerebral palsy. His family was incredibly cruel to him as a result. I mean, they were Romans, after all! But this was his secret weapon. It is because of his ailments that he was kept to the side of things and managed to not get murdered. He was also apparently smart and a very good historian.

He was also something of a drunk and a big fan of gladiatorial “games.” And he had a hot temper. I suppose all of this could be smoothed away in a couple of ways. First, none of this makes him particularly different from the rest of his family. And the cruelty that he experienced would tend to have negative effects on a person. He was, regardless, a decent emperor — by the standards of the job and the time.

He was almost certainly poisoned by his last wife, Agrippina. Of course, she wouldn’t have done it — just called for it to be done. She really wanted to get her son (from another marriage) Nero to become emperor. And it was looking like Claudius might put a stop to that, given that he hated her by the end. Of course, Claudius didn’t do badly. He was 63 years old at his death. Compare that to Caligula, who came before: stabbed to death at 28. Or Nero, who came after: committed suicide (The first Roman Emperor to do so!) at the age of 30.


See also: All Told a Nice Emperor Claudius.

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