Claudius -the 4th emperor of the Roman Empire.
“His mother Antonia often called him “a monster of a man” […] and if she accused anyone of dulness, she used to say that he was “a bigger fool than her son Claudius.” […] When his sister Livilla heard that he would be emperor, she openly and loudly prayed that the Roman people might be spared so cruel and undeserved a fortune.”
-Roman historian Suetonius unfavorably speaks of Claudius in ‘The Lives of the Twelve Caesars’ (5.3.2). Rolfe translation.
Claudius ruled the Roman Empire from 41-54 AD, was the grandson of Mark Antony, and step-grandson and grandnephew of Augustus. Claudius suffered from trembling, a limp, and a speech defect, all of which may have been due to cerebral palsy. Because of his physical disabilities, Claudius was originally never considered a candidate for emperorship. This changed when his nephew Caligula, the current emperor, was assassinated. Upon this the rampaging praetorian guards found Claudius terrified, apparently hiding behind a curtain in the palace, and proclaimed the overwhelmed Claudius emperor of Rome.
During his reign Claudius demonstrated excellent management, and was involved in several building projects that improved Rome’s supply of grain and water, such as his construction of the harbour at Ostia. Thrace and Britain were added to the empire under his reign -perhaps partly a way for Claudius to prove himself in response to the opposition he faced from the senate. He died in 54 AD, and the consensus reached by our ancient historians was that he was murdered by poison. It is thought by many that Agrippina was responsible for the poisoning, and did so to secure her son Nero’s appointment of emperorship. Accordingly, Nero became emperor of Rome.
Bronze head of Claudius found in Suffolk, England, 1st century AD. Courtesy of the British Museum, P&EE 1965 12-1 1. Photo by Kit.
Emperor Claudius. Marble, found at Gabii. Courtesy of the Louvre, Ma 1231. Photo by Jastrow.