Claudius was born on August 1 10 BC in Gaul, which made him the first Roman Emperor to be born outside of Italy. The emperor ruled from AD 41 to 54. During this period, he extended Roman rule in North Africa and made Britain a province.
Claudius, whose original name was Tiberius Claudius Nero Germanicus, was born in Gaul on the 1st August 10 BC. He was the son of Roman general Nero Claudius Drusus and Antonia Minor, daughter of Marc Antony. During his early years, Claudius was excluded from public life due to his ill health and clumsiness of manner. It was then that he developed an inclination for History and wrote a history of Rome, as well as 20 books of Etruscan and 8 books of Carthaginian history. Unfortunately, all of his works are lost. A few years later, in 37, he became consul under the reign of his nephew Caligula.
Claudius got married four times in the course of his life. Firstly, he married Plautia Urgulanilla, but shortly afterwards divorced her to marry Aelia Petina. However, she died prematurely and he then got married to Valeria Messalina. Valeria, who was Claudius’ wife at his ascension, plotted to assassinate him and the emperor was forced to have her killed. Lastly, he married Agrippina the Younger, a powerful woman who was one of the few living descendants of Augustus.
Ascension to Power and Reign
Claudius was named emperor by the Praetorian Guard after Caligula’s murder on January 24, 41. It is thought by some that Claudius took part in the plot to assassinate Caligula due to the bad relationship they had, but historians have not been able to prove it.
Soon after becoming Emperor, Claudius executed Caligula’s assassins and sought to bring peace to Rome. To gain popularity and the favour of the Senate, he expanded the territories of the Empire into the Middle East and the Balkans. It was also the need for military glory that encouraged him to conquer Britain (43). He established a colony of veterans at Camulodunum (Colchester) and client-kingdoms to protect the frontiers. Moreover, he annexed Mauretania (41-42), Lycia (43), Thrace (46) and Iturea (49).
With regard to the civil administration, Claudius implemented several reforms in the Government. He improved the judicial system and encouraged an extension of Roman citizenship by individual and collective grants. He also favoured urbanization and established several colonies such as Camulodunum and Colonia Agrippinensis (Cologne).
The emperor respected tradition and revived old religious ceremonies. In 47, he celebrated the festival of the Secular Games commemorating the 800th birthday of Rome.
Claudius was poisoned by his wife Agrippina on 13 October 54. During the last months of his life, their relationship had greatly deteriorated to the point where Claudius considered naming another of his sons, Britannicus, as his successor instead of Nero, Agrippina’s son. This gave her a motive to murder Claudius, as she wished to ensure the succession of Nero before Britannicus could access power. On October 12 54 AD, while the emperor presided over a banquet on the Capitol, he was fed a poisoned mushroom. Claudius passed away in the early hours of the following day and his ashes were interred in the Mausoleum of Augustus on 24 October 54. After his death, Nero was proclaimed emperor and escorted to the Senate, where he delivered a eulogy of Claudius. Soon afterwards, Nero had both Britannicus and Agrippina killed.
Claudius proved to be an efficient and ambitious emperor who succeeded in expanding the Empire's frontiers and achieved what Caesar could not, the conquest of Britain.