, 51 tweets, 10 min read Read on Twitter
Ancient History Quote of the Day: "He was orphaned as a baby, and nearly the whole of his childhood and youth was so troubled by various diseases that he grew dull witted and had little physical strength" (Suetonius, Claudius 2)

Thread on #Claudius born 1st August 10 BC #AHQOTD
Suetonius also says that "on reaching the age at which he should have won a magistracy or chosen a private career he was considered by his family as incapable of doing either."

Image: Bronze head of an imperial statue, probably Claudius, found at the River Alde, Suffolk (BM).
Other sources such as the 'senatus consultum de Pisone patre' (SCPP: 148) and the inscription from the statue group of the imperial family, possibly from Ticinum (EJ 61), both seem to suggest Claudius' remote position in the imperial family.
But we must acknowledge that our source record is massively impoverished as Tacitus’ record of the first years of Claudius’ reign is missing in its entirety. The text recommences with coverage of AD 47, but for the formative years of Claudius’ reign, Tacitus is sadly silent.
Claudius' accession to the throne in the aftermath of Gaius' assassination was certainly unexpected. Suetonius (Claudius 10.1: PS) calls Claudius’ accession “an extraordinary accident” and for once it is hard not to agree with his pithy summation.
While authors disagree on location (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 19.212 mentions an alleyway; Suetonius, Claudius 10.1 the Hermaeum; and Cassius Dio, Roman History 60.1.2 a dark corner), all agree that Claudius was discovered hiding after the assassination of Gaius.
The group that discovered him were the military, in particular the Praetorian Guard. The significance of this cannot be overstated, hence why our sources make such a conscious emphasis of the fact.
Dio (Roman History 60.1.3a) makes the pointed observation that “the soldiers insisted upon not accepting an emperor chosen by others but bestowing one themselves upon the world.”
Josephus observes that the Praetorian Guard “could not have cared less about avenging the death of Gaius” rather “their concern was with their own future and how best to take advantage of the situation” (JA 19.214-215).
Suetonius recalls that once Claudius had decided to accept the Principate he “promised every man [of the Praetorian Guard] 15,000 sesterces, which made him the first of the Caesars to purchase the loyalty of his troops” (Claudius 10).
The commemoration of this event on the Claudian coinage ensured that it would not be forgotten and reinforced Claudius’ reliance on the loyalty of the soldiery.

Image: Aureus AD 41/2 [RIC Claudius 11]; Reverse bearing the legend 'PRAETOR RECEPT' - 'The Praetorians received'.
Overall then we are forced into the same conclusion that must have struck the Roman world, in particular the Senate: that the army, for so long the guarantee of the power of the princeps, now became the overt preeminent political force in the Roman world.
Indeed this moment more than any other highlights that the Senate was now a spent force. In the 48 hours following Gaius’ death the Senate met to discuss what should happen (Cassius Dio, Roman History 60.1.1) and “many different views were expressed.”
Some advocated a return to the Republic; others continued the idea of a principate with different factions suggesting their own candidates. The lack of unity within the senatorial body is striking, echoing the Tiberian assertion that they were “men fit to be slaves” (Annals 3.65)
Faced with the determined action of the Praetorians the Senate had little choice but to capitulate. Josephus makes the remark that “a return to senatorial government was totally unrealistic” (JA 19.225).
The futility of the Senate’s position is highlighted by the observation that, after Claudius had accepted the position of princeps, the Senate met again. However, the circumstances of the meeting are pitiful:
There is much to note here: firstly the fact that Senate saw the futility of attempted action against Claudius. Moreover, there seems to be an unwillingness on their part to actually worry over the business of government, being all too keen for lives of “leisured idleness”.
On the number of senators attending the meeting is most telling: if we assume that the membership of the Senate had been roughly maintained at the Augustan levels of 600, only 1/6 of the Senate body attended a meeting at this crucial stage in the history of the state.
Thus it was clear that from this time onward, political power was to be bestowed at the point of a sword: the republican facade of the principate had crumbled.
After two days of uncertainty, Claudius – that least likely of candidates – was firmly established as princeps. He swiftly went to work to obliterate the records of those times when a new constitution had been considered (Suetonius, Claudius 11) and established a general amnesty.
But although Claudius may have wished for an era of moderation, the circumstances of his accession cast a pall over his entire reign. The rise of Claudius, predicated by military backing, had put an end to the princeps being seen as 'primus inter pares'.
The detrimental effect that this had upon Claudius’ relationship with the Senate was damage that was never to be repaired.
Such a beginning may well account - in part at least - for the subsequent hostility directed to Claudius in the sources. Suetonius (Claudius 25) gives the standard view of the imperial court:
“One might say that everything Claudius did throughout his reign was dictated by his wives and freedmen: he practically always obeyed their whims rather than his own judgement.”
Tacitus notes that Claudius was “submissive to his spouses’ commands” (Annals 12.1.1), while Dio speaks caustically of the offences of wives and freedmen alike (Roman History 60.17.8).
Though married four times, we may speed over his first two marriages – to Plautia Urgulanilla and Aelia Paetina – as these produced little of political significance, aside from Paetina giving birth to a healthy daughter, Claudia Antonia.
Indeed the casting aside of these women shows just how transient marriages could be in the political crucible of the principate.
However, Claudius’ third marriage to Valeria Messalina was far more significant. Although producing two children, Claudia Octavia and, in AD 48, a son Tiberius Claudius (later renamed Britannicus), Messalina was seen as a source of humiliation and discord for Claudius.
In both the statue in the previous tweet - Messalina and Britannicus (Louvre) - and in the coinage [RIC Claudius 124], we see the official messaging, presenting the unity of the imperial family, which may be contrasted with the presentation of Messalina in the later sources.
The satirist Juvenal (Satires 6.113-135) takes great pleasure in cataloguing the numerous adulteries of Messalina: how she would creep into brothels to have sex with all-comers (120-1) under the pseudonym “Lycisca” (‘She-Wolf’, to suggest her supposed sexual rapacity).
It is Tacitus who records the most damning evidence against Messalina with his account of her affair with Gaius Silius (Annals 11.26-11.38.4), which is treated as an attempted coup, resulting in her downfall.
Thus passed Messalina and although she was not to be grieved she needed to be replaced, with each of the imperial freedmen suggesting their own choice: Tacitus declares that this “wrenched apart the princeps’ household” (Annals 12.1.1).
The woman selected was Agrippina the Younger, Claudius’ own niece. Agrippina had distinct advantages over the other candidates – a blood relative of Augustus, a daughter of Germanicus. Thus her name was one with powerful political associations.
Thus far it would seem that the positives of Claudius’ reign are somewhat well-hidden, as our sources seem intent on criticising the princeps, particularly for the actions of the members of his court.
However, in truth, there is much to commend in Claudius’ principate, as it is characterised by a clear and distinct focus on administration and infrastructure.
The very real need for such a focus is exemplified by the fact that upon Claudius’ accession there was only seven or eight days’ food supply remaining (Seneca, On the Shortness of Life 18.5-6).
The deprivations and excesses of Gaius had virtually bankrupted Rome: we should remember that Suetonius records that Gaius had squandered Tiberius’ accrued funds of 2700 million sesterces within a year (Gaius 37).
Dio links the food crisis to Gaius’ construction of the bridge of boats at Baiae (Roman History 59.17.2), as he had requisitioned so many ships for the purpose that the grain shipments from Egypt could not be maintained.
Claudius’ desire to secure and maintain the grain supply is recorded on a series of coins such as the dupondius showing himself associated with the goddess of corn [RIC Claudius 94].
Claudius’ focus on the day-to-day necessities of urban life is also evidenced in his development of the harbour at Ostia.
The need for a harbour to supply Rome is marked by Strabo (Geography 5.3.5) and Claudius developed the project as one of his infrastructural overhauls.
This project was not completed until AD 64, but reinforces Claudius’ long-term planning and desire to ensure that Rome was well-supplied beyond his reign. A similar strategy is elucidated by Claudius’ completion of the Anio Novus and Aqua Claudia (Pliny the Elder, NH 36.122-3).
In this respect, Claudius’ building programme and administration may be seen to be more practical and effective than that of Augustus, whose building work perhaps addressed needs more cultural and ‘spiritual’.
We must acknowledge Claudius’ role as censor, which makes an emphatic connection with the reign of Augustus, who utilised the lustra as a means of demonstrating the prosperity of the empire under the Augustan settlement (Res Gestae 8.2-4).
Claudius’ concern for the welfare of the empire is marked by his pronouncement in AD 48 that 5,984,072 citizens were registered under his lustrum (Tacitus, Annals 11.25.4) a notable increase on the final Augustan quota of 4,937,000 in AD 14.
This desire for stability and progress is also marked in Claudius’ proposal to alter the make-up of the Senate by admitting Gauls to its number (Tacitus, Annals 11.24).
This had a number of advantages: firstly to introduce new blood into a Senate which had proved itself to be insufficient to its role; to make the Senate a more representative body for the wider empire; and finally it reaffirmed the princeps' willingness to work with the Senate.
Thus it served as an attempt to heal the rift with that body, and had the added advantage of promoting individuals who would have owed their senatorial rank to Claudius himself.
Although the proposal was successful in admitting the Gauls to the Senate, it did not alleviate the issues of Claudius’ relations with its members.
This is perhaps the major failing of Claudius' reign, as the later sources would certainly speak from a 'senatorial' perspective, damaging posterity's view of Claudius.
However, it must be noted that Vespasian clearly acknowledged the importance of Claudius as an imperial predecessor, using him as a frame of reference - along with Augustus - on the 'Lex de imperio Vespasiani'.
*Phew* I got a little carried away there, as I have a LOT of time for Claudius, 'Pumpkinification' and all! #AHQOTD
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Dr Rob Cromarty
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Follow Us on Twitter!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!