|Claudius - Roman
by Kristof D'Exelle
K.U. Leuven School, Leuven, Belgium.
I believe that Claudius was one of the most able Roman emperors and maybe even the smartest. He was born with a bad leg; he stottered and he twitched. The imperial family was embarassed by him, so they kept him out of the public eye. Once Claudius was an adult, Augustus had died and Tiberius had taken over.
At this time, the competition within the imperial family over the throne began. Tiberius lost his own son and probably killed his very popular nephew, Germanicus, in fear that we would take over the throne. In the aftermath of these events, Germanicus' sons (except for Caligula) and all loyal friends of Germanicus were executed. Claudius, Germanius' brother, started playing the fool everybody took him for in order to survive. In fact, Claudius was a great historian who later wrote several books.
After the death of Tiberius, Germanicus' youngest son, Caligula, took over as emperor, but the events in his childhood scarred the man for life. He was psychotic, paranoid and after a serious disease, he began to believe he was a god. Under Caligula, being a member of the imperial family became very dangerous. Caligula killed off many of his own family members but Claudius, Caligula's uncle, managed to survive the purges once again by playing idiot of the family. Caligula found it amusing to make fun of his weakminded uncle and left Claudius alone.
After three years, the Roman nobility and what was left of the imperial family had had enough of Caligula and he was assasinated during the Olympic games. The guards, who were now unemployed, started to plunder the palace and found Claudius, who was afraid of being killed, hiding behind a drape. They proclaimed Claudius emperor because they needed an emperor to have a job. Most historians claim that Claudius' assent to emperor was an accident, but I believe that Claudius had a big part in assasinating Caligula. He was seen quickly leaving Caligula just before the assasination and it was well known that he hated his crazy nephew.
After his proclamation, Claudius swiftly used the army to take control over goverment and the senat. As an emperor he was a lot better than Tiberius and Caligula. He took advice from very able freed men instead of the nobility. He paid of all of Caligula's debts, and he gained a lot of prestige with the conquest of Britain. He quickly handled a coup d'etat by his wife Messalina who was killed for treason afterwards.
After the death of Messalina, Claudius made his only big mistake by marrying his niece Agripinna (Germanicus' daughter). She quickly moved to favor her own son, Nero, above Claudius' son Britannicus. When Claudius had chosen Nero as successor, Claudius died, possibly due to poisoning by Agrippina. And so the great survivor died in his early sixties.