Tiberius Claudius Nero was born in Comata in Lugdunum (modern day France) on the 1st of August in 10 BC.He was the son of Antonia (the daughter of Mark Antony and Octavia) and and Nero Drusus. Claudius is rumored to have suffered a serious disease at birth which left him deformed and with a speech problem.It is because of his rather undignified appearance that he was considered an outcast and an embarrasment by the rest of his family and he led a very secluded life.
Because of his lack of a public life, Claudius threw himself into his reading and writing and led a scholarly existance. During his life,Claudius wrote many histories on the Etruscan and Carthagian civilizations and his autobiography and a book on how to play dice (his favourite past time).
Throuughout his life, Claudius's political career continued to be undistinguished and the only real office that he held was a consolship with his nephew,the emperor Caligula, probably as an amusment to the young emperor. Fate would take a strange turn on this outcast and he would soon find himself head of the most powerful empire of the time .
The story of his rise to power says that immediately after the death of Caligula,the Praetorian guard were running rampant through the imperial palace looting and kiling all they saw. Claudius immediately feared for his life and hid behind a palace curtain in the hopes that he would not be spotted by the guard. Claudius was found by the praetorian guard and began begging for his life but ,to his shock and amasment,was lifted up and proclaimed emperor by the guard.His appointment set a new precedent for future emperors because now the guards could appoint an emperor,not just the senate .
For his lack of a public life, Claudius ruled the empire well and repaired most of the damage caused by Caligula. He tried to undo many of the injustices of Caligula's reign. He returned plundered artwork and wealth and relieved the citizens of many of Caligula's outrageous taxes.He also recalled many of Caligula's exiles and did away with many of Caligula's extravagent games.
Claudius also made many reforms to how the provinces would be governed.He gave all the provinces political equality with Rome.He also showed no favouritism between provincials and Romans and he made it possible for Gauls that were of a high standing in society to become senators.Claudius believed that to keep the peace within the empire,the conquorers must treat the conquored as equals (or at least as people).This was a practice from early in Rome's history.
During his reign Claudius also made many civil improvements to the city of Rome. He built two of the finest Roman aqueducts ever created and he improved the Roman Port of Ostia so more grain could reach the city.There had been a corn famine in Rome during the early part of his reign. This resulted in a personal attack on Claudius by the hungry people of Rome.It is because of this attack that Claudius always made sure that the city always had an adequate corn supply to feed it's citizens.
Claudius also led many successful millitary campaigns and annexed new provinces into the Roman empire during his reign.The most famous of his conquests is that of Britain.The conquest of Britain was a great millitary feat for Claudius and won him much respect among the Roman people.Also Maurtania and Thrace in Greece were brought under Roman control during his reign.
Claudius also made many changes in how the empire would be governed. In 44 AD he changed the way the state treasury would be managed.He went from two praetors to two quaestors.Unlike the praetors who were elected to the position,the quaestors were personally picked by Claudius himself and each served three year terms. This made sure the emperor could aslo keep a watchful eye on the treasury.
The one major gripe that historians have about the reign of Claudius is that they believe he let his wives and freedmen manipulate him.It is because of this that Claudius may not be solely responsible for all the problems of his reign. His first wife Valeria Messalina was a known adulterous and went behind her husbands back many times and slept with many men. Claudius is criticized for Messalina's actions because he was the only person in Rome who did not realize what she was doing. His second wife Agrippina ,his niece, manipulated Claudius into making her son Nero his sucessor over his own son, Britannicus and married Nero to his daughter Octavia.
Claudius died in the year 54 AD under suspicious circumstances and Nero became emperor. His death has always been rumored to have been caused by Agrippina and Nero due to the "poison mushroom."Claudius had ruled just over 13 years and was diefied after his death.