He was born ‘Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus’ on 1 August 10BC. He was Caligula’s nephew. His father died when he was one and he was raised by his mother.
As a child he stammered, slobbered at the mouth and dribbled. He also limped and suffered from shaking fits. Due to these disabilities, he did not socialise much but spent much of his time reading books and improving his education.
As he grew, he worked as an historian and wrote volumes on history and scientific papers.
He was a very clever man, and had tried on many occasions to enter government, but Caligula fought against this.
When Claudius was forty six years old, Caligula finally allowed him to enter the senate as consul.
Even though he had made Claudius consul, he enjoyed bullying and making fun of him.
When Caligula was murdered, Claudius had witnessed many nobleman being killed by the Praetorian Guard, many of which were his friends. He fled to hide behind a curtain while Caligula was being murdered. This is where the Praetorian Guards found him.
It is believed that he knew about the plot to kill Caligula but took no part in it.
Emperor 41AD – 54AD
Claudius was declared emperor by the Praetorian Guard at the age of fifty in 41AD. He was the only living relative of Augustus and the first person to be named emperor by the Praetorian Guard and not the senate.
He pardoned many of the assassins and secured the loyalty of the Guard by issuing bribes and bonuses to them.
During his reign he arranged for public works to be done. These included building roads, canals and aqueducts. These were the first major works since the reign of Augustus and also made him popular with the people.
He enjoyed gladiatorial games and chariot races and could be found watching these. He would stay to the very end so as not to miss anything.
He was a well educated man who also involved himself in court cases and acted as the judge in many of these.
In 43AD Claudius sent legions to invade Britain, he also travelled to Britain himself and took control of the army. He defeated the barbarians and took control of Camelodunum (modern day Colchester) as well as other areas.
Claudius spent 16 days himself in Britain and returned to Rome a hero. He was granted a Triumph by the senate.
Claudius was the first emperor born outside of Italy and many attempts were made on his life during his reign. This resulted in many senators losing their lives and Claudius spending much of his time defending his right to rule.
He married four times. His first and second wives he divorced. His third wife Messalina he married in 38AD but had her executed along with her lover in 48AD and his fourth wife Agrippina the Younger (Agrippinilla) he married in 49AD. She was the sister of Caligula.
Agrippina was a strong woman who found it very easy to manipulate Claudius into her way of thinking. She was ambitious and ruthless and her plan was to secure the throne for her son Nero.
Over time Agrippina gained much power over Claudius and she arranged for her son Nero to be betrothed to Claudius’ daughter Octavia. Following this Claudius adopted Nero as his son and future successor.
Claudius died on 13 October 54AD, believed poisoned by his wife Agrippina by eating mushrooms.