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The emperor, Claudius, was a man with great integrity, individuality, common sense, patriotism and determination. From his struggles as a child to his death, was a remarkable journey. Many historians today and ancient Rome have placed him amongst the greats of all time. Despite his physical disabilities and background, Tiberius Claudius Nero contributed much to the greatness of the Roman Empire.
Tiberius Claudius Nero is the youngest son of Nero Claudius Drusus and Antonia (Daughter of Antony and Octavia), giving him royal blood. He was born on August 1st, 10BC, in the city of Comata, which is in the Region of Lugdunum (Modern Day Lyon, France). He was an unwanted child since birth. It is said that he had a sick and ugly appearance, with cerebral palsy. Yet, against the odds, he became an emperor, made many contributions to the benefit of the Roman society.
According to many sources, Claudius was rejected from his own family due to his appearance; even his mother frequently mocked him. He would have been the normal choice to succeed Tiberius, had the monarchical family not thought him, unfit for the office. However, only Augustus thought Claudius as not stupid and granted Claudius a non-governmental priesthood position. Claudius was trained as a scholar, by the historian Livy and wrote several histories and literary works in Latin and Greek. (None of his work has survived, although there are inscriptions and fragments that provide some insight into his thinking). Claudius was considered a fool and kept out of public life until his insane nephew, Calligula, became emperor and appointed him as consul (alongside Calligula's horse) as a joke. After the assassination of Calligula, Claudius was found hiding in the palace, scared for his own life. The Praetorian Guards, interested in keeping their job as the Emperor's bodyguard, declared Claudius as emperor and forced the Senate to do the same. The soldiers, courtiers, freedman and foreigners were his main followers. Nevertheless, they did not dream that Claudius would be known as one of the greats.
Claudius' reign is marked with the expansion of the Roman Empire. He had great sympathy for the traditions of the old Roman Republic than previous rulers of the house of Caesar. But a futile revolt in the Senate, within a year after he became emperor, made him favour the army. In 43AD, he conquered Britain, where his troops accepted him as a god (Smith, Mahlon.
H, May 1999, http://religion.rutgers.edu/iho/rome2.html). Instead of encouraging worship to himself, he directly furthered the evolution of the imperial cult by declaring his grandmother (Augustus's Wife, Livia) a goddess. He also captured Camulodunum, where he started a colony of veterans and built client-kingdoms to safeguard the small-populated land. Claudius then proceeded to the conquest of North Africa and annexed Mauretania, where he established two provinces. Moreover he absorbed Lycia in Asia Minor and Thrace in Eastern Europe. He made Judea a Roman province, he also conquered Iturea and allowed the province of Syria to control it, avoiding major wars with the Germans, and he accepted the collapse of the pro-Roman government in Armenia rather than go to war with Parthia. Thus, the first Roman emperor who had not been trained to be a soldier pushed the boundaries of the empire to their greatest extent. However, he not only proved his eminence via expanding the Roman frontier, he also made conspicuous improvements.
Claudius' significant impact upon the Roman world, came from his enlightened judicial and civic reforms (including the extension of Roman citizenship) and his policy of colonisation in Britain, Germany and Gaul, which made possible for the survival of Roman culture, even after the fall of Rome to barbarians 400 years later. In the area of civil administration he encouraged urbanisation. The judicial system improved under his reign and he favoured the modern extension by individual and collective grants in Noricum. Claudius increased his control over finances and province administration and gave jurisdiction of fiscal matters to the governors under him in the senatorial provinces. Claudius also created justice for the slaves in whom he extended the freedom to any slave who had been abandoned by his or her master and used his knowledge of Etruscan law to promote his belief in the civil rights of the Gauls. Throughout his reign, Claudius made many achievements and contributions, in all aspects, to the Roman society.
Claudius also made many improvements to the senatorial authority. He saw a need for change, since the definition of imperial and senatorial authority was very vague and the business of running the empire had become more perplexing. He showed great respect for the senate and aspired to increase its reputation. He encouraged senators to debate and to vote seriously, as he added to the senate new patrician families and Gauls, in order to recruit the best political talent. Claudius also made various developments to the public works such as extensive road building in Italy and the provinces, the completion of two aqueducts, the construction of a new harbour and lighthouse at Ostia (North of the Tiber Mouth), the excavation of a 3 mile tunnel to drain the flood water from the Fucine Lake and reclaimed agricultural land and he also helped his people when they were in great need, for example supplied grain to those in drought. There were also developments to Religion, the prohibition of worship of himself in temples in the provinces; Finances, increased control by imperial procurators in senatorial provinces and Justice, introduced many minor laws such as, disclaiming of sick slaves by masters. Claudius' initial attempt to gain support varied from the nobility, from the Praetorians and army to the people and he did so by making many changes. Thus proving Claudius to be very patriotic towards his empire and looked after his people, especially when they were in great need.
Though a successful administrator of the empire, Claudius' personal life was wrought with conflicts that ultimately led to his death. He married three times. His first wife, Boudicca, started a revolt, and his second wife had a strong sexual appetite that led her to conspiracy and ultimately, her execution, The third time, he decided to stay within the family and married his niece, Agrippina (Calligula's sister). She was very influential over Claudius to the point where he adopted her son (Agrippina's son by a former marriage). Her main motive was that her darling son, Nero, might inherit the throne. Agrippina succeeded in getting Claudius to favour Nero as his heir-designate over his own son Britannicus, who was three years younger than Nero and in poor health. Claudius died, some believe by Agrippina having poisoned him after he had expressed second thoughts about Nero as his successor. Nero, almost 17 became emperor. But, he was never forgotten, as he brought Rome to its highest peak. Many contributions that Claudius had made, still survive today, such as the waterways and minor laws. His achievements will always be remembered as he was truly an emperor who had many great struggles to get to the highest position and was truly loved by his people.
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