There was, therefore, a large amount of inbreeding in the family. Two children were born as a result of their union: a daughter Claudia Octavia born 39 or 40 , a future empress, stepsister and first wife to the emperor Nero ; and a son, Britannicus. When the Emperor Caligula was murdered in 41, the Praetorian Guard proclaimed Claudius the new emperor and Messalina became empress. The historians who relayed such stories, principally Tacitus and Suetonius , wrote some 70 years after the events in an environment hostile to the imperial line to which Messalina had belonged.
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Even as his symptoms began to wane in his teenage years, he ran into trouble as a budding historian; his work on a history of the Roman civil wars was too truthful and too critical of the reigning emperor Augustus, and his mother Antonia Minor and grandmother Livia quickly put a stop to it. This episode reinforced their initial suspicions that Claudius was not fit for public office.
Graves translated Suetonius before writing the novels and claimed that after reading Suetonius, Claudius came to him in a dream one night and demanded that his real story be told. The life of Claudius provided Graves with a way to write about the first four emperors of Rome from an intimate point of view.
The real Claudius was a trained historian and is known to have written an autobiography now lost in eight books that covered the same period. Graves provides a theme for the story by having the fictional Claudius describe a visit to Cumae , where he receives a prophecy in verse from the Sibyl and an additional prophecy contained in a book of "Sibylline Curiosities".
The latter concerns the fates of the "hairy ones" i. The penultimate verse concerns his reign and Claudius assumes that he can tell the identity of the last emperor described in the prophecy.
Graves establishes a fatalistic tone that plays out at the end of Claudius the God when Claudius correctly predicts his assassination and succession by Nero. At Cumae, the Sibyl tells Claudius that he will "speak clear". Claudius believes this means that his secret memoirs will one day be found and that he, having written the truth, will speak clearly, while his contemporaries, who had to distort their histories to appease the ruling family, will seem like stammerers.
Since he wishes to record his life for posterity, Claudius explains that he chooses to write in Greek , which he believes will remain "the chief literary language of the world". I, Claudius[ edit ] Writing in the first-person from an unspecified time period, presumably late in his own reign as emperor , Claudius establishes himself as the author of this history of his family and insists on writing the truth, which includes harsh criticisms of the deified Augustus and especially of Livia.
During his prosperous reign, Augustus is plagued by personal losses as his favored heirs, Marcellus , Marcus Agrippa , Gaius Caesar , and Lucius Caesar , die.
As these intrigues occur, the sickly Tiberius Claudius is born and is immediately shunned and mocked by his family. Only his brother Germanicus and his cousin Postumus treat him with any kindness. He is eventually given a great tutor, the reputable historian Athenodorus , who fosters a love of history and republican government in the young Claudius. During these early years, Claudius is advised by his idol Asinius Pollio to play the fool to survive. Augustus exchanges the exiled Postumus with a double named Clemens and secretly writes a will restoring Postumus as his heir, but Livia manages to discover this and poisons Augustus.
The Roman legions campaigning in Germany refuse to accept the unpopular Tiberius and begin to mutiny, instead declaring Germanicus emperor. Shocked and confused, Germanicus refuses, declaring his loyalty to Tiberius.
He sends his wife Agrippina and youngest son Caligula away from the military frontier and asks Claudius for an enormous sum of money to pay the soldiers. Claudius agrees and pretends that they are gambling debts. With the money and the return of Caligula, Germanicus ends the mutiny and leads several successful campaigns in Germany.
In the midst of this, Claudius is informed that Postumus is alive and secretly forming a resistance group to take back his rightful place in Rome. Livia, recognizing that Claudius is a threat, sends him to Carthage to prevent him from having contact with Germanicus. Germanicus soon becomes plagued by witchcraft before dying of poison. Sejanus meanwhile secretly plots with Livilla to usurp the monarchy for himself by poisoning Castor and systematically eliminating any ally of Agrippina and her sons.
Livia then hosts a surprising dinner, to which Claudius and Caligula are invited. She predicts that Caligula and not his older brothers will become emperor and that Claudius will succeed him. She privately admits to Claudius to having ordered the poisonings and assassinations of many people, and then begs Claudius to swear to deify her as a goddess, believing it will grant her a blissful afterlife, to which he agrees.
Claudius swears that Livia will become the Queen of Heaven, which moves Livia to declare he is no fool before she dies. Tiberius, now free of Livia, loses all compunction and executes hundreds of influential citizens on false charges of treason. Tiberius retreats from public life to the island of Capri and Sejanus is given full command of the city in his absence, becoming de facto ruler of Rome. Livilla is locked in a room by her mother Antonia and starved to death, and Antonia punishes herself for having raised Livilla by listening to her daughter die.
On his deathbed, the old and feeble Tiberius is smothered to death by Macro. Caligula is declared emperor and at first appears to be enlightened and kind. To his surprise, Claudius is recalled to Rome from his peaceful life in Capua writing history and living with his prostitute companion Calpurnia.
Claudius quickly becomes the butt of many taunts and practical jokes by the Imperial Court. After recovering from a severe illness, Caligula descends into madness, his behavior becoming ever more egomaniacal and irrational. He declares himself a god in human disguise, stages arguments and battles with other gods, bankrupts the country, and kills thousands. The madness having reached a tempest is finally quelled by Cassius Chaerea , a captain of the Praetorian Guard who plots with the other captains to assassinate Caligula, along with his wife and daughter.
Horrified, Claudius hides behind a curtain and is discovered by a disgruntled Praetorian Guard. Realizing they need a new emperor, the Guards suddenly and bemusedly declare Claudius emperor. Claudius pleads that he does not want to be emperor and only wants to see the Republic restored, but the Guards ignore him. He sadly accepts for the sake of his wife and unborn child, and for the access the emperorship will give him to valuable historical documents, on a whim deciding that as emperor he will finally be able to demand that people read his books.
Claudius the God[ edit ] The story begins with an apology by Claudius for having ended his first history on a dramatic point and continues with a brief history of his friend Herod Agrippa. Herod always finds himself in debts and danger in the East and in Rome. He eventually gains the favour of Caligula and is made King of Bashan. Herod is in Rome when Caligula is assassinated and quickly is able to convince Claudius to accept the emperorship in order to avoid civil war.
Claudius reluctantly executes Cassius Chaerea and several of the other assassins and begins tirelessly working for the sake of Rome. Claudius is also able to quell two mutinies and conquers Britain.
Herod Agrippa conspires to take over the East, as he regards himself as the Messiah. When he announces this he breaks the first commandment by declaring himself a god.
Herod quickly dies a painful death, just as his grandfather had died, imploring Claudius to forgive him and not to trust anyone. She eventually conspires to usurp the monarchy with her lover Gaius Silius. Claudius is distraught and crushed by this news and is given an "Olympian Mixture" in order to manage through the ordeal. Claudius arrests Silius and the leaders of the coup. On being relieved of the "Olympian Mixture", Claudius is crushed and decides that the only way the Republic can be restored is by having a true mad monarch rather than the reign of a benevolent one.
Comparing himself to the fable of the frogs who desired a King, Claudius privately refers to himself as "Old King Log" and plays a weak and easily manipulated fool. He then incestuously marries his niece Agrippinilla , whom he openly despises. Britannicus refuses and admits that while he loves the Republic, the Republic is dead and he wants to challenge Nero for the right to rule Rome as an emperor. Dismayed, Claudius agrees, knowing that he is sending his son to his death.
Claudius resignedly accepts that his death will be soon with numerous signs suggesting such. Literary significance and criticism[ edit ] The I, Claudius novels, as they are called collectively, became massively popular when first published in and gained literary recognition with the award of the James Tait Black Prize for fiction.
Graves later claimed that the novels were written only from financial need on a strict deadline. Nonetheless, they are today regarded as pioneering masterpieces of historical fiction. German translation[ edit ] When the time came to translate the novels into German, Graves, who spoke the language, decided instead to rework them into a one volume edition.
The contents of the books were thus roughly cut down to a half. Film and television[ edit ] In , abortive attempts were made to adapt the first book into a film by the film director Josef von Sternberg.
Filming was abandoned after Oberon was injured in a serious motor car accident. In , it was reported that Relativity Media had obtained the rights to produce a new film adaptation of I, Claudius. Jim Sheridan was named as director. It won the Audie Award in the "Audio Dramatization" category. Theatre[ edit ] The novel has also been adapted for theatre. Derek Jacobi performed two separate readings of the novel, both as abridged versions, one for Dove Audio and one for CSA Word Frederick Davidson performed an unabridged reading for Blackstone Audio In , software developer C.
Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina
Even as his symptoms began to wane in his teenage years, he ran into trouble as a budding historian; his work on a history of the Roman civil wars was too truthful and too critical of the reigning emperor Augustus, and his mother Antonia Minor and grandmother Livia quickly put a stop to it. This episode reinforced their initial suspicions that Claudius was not fit for public office. Graves translated Suetonius before writing the novels and claimed that after reading Suetonius, Claudius came to him in a dream one night and demanded that his real story be told. The life of Claudius provided Graves with a way to write about the first four emperors of Rome from an intimate point of view. The real Claudius was a trained historian and is known to have written an autobiography now lost in eight books that covered the same period.