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Claudius

New - 20 March 2010


The Mother of All Family Trees

Generation 98

Claudius


(who... being such a cool dude*...

will receive a bit more attention)


1. Tiberius CLAUDIUS Caesar Augustus Germanicus
[98] Decimus Claudius Drusus, aka Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus, aka Drusus the Elder... et al (=Antonia Minor) [97] Livia Drusilla Augusta (=Tiberius Nero I) [96] Marcus Livius Drusus Claudianus (=Aufidia) [95] ... Appius Claudius Pulcher (c. 212 BC) [?] Consul and Dictator Appius Claudius Caecus (“the blind”; c. 340-273 BC) [?] Dictator Gaius Claudius Crassus (c. 337 BC) [?] ...unknown

or:

1. Tiberius CLAUDIUS Caesar Augustus Germanicus [98] Antonia Minor (=Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus) [97] Octavia Minor (=Marcus Antonius, aka Mark Antony) [96] Atia Balba Caesonia (=Gaius Octavius) [95] Julia Caesaris (=Marcus Atius Balbus) [94] Gaius Julius Caesar III (=Aurelia Cotta) [93] Marcia Regia (=Gaius Julius Caesar II) [92] Quintus Marcius Rex [91] Two teenage sons [90] Ancus Marcius [89] Pompilia (=Marcius) [88] Numa Pompilius (=Tatia)... or direct from Romulus [87] Romulus (=Hersilia) [86] Rhea Silvia (=Mars) [85] Numitor [84] Procas [83] Aventinus [82] Romulus Silvius [81] Agrippa [80] Tibernius Silvius [79] Capetus [78] Capys [77] Atys [76] Alba [75] Latinus Silvius [74] Aeneas Silvius [73] Silvius (I) [72] Aeneas (=Lavinia) [71] Anchises (=Inanna) [70] Capys (=Themiste) [69] Assaracus (=Aigesta) [68] Tros (=Callirrhoe; or Acallaris) [67] Erichthonius (=Astyoche) [66] Dardanus (=Batea) [65] ---- Enki (=Electra) [5] Anu and Antu [4] Anshar and Kishar [3] Lahmu and Lahamu [2] Tiamat and Absu [1]

or taking the short cut via Romulus and Mars to Enki:

1. Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus [98] Antonia Minor (=Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus) [97] Octavia Minor (=Marcus Antonius, aka Mark Antony) [96] Atia Balba Caesonia (=Gaius Octavius) [95] Julia Caesaris (=Marcus Atius Balbus) [94] Gaius Julius Caesar III (=Aurelia Cotta) [93] Marcia Regia (=Gaius Julius Caesar II) [92] Quintus Marcius Rex [91] Two teenage sons [90] Ancus Marcius [89] Pompilia (=Marcius) [88] Numa Pompilius (=Tatia)... or direct from Romulus [87] Romulus (=Hersilia) [86] Mars (=Rhea Silvia) [85] ---- Enki [5] Anu and Antu [4] Anshar and Kishar [3] Lahmu and Lahamu [2] Tiamat and Absu [1]

Hereafter, all of the above can be defined as CLAUDIUS [1-98].

Tiberius CLAUDIUS Caesar Augustus Germanicus (1 August 10 BCE – 13 October CE 54) aka Tiberius Claudius Drusus from birth to 4 CE, then Tiberius Claudius Nero Germanicus from then until his accession), and later cleverly adding the Augustus, was the fourth Roman Emperor, a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, ruling from 24 January 41 CE to his death in 54 CE. Born in Lugdunum in Gaul (modern-day Lyon, France), to Drusus (the Elder) and Antonia Minor, he was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italia. He had two older siblings named Germanicus and Livilla. His mother may have had two other children who died young, as well. His maternal grandparents were Mark Antony and Octavia Minor, the Emperor Augustus' sister, and as such he was the great-great grandnephew of Gaius Julius Caesar IV, the Julius Caesar. His paternal grandparents were Livia, Augustus' third and by far most powerful wife, and Tiberius Claudius Nero I. During his reign, Claudius revived the rumor that his father Drusus was actually the illegitimate son of Emperor Augustus, to give the false appearance that Augustus was Claudius' paternal grandfather.

Married:
1) Plautia Urgulanilla
2 )Aelia Paetina
3) Valeria Messalina
4) Agrippina the Younger

Children
(by Plautia Urgulanilla) Claudius Drusus (died in adolescence);
(by Plautia Urgulanilla) Claudia*, aka Genuissa (Venus Julia) Claudia
(by Aelia Paetina) Claudia Antonia
(by Messalina) Claudia Octavia
(by Messalina) Britannicus
(by Agrippina the Younger and Domitius... or Caligula) Nero (adoptive)

*Claudia was allegedly the illegitimate daughter of the freedman Boter, but this may have been a ruse intended for Genuissa’s safety and survival. For more detail and the rationale for a comparatively unique genealogical perspective, see Genuissa [Generation No.99].

To put Claudius in perspective, we will reprise the abbreviated Julio-Claudian Tree:

Julius

Physical and Mental Characteristics

According to Wikipedia, Claudius may have been afflicted as a child with some type of disability (albeit, later reports by any of his four wives of any disabling conditions should probably be discounted). Because of his disability, his family had virtually excluded him from public office until his consulship granted to him by his nephew Caligula in 37 CE. But then again, at the time, Caligula was as mad as a hatter... thereby suggesting that Claudius’ election might not have been exactly based on his mental acuity or popularity in the Roman Senate.

Ironically... and this is the best part.. Claudius’ infirmity may well have saved him from the fate of many of the other Roman nobles and members of his family, particularly during the purges of Tiberius' and Caligula's reigns. The simple reason was that potential enemies did not see him as a serious threat to them. Even better, his survival led to his being declared emperor (reportedly because the Praetorian Guard insisted... and they did in fact have the swords). His ascension to the emperorship was done in all likelihood because, following Caligula's assassination, he was the last adult male of his royal family. Such a scenario is typically described as scraping the bottom of the royal barrel... whereas it turns out one can sometimes, albeit rarely, find the best produce.

According to the historian Suetonius, Claudius' knees were weak... sometimes giving way under him... and his head shook. He stammered and his speech was confused. He slobbered and his nose ran when he was excited. [If some of this sounds like George Bush... dodging shoes, stumbling over words, being confused, and so forth... well... George has in fact claimed, indirectly, to have Claudius’ genes in his heritage. Seriously. They didn’t call him “Shrub” for nothing, you know!]

The Stoic Seneca was also less than complimentary in describing Claudius' voice as belonged to no known land animal, and that his hands were weak. Seneca does relent, however, in that he reported Claudius as showing no physical deformity, and instead, that when Claudius was calm and seated, he was a tall, well-built figure of dignitas. At the same time, when angered or stressed, his symptoms became worse. Historians agree that this condition improved upon his accession to the throne. Claudius himself claimed that he had exaggerated his ailments to save his own life. [He may have also claimed that the devil made him do it. But that was much later.]

The modern diagnosis varies. Pre World War II, infantile paralysis (or polio) was widely accepted as the cause, and was the diagnosis used in Robert Graves' Claudius novels, first published in the 1930s. Polio, however, does not explain many of the described symptoms, and a more recent theory implicates cerebral palsy as the cause. Tourette syndrome is also a possible candidate. Ancient historians did describe Claudius as generous and lowbrow, a man who sometimes lunched with the plebeians [which only the insane would dare do? Probably.] These historians also paint him as bloodthirsty and cruel -- generously, no doubt -- and who was overly fond of both gladiatorial combat and executions [including specifically the execution of certain past and future historians]. He was, allegedly, very quick to anger, and in fact, Claudius himself acknowledged the latter trait; even apologizing publicly for his temper. [It’s another trait that appears to have a genetic influence... that is to say: the temper... not the apologizing. Sigh.] To the historians, Claudius was also overly trusting, and easily manipulated by his wives and freedmen. [Of course, if people think you can be manipulated, they have less incentive to murder you. Accordingly, appearances can be deceiving. It's like when the gorgeous blonde is seducing you... you agree to go along with it... for a couple of hours or so.]

Some historians portray him as paranoid and apathetic, dull and easily confused. And yet, the extant works of Claudius present quite a different view, painting a picture of an intelligent, scholarly, well-read, and conscientious administrator with an eye to detail and justice. Thus, Claudius is an enigma. Since the discovery of his "Letter to the Alexandrians" in the last century, much work has been done to rehabilitate Claudius and determine where the truth lies. But as they say: "The evil men do lives after them; the good is often interred in their bones."

Edification

Despite his family-induced lack of political experience, Claudius proved to be an able administrator and a great builder of public works. His reign saw an expansion of the empire, including the re-conquest of Britain. He took a personal interest in the law, presided at public trials, and issued up to 20 edicts a day. He was, however, seen as vulnerable throughout his rule, particularly in the eyes of the nobility. Claudius was thus constantly forced to shore up his position... which in the true traditions of statecraft, resulted in the deaths of a fair number of enemies. Claudius also suffered setbacks in his personal life, one of which may have led to his murder... the latter clearly a significant "setback". These events damaged his reputation among the ancient writers, though more recent historians have revised the consensus opinion.

In 9 BCE, Claudius’ father, Drusus the Elder unexpectedly died on campaign in Germania, possibly from illness. Claudius was then left to be raised by his mother, who never remarried. When Claudius' disability became evident, the relationship with his family turned sour. Antonia referred to him as a monster, and used him as a standard for stupidity. She seems to have passed her son off on his grandmother Livia for a number of years. Ah, yes... motherhood in the Roman style.

Livia, one of the tough-love specialists of Roman times, was actually a little kinder, but still sent him short, angry letters of reproof on a regular basis. He was put under the care of a "former mule-driver" to keep him disciplined. This strange logic was based on the assumption that his condition was due to laziness and a lack of will-power. However, by the time he reached his teenage years his symptoms apparently waned and his family took some notice of his scholarly interests. In 7 CE, Livy was hired to tutor him in history, with the assistance of Sulpicius Flavus. He spent a lot of his time with the latter and the philosopher Athenodorus. Augustus, according to a letter he wrote, was surprised at the clarity of Claudius' oratory. Expectations about his future began to increase.

Ironically, it was his work as a budding historian that destroyed his early career. Claudius began work on a history of the Civil Wars that was either too truthful or too critical of Octavian. It may have served to remind Augustus that Claudius was Antony's descendant. His mother and grandmother quickly put a stop to such politically incorrect musings. His lack of pragmatism may have proved to them that Claudius was not fit for public office. In other words, he could not be trusted to toe the existing party line. When he returned to the narrative later in life, Claudius skipped over the wars of the second triumvirate altogether. But the damage had been done, and his family had pushed him to the background. When the Arch of Pavia was erected to honor the imperial clan in 8 CE, Claudius' name (now Tiberius Claudius Nero Germanicus after his elevation to the paterfamilias of Claudii Nerones on the adoption of his brother) was inscribed on the edge -- i.e., past the deceased princes, Gaius and Lucius, and Germanicus' children. Accordingly, there is some speculation that he originally did not appear at all and that the inscription was added (corrected) by Claudius himself decades later... typical of a writer/editor with an eye to detail.

When Augustus died in 14 CE, Claudius — then 23 — appealed to his uncle Tiberius to allow him to begin the cursus honorum. Tiberius, the new emperor, responded by granting Claudius consular ornaments. Claudius requested office once more and was snubbed. Since the new emperor was not any more generous than the old, Claudius gave up hope of public office and retired to a scholarly, private life.

Despite the disdain of the imperial family, it seems that from very early on the general public respected Claudius. At Augustus' death, the equites, or knights, chose Claudius to head their delegation. When his house burned down, the Senate demanded it be rebuilt at public expense. They also requested that Claudius be allowed to debate in the Senate. Tiberius turned down both motions, but the sentiment remained. During the period immediately after the death of Tiberius' son, Drusus, Claudius was pushed by some quarters as a potential heir. This again suggests the political nature of his exclusion from public life. However, this was also the period during which the power and terror of the Praetorian Sejanus was at its peak. Claudius thus chose to downplay this possibility... his instinct for survival obviously still intact.

After the death of Tiberius the new emperor Caligula (the son of Claudius' brother Germanicus) recognized Claudius to be of some use. He appointed Claudius his co-consul in 37 CE in order to emphasize the memory of Caligula's deceased father Germanicus. Despite this, Caligula relentlessly tormented his uncle: playing practical jokes, charging him enormous sums of money, humiliating him before the Senate, and all sorts of other family fun and games. Allegedly, Claudius became very sickly and thin by the end of Caligula's reign, most likely due to stress.

[New weight loss regiment: Just assume you’re about to be killed, maimed, or ruined at any moment and watch the pounds melt away!]

Accession

On 24 January, 41 CE, Caligula was assassinated [served him right, being cruel to poor Claudius!]. The dastardly (or blessed) act had been committed by a broad-based conspiracy (one that included Praetorian commander Cassius Chaerea and several Senators). There is no evidence that Claudius had a direct hand in the assassination, although it has been argued that he knew about the plot — particularly since he had left the scene of the crime shortly before his nephew was murdered.

However, after the deaths of Caligula's wife and daughter, it became apparent that Cassius intended to go beyond the terms of the conspiracy and wipe out the entire imperial family. In the chaos following the murder, Claudius witnessed the German guard cut down several uninvolved noblemen, including many of his friends. He fled to the palace to hide. According to tradition... which is often so much more interesting than factual history... a Praetorian named Gratus found him hiding behind a curtain and suddenly declared him princeps. A section of the guard may have planned in advance to seek out Claudius, perhaps with his approval. After reassuring him that they were not one of the battalions looking for revenge, they spirited him away to the Praetorian camp and put Claudius under their protection.

The Senate quickly met and began debating a change of government... and without the tedious bother of having a period of mourning for their deceased emperor. Not surprisingly, the debate eventually devolved into an argument over which of them would be the new Princeps. When they heard of the Praetorians' claim, they demanded that Claudius be delivered to them for approval, but he refused, sensing the danger that would come with complying. There is also the possibility that Claudius was directed in his actions by the Judean King Herod Agrippa... albeit it is not known how large a hand he had in things. Eventually the Senate was forced to give in and, in return, Claudius pardoned nearly all of the assassins.

Claudius took several steps to legitimize his rule against potential usurpers, most of them emphasizing his place within the Julio-Claudian family. He adopted the name "Caesar" as a cognomen — the name still carried great weight with the populace. In order to do so, he dropped the cognomen "Nero" which he had adopted as paterfamilias of the Claudii Nerones. While he had never been adopted by Augustus or his successors, he was still the grandson of Octavia, and so felt he had the right. He also adopted the name "Augustus" as the two previous emperors had done at their accessions. He kept the honorific "Germanicus" in order to display the connection with his heroic brother. He deified his paternal grandmother Livia in order to highlight her position as wife of the divine Augustus. Claudius frequently used the term "filius Drusi" (son of Drusus) in his titles, in order to remind the people of his legendary father and thereby laid claim to his father’s reputation.

Because he was proclaimed emperor on the initiative of the Praetorian Guard instead of the Senate — the first emperor thus proclaimed — Claudius' repute suffered. Moreover, he was the first Emperor who resorted to bribery as a means to secure army loyalty. Tiberius and Augustus had both left gifts to the army and guard in their wills, and upon Caligula's death the same would have been expected, even if no will existed. Claudius remained grateful to the guard somewhat prematurely however, by issuing coins with tributes to the praetorians in the early part of his reign. It's a wise emperor who knows who's guarding the hen house.

Emperor Claudius

Under Claudius, the empire underwent its first major expansion since the reign of Augustus. This included the provinces of Thrace (which were conquered thrice). Noricum, Pamphylia, Lycia, and Judea were annexed under various circumstances during his term. The annexation of Mauretania, begun under Caligula, was completed after the defeat of rebel forces, and the official division of the former client kingdom into two imperial provinces. The most important new expansion was the conquest of Britannia.

In 43 CE, Claudius sent Aulus Plautius with four legions to Britain (Britannia) after an appeal from an ousted tribal ally. Britain was an attractive target for Rome because of its material wealth — particularly in the form of mines and slaves. It was also a haven for Gallic rebels and the like, and consequently could not be left alone much longer. There was also extensive intelligence concerning weapons of mass destruction... not to mention rumors of rock and roll taking over the foolish youth. Claudius himself traveled to the island after the completion of initial offensives.. modern, pragmatic leaders always residing well behind the lines until time for the photo ops... in which they excel.

Claudius did manage to bring with him reinforcements and elephants. The latter must have made an impression on the Britons when they were used in the capture of Camulodunum. Claudius left after 16 days (the original definition of a fortnight... and the maximum time allowed by his visa into Britannia). He did, however, remain in the provinces for some time. The Senate granted him a triumph for his efforts, as only members of the imperial family were allowed such honors. Claudius later lifted this restriction for some of his conquering generals... a very politic move for someone made emperor by the sword. He was also granted the honorific "Britannicus" but only accepted it on behalf of his son, never using the title himself. When the British general Caractacus was captured in 50 CE, Claudius granted him clemency. Caractacus lived out his days on land provided by the Roman state, an unusual end for an enemy commander. It also says a great deal about Claudius’ understanding of history, e.g., Alexander the Great, who was relatively generous to those who bowed to his authority, and thereafter did not again threaten or suggest revolt. It was a lesson ignored in modern times in Iraq.

[It might be worth noting that Caractacus was the brother of Arvirargus, who Claudius had brought into the Roman fold by marrying off his daughter, Genuissa (Venus Julia) Claudia. While the later classical Roman historians skipped over this diplomatic triumph, other sources are sufficiently definitive to cause speculation that Claudius' generous granting of clemency to Caractacus might have been something of a family matter.]

Claudius personally judged many of the legal cases tried during his reign. Ancient historians have many complaints about this, stating that his judgments were variable and sometimes did not follow the law. [Of course, justice sometimes requires ignoring obviously inapplicable laws.] Claudius was also easily swayed. Nevertheless, Claudius paid close attention to the operation of the judicial system. He extended the summer court session, as well as the winter term, by shortening the traditional breaks. Claudius also made a law requiring plaintiffs to remain in the city while their cases were pending, as defendants had previously been required to do. These measures had the effect of clearing out the docket. The minimum age for jurors was also raised to 25 in order to ensure a more experienced jury pool.

Claudius also settled disputes in the provinces. He freed the island of Rhodes from Roman rule for their good faith and exempted Troy from taxes. The latter action’s a curious one... unless of course, Claudius' history lessons had included as much detail as this Mother of All Family Trees... i.e., if Claudius had known from whence his roots derived, he might have found a soft spot in his heart for Troy.

Early in his reign, the Greeks and Jews of Alexandria began exchanging riots between their two communities. This resulted in Claudius' famous "Letter to the Alexandrians", which reaffirmed Jewish rights in the city but also forbade them to move in more families en masse. [Wow! Sounds very much like "Jewish rights" in other parts of the Middle East, but in somewhat more modern times.] According to Josephus... a Jew with a slight conflict of interest... Claudius supposedly reaffirmed the rights and freedoms of all the Jews in the empire. In another example, an investigator of Claudius' discovered that many old Roman citizens based in the modern city of Trento were not in fact citizens. The emperor issued a declaration that they would be considered to hold citizenship from then on, since to strip them of their status would cause major problems. However, in individual cases, Claudius punished false assumption of citizenship harshly, making it a capital offense. Similarly, any freedmen found to be impersonating equestrians [knights] were sold back into slavery.

Numerous edicts were issued throughout Claudius' reign, on a number of topics, including everything from medical advice to moral judgments. Two famous medical examples include one promoting Yew juice as a cure for snakebite, and another promoting public flatulence for good health. [For which he undoubtedly took a lot of gas from his detractors.] One of the more famous edicts concerned the status of sick slaves. Masters had been abandoning ailing slaves at the temple of Aesculapius to die, and then reclaiming them if they lived. Claudius ruled that slaves who recovered after such treatment would be free. Also, masters who chose to kill slaves rather than take the risk were liable to be charged with murder.

Because of the circumstances of his accession, Claudius took great pains to please the Senate. During regular sessions, the emperor sat among the Senate body, speaking in turn. When introducing a law, he sat on a bench between the consuls in his position as Holder of the Power of Tribune -- the emperor could not officially serve as a Tribune of the Plebes as he was a Patrician, but it was a power taken by previous rulers. He refused to accept all his predecessors' titles (including Imperator, Commander) at the beginning of his reign, preferring to earn them. He allowed the Senate to issue its own bronze coinage for the first time since Augustus. He also put the imperial provinces of Macedonia and Achaea back under Senate control. But such actions tended to yield very little cooperation... rather like the futility of achieving bi-partisanship in modern dealings. Lots of friggin' luck!

For example... in the Roman case... several coup attempts were made during his reign, resulting in the deaths of many senators. Coups and deaths do seem to be somehow connected, but typically the intent to have the coup members survive and not be among the death toll. Of course, that's only for successful ones. In terms of failures, Appius Silanus was executed early in Claudius' reign under what was probably questionable circumstances. Shortly after, a large rebellion was undertaken by the Senator Vinicianus and Scribonianus, the governor of Dalmatia, and the two gained quite a few senatorial supporters. It ultimately failed because of the reluctance of Scribonianus' troops, and the suicide of the main conspirators. Suicides of leaders inevitably just kills your average coup.

Many other senators tried different conspiracies and were condemned. Claudius' son-in-law was executed for his part in a conspiracy with his father Crassus Frugi. In 46 CE, Asinius Gallus, the grandson of Asinius Pollio, and Statilius Corvinus were exiled for a plot hatched with several of Claudius' own freedmen. Valerius Asiaticus was also executed without public trial for unknown reasons -- very likely due to the machinations by Claudius' third wife. The ancient sources had claimed the charge was adultery and that Claudius was tricked into issuing the punishment. However, Claudius singled out Asiaticus for special damnation in his speech on the Gauls, which dates over a year later, suggesting that the charge might have been much more serious. There is also the noteworthy fact that Asiaticus had been a claimant to the throne in the chaos following Caligula's death.

Most of these conspiracies took place before Claudius' term as Censor, and may have induced him to review the Senatorial rolls. The conspiracy of Gaius Silius in the year after his Censorship, 48 CE, involved a total of 35 senators and 300 knights, who were subsequently executed for offenses during Claudius' reign. [Leave the score: Claudius 335; Senators 0.] Needless to say, the necessary responses to these conspiracies could not have helped Senate-Emperor relations. It’s curious how Senators conspiring to kill or overthrow an emperor might have felt that Senate-Emperor relations were needlessly suffering whenever Claudius defended himself, or worse yet, retaliated.

Claudius, as the author of a treatise on Augustus' religious reforms, felt himself in a good position to institute some of his own. He had strong opinions about the proper form for state religion. He refused the request of Alexandrian Greeks to dedicate a temple to his divinity, saying that only gods may choose new gods. He restored lost days to festivals and got rid of many extraneous celebrations added by Caligula. He reinstituted old observances and archaic language. Claudius was concerned with the spread of eastern mysteries within the city and searched for more Roman replacements. He emphasized the Eleusinian mysteries which had been practiced by so many during the Republic. He expelled foreign astrologers, and at the same time rehabilitated the old Roman soothsayers (known as haruspices) as a replacement. He was especially hard on Druidism, apparently because of its incompatibility with the Roman state religion and its proselytizing activities. It is also reported that at one time he expelled the Jews from Rome, probably because the appearance of Christianity had caused unrest within the Jewish community. In general, Claudius opposed proselytizing in any religion, even in those regions where he allowed natives to worship freely.

Death

The general consensus of ancient historians was that Claudius was murdered by poison — possibly contained in mushrooms or on a feather — and died in the early hours of 13 October, 54 CE. Accounts vary greatly. Some implicate either Halotus, his taster; Halitosis, his dental hygienist; Xenophon, his doctor; or the infamous poisoner Locusta as the administrator of the fatal substance. Some say he died after prolonged suffering following a single dose at dinner, and some have him recovering only to be poisoned again. Nearly all implicate his final wife, Agrippina, as the instigator.

Agrippina and Claudius had become more combative in the months leading up to his death. This carried on to the point where Claudius openly lamented his bad wives, and began to comment on Britannicus' approaching manhood with an eye towards restoring his status within the imperial family. At the same time, Agrippina had motive in ensuring the succession of Nero before Britannicus could gain power. In fact, one can gleam a substantive hint from Nero himself. According to Will Durant [1]:

“When the Senate deified [Claudius], Nero, already enthroned, remarked that mushrooms must be the food of the gods, since by eating them Claudius had become divine.”

Curiously, during his life time, Nero did not himself imbibe said fungi, and thereby failed to become divine. It’s a telling argument.

Claudius' will had been changed shortly before his death to either recommend Nero and Britannicus jointly or perhaps just Britannicus, who would have been considered an adult man according to Roman law only in a few months. This timing might explain Agrippina and Nero’s urgency in murdering Claudius... and the fact that his son and heir-apparent lived only months into his step brother’s Nero’s reign. Britannicus was murdered just before his 14th birthday. Being murdered by a wife... or a step mother... is never desirable, but does seem somewhat inevitable. Claudius has been accused of being dominated by women and wives [Thanks in large part to his mom, Antonia]. Astoundingly, he has also been accused of being both uxorious, and conversely, of being a womanizer! Some guys just can't win.

Marriages

Claudius married five times. That in and of itself should tell you a lot about Claudius' previously described fortunes. His bad luck... or possibly his good luck... began when his betrothal to his distant cousin Aemilia Lepida, was broken for political reasons. Claudius' second attempt in the marital (martial?) sweepstakes was to Livia Medullina, which ended with the bride's sudden death on their wedding day! [Some women will do just about anything to avoid consummating a marriage.]

His third attempt and second marriage to get past the "I do" part (c. 9 CE), was to Plautia Urgulanilla, a relation of Livia's confidant Urgulanilla. During their marriage she gave birth first to a son, Claudius Drusus. Unfortunately, Drusus died of asphyxiation in his early teens [I.e., not sudden infant death syndrome], but in fact shortly after becoming engaged to the daughter of Sejanus. As such, the death was almost certainly political... and may have been directed more against Sejanus (than Claudius)... inasmuch as Sejanus was the ruthless power-seeker on his way up. The death of Claudius' son would thus interfere with Sejanus' intentions to align himself by marriage to the royal family.

Very importantly, the death of Drusus may have left a significant legacy with Claudius, who despite the fact that he was not seriously considered a potential emperor, was nevertheless still a potential pawn in the various bids for royal power. Claudius had in fact seen his first born dead early in his teens... likely having been murdered (and if not by Claudius’ enemies... of which there may have been few... by Sejanus’ enemies). Claudius, actually being quite intelligent, might have taken this particular lesson to heart... that any of the fate of any of his children might be entwined in deadly imperial politics.

The apparent upstart of all of this was that not longer afterwards, Claudius divorced Urgulanilla for adultery, and adding insult to injury: on suspicion of murdering her sister-in-law Apronia. The key was that Urgulanilla was pregnant with Claudius’ second child at the time (c. 24 CE, after 15 years of marriage). It would likely have been obvious to Claudius that his latest progeny (boy or girl) would again have ultimately been at the mercy of political enemies. Thus... when Urgulanilla gave birth after the divorce, Claudius repudiated the baby girl, Claudia, as the father was one of his own freedmen. By Claudius' repudiation, the baby Claudia was taken out of the line of fire... and thereafter, basically forgotten... or apparently forgotten, as the plot thickens considerably 20 years later. [See below; Genuissa, Generation No. 99.] It's always astounding the lengths parents will go to in defending their children.

After divorcing Urgulanilla (possibly in CE 28), Claudius married Aelia Paetina, a relation of Sejanus. As already mentioned, Sejanus was politically active... and Claudius looked like a weak link with which the Praetorian Guard commander could gain power. This was also a major factor in Claudius' divorce of Urgulanilla... after 15 years. Claudius and his new bride, Aelia, had a daughter, Claudia Antonia. Claudius later divorced Aelia after the marriage became a political liability -- one associated with Sejanus' fall from power and subsequent death. In addition, there may have been some emotional and mental abuse by Aelia in the soup as well). Claudius, however, did not repudiate Claudia Antonia -- such that apparently, the dye was already cast. Even so, Claudius might have had a bit more affection toward Urgulanilla and her offspring, than for a mentally abusive Aelia and her child.

In 38 or early 39 CE, Claudius married #3, Valeria Messalina, who was his first cousin once removed and closely allied with Caligula's circle. Shortly thereafter, she gave birth to a daughter Claudia Octavia. A son, first named Tiberius Claudius Germanicus, and later known as Britannicus, was born just after Claudius' accession as Emperor. This marriage... surprise, surprise!... ended badly.

Basically, Messalina seems to have been a nymphomaniac, one who was regularly unfaithful to Claudius — in one case going so far as to compete with a prostitute to see who could have the most sexual partners in a night. [Messaline won.] There was also the suggestion that she manipulated Claudius and his policies in order to amass wealth. The extent of this disaster of a marriage was brought home (c. CE 48) when Messalina married her lover Gaius Silius in a public ceremony... while Claudius was at Ostia. She had not divorced the emperor first, making it pretty clear to everyone that her intention was to usurp the throne. Silius, in fact, may have convinced Messalina that Claudius was doomed (ironically, possibly a bit of reverse manipulation), and that a Silius-Messalina (silly, messy?) union was her only hope of retaining rank and protecting her children. Meanwhile, it’s possible that Claudius's ongoing term as Censor may have prevented him from noticing the affair before it reached such a critical point. Whatever the case, the end result was the execution of Silius, Messalina, and most of her circle. And then... Claudius made the Praetorians promise to kill him if he ever married again.

It seems apparent that it was not so much the institution of marriage that was nagging at Claudius, but instead political marriages (and divorces) arranged... for the most part, against his will. Being a pawn in such manipulations does not exactly lend itself to true love.

Despite his declaration, however, Claudius did dip into a marriage for a fourth time... despite the adage: “to stay alive on the fourth, don’t imbibe a fifth on the third” (“Carpe diem IV, no V de III”... or some other rough translation). The selection of yet another wife involved three candidates: Caligula's third wife Lollia Paulina, Claudius's divorced second wife Aelia Paetina, and Claudius's niece Agrippina the Younger. According to Suetonius, Agrippina won out through her feminine wiles. The truth is likely more political.

The coup attempt by Silius and Messalina had probably made Claudius realize the weakness of his position as a member of the Claudian but not the Julian family. This weakness was compounded by the fact that he did not have an obvious adult heir. Messalina’s son, Britannicus, was just a boy. Agrippina was also one of the few remaining descendants of Augustus, and her son Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (aka Nero) was one of the last males of the imperial family. Future coup attempts might rally around the pair, and Agrippina was already showing such lofty ambitions. In fact, the Senate may have pushed for the marriage to end the feud between the Julian and Claudian branches. This feud dated back to Agrippina's mother's actions against Tiberius after the death of her husband Germanicus (Claudius's brother), actions for which Tiberius had happily retaliated. In any case, Claudius accepted Agrippina, and later adopted the newly mature Nero as his son.

Nero was made joint heir with the underage Britannicus. This was not unusual in hereditary monarchies. Augustus had named his grandson Postumus Agrippa and his stepson Tiberius as joint heirs. Tiberius named Caligula joint heir with his grandson Tiberius Gemellus. Adoption of adults or near adults was an old tradition in Rome when a suitable natural adult heir was unavailable. This was the case during Britannicus' minority. Claudius may have previously looked to adopt one of his sons-in-law to protect his own reign. Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix married his daughter Claudia Antonia, but was only descended from Octavia and Antony on one side — not close enough to the imperial family to prevent doubts (but which didn't stop others from making him the object of a coup attempt against Nero a few years later). Besides which, he was the half brother of Valeria Messalina, and at this time those wounds were still fresh. Nero was more popular with the general public as the grandson of Germanicus and the direct descendant of Augustus. And so it goes. Q.E.D.

Heritage

Claudius wrote copiously throughout his life. During the reign of Tiberius — which covers the peak of Claudius' literary career — it became impolitic to speak of republican Rome. The trend among the young historians was to either write about the new empire or obscure antiquarian subjects. Claudius was the rare scholar who covered both. Besides the history of Augustus' reign that caused him so much grief, his major works included an Etruscan history and eight volumes on Carthaginian history, as well as an Etruscan Dictionary and a book on dice playing. (Claudius is actually the last person known to have been able to read Etruscan.) Despite the general avoidance of the imperial era, he penned a defense of Cicero against the charges of Asinius Gallus... said charges being somewhat... of an Asinius nature.

Claudius also proposed a reform of the Latin alphabet by the addition of three new letters, two of which served the function of the modern letters W and Y. (Apparently, these letters were badly needed in ancient Rome in order to flank H... in order to engage in various philosophical discussions.) He officially instituted the change during his censorship, but they did not survive his reign. (Consequently, thereafter one could only ask the fundamental question of ".h. not?". Sigh.) Claudius also tried to revive the old custom of putting dots between different words (ClassicalLatinwaswrittenwithnospacing). Finally, he wrote an eight-volume autobiography that Suetonius describes as lacking in taste. Since Claudius (like most of the members of his dynasty) heavily criticized his predecessors and relatives in surviving speeches, it is not hard to imagine the nature of Suetonius' charge.

Unfortunately, none of the actual works survive. They do live on as sources for the surviving histories of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Suetonius quotes Claudius' autobiography once, and must have used it as a source numerous times. Tacitus uses Claudius' own arguments for the orthographical innovations mentioned above, and may have used him for some of the more antiquarian passages in his annals. Claudius is the source for numerous passages of Pliny's Natural History.

The influence of historical study on Claudius is obvious. In his speech on Gallic senators, he uses a version of the founding of Rome identical to that of Livy, his tutor in adolescence. The detail of his speech borders on the pedantic, a common mark of all his extant works, and he goes into long digressions on related matters. This indicates a deep knowledge of a variety of historical subjects that he could not help but share. Many of the public works instituted in his reign were based on plans first suggested by Julius Caesar. Levick believes this emulation of Caesar may have spread to all aspects of his policies. His censorship seems to have been based on those of his ancestors, particularly Appius Claudius Caecus, and he used the office to put into place many policies based on those of Republican times. This is when many of his religious reforms took effect and his building efforts greatly increased during his tenure. In fact, his assumption of the office of Censor may have been motivated by a desire to see his academic labors bear fruit. For example, he believed (as most Romans) that his ancestor Appius Claudius Caecus had used the censorship to introduce the letter "R" and so used his own term to introduce his new letters. (Before the arrival of R, rabbits were often confused with certain religious leaders.)

Roman Names

Obviously, the Romans were prone to multiple names (as was in fact the case of other royal lineages). The ancient Romans tended strongly to add another name at the drop of a gold coin in the Senate... case in point, Claudius. This made a lot of sense when you think about it. For one, they really loved to name everyone the same name as their father... for example, Gaius Julius Caesar... for four generations. This tradition of same names made it abundantly clear to outsiders whose child was whose. Still, the mass confusion in the immediate extended family was problematical.

This same dismal prospect has continued into modern times, where, for example, a man named William might relish naming each of his sons in the succeeding generations “William” as well. The problem, of course, was that every male in the family is a “William”... which may be the source of the Greek Chorus (i.e., everyone in the room named William answering at the same time... with or without any requisite harmony). Fortunately, modern, albeit somewhat egotistical geniuses have tried to solve this problem with nicknames, such as, for example in the case of Williams galore: “Bill”, “Little Bill”, “Wym”, “W.” and of course the latter immediately followed by: “Hey Stupid”.

The Romans, however, were never ones to belittle any royal name with a “nick” name, an initial, or even an explanatory footnote. Instead, they would simply add bits about “The Elder”, “The Younger”, “Major”, “Minor”, “Prima”, “Caesonia”, “Tertia”, “Quaterion”, “Quintus”, “Sextus”... and then they could spice it up further with names derived from accomplishments (i.e., killing a whole lot of people): E.g., “Augustus”, “Britannicus”, Germanicus, Genocidus, and so forth.

Taking the family tree bit to extremes, one might want to encapsulate one’s own heritage in the Roman fashion by adding names derived from the illustrious and infamous family tree to one’s personal business card (which would now be a 2.25 inch x 12 inch bookmark). For example, one could easily call oneself: DarDANus Augustus Sextus Hostillius Antonius Nero Drusus Britannicus Encyclopaedius Gaius Felonius Octavius Ridiculous Germanicus Octopus Ludicrous Dramidius Asinius Thurinius Creticus Asiaticus Lucius Tiberius Erroneus Claudius Hopeless Superbus Faustulus Licenious Ostentatious Pestilonius... with initials on one’s jacket or blazer (along with the family crest) of:

DASHANDBEGFORGOLDATCALTECHSFLOP

However, if you think these names are... curious... consider the so-named “Legendary Kings of Britain”. There is, of course, the minor detail that there are still a lot of said royal names... ending in “us”, “is”, and so forth, but only beginning with Julius Caesar’s conquest of Britain, c. 55-54 BCE.

 

2. Plaudia Urgulanilla [98] Marcus Plautius Silvanus [97] Urgulanilla [96] ...unknown

Plautia Urgulanilla was the second wife of Claudius (after his ill-fated first marriage that ended with the death of his bride on their wedding day). Plautia and Claudius married c. 9 CE, when Claudius was 18 years old. According to classical history... which we can only trust to a limited degree, they divorced in 24 CE on grounds of adultery by Plautia and additionally on suspicion of her involvement in the murder of her sister-in-law. This may have been a subterfuge, however.

She gave birth to a son, Claudius Drusus (who died in his early teens, possibly from asphyxiation -- and/or murder). Plautia had a daughter, Claudia, who was born five months after the divorce. Claudia was quickly considered to be the illegitimate daughter of the freedman Boter, thus giving Claudius an opportunity to repudiate the child. He subsequently had her laid at Urgulanilla's doorstep. However, the issue of Claudia [pardon the pun] is probably a great deal more complicated. We will return to this curiosity, below, when Urgulanilla’s Claudia is identified as very likely Genuissa (Venus Julia) Claudia [Generation No. 99].

********

At this juncture, we might also briefly digress and mention three other wives of Claudius... those who figured rather prominently in the history of ancient Rome... but not necessarily in the MOAFT line of descent. The latter something for which we can be eternally grateful.

 

Dead End Generations (Hopefully)

1. Aelia Paetina [98] Sextus Aelius Catus (=unknown) [97] family of Aelii Tuberones

Aelia Paetina (Paetina) was the third of five wives of Claudius, whom she married in 28 CE. Her father may have died when she was very young, as she was raised by her relative, Praetorian Guard Prefect Lucius Seius Strabo (the biological father of her adoptive brother or relative Lucius Aelius Sejanus, commander of the Praetorian Guard under the Emperor Tiberius). [Sejanus, as you may recall, gave Claudius, et al quite a bit of trouble.]

Her only child (with Claudius) was their daughter Claudia Antonia, born in 30 CE. Claudius divorced Paetina shortly thereafter, when her adoptive brother, Sejanus fell [rather abruptly] from power and was put to death. According to Suetonius, Claudius divorced Paetina for slight offences. Aelia may in fact have been suspected of Sejanus’ self-styled coup plotting.

In 48 CE, after the death of Roman Empress and Claudius’ third wife Valeria Messalina, Claudius considered remarrying for the fifth (and final) time. Claudius’ freedman Tiberius Claudius Narcissus (who had in fact been the one who informed Claudius that Messalina and her lover Gaius Silius were conspiring to kill him) supported a remarriage to Paetina. He suggested to Claudius that they already had a child together. Narcissus [just a bit self-servingly] also stated that Paetina would cherish Claudius’ other children: Claudia Octavia, Britannicus, as well as Claudia Antonia. Claudia Octavia and Britannicus were Claudius’ children with Messalina.

But another freedman, Gaius Julius Callistus, was against Claudius remarrying Paetina and stated to Claudius that he had divorced her before... remember? Callistus claimed that remarrying Paetina would only make her more arrogant... assuming such a thing in the imperial family was actually possible. Callistus suggested Lollia Paulina, who had been Empress in CE 38 as the third wife of the Emperor Caligula (Claudius's nephew).

The third Freedman, Marcus Antonius Pallas, recommended Claudius' niece, Agrippina the Younger, who also had a child from her previous marriage, Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, (aka Nero -- remember Superbus and Barbus? A clue perhaps?). Agrippina was eventually chosen, with dire implications for Claudius' own children: Antonia, Octavia, and Britannicus. Paetina's only child with Claudius, Claudia Antonia, died in c. CE 65-66, shortly after the death of Nero's second wife, Poppaea Sabina. (This would make Claudia Antonia about 35 years old at her death. Bummer.)

 

2. Valeria Messalina [98] Domitia Lepida (=Marcus Valerius Messalla Barbatus*) [97] Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (=Antonia Major); *Marcus Valerius Messala Barbatus Appianus and Claudia Marcella Minor [96] (Marcus’ father) Appius Claudius Pulche [95],... unknown

Valeria Messalina, sometimes spelled Messallina, (c. 17/20 – 48 CE) was Claudius’ fourth wife. A powerful and influential woman with a reputation for promiscuity, she conspired against her husband and was executed when the plot was discovered. Her mother had married (after her father’s death) consul Faustus Cornelius Sulla Lucullus III, great-grandson of Roman Dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla. Faustus and Lepida had a son circa 22 CE Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix, Messalina's half brother. Messalina was most probably born and raised in Rome. Little is known about her life prior to CE 38.

Married:
Claudius
Gaius Silius, a Senator married to Junia Silana (sister of Caligula’s first wife Junia Claudilla)... --- Obviously, the marriage was an act of bigamy (i.e., Messaline was still married to Claudius)

Children (by Claudius):
Claudia Octavia (born 39 or 40 CE)
Britannicus (born 41 CE)

Messalina married her second cousin Claudius c. 37-38, when he was ~48 years old. During the reign of another second cousin of hers, Caligula (reigned 37-41), Messalina was very wealthy, an influential figure and a regular at Caligula’s court. Claudius was Caligula’s paternal uncle and was becoming influential and popular. Claudius probably married her to strengthen ties within the imperial family. Either that or... he was flat out told to marry her... for whatever nefarious and or insane purposes Caligula might have dreamed up.

On January 24, 41 CE Caligula and his family were murdered by a conspiracy led by Cassius Chaerea. Later that same day the Praetorian Guard proclaimed Claudius the new emperor and Messalina the new empress. Messalina abruptly became the most powerful woman in the Roman Empire. Some days you just get incredibly lucky! Claudius bestowed various honors on her: official celebration of her birthday, erection of statues of her in public places, and she was given the privilege of occupying the front seats at the theatre along with the Vestal Virgins. [The privilege was considered even more of an honor when the honoree was a male.] The Roman Senate wanted Messalina to have the title of "Augusta"; however, Claudius drew the line on that one and refused.

In 43 CE, Claudius held a triumphant military parade to celebrate the successful campaign in Britain. Messalina followed his chariot in a covered carriage and behind her marched the generals. She already had enormous status, but she was more than a little insecure. Claudius, as an older man, could have died at any moment and Britannicus would be the logical next emperor. But just in case, so as to improve her own security and ensure the future of her children, Messalina sought to eliminate anyone who might be a potential threat to her and her children. Fortunately, due to Claudius' devotion to her, Messalina was able to manipulate him into ordering the exile or execution of various people: Roman Historian Seneca the Younger; Claudius’ nieces Julia Livilla and Julia; Marcus Vinicius (husband of Julia Livilla); consul Gaius Asinius Pollio II, the elder Poppaea Sabina (mother of Empress Poppaea Sabina, second wife of Nero), consul Decimus Valerius Asiaticus and Polybius.

A well known example of Messalina trying to eliminate her rivals was when Agrippina the Younger returned from exile after January 41 CE. Agrippina was a niece to Claudius, a daughter of Claudius’ late brother Germanicus. Messalina realized that Agrippina’s son Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (the future Nero) was a threat to her son’s position and sent assassins to strangle Nero during his siesta. When they approached his couch, they saw what appeared to be a snake near his pillow and fled in terror. The apparent snake was actually a sloughed-off snake skin.

The ancient Roman sources, particularly Tacitus and Suetonius, portray Messalina as insulting, disgraceful, cruel, avaricious, and a foolish nymphomaniac. But other than that... Okay, admittedly, she did combine her zest for meeting people with a sexual appetite. In fact, Messalina apparently used sex to enforce her power and control politicians; she is even alleged to have had a brothel under an assumed name and organized orgies for upper class women; she participated in the classical political game of selling her influence to Roman or foreign notables... albeit the latter is a long and honored royal tradition.

But then in one of those pivotal turns of fate, Messalina became interested in an attractive Roman Senator named Gaius Silius, who (fortunately or unfortunately... depending upon your viewpoint) was happily married to Junia Silana (sister of Caligula’s first wife, Junia Claudilla). Messalina and Silius became lovers... despite any hesitation by Silius... until Messalina convinced him that Claudius approved the match. For obvious reasons, Messalina forced Silius to divorce his wife.

Slowly but surely, Silius began to realize the danger in which he had put himself. Accordingly, he found himself forced by tradition to fall back on ye olde royal standby: Messalina and Silius would plot to kill the (allegedly) weak emperor and Messalina would make Silius the new emperor. At the same time, Silius was childless and decided that it would be cool to adopt Britannicus (Messalina’s only son). Messalina and Silius married in a full wedding ceremony, complete with witnesses and signed marriage contracts. But then, inasmuch as Messalina was still legally married to Claudius, the newly married couple had obviously committed an act of bigamy. But then again, compared to murder and regicide... it was pretty much small potatoes... or mushrooms, now that I think of it.

While Claudius was in Ostia, inspecting construction work done on the harbor, his freedman Tiberius Claudius Narcissus advised him of Messalina’s and Silius’ plot to kill him. As every thing began to unravel, Messalina quickly traveled to Ostia with her children hoping to speak to Claudius. However the emperor had left Ostia before she was able to do so. Narcissus had in fact delayed Messalina, preventing her from seeing Claudius and possibly manipulating him. This left Claudius free to order the deaths of Messalina and Silius in CE 48.

In Messalina’s final hours, she and her mother, Domita Lepida, were in the Gardens of Lucullus, preparing a petition for Claudius. Domitia Lepida and Messalina had previously argued and became estranged, but overcome by pity, Lepida returned to her daughter in the end. In fact, Lepida's last words to Messalina were: ‘Your life is finished. All that remains is to make a decent end’. Messalina had finally realized the situation in which she had put herself. But before she could bring herself to do the deed, an officer and a former slave arrived together to witness her death. Messalina was offered the choice of killing herself, but was too afraid to do so; so the officer promptly decapitated her, but (as an officer and a gentleman) left her dead body with her mother. At the time, Claudius was attending a dinner. When her death was announced, Claudius showed no emotion, but simply asked for more wine. In the days after her death, Claudius gave no sign of hatred, anger, distress, satisfaction, or any other human passion. The only ones who mourned for Messalina were her children. Meanwhile, the opportunistic Roman Senate ordered Messalina’s name removed from all public or private places and all statues of her were removed.

 

6. Agrippina the Younger [technically 99] SAME AS CALIGULA, but with Germanicus (=Agrippina the Elder) sandwiched in between -- See below; Generation No. 99 (Additional Dead End Generations)

Julia Agrippina (from 50 CE, Julia Augusta Agrippina), Agrippina the Younger, Agrippina Minor (7 November 15 to 19/23 March 59 CE) was a great-granddaughter of the emperor Augustus, great-niece and adoptive granddaughter of the emperor Tiberius, sister to the emperor Caligula, niece and fourth wife of the emperor Claudius, and mother of the emperor Nero... three out of five of which were certifiably insane at one point in their lives or another. Agrippina the Younger was the first daughter and fourth living child of Agrippina the Elder and Germanicus.

The elder Agrippina was a modest and heroic matron, the second daughter and fourth child of Julia the Elder and the statesman Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. Julia the Elder’s father was the Emperor Augustus; Julia being his only natural child from his second wife Scribonia (a descendant of Pompey the Great and the dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla).

Agrippina the Younger was born to Agrippina the Elder at Oppidum Ubiorum, a Roman outpost on the Rhine River (modern Cologne, Germany), in the year CE 15. As a small child, she traveled with her parents throughout the empire until she and her siblings (apart from Caligula) returned to Rome to live with and be raised by their paternal grandmother, Antonia. Her parents, in the meantime, journeyed to Syria to complete official duties. One year later in October, CE 19, Germanicus died suddenly in Antioch (modern Antakya, Turkey).

Germanicus’ death caused much public grief in Rome (and gave rise to rumors of murder), even as his widow Agrippina the Elder returned to Rome with his ashes. Agrippina the Younger was thereafter supervised by her mother and her great-grandmother, Livia, both notable, influential, and very powerful figures. Her great-uncle Tiberius had already become emperor and thereby the head of the family after the death of the Emperor Augustus in CE 14.

After her thirteenth birthday in 28 CE, Emperor Tiberius arranged for Agrippina to marry Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and ordered the marriage to be celebrated in Rome. Tiberius died on March 16, 37 CE and Agrippina’s only surviving brother, Caligula, became the new emperor. Around the time that Tiberius died, Agrippina had become pregnant and Domitius had acknowledged the paternity of the child. In the early morning hours in Antium of December 15, 37 CE, Agrippina gave birth to a son -- her and Domitius’ first child. He was named Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, after Domitius' late father. The child would grow up to become the Emperor Nero, and was Agrippina's only natural child.

In CE 39, Agrippina and Livilla, with their maternal cousin, Drusilla's widower Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, were involved in a failed plot to murder Caligula and make Lepidus the new emperor. Lepidus, Agrippina and Livilla were, apparently, the classic love triangle of mutually consenting lovers. For his part, Lepidus was executed, while Agrippina and Livilla were simply exiled by their brother to the Pontine Islands. Caligula sold their furniture, jewels, slaves and freedmen. In January 40 CE, Agrippina’s husband Domitius died of edema (dropsy) at Pyrgi. Nero had gone to live with his second paternal aunt Domitia Lepida after Caligula had taken his inheritance away from him. Caligula, his wife, and his daughter were then murdered.

Claudius ordered Agrippina and Livilla to return from exile. Livilla returned to her husband, while Agrippina was reunited with her estranged son. After the death of her first husband, Agrippina tried to make shameless advances to the future emperor Galba, who showed no interest in her, being devoted to his wife. Ironically, Galba would succeed Agrippina's son, Nero, in the chaos that ensued after Nero committed suicide in 68 CE. On one occasion Galba's mother-in-law gave Agrippina, in public, a reprimand and slap in the face. Bitch!

Claudius also had Nero’s inheritance reinstated and arranged for Gaius Sallustius Crispus Passienus and Domitia (Nero's first paternal aunt) to divorce so that Crispus could marry Agrippina. When Agrippina returned, she had had nothing to return to. Her marriage to Crispus was opportune to say the least, and furthermore, he became a stepfather to Nero. In 47 CE, Crispus died, and at his funeral, the rumor spread around that Agrippina had poisoned Crispus to gain his estate. After being widowed a second time, Agrippina was left very wealthy.

In 48 CE, after the death of Messalina, Agrippina had become the mistress to one of Claudius’ advisers, former Greek Freedman Pallas. At that time Claudius’ advisers were discussing which noble woman Claudius should marry. Pallas advised Claudius that he should marry Agrippina, the reason being that her son was the grandson to his late brother Germanicus, and that by marrying her, Claudius would ally the two branches of the Claudian house and imperial family. Agrippina then added seduction, assisted by the niece’s privilege of kissing and caressing her paternal uncle. Claudius was not immune to her passions. Unfortunately, in Roman society, an uncle marrying his niece was considered to be incestuous. Thus Claudius had to persuade a group of senators that their marriage should be arranged... and, of course, in the public incest... uh, interest.

When Agrippina married Claudius as her third husband, there was widespread disapproval. Nevertheless, she became an Empress and the most powerful woman in the Roman Empire. She also became a stepmother to Claudia Antonia (Claudius' daughter and only child from his third marriage to Aelia Paetina), as well as to the young Claudia Octavia and Britannicus, Claudius' children with Valeria Messalina. Agrippina removed or eliminated anyone from the palace or the imperial court whom she thought was loyal and dedicated to memory of the late Messalina, or who might be a potential threat to her position and the future of her son. Her success was such that in 49 CE, she presided over the exercises of Roman legions and because of this, Celtic King Caractacus assumed that she, as well as Claudius, was the martial leader and bowed before her throne with the same homage and gratitude as he accorded the emperor.

In 50 CE, Agrippina was granted the honorific title of Augusta (a title no other imperial woman had ever received in the lifetime of her husband). She was only the third Roman woman and only the second living Roman woman to receive this title. Also that year, Claudius had founded a Roman colony and called the colony Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensis or Agrippinensium, today known as Cologne, after Agrippina who was born there. This colony was the only Roman colony to be named after a Roman woman.

Agrippina managed to convince Claudius to adopt her son, Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus. Lucius’ name was subsequently changed to Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus and he became Claudius’ adopted son, heir and recognized successor. Agrippina and Claudius betrothed Nero to Octavia and Agrippina arranged to have Seneca the Younger return from exile to tutor the future emperor. Claudius apparently chose to adopt Agrippina's son because of his Julian lineage. Agrippina meanwhile, had deprived Britannicus of his heritage and further isolated him from his father and any succession for the throne. In 51 CE Agrippina ordered the execution of Britannicus’ tutor Sosibius, because he had confronted Agrippina and was outraged by Claudius’ adoption of Nero and his choice of Nero as successor, instead of his own natural son Britannicus.

Nero and Octavia were married on June 9, 53 CE. Claudius later repented of marrying Agrippina and adopting Nero. He began to favor Britannicus, and started preparing him for the throne. This was probably the motive that Agrippina needed to eliminate Claudius as soon as possible. Ancient sources credited her with murdering Claudius on October 13, 54 CE with a plate of poisoned mushrooms at a banquet, thus enabling Nero to quickly take the throne as emperor.

The circumstances that surround Agrippina's death are uncertain due to historical contradictions and a distinctly anti-Nero bias. Surviving stories of Agrippina's death contradict themselves and each other, and are generally fantastical. These accounts (Death and Aftermath) by Tacitus, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio are an indication that these three “historians” were influenced by bias, politics, and attempts to create a politically correct history. This makes their later omission of Genuissa (Venus Julia) Claudia -- the true star of the 99th Generation -- more than a little plausible... if not probable.

 

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References and Notes

*not to mention being the great to the nth power grandfather of the author.

[1] Will Durant, Caesar and Christ, Simon & Schuster, New York, page 174

 

Gaius Julius Caesar (I-IV)

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From Rome to Camulod... With Love

 

 

               

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