Suffering from ill-health and an alarming lack of social skills, believed to be intellectually handicapped, cursed with a bad stutter, he was considered an embarrassment and endured public disrespect and scorn.
When the truly awful Caligua was assassinated in January 41, Claudius fled to one of the apartments of the palace and hid behind the curtains. He was discovered by the Praetorians (the elite military corps and palace guards) and hailed as the new Emperor.
He was an exceptional ruler
He abolished the treason trials, burned criminal records, destroyed Caligula’s infamous stock of poisons and returned many confiscations. He took the army to Britain, and settled them there and, almost as an afterthought, annexed two Thracian kingdoms.
Claudius overhauled the financial affairs of the state and empire, offered insurances against losses of grain ships on the open sea and built up stocks against winter times of famine. He set up extensive public building projects and instituted judicial reforms, particularly legal safeguards for the weak and defenceless.
Overall he served the people of Rome well for thirteen years.Recently I picked up a book I hadn’t opened for roughly 40 years, the classic by Robert Graves I, Claudius From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius Born 10 B.C. Murdered and Deified A.D. 54 Fabulous title!
This is still the best book I’ve read on the early Emperors.
Caligula looked at me, uncomfortably, through narrowed eyelids. Do you think I’m mad? he asked, after a time.
I laughed nervously. Mad, Caesar? You ask whether I think you mad? Why, you set the standard of sanity for the whole habitable world
It’s a very difficult thing, you know, Claudius, he said confidentially, to be a God in human disguise…
I, Claudius became a television series too. My favourite memory of the series is this superb portrayal of Caligula from John Hurt