Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus or Claudius I (1 August 10 BCE – 13 October CE 54) (Tiberius Claudius Drusus from birth to AD 4, then Tiberius Claudius Nero Germanicus from then until his accession) was the fourth Roman Emperor, a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, ruling from 24 January CE 41 to his death in CE 54. Born in Lugdunum in Gaul (modern-day Lyon, France), to Drusus and Antonia Minor, he was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italia.
He was reportedly afflicted with some type of disability, and his family had virtually excluded him from public office until his consulship with his nephew Caligula in CE 37. This infirmity may have saved him from the fate of many other Roman nobles during the purges of Tiberius' and Caligula's reigns; potential enemies did not see him as a serious threat to them. His very survival led to his being declared emperor (reportedly because the Praetorian Guard insisted) after Caligula's assassination, at which point he was the last adult male of his family.
Despite his 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 conquest of Britain. He took a personal interest in the law, presided at public trials, and issued up to 20 edicts a day; however, he was seen as vulnerable throughout his rule, particularly by the nobility. Claudius was constantly forced to shore up his position. This resulted in the deaths of many senators. Claudius also suffered setbacks in his personal life, one of which may have led to his murder. These events damaged his reputation among the ancient writers. More recent historians have revised this opinion. Claudius was succeeded by his step-son Nero.
Probably the most famous fictional representation of the Emperor Claudius were the books I, Claudius and Claudius the God (released in 1934 and 1935) by Robert Graves, both written in the first-person to give the reader the impression that they are Claudius' autobiography. Graves employed a fictive artifice to suggest that they were recently discovered, genuine translations of Claudius' writings. Claudius' extant letters, speeches, and sayings were incorporated into the text (mostly in the second book, Claudius the God) in order to add authenticity.
In 1937 director Josef von Sternberg made an unsuccessful attempt to film I, Claudius, with Charles Laughton as Claudius. Unfortunately, the lead actress Merle Oberon suffered a near-fatal accident and the movie was never finished. The surviving reels were finally shown in the documentary The Epic That Never Was in 1965, revealing some of Laughton's most accomplished acting. The motion picture rights have been obtained by Scott Rudin, with a theatrical release planned for 2010.
Graves's two books were also the basis for a thirteen-part British television adaptation produced by the BBC. The series starred Derek Jacobi as Claudius, and was broadcast in 1976 on BBC2. It was a substantial critical success, and won several BAFTA awards. The series was later broadcast in the United States on Masterpiece Theatre in 1977. The DVD release of the television series contains the "The Epic that Never Was" documentary.
Claudius has been portrayed in film on several other occasions, including in the 1979 motion picture Caligula, the role being performed by Giancarlo Badessi in which the character was depicted as an idiot, in complete contrast to Robert Graves' portrait of Claudius as a cunning and deeply intelligent man. In the parody Gore Vidal's Caligula, which advertises itself as a remake of the original film, Claudius is portrayed by Glenn Shadix.
On television, the actor Freddie Jones became famous for his role as Claudius in the 1968 British television series The Caesars while the 1985 made-for-television miniseries A.D. features actor Richard Kiley as Claudius. There is also a reference to Claudius' suppression of one of the coups against him in the movie Gladiator, though the incident is entirely fictional.
In literature, Claudius and his contemporaries appear in the historical novel The Roman by Mika Waltari. Canadian-born science fiction writer A. E. van Vogt reimagined Robert Graves' Claudius story in his two novels Empire of the Atom and The Wizard of Linn.
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