The Roman Emperor Claudius: Facts & Achievements Video

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  • 0:00 Claudius
  • 0:35 The Julio-Claudian Dynasty
  • 2:28 Claudius the Emperor
  • 4:06 Death & Legacy
  • 4:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson, you'll explore the life and achievements of the Roman Emperor Claudius. Learn more about the Roman Empire, the life and death of emperors, and the Roman military.


Who needs soap operas? If you're looking for some good drama, just check out some of the history of the lives and times of the Roman emperors. Murder, love, betrayal - it's all there. When it comes to the Roman Emperor Claudius, things were no different. Claudius (10-54 CE) was the Emperor of Rome from 41-54 CE. He came into power when the previous emperor was assassinated. He was the subject of rumors and was subjected to jokes due to his poor health, yet he still managed to be an effective ruler before being assassinated himself by his fourth wife.

The Julio-Claudian Dynasty

Claudius was a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, a series of rulers and politicians in Rome who were related to Julius Caesar. He was born in Gaul, the first emperor to be born outside of Italy, and developed a slight limp and deafness from illness as a child. In 37 CE, he was elected to the consulship, along with his nephew Caligula, which was the highest elected position in Rome.

This was a time of plots and assassinations, with political factions leveraging or killing each other out of office. Claudius may have survived many of these because his opponents didn't see him as a threat due to his physical weakness. When Emperor Tiberius (42 BCE-37 CE) died, Caligula became the new emperor and appointed Claudius his co-consul. Nevertheless, Caligula teased and tormented his uncle, mocked him in front of the Senate, and charged him lots of money for petty things.

It should not be a surprise that Caligula was assassinated in 41 CE. The plot was lead by Cassius Chaerea of the Praetorian Guard, the elite soldiers that defended the imperial family and several senators. Caligula's entire family was murdered, along with several bystanders during the chaos of the attack. The Senate met to debate the succession of a new ruler, but the Praetorian Guard insisted that Claudius become the new emperor.

Claudius was the first emperor installed by the military, not the Senate, and spent the rest of his life defending the legitimacy of his rule. One way he did this was by emphasizing his family connection to the previous emperors. His full name as emperor was Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; each one of these names was the name of a previous emperor or major figure. He also treated the Senate with immense respect, allowed them the power to issue their own coins, and remodeled them into a more efficient body to represent the people.

Claudius the Emperor

With Claudius as emperor, the Roman Empire saw its first major expansion since its first emperor, Augustus. He began the invasion of Britain, and added the provinces Thrace, Noricum, Pamphylia, and Judea (roughly modern-day Turkey and Israel) to the empire. Due to his policy of granting citizenship to the conquered people, an act which granted them political rights, the population of citizens in the Roman Empire reached almost six million adult males by 48 CE.

Claudius focused on the military frontier, but also managed to stay connected to the courts and politics of Rome, actually strengthening the judicial system with laws to increase the practice of law. When he needed to address an issue in Rome, he went to Rome. When his troops were about to start a new conquest in Britain, he went to Britain. When riots broke out in Judea, he went to Judea to broker peace, giving them the rights and privileges of citizens. Claudius personally oversaw nearly everything he did.

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