Claudius, The Em­peror

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of these ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

In case you’re won­der­ing, the Ro­man Em­peror Claudius was born in Lyon in mod­ern-day France to An­to­nia, the daugh­ter of Marc Antony. Gen­er­ally con­sid­ered an em­bar­rass­ment, Claudius suf­fered from ill health and a lack of so­cial skills; many be­lieved him to be men­tally hand­i­capped. He was in­vested as an au­gur, or of­fi­cial sooth­sayer, and was clearly well in line for an em­per­or­ship.

Dur­ing the reign of the evil Em­peror Caligula, he was made a Con­sul. At Caligula’s as­sas­si­na­tion, Claudius was dis­cov­ered hid­ing be­hind a cur­tain, and taken by guards to their camp, where the troops hailed him as their new em­peror de­spite his fee­ble­ness and his hav­ing no mil­i­tary or even ad­min­is­tra­tional ex­pe­ri­ence. Faced with the troops’ de­ci­sion, the Se­nate fell in line and be­stowed im­pe­rial power upon Claudius. Even in those days, lead­ers were cho­sen by de­fault, it seems.

Claudius pos­sessed no nat­u­ral dig­nity or author­ity, walked with a stag­ger, had em­bar­rass­ing habits, an in­de­cent laugh, and when an­noyed foamed dis­gust­ingly at the mouth, and his nose ran. He stam­mered and had a twitch. He was al­ways ill, un­til he be­came em­peror. Then his health im­proved mar­velously, ex­cept for at­tacks of stom­ach ache, ob­vi­ously all the qual­i­ties nec­es­sary for an im­pe­ri­ous leader. Claudius was the first Ro­man em­peror in a line of many who were not ap­pointed in the nor­mal way. He was also the first em­peror to grant his sup­port­ers large bonus pay­ments, creating an omi­nous prece­dent for fu­ture lead­ers.

Claudius de­cided to con­quer Bri­tain. He handed over the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the af­fairs of state to his con­sular col­league – a sort of deputy PM - and met up with his troops, who were en­camped by the river Thames. As­sum­ing com­mand, he crossed the river, en­gaged the bar­bar­ians, and de­feated them. He had been in Bri­tain just six­teen days, or, in mod­ern terms, he had been abroad, out of state, for about the same time as min­is­ters of gov­ern­ment are, on a monthly ba­sis, today.

Claudius re­formed the fi­nan­cial af­fairs of the em­pire, creating a sep­a­rate fund for his pri­vate house­hold ex­penses, over and above the em­pire’s ‘con­sol­i­dated fund’. As al­most all grain had to be im­ported, Claudius of­fered in­sur­ances against losses on the open sea to en­cour­age po­ten­tial im­porters and to build up stocks against times of famine. He was quite a ‘mul­ti­tasker’. Nowa­days he would prob­a­bly have had his own Talk Show.

Claudius also fan­cied him­self as a le­gal ex­pert and judge, pre­sid­ing over the im­pe­rial law court. He in­sti­tuted ju­di­cial re­forms, creating, in par­tic­u­lar, le­gal safe­guards for the weak and de­fense­less. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, it was vir­tu­ally a public se­cret that hon­ours and priv­i­leges were for sale, form­ing a par­al­lel im­pe­rial cabi­net quite in­de­pen­dent from the of­fi­cial sys­tem.

Claudius di­vorced his first wife be­cause of her sup­posed adul­tery, and then his sec­ond wife in or­der to marry his third wife Mes­salina. Af­ter that, Claudius or­dered the re­turn of his nieces, Ju­lia and Agrip­pina (who would be­come Claudius’ wife num­ber four from an ex­ile or­dered by their brother Caligula af­ter years of abuse.

Mes­salina be­came jeal­ous, es­pe­cially of the beau­ti­ful Ju­lia, and brought charges of adul­tery against her and her hus­band and con­vinced Claudius to ban­ish Ju­lia once again into ex­ile. Ju­lia’s hus­band was ex­e­cuted. Agrip­pina wisely bided her time and kept a low pro­file. One of Mes­salina’s many faults was her lack of faith­ful­ness. It was ru­moured that she spent her evenings work­ing in dis­guise at a lo­cal brothel. But her down­fall came when she fell in love with a Se­na­tor named Gaius. Mes­salina and her lover for­mu­lated a plan to over­throw Claudius. She forced Gaius to di­vorce his wife and marry her. Nar­cis­sus, who had wit­nessed the big­a­mous cer­e­mony, in­formed Claudius, who de­creed that Gaius and the other wed­ding guests be im­me­di­ately ex­e­cuted. Mes­salina was or­dered to com­mit sui­cide; how­ever, the mes­sen­ger took mat­ters into his own hands and stabbed her to death.

Af­ter Mes­salina, Claudius mar­ried Agrip­pina, wife num­ber four. Her one and only am­bi­tion was to put her son Nero on the throne so, one night, Claudius died sud­denly. Agrip­pina, who couldn’t wait for her son Nero to in­herit the throne, had ap­par­ently poi­soned him with mush­rooms.

The Ro­mans knew what a messy busi­ness pol­i­tics can be, but what, if any­thing, this has to do with Saint Lu­cia, you alone will know. As they say, it’s all in the mind.

The pre­ced­ing was first pub­lished in the STAR in Au­gust, 2014.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.