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The Life of Emperor Claudius

On several occasions of late, I've made reference to the Roman emperor Claudius (10 B.C.-54 A.D.) who ruled from 45-54 A.D.

Several "edicts" of Claudius lie in the background of New Testament history.  One, of course, is the edict in which Claudius ordered the Jews expelled from Rome in 49 A. D. (as recounted in Acts 18:2).  Another edict from Claudius (or perhaps a consequence of the first) lies behind Peter's "exile theology" of his first epistle.  Those Christians receiving Peter's epistle from Rome were either re-settled to, or had been displaced throughout the five regions in Asia Minor which are mentioned in 1 Peter 1:2.

Claudius' life story is rather remarkable (The Life of Claudius).  Garret Fagan describes him as follows,

[Claudius] had a cruel streak, as suggested by his addiction to gladiatorial games and his fondness for watching his defeated opponents executed. He conducted closed-door (in camera ) trials of leading citizens that frequently resulted in their ruin or deaths -- an unprecedented and tyrannical pattern of behavior. He had his wife Messalina executed, and he personally presided over a kangaroo court in the Praetorian Camp in which many of her hangers-on lost their lives. He abandoned his own son Britannicus to his fate and favored the advancement of Nero as his successor. While he cannot be blamed for the disastrous way Nero's rule turned out, he must take some responsibility for putting that most unsuitable youth on the throne. At the same time, his reign was marked by some notable successes: the invasion of Britain, stability and good government in the provinces, and successful management of client kingdoms. Claudius, then, is a more enigmatic figure than the other Julio-Claudian emperors: at once careful, intelligent, aware and respectful of tradition, but given to bouts of rage and cruelty, willing to sacrifice precedent to expediency, and utterly ruthless in his treatment of those who crossed him. Augustus's suspicion that there was more to the timid Claudius than met the eye was more than fully borne out by the events of his unexpected reign.

Reader Comments (2)

Robert Graves' novels, "I, Claudius," and "Claudius, the God" are worth checking out on him; though they are fiction, the books were well researched. I can still remember the BBC series that starred Derek Jacobi as Claudius. An interesting dude--I can still remember Jacobi playing him with a stammer.
January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRichard
I concur with Richard. Graves' books are great and attempt to explain Claudius' tilt toward cruelty and capricious leadership in the middle of his reign.
January 28, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterreg

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