Sunday, October 02, 2011

The Twelve Caesars - page 204, Claudius

Claudius fell so deeply under the influence of these freedmen and wives that he seemed to be their servant rather than their emperor; and distributed honours, army commands, indulgences or punishments according to their wishes, however capricious, seldom even aware of what he was about. I need not dwell on matters of lesser importance: how he revoked grants, cancelled edicts, brazenly amended the texts of letters-patent he had issued, or even openly substituted new versions for the old. Suffice it to record that he executed his father-in-law Appius Silanus; Julia, daughter of Tiberius' son Drusus; and Julia, daughter of his own brother Germanicus -- all on unsupported charges and without the right to plead in self-defence.

Suffice it, indeed.

Claudius, like most emperors, is probably remembered more for his negatives than for his positives (and there is no doubt that he accomplished some good things for the empire, and there have been some efforts to rehabilitate his image). But his proclivity to being influenced by his lessers in ways that resulted in profound consequences (such as family murder) is hardly the mark of an inspiring leader.

Looking like a British shoe doesn't help, either.

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