Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Twelve Caesars - page 190, Claudius

Nevertheless, these honours did not protect [Claudius] from frequent insults. If ever he arrived a little late in the dining-hall, there was nothing for it but to tour the tables in search of a vacant couch; and when he took his usual after-dinner nap the company would pelt him with olives and date stones. Some jokers exercised their wit by putting slippers on his hands as he lay snoring, and then gave him a sudden blow of a whip or cane to wake him, so that he rubbed his face with them.

Now, this was a time before Claudius became emperor, so it is not surprising that his colleagues were not afraid of him. He didn't have his imperial power, yet. But it is a little surprising that he was treated so badly even though he was the brother of a very popular public figure (Germanicus) and the uncle of that public figure's popular son (Gaius Caligula), who just happened to be the ruler of Rome at the time and hadn't yet squandered the favor shown to him by the people.

If Suetonius's account of the practical jokes is accurate, then Claudius must have been a true dolt. Or, if not, then sufficiently timid to have attracted the constant attention of wiseacres.

OK, OK, I'll be your emperor! Just please, please stop slapping me!

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