By Alexis Culotta

13 October 54 CE: “That Claudius was poisoned is the general belief, but when it was done and by whom is disputed” (Suetonius, The Lives of the Caesars, originally published 121 CE).

Roman Emperor Claudius died on 13 October in the year 54 CE. One of the last leaders from the Julio-Claudian dynasty, (Tiberius) Claudius (Caesar Augustus Germanicus) was the first emperor to be born outside of the Italian peninsula. Virtually the same age as his predecessor, Caligula, and closer in blood relation to the family line (he was the nephew of Tiberius, whereas Caligula was Tiberius’ adopted grandson), Claudius was initially sheltered initially from public office due to residual effects of an illness in his youth that left him limping and partially deaf. 

Following Caligula’s assassination, however, in early 41 CE, Claudius assumed the role of Emperor and proved his potential as a good leader. His efforts resulted in the expansion of the Roman Empire as well as relatively political calm among its regions, and he was also instrumental in significant building campaigns. Perhaps most noteworthy were his efforts to restore the Aqua Virgo aqueduct as well as complete two additional water sources: the Aqua Claudio, begun by Caligula, and the Anio Novus, both of which reached the city at the culminating Porta Maggiore. Though a productive leader, Claudius was not without enemies, a testament to which was his death by poisoning on this fateful October day. 

Further Reading: 

Suetonius, The Lives of the Caesars, originally published 121 CE.

Portrait of Emperor Claudius with a Crown of Oak Leaves, 25-49 CE. Archaeological Museum, Naples. 

Gold aureus of Emperor Claudius, 46-47 CE. Minted in Rome. British Museum, London. 

Emperor Claudius as Jupiter, c. 50 CE. Vatican Museums, Rome. 

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