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Claudius, 4th emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty

The gens Claudia was one of the oldest patrician families in ancient Rome. For several centuries its members were regularly leaders of the city and empire. In the names assigned to periods by historians, the Julio-Claudian dynasty of initial Roman emperors derives in part from the gens Claudia. Any male of the family had a nomen Claudius; any female, Claudia. Collectively they were the Claudii (masculine plural). Of them Suetonius says:[1] "In the course of time they amassed twenty-eight consulships, five dictatorships, seven censorships, six triumphs and two ovations."



According to Livy[2] the gens was founded in the consulships of Publius Valerius (Poplicola, his fourth) and Titus Lucretius (Tricipitinus, his second), which, according to the official fasti of Augustus (see List of Roman consuls), would have been in the year 505/504 BC. In Livy's chronology, which is four years later, the date is 501/500 BC.

At that time a war was going on with the Sabines. They had just been defeated and were deliberating a last maximum effort against Rome (which subsequently failed). The vote was for war, but a leading dissenter, Attius Clausus, with "a large retinue of clients" (showing that he was a wealthy landowner patronizing numerous freedmen) fled to Rome ab Inregillo, "from Inregillus" or "Inregillum." The nature of the latter place is not known; it could be just "from the vicinity of Lake Regillus" but more likely it was a settlement, now lost. Suetonius calls it ex Regillis oppido Sabinorum, "from Regilla (plural) a town of the Sabines."[1] In that case inregillum would be "from the vicinity of Regillum."

This act, treacherous to the Sabines, was rewarded as great patriotism and loyalty by the Romans. By an act of the Senate Appius Claudius—the Roman version of Attius Clausus, innovated for the occasion—was made a citizen and given senatorial rank; that is, he was enrolled as a patrician. The emperor Tiberius said of the first Appius Claudius in a speech to the Senate in favor of admitting Gauls to the Senate:[3] "My ancestors, the most ancient of whom was made at once a citizen and a noble of Rome, encourage me to govern by the same policy of transferring to this city all conspicuous merit, wherever found." To qualify for senatorial rank, Claudius had to be a landowner; he was given sufficient land beyond the Anio River just north of Rome. The population of this region was later known as "the old Claudian tribe."

Suetonius tells an alternative story, that "Atta Claudius" was invited by Titus Tatius to settle at Rome in the time of the kings, but he is not sure whether that was under Romulus or later.[1] This is the less likely story, as the fasti list Appius Claudius Sabinus Inregillensis as in the 15th college of consuls along with Publius Servilius Priscus. Sabinus Inregillensis perhaps began as a cognomen but by the time of his consulship was an agnomen. Sabines at Rome used Sabinus to establish ethnic identity (of which they were proud), and Inregillensis identifies his home town.[4] Similarly, the ancestor, Clausus (possibly an earlier one), who assisted Aeneas in the war against Latinus, might be a poetic fiction or anachronism;[5] or it is possible that the emperors retained a tradition of ancient Sabine Clausans.


The etymology of Appius Claudius could be clearer if the original name were known better. The derivation of Claudius perhaps most frequently quoted is that of Antoine Meillet, who linked it with claudus/clodus, "lame."[6] The alternation o/au seems to have been common in Sabine. As there is no evidence of lameness in any of the Claudii, one must presume a prehistoric lame Sabine ancestor; however Clodus was also a name and was distinct from Clodius. The alternation of s/d occurs in words borrowed into Latin from Greek: rosa from Greek rhodos,[7] but clausus or *closus is Sabine becoming clod- in Latin. It might have come from Greek settlers in Latium, but there is no evidence. William Smith connects Attius with a Sabine name Attus given by Valerius Maximus (which is close to the Greek bucolic name Attys), establishing an alternation u/iu.[8] According to Meillet's etymology, the original would have belonged to a Sabine country gentleman named "Attus the Lame", or "Attus, son of the lame", but without a more certain literary tradition or epigraphic evidence, this derivation is total speculation. For the Attius, Attus or Atta, Karl Braasch translated it as Väterschen, "little father", connecting it with a series of childhood parental names: atta, tata, acca and the like, becoming such names as Tatius (a fellow Sabine) and Atilius. He also asserted the "lame" meaning of Clausus.[9]

Branches of the gens Claudia


Early Republic (509-264 BC)

The Claudii Sabini Regillenses shared the geographic agnomen with the Postumii Albi Regillenses, who must also have been Sabines.

Sabinus Regillensis

  • Арpius Claudius Sabinus Regillensis (or less likely Regillensis Sabinus), Consul 471, son of the founder. Sent against the Volsci "He hated the people more than his father had done" and therefore "tormented his army" with excessive military discipline until they began to passively resist. Running away from one battle they were slaughtered in the next. Assembling his men Claudius executed the officers before them and decimated the rest. On leaving office he was tried for crimes while in office. The trial was continued but before a new date could be set he died "of a distemper."[10]
  • Gaius Claudius Appius Sabinus Regillensis, Quaestor 471, Consul 460, son of the founder.

Crassinus Regillensis

  • Ap. Claudius Ap. f. M. n. Crassinus Regillensis Sabinus Cos. Decemvir
  • Ap. Claudius Ap. f. Ap. n. Crassin. Regillensis Tr. mil.
  • Ap. Claudius P. f. Ap. n. Crassinus Regillensis Tr. mil. Dict. Cos. triumph
  • C. Claudius Ap. f. Ap. n. Crassinus Regillensis Dict.
  • C. Claudius Ap. f. P. n. Crassinus Regillensis Dict.

Middle Republic (264-133 BC)

The following branches were descended from the censor Appius Claudius Caecus.

  • Those Claudii with the cognomen Pulcher (fem. Pulchra, meaning "beautiful")[11] were patricians and also very prominent in the Middle and Late Republic; they favoured the praenomina Appius (the only family to bear this praenomen) and Publius. The founder of this branch Publius Claudius Pulcher (consul 149 BC) offended Roman sensibilities by throwing the sacred chickens overboard (after they refused to feed), and later committed suicide ((249 BC/246 BC) after being forced from office as a result of the outcry. He appointed his own freedman Marcus Claudius Glicia as Dictator but the Senate refused to ratify the appointment. Pulcher was the son of Appius Claudius Caudex (consul 264 BC), himself son of Gaius Claudius, himself a son of Appius Claudius Caecus. His son was the first Appius Claudius Pulcher (d. 211 BC), who was consul in 212 BC).

Late Republic (133-31 BC)

There were several major branches of the Claudian gens at the end of the Republic.

  • One obscure patrician branch of the family appears to have had no cognomen. A Lucius Claudius served as Rex Sacrorum in the mid-1st Century BC. He is doubly unusual, since "Lucius" is rare in any of the branches of the Claudii and unusual among patricians in general.
  • Those Claudii with the cognomen Marcellus (fem.Marcella, meaning martial) were plebeians. In the first century BC, this branch had three consuls in three successive years (51-49 BC; two brothers and their first cousin); they favoured the praenomina Gaius and Marcus. Gaius Claudius Marcellus (consul 49 BC) was married to Augustus' sister Octavia Minor and their son, Marcus, was married to Augustus' daughter, Julia the Elder. A sub-branch or off-shoot, whose antecedents are unclear, was additionally cognominated Aeserninus as in Marcus Claudius Marcellus Aeserninus.
  • Those Claudii with the cognomen Pulcher (fem. Pulchra, meaning "beautiful")[12] were patricians and also very prominent in the Middle and Late Republic; they favoured the praenomina Appius (the only family to bear this praenomen) and Publius. A plebeian offshoot of this family was created when a Publius Claudius Pulcher, youngest son of an Appius, had himself adopted by a plebeian (for political reasons) and was thereafter known as Publius Clodius. One of his sisters, Clodia, wife of her cousin Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer, also adopted this vulgar spelling. This branch however fell into obscurity with Clodius's death; his daughter Clodia was briefly married to Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, the future Augustus.
  • As noted, some plebian Claudians used the gentilicium "Clodius."

Notable members of the gens Claudia

Note: Consuls of 51 and 49 BC were brothers and first cousins to the consul of 50 BC.

Note: Claudians after the death of Nero were most likely descended from freedmen of the Claudians, or men granted citizenship by Claudians.


  1. ^ a b c Tiberius, 1.
  2. ^ History of Rome, Book II.16.
  3. ^ Tacitus, Annals, Book XI.24.
  4. ^ Farney, Gary D. (2007). Ethnic identity and aristocratic competition in Republican Rome. Cambridge [u.a.]: Cambridge University Press. p. 88.  
  5. ^ Vergilius. "Book VII, Lines 706-707". Aeneid. "Lo! Clausus of old Sabine blood, who leads a mighty host, himself a host in might! From whom the Claudian tribe and clan to-day, since Rome was with the Sabine shared, spreads wide through Latium...."  
  6. ^ Quinn, Jerome D.; Wacker, William C. (2000). The first and second letters to Timothy: a new translation with notes and commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. p. 836.   The authors cite Meillet, Antoine (1959) (in French). Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue latine, histoire des mots. Paris: Klinsieck. p. 126.  
  7. ^ Bréal, Michel; Bailly, Anatole (1885). "Rosa". Dictionnaire éymologique Latin. Paris: Librarie Hachette.  
  8. ^ "Attus Clausus". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 1867.  
  9. ^ Braasch, Karl (2001) [1892] (in German). Lateinische Personennamen, nach ihrer Bedeutung zusammen gestellt. Zeitz: C. Brendel, The Internet Archive. pp. 7-8.  
  10. ^ Tutus Livius. "Book II.58-60". History of Rome.  
  11. ^ This was allegedly meant ironically, as were some other Roman cognomina; the first Claudius Pulcher and most of his descendants were far from good-looking.
  12. ^ This was allegedly meant ironically, as were some other Roman cognomina; the first Claudius Pulcher and most of his descendants were far from good-looking.

See also

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CLAUDIUS, the name of a famous Roman gens. The by-form Clodius, in its origin a mere orthographical variant, was regularly used for certain Claudii in late republican times, but otherwise the two forms were used indifferently. The gens contained a patrician and a plebeian family; the chief representatives of the former were the Pulchri, of the latter the Marcelli (see Marcellus). The following members of the gens deserve particular mention.

I. Appius Sabinus Inregillensis, Or Regillensis, Claudius, so called from Regillum (or Regilli) in Sabine territory, founder of the Claudian gens. His original name was Attus or Attius Clausus. About 504 B.C. he settled in Rome, where he and his followers formed a tribe. In 495 he was consul, and his cruel enforcement of the laws of debtor and creditor, in opposition to his milder colleague, P. Servilius Priscus, was one of the chief causes of the "secession" of the plebs to the Sacred Mount. On several occasions he displayed his hatred of the people, although it is stated that he subsequently played the part of mediator.

Suetonius, Tiberius, i.; Livy ii. 16-29; Dion. Halic. v. 40, vi. 23, 24.

2. Claudius, Appius, surnamed Crassus, a Roman patrician, consul in 471 and 451 B.C., and in the same and following year one of the decemvirs. At first he was conspicuous for his aristocratic pride and bitter hatred of the plebeians. Twice they refused to fight under him, and fled before their enemies. He retaliated by decimating the army. He was banished, but soon returned, and again became consul. In the same year (451) he was made one of the decemviri who had been appointed to draw up a code of written laws. When it was decided to elect decemvirs for another year, he who had formerly been looked upon as the champion of the aristocracy, suddenly came forward as the friend of the people, and was himself re-elected together with several plebeians. But no sooner was the new body in office, than it treated both patricians and plebeians with equal violence, and refused to resign at the end of the year. Matters were brought to a crisis by the affair of Virginia. Enamoured of the beautiful daughter of the plebeian centurion Virginius, Claudius attempted to seize her by an abuse of justice. One of his clients, Marcus Claudius, swore that she was the child of a slave belonging to him, and had been stolen by the childless, wife of the centurion. Virginius was summoned from the army, and on the day of trial was present to expose the conspiracy. Nevertheless, judgment was given according to the evidence of Marcus, and Claudius commanded Virginia to be given up to him. In despair, her father seized a knife from a neighbouring stall and plunged it in her side. A general insurrection was the result; and the people seceded to the Sacred Mount. The decemvirs were finally compelled to resign and Appius Claudius died in prison, either by his own hand or by that of the executioner. For a discussion of the character of Appius Claudius,. see Mommsen's appendix to vol. i. of his History of Rome. He holds that Claudius was never the leader of the patrician party,. but a patrician demagogue who ended by becoming a tyrant to patricians as well as plebeians. The decemvirate, one of the triumphs of the plebs, could hardly have been abolished by that body, but would naturally have been overthrown by the patricians. The revolution which ruined Claudius was a return to the rule of the patricians represented by the Horatii and Valerii. Livy iii. 32-58; Dion. Halic. x. 59, xi. 3.

3. Claudius, Appius, surnamed Caecus, Roman patrician and author. In 3 12 B.C. he was elected censor without having passed through the office of consul. His censorship - which he retained for five years, in spite of the lex Aemilia which limited the tenure of that office to eighteen months - was remarkable for the actual or attempted achievement of several great constitutional changes. He filled vacancies in the senate with men of low birth,, in some cases even the sons of freedmen (Diod. Sic. xx. 36;. Livy ix. 30; Suetonius, Claudius, 24). His most important. political innovation was the abolition of the old free birth, freehold basis of suffrage. He enrolled the freedmen and. landless citizens both in the centuries and in the tribes,. and, instead of assigning them to the four urban tribes, he distributed them through all the tribes and thus gave them practical control of the elections. In 304, however, Q. Fabius Rullianus limited the landless and poorer freedmen to the four urban tribes, thus annulling the effect of Claudius's. arrangement. Appius Claudius transferred the charge of the public worship of Hercules in the Forum Boarium from the Potitian gens to a number of public slaves. He further invaded the exclusive rights of the patricians by directing his secretary Gnaeus Flavius (whom, though a freedman, he made a senator) to publish the legis actiones (methods of legal practice) and the list of dies fasti (or days on which legal business could be transacted). Lastly, he gained enduring fame by the construction of a road and an aqueduct, which - a thing unheard of before - he called by his own name (Livy ix. 29; Frontinus, De Aquis, 115; Diod. Sic. xx. 36). In 307 he was elected consul for the first time. In 2 9 8 he was interrex; in 296, as consul, he led the army in Samnium, and although, with his colleague, he gained a victory over the Etruscans and Samnites, he does not seem to have specially distinguished himself as a soldier (Livy x. 19). Next year he was praetor, and he was once dictator. His character, like his namesake the decemvir's is not easy to define. In spite of his political reforms, he opposed the admission of the plebeians to the consulship and priestly offices; and, although these reforms might appear to be democratic in character and calculated to give preponderance to the lowest class of the people, his probable aim was to strengthen the power of the magistrates (and lessen that of the senate) by founding it on the popular will, which would find its expression in the urban inhabitants and could be most easily influenced by the magistrate. He was already blind and too feeble to walk, when Cineas, the minister of Pyrrhus, visited him, but so vigorously did he oppose every concession that all the eloquence of Cineas was in vain, and the Romans forgot past misfortunes in the inspiration of Claudius's. patriotism (Livy x. 13; Justin xviii. 2; Plutarch, Pyrrhus, 19). The story of his blindness, however, may be merely a method of.

accounting for his cognomen. Tradition regarded it as the punishment of his transference of the cult of Hercules from the Potitii.

Appius Claudius Caecus is also remarkable as the first writer mentioned in Roman literature. His speech against peace with Pyrrhus was the first that was transmitted to writing, and thereby laid the foundation of prose composition. He was the author of a collection of aphorisms in verse mentioned by Cicero (of which a few fragments remain), and of a legal work entitled De Usurpationibus. It is very likely also that he was concerned in the drawing up of the Legis Actiones published by Flavius. The famous dictum "Every man is the architect of his own fortune" is attributed to him. He also interested himself in grammatical questions, distinguished the two sounds R and S in writing, and did away with the letter Z. See Mommsen's appendix to his Roman History (vol. i.); treatises by W. Siebert (1863) and F. D. Gerlach (1872), dealing especially with the censorship of Claudius.

4. Claudius, Publius, surnamed Pulcher, son of (3). He was the first of the gens who bore this surname. In 2 4 9 he was consul and appointed to the command of the fleet in the first Punic War. Instead of continuing the siege of Lilybaeum, he decided to attack the Carthaginians in the harbour of Drepanum, and was completely defeated. The disaster was commonly attributed to Claudius's treatment of the sacred chickens, which refused to eat before the battle. "Let them drink then," said the consul, and ordered them to be thrown into the sea. Having been recalled and ordered to appoint a dictator, he gave another instance of his high-handedness by nominating a subordinate official, M. Claudius Glicia, but the nomination was at once overruled. Claudius himself was accused of high treason and heavily fined. He must have died before 246, in which year his sister Claudia was fined for publicly expressing a wish that her brother Publius could rise from the grave to lose a second fleet and thereby diminish the number of the people. It is supposed that he committed suicide.

Livy, Epit., 19; Polybius i. 49; Cicero, De Divinatione, i. 16, ii. 8; Valerius Maximus i. 4, viii. I.

5. Claudius, Appius, surnamed Pulcher, Roman statesman and author. He served under his brother-in-law Lucullus in Asia (72 B.C.) and was commissioned to deliver the ultimatum to Tigranes, which gave him the choice of war with Rome or the surrender of Mithradates. In 57 he was praetor, in 56 propraetor in Sardinia, and in 54 consul with L. Domitius Ahenobarbus. Through the intervention of Pompey, he became reconciled to Cicero, who had been greatly offended because Claudius had indirectly opposed his return from exile. In this and certain other transactions Claudius seems to have acted from avaricious motives, - a result of his early poverty. In 53 he entered upon the governorship of Cilicia, in which capacity he seems to have been rapacious and tyrannical. During this period he carried on a correspondence with Cicero, whose letters to him form the third book of the Epistolae ad Familiares. Claudius resented the appointment of Cicero as his successor, avoided meeting him, and even issued orders after his arrival in the province. On his return to Rome Claudius was impeached by P. Cornelius Dolabella on the ground of having violated the sovereign rights of the people. This led him to make advances to Cicero, since it was necessary to obtain witnesses in his favour from his old province. He was acquitted, and a charge of bribery against him also proved unsuccessful. In 50 he was censor, and expelled many of the members of the senate, amongst them the historian Sallust on the ground of immorality. His connexion with Pompey brought upon him the enmity of Caesar, at whose march on Rome he fled from Italy. Having been appointed by Pompey to the command in Greece, in obedience to an ambiguous oracle he crossed over to Euboea, where he died about 48, before the battle of Pharsalus. Claudius was of a distinctly religious turn of mind, as is shown by the interest he took in sacred buildings (the temple at Eleusis, the sanctuary of Amphiaraus at Oropus). He wrote a work on augury, the first book of which he dedicated to Cicero. He was also extremely superstitious, and believed in invocations of the dead. Cicero had a high opinion of his intellectual powers, and considered him a great orator (see Orelli, Onomasticon Tullianum). A full account of all the Claudii will be found in Pauly-Wissowa's Realencyclopadie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, iii. 2 (1899).

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