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Classical Studies
CLST 201

Claudius, Nero, etc. (Early Empire) Claudius • Good emperor in general, wives were problematic o Valeria Messalina (3 wife), very young, enjoyed herself at Claudius’ expense  Claudius was older and uglier  Liked pomp, splendor, and power related to being royal – first real empress  2 children – Octavia and Britannicus - gave Claudius an heir  He was ignored by her and humiliated by her actions  She had an affair with a man named Gaius Sillius and entered into plot with her to take over the throne – Claudius discovered this and put both to death o Agrippina the Younger (4 wife) – not to be confused with her mother Agrippina the Elder  She was actually Claudius’ niece, so he changed the laws so he could marry her  She already had a son (Nero), so now Claudius has 2 potential heirs  Unscrupulous, power hungry – given title Augusta (revered), was even on Roman coins (first time this would happen)  Bad history of plotting/killing/paying for power  She was plotting for her son’s succession (Nero was a few years older than Britannicus) • Claudius adopted Nero as his guardian • To cement alliance, Nero married Claudius’ daughter, Octavia in 53 • Claudius conveniently died in 54 (possibly poisoned by Agrippina, no proof though) • Nero comes to power as Emperor in 54 at age 16 (54-68) o Since he was only 16 at ascension, Agrippina along with Afranius Burrus (Praetorian Prefect) and Seneca the Younger ruled Rome until his coming of age o Nero didn’t mind them being in control, was devoted to his mother – so committed that there were actually rumours of incest between them o Nero later got Agrippina to move out of the palace because he was getting annoyed with her, but she didn’t like this so she begins plotting for Britannicus to be emperor  So Nero has Britannicus put to death o From 55-62 the main powers were Burrus and Seneca – kept Nero happy and out of the way while they ruled the empire • Generally the administration was good; senate was happy, good laws, empire prosperous, etc. • Like the next Golden Age: Ostia finished (Port at Tiber River), maintained good conditions of his predecessors • Nero was very complex: seemed good and humane – hated slaughter of gladiatorial games, hated signing death sentences o was more passionate about the arts o This behaviour alienated the upper classes forced to watch his performances • In 62, Burrus dies and Seneca retires, so now Nero in control • Praetorian Prefects (Rufus, Tigellinus) were now in control, but Nero’s behaviour was deteriorating o Was going out at night causing mischief – assault, robbery, murder and rape even o Often got his ass kicked while doing these things (once near death by a senator whose wife he molested) • Agrippina’s meddling was getting out of hand – supported Octavia o Nero’s wife was Octavia, but he had a mistress, Sabina, that he wanted to leave her for o Decided she had to go, Nero tried 3 times to poison her, but each time she had already taken the antidote and was fine o He invited her to go boating on a boat he let her ride in rigged to collapse, the boat collapsed and sank but she swam to shore o Finally he just sent someone to stab her, so Agrippina was finally killed  looked down upon, but told the public she was plotting his murder • Nero divorced Octavia, then had her banished and killed, so he was free to marry Sabina o Rumour that he kicked Sabina while she was pregnant with his son in a hit of rage • Many were killed for their money on trumped up charges to support his reckless extravagance o made up charges, killed people, took all their money so he could party • Senate now hated Nero • JULY 18, 64 – Great fire of Rome – Nero to blame? o There were fires in Rome almost every day, not a well-built city o Therefore Nero not likely to be cause, but was accused of not doing enough to stop it or prevent it o Nero set up first building code in Rome afterwards to prevent it from happening again o As a result of the fire, though, half of Rome was now in ruins o Nero sees this as opportunity to build his dream palace (Domus Aurea = Gold Palace)  His new palace was incredible  This is why people think Nero started the fire, so he could build o Rumours of him starting fire spread through Rome o He blames the Christians to shift attention away from him  Christians were persecuted by being torn apart by dogs, crucified, burned alive  First great persecution of the Christians • Conspiracy of Piso (65) o Plot to kill Nero at one of the games, but Nero found out and they were put to death o Now Nero is a lot more p
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