Ancient History - Claudius

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CLAUDIUS

CLAUDIUS AND THE SENATE

Claudius followed a policy of efficient and effective government. His approach was to repair the damage done by Gaius and to ensure that the government could properly manage the extent of Rome’s control. In the beginning Claudius was reluctant to accept his elevation, as he knew that many of the senate opposed him. At the beginning of his reign, Claudius stayed away from the Senate for thirty days. When he did appear, he brought a troop detachment with him. This displayed Claudius’ authority. The senate had no other alternative to Claudius, in the end the senates’ opinion of Claudius was irrelevant and it was the army that decided the issue. From the senates’ point of view any man who had the support of the army and therefore the person who could take Rome by force seemed suddenly to become a good choice. Claudius wanted to rule well and in many respects he achieved this desire. His rule is contemptuous when it is not hostile, and depicts him as the victim of unscrupulous exploitation. Even though the Senate had been isolated from any decision making process, he showed them respect and dropped the trials in the Senate and enhanced his popularity by giving gladiatorial shows and abolished Gaius’ new taxes. He asserted his authority in other ways; senatorial was one of them. Claudius reformed the senatorial roll and he extended the membership of the senatorial class to prominent Gallic noblemen, this speaks to the idea of Romanisation. He was firm with the provincial governors, prosecuting the corrupt and ensuring those that were retiring from office would have a period before their next posting where they could be open to prosecution. Claudius also returned the aerarium (treasury) to the quaestors, but in order to ensure proper financial management extended their office to three years. He also prevented soldiers from taking part in the daily salutatio at the houses of senators, which was a measure designed to prevent soldiers from becoming clients of senators. Claudius also increased the authority of the equestrian procurators. Claudius reign saw a thorough reform of the Roman aristocracy in the context of enchantments in the career of equestrians and the further development of freedmen. Gaius suggests that the treasury was bankrupt by the young emperor’s mismanagement and decadent lifestyle. However, there is little indication in the source that at the beginning of Claudius’ reign that this is the case. Throughout Claudius reign the financial stability of the Roman Treasury is worth its weight in gold. He promised the Praetorian Guard lavish donatives (gifts), but every year they became smaller. This was to remind them and the senate of the crucial role that they played in elevating him to power. During his reign he commenced two large building projects – the Harbour Ostia and the draining of the Fucine Lake. He was fond of games and put on spectacular shows for special occasions, which infuriated the senate as it was not socially acceptable for the emperor to be associating so closely with his people. Claudius funded military campaigns in Britain and Germany and all this was done while withdrawing the taxes that had been imposed by Gaius. SUPPORTING QUOTES

“As soon as his power was firmly established, he considered it of foremost importance to obliterate the memory of the two days when men had thought of changing the form of government” (Suetonius Life of Claudius 11.1). “Much has been written about Claudius’ government and his supposed reliance on his wives and freedom. All the ancient sources comment on this reliance” (R. Alston Aspects of Roman History: AD14- 117). “ Claudius like Gaius and Tiberius before him, found co-operation with the senate difficult and he too sought a new method of government, but Claudius’ solution appears much more conservative than those adopted by his predecessors” (R. Alston Aspects of Roman History: AD14- 117). “Victim of unscrupulous...
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