|“||I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus, am now about to begin this strange history of my life.||„|
Tiberius Claudius Drusus, or Claudius for short, is a character in Robert Grave's novels I Claudius and Claudius The God, largely fictionalized accounts of real-world Roman emperor Claudius Caesar. The story is most famous due to the B.B.C. production of I Claudius, directed by Herbert Wise in which Claudius himself is portrayed by Derek Jacobi.
Claudius is the fist person narrator of the books I Claudius and Claudius the God, the books frame the story in the context of lost historical memoir of emperor Claudius Caesar. Claudius writes them convinced he will be dead soon and that with his final days he must set the record straight on his family, who as royal figures will have much exaggerated, covered-up or just plain fabricated.
I Claudius mostly delves into the details that were going on behind the scenes in relation to the appointments for the heir of Augustus Caesar. Claudius explains that while Augustus was a good and beloved ruler, the fact he never produced a male heir with his wife Livia lead to a serious concern over who would succeed him and inherit the throne when he died. Exasperating the issue was what had come prior to Augustus's rule: civil-war. With Augustus frequently let favoritism dictate who he trusted with power, Livia begins to see the seeds of civil-war everywhere and in an attempt to avert a second great collapse upon her husband's death, Livia begins a series of murders and assassinations to see to it her son Tiberius inherits the throne, whom she had been grooming as a proper ruler.
Claudius, gets all information prior to his birth from rumors, whispered conversations he overhears, innuendo and eventually Livia herself confirming many of them as true. The rest of the corruption is witnessed by Claudius personally. The two most notable forms of corruption Claudius witnesses are that of Aelius Sejanus who seizes control of Tiberius's rule after Livia's death and Claudius's nephew, Caligula, who goes completely mad with power. Senjanus's semi-rule is that of corruption, bribery, threats disguised as routine law-enforcement and forgery of evidence against rivals. Claudius capitulates with Senjanus in order to avoid his attention as a potential adversary. Caligula declares himself Jove, and his sister Drusila as Juno, he declares Claudius Hephaestus, a title meant solely to define Claudius as Caligula's clown and perform poetry sessions of Jove and thus (in his mind), himself.
Claudius was born with epilepsy, and is prone to stuttering, shaking and losing his balance. As he grows up he is able to control his spasms more and more. However under the advice of the scribe, Titus Livius, his tutor, Claudius exaggerates his epilepsy even as he adapts to it. Livius explains that Claudius is seen as a fool and becoming a harmless annoyance is in his best interest with all the foul-play that goes on to prune his family tree. Claudius's farce as a bumbling fool is what allows his to live through all his potential foes. He does not command enough respect for Livia to see him as anyone ever chosen to be in line for Caesar, Sejanus sees Claudius as a faceless drone useful only due to his royal blood and otherwise easily ignored, Caligula nearly kills Claudius on several occasions but does not due to the fact Claudius makes him laugh with his foolery. Years spent seen as a fool have left Claudius socially awkward and with massive self-esteem issues. Claudius keeps his composure partially out of survival instinct but mostly out of principle. He believes he must represent Roman honor and ideals above all else but is willing to debase himself so he lives to encourages such ideals in others. Claudius's dream is to one day remove the Caesars as rulers and make Rome a republic again. As the years ware on him, Claudius eventually notices the senate are even more corrupt/incompetent than the worst of his family and that for Rome to truly be free it must be rebuilt from the ground up.