Sunday, May 21, 2006


In this episode, Claudius, the most unlikely member of the imperial family, becomes one of the greatest emperors of the Roman Empire.

He was the nephew of Tiberius, and when Caligula was murdered in 41AD, the soldiers found Claudius, who had been of little importance, hiding in abject terror behind a curtain in the palace. They hauled him forth, and the Praetorians proclaimed him emperor. This act offended the senators, who never forgave Claudius.

It also made him favor the army. He annexed Mauretania and landed in 43AD in Britain, which he made a province. Agrippa's kingdom of Judaea and the kingdom of Thrace were reabsorbed into the empire, and the authority of the provincial procurators was extended.

His wife, Agrippina the Younger persuaded him to pass over his son Britannicus as heir in favour of Nero, her som by a former husband. Agrippina subsequently poisoned him.

A principled philosopher named Seneca finds himself compromised as tutor to the erratic young Emperor Nero.

In Britain, a warrior queen named Boudicca battles Roman legions, and from Judaea, a revolutionary named Paul begins spreading the words of Jesus across Roman lands.

Back in the capital, Nero's disastrous rule shakes the empire to its foundation. In 59AD, he murdered his mother and in 62AD, his wife Octavia. He later married his mistress Poppaea.

When half of rome was burned in a fire in 64AD, Nero accused the Christians of starting it and began the first Roman persecution. In 65AD there was a plot to make Caius Calpurnius Piso emperor. The detection of this plot began a string of violent deaths, e.g., of Seneca, Lucan, and Thrasea Paetus.

Nero had ambitions to be a poet and artist. In &AD; 68 a series of revolts, including one by his own Praetorian Guard, caused him to commit suicide. Among his last words were, What an artist the world is losing in me

The empire is on the edge of disaster.


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