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The Julio-Claudians were the line of Roman emperors that descended from Julius Caesar through his adopted son, Octavian (the Roman emperor Augustus.) In addition to Augustus, the first Roman emperor, they included in order Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. These emperors varied widely in competence, and the names of Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero became bywords for tyranny, insanity, and abuse of power.
In spite of the shortcomings and eccentricities of these men, the Julio-Claudian period (27 B.C.E. to 68 A.C.E.) is regarded by historians as the height of Roman power. In addition to their military successes, which extended the borders of the Roman Empire into the the east and the north, modern historians have departed from contemporary sources (especially Tacitus) in portraying Tiberius and Claudius (but not Caligula or Nero) as skillful administrators who continued the efforts of Augustus to expand the power of the emperor while working with the Senate. While the Empire experienced a great deal of turmoil, notably after the assassination of Caligula, the period was characterized by the expansion of a sophisticated bureaucracy. The Julio-Claudians promoted the cult of the emperor through spreading their images on coins and through statues.
The Julio-Claudians also embarked on a series of massive building projects in Rome and the provinces. One of the most conspicuous examples was the construction of aqueducts, which carried enough water into Rome to sustain the city's remarkable growth. The Julio-Claudians also financed the construction of circuses, amphitheaters, and other structures. While not a direct consequence of imperial policy, the era witnessed a flowering of literature. Classical writers Livy, Ovid, and Horace all wrote during the period.
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