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Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus

Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus (ti-BIH-ree-uhs KLOH-dee-uhs DREW-suhs NEE-roh jur-MA-nih-kuhs), emperor of Rome. Popularly supposed at the beginning of his rule to be a cripple, a stammerer, and an idiot, he is in reality a planner of governmental, financial, and social reforms, including the abolition of many of the previous emperor Caligula’s cruel decrees. Busy with state affairs, he is long ignorant of Messalina’s depravities. He is deified as a result of his planning of the great Roman victory in Britain at Brentwood Hill. After a wholesale execution of Messalina’s immoral associates and following his marriage to Agrippinilla, he takes little interest in governmental affairs and is finally poisoned by his wife.


Messalina (meh-suh-LI-nuh), his third wife. Though she is director of public morals, she herself pursues a life of debauchery, licentiousness, political intrigue, bribery, cheating, and murder. After her divorce from Claudius, her remarriage to Silius, and Claudius’ discovery of her debaucheries, she is killed by the colonel of the palace guard.


Calpurnia (kal-PUR-nee-uh), Claudius’ mistress, who finally reveals to Claudius the truth about Messalina.


Agrippina (ag-rih-PI-nuh), called Agrippinilla, Claudius’ fourth wife, whom he marries for political reasons. She poisons him so that Nero may succeed him. She is killed by soldiers sent by Nero to murder her.

Lucius Domitius

Lucius Domitius (LEW-shee-uhs doh-MIH-shee-uhs), later called Nero, Agrippinilla’s son and Claudius’ grandnephew. Adopted by Claudius and appointed joint heir with Brittanicus, he becomes emperor through his mother’s plotting. After a reign marked by debauchery and murder, he is killed at his own request by a servant.

Herod Agrippa

Herod Agrippa (HEH-ruhd uh-GRIH-puh), Claudius’ friend since his youthful days. He is imprisoned by Tiberius for treasonous sentiments but is released by Caligula and given control of Judea, Samaria, and Edom by Claudius. His plan to set up a Jewish kingdom with himself as Messiah collapses with his death.


Brittanicus (brih-TA-nih-kuhs), Claudius’ son, whom Claudius suspects of having been fathered by Caligula; he is poisoned in c.e. 55.


Octavia (ok-TAY-vee-uh), Claudius’ supposed daughter, believed by Claudius to have been fathered by the commander of the Germans under Caligula. Married to Nero, she dies violently.


Varus (VAH-ruhs), a general.


Caractacus (keh-RAK-ta-kuhs) and


Togodumnus (toh-guh-DUM-nuhs), brothers and joint rulers of Britain. Togodumnus is slain in battle; Caractacus is captured, brought to Rome, and then generously freed by Claudius.

Aulus Plautius

Aulus Plautius (OH-luhs PLOH-shee-uhs), the leader of Claudius’ invasion forces against Britain.


Barbillus (bahr-BIH-luhs), an astrologer who predicts Claudius’ death.


Silius (SIH-lee-uhs), Messalina’s former husband, whom she remarries.


Antonia (an-TOH-nee-uh), Claudius’ daughter, married to Pompey. After his death, she marries Faustus.


Pompey (POM-pih), a homosexual murdered, by Claudius’ orders, in bed with his slave Lycidas.




Critical Essays