Lecture 26: Special Film Presentation of I, Claudius by Robert Graves
I, Claudius was a fictionalized account by author Robert Graves of the Julio-Claudian emperors in Rome during the first century A.D. centering on the emperor Claudius. This episode deals with the death of the emperor Tiberius in A.D. 37, the accession to power of Caligula and the subsequent illness and madness of Caligula. The story is based on the accounts by Roman historians of the later first century A.D. such as Suetonius and Tacitus. Claudius was himself a prolific writer but his works are lost.
Tiberius- emperor of Rome A.D. 14-37, an unpopular emperor whose death was considered fortuitous but suspicious. He was believed murdered in his Capri villa by Caligula.
Sejanus- Head of the emperor Tiberius' praetorian guard, protecting the emperor. He was secretly plotting to overthrow Tiberius
Macro- Ally of Caligula who helped to overthrow Sejanus, became head of the praetorians and plotted versus Tiberius.
Caligula- Nickname of young Gaius who was the son of Germanicus. Germanicus was the son of Tiberius' brother Drusus. Caligula's mother was Agrippina, daughter of Agrippa. Gaius was much loved by the Roman troops on the Rhine when he accompanied his father Germanicus but after Germanicus' premature death, he was groomed as a possible future emperor. He went mad shortly after his accession to power and did many bizzarre things.
Claudius- Clubfooted, speech-impaired son of Tiberius' brother Drusus and Antonia Minor, daughter of Mark Antony and Augustus' sister Octavia. Generally regarded as an idiot, as all disabled people were in antiquity, he was thought a spineless fool until the praetorian guard named him emperor after they murdered Caligula. He was Caligula's uncle.
Drusilla- Sister and incestuous lover of Caligula. After her bizarre death in A.D. 38 she was honored as the goddess Panthea, the first Roman woman to be named a goddess. It was believed she and Caligula (Gaius) underwent Metamorphoses or divine changes and became Panthea and Zeus respectively.
King Herod Antipas of Judeae- the son of King Herod the Great of biblical fame and ruler of Galilee. Confidant of Claudius, this spineless opportunist was amiable and often in Rome.
Antonia- Claudius' mother found him to be a huge disappointment. She helped expose Sejanus' plot to kill Tiberius and she was much honored by her grandson Caligula but when she criticized him too much she was forced to kill herself.
I, Claudius was written in 1934 by the English scholar and poet Robert Graves. An attempt to film it in 1936 with Charles Laughton as Claudius was never finished. It was remade as this PBS and BBC TV series in 13 parts for Masterpiece Theater in 1977.34