1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Claudius (gens)
CLAUDIUS, the name of a famous Roman gens. The by-form Clodius, in its origin a mere orthographical variant, was regularly used for certain Claudii in late republican times, but otherwise the two forms were used indifferently. The gens contained a patrician and a plebeian family; the chief representatives of the former were the Pulchri, of the latter the Marcelli (see Marcellus). The following members of the gens deserve particular mention.
1. Appius Saminus Inregillensis, or Regillensis, Claudius, so called from Regillum (or Regilli) in Sabine territory, founder of the Claudian gens. His original name was Attus or Attius Clausus. About 504 B.C. he settled in Rome, where he and his followers formed a tribe. In 495 he was consul, and his cruel enforcement of the laws of debtor and creditor, in opposition to his milder colleague, P. Servilius Priscus, was one of the chief causes of the “secession” of the plebs to the Sacred Mount. On several occasions he displayed his hatred of the people, although it is stated that he subsequently played the part of mediator.
Suetonius, Tiberius, i.; Livy ii. 16-29; Dion. Halic. v. 40, vi. 23, 24.
2. Claudius, Appius, surnamed Crassus, a Roman patrician, consul in 471 and 451 B.C., and in the same and following year one of the decemvirs. At first he was conspicuous for his aristocratic pride and bitter hatred of the plebeians. Twice they refused to fight under him, and fled before their enemies. He retaliated by decimating the army. He was banished, but soon returned, and again became consul. In the same year (451) he was made one of the decemviri who had been appointed to draw up a code of written laws. When it was decided to elect decemvirs for another year, he who had formerly been looked upon as the champion of the aristocracy, suddenly came forward as the friend of the people, and was himself re-elected together with several plebeians. But no sooner was the new body in office, than it treated both patricians and plebeians with equal violence, and refused to resign at the end of the year. Matters were brought to a crisis by the affair of Virginia. Enamoured of the beautiful daughter of the plebeian centurion Virginius, Claudius attempted to seize her by an abuse of justice. One of his clients, Marcus Claudius, swore that she was the child of a slave belonging to him, and had been stolen by the childless wife of the centurion. Virginius was summoned from the army, and on the day of trial was present to expose the conspiracy. Nevertheless, judgment was given according to the evidence of Marcus, and Claudius commanded Virginia to be given up to him. In despair, her father seized a knife from a neighbouring stall and plunged it in her side. A general insurrection was the result; and the people seceded to the Sacred Mount. The decemvirs were finally compelled to resign and Appius Claudius died in prison, either by his own hand or by that of the executioner. For a discussion of the character of Appius Claudius, see Mommsen’s appendix to vol. i. of his History of Rome. He holds that Claudius was never the leader of the patrician party, but a patrician demagogue who ended by becoming a tyrant to patricians as well as plebeians. The decemvirate, one of the triumphs of the plebs, could hardly have been abolished by that body, but would naturally have been overthrown by the patricians. The revolution which ruined Claudius was a return to the rule of the patricians represented by the Horatii and Valerii.
Livy iii. 32-58; Dion. Halic. x. 59, xi. 3.
3. Claudius, Appius, surnamed Caecus, Roman patrician and author. In 312 B.C. he was elected censor without having passed through the office of consul. His censorship—which he retained for five years, in spite of the lex Aemilia which limited the tenure of that office to eighteen months—was remarkable for the actual or attempted achievement of several great constitutional changes. He filled vacancies in the senate with men of low birth, in some cases even the sons of freedmen (Diod. Sic. xx. 36; Livy ix. 30; Suetonius, Claudius, 24). His most important political innovation was the abolition of the old free birth, freehold basis of suffrage. He enrolled the freedmen and landless citizens both in the centuries and in the tribes, and, instead of assigning them to the four urban tribes, he distributed them through all the tribes and thus gave them practical control of the elections. In 304, however, Q. Fabius Rullianus limited the landless and poorer freedmen to the four urban tribes, thus annulling the effect of Claudius’s arrangement. Appius Claudius transferred the charge of the public worship of Hercules in the Forum Boarium from the Potitian gens to a number of public slaves. He further invaded the exclusive rights of the patricians by directing his secretary Gnaeus Flavius (whom, though a freedman, he made a senator) to publish the legis actiones (methods of legal practice) and the list of dies fasti (or days on which legal business could be transacted). Lastly, he gained enduring fame by the construction of a road and an aqueduct, which—a thing unheard of before—he called by his own name (Livy ix. 29; Frontinus, De Aquis, 115; Diod. Sic. xx. 36). In 307 he was elected consul for the first time. In 298 he was interrex; in 296, as consul, he led the army in Samnium, and although, with his colleague, he gained a victory over the Etruscans and Samnites, he does not seem to have specially distinguished himself as a soldier (Livy x. 19). Next year he was praetor, and he was once dictator. His character, like his namesake the decemvir’s is not easy to define. In spite of his political reforms, he opposed the admission of the plebeians to the consulship and priestly offices; and, although these reforms might appear to be democratic in character and calculated to give preponderance to the lowest class of the people, his probable aim was to strengthen the power of the magistrates (and lessen that of the senate) by founding it on the popular will, which would find its expression in the urban inhabitants and could be most easily influenced by the magistrate. He was already blind and too feeble to walk, when Cineas, the minister of Pyrrhus, visited him, but so vigorously did he oppose every concession that all the eloquence of Cineas was in vain, and the Romans forgot past misfortunes in the inspiration of Claudius’s patriotism (Livy x. 13; Justin xviii. 2; Plutarch, Pyrrhus, 19). The story of his blindness, however, may be merely a method of accounting for his cognomen. Tradition regarded it as the punishment of his transference of the cult of Hercules from the Potitii.
Appius Claudius Caecus is also remarkable as the first writer mentioned in Roman literature. His speech against peace with Pyrrhus was the first that was transmitted to writing, and thereby laid the foundation of prose composition. He was the author of a collection of aphorisms in verse mentioned by Cicero (of which a few fragments remain), and of a legal work entitled De Usurpationibus. It is very likely also that he was concerned in the drawing up of the Legis Actiones published by Flavius. The famous dictum “Every man is the architect of his own fortune” is attributed to him. He also interested himself in grammatical questions, distinguished the two sounds R and S in writing, and did away with the letter Z.
See Mommsen’s appendix to his Roman History (vol. i.); treatises by W. Siebert (1863) and F. D. Gerlach (1872), dealing especially with the censorship of Claudius.
4. Claudius, Publius, surnamed Pulcher, son of (3). He was the first of the gens who bore this surname. In 249 he was consul and appointed to the command of the fleet in the first Punic War. Instead of continuing the siege of Lilybaeum, he decided to attack the Carthaginians in the harbour of Drepanum, and was completely defeated. The disaster was commonly attributed to Claudius’s treatment of the sacred chickens, which refused to eat before the battle. “Let them drink then,” said the consul, and ordered them to be thrown into the sea. Having been recalled and ordered to appoint a dictator, he gave another instance of his high-handedness by nominating a subordinate official, M. Claudius Glicia, but the nomination was at once overruled. Claudius himself was accused of high treason and heavily fined. He must have died before 246, in which year his sister Claudia was fined for publicly expressing a wish that her brother Publius could rise from the grave to lose a second fleet and thereby diminish the number of the people. It is supposed that he committed suicide.
Livy, Epit., 19; Polybius i. 49; Cicero, De Divinatione, i. 16, ii. 8; Valerius Maximus i. 4, viii. I.
5. Claudius, Appius, surnamed Pulcher, Roman statesman and author. He served under his brother-in-law Lucullus in Asia (72 B.C.) and was commissioned to deliver the ultimatum to Tigranes, which gave him the choice of war with Rome or the surrender of Mithradates. In 57 he was praetor, in 56 propraetor in Sardinia, and in 54 consul with L. Domitius Ahenobarbus. Through the intervention of Pompey, he became reconciled to Cicero, who had been greatly offended because Claudius had indirectly opposed his return from exile. In this and certain other transactions Claudius seems to have acted from avaricious motives,—a result of his early poverty. In 53 he entered upon the governorship of Cilicia, in which capacity he seems to have been rapacious and tyrannical. During this period he carried on a correspondence with Cicero, whose letters to him form the third book of the Epistolae ad Familiares. Claudius resented the appointment of Cicero as his successor, avoided meeting him, and even issued orders after his arrival in the province. On his return to Rome Claudius was impeached by P. Cornelius Dolabella on the ground of having violated the sovereign rights of the people. This led him to make advances to Cicero, since it was necessary to obtain witnesses in his favour from his old province. He was acquitted, and a charge of bribery against him also proved unsuccessful. In 50 he was censor, and expelled many of the members of the senate, amongst them the historian Sallust on the ground of immorality. His connexion with Pompey brought upon him the enmity of Caesar, at whose march on Rome he fled from Italy. Having been appointed by Pompey to the command in Greece, in obedience to an ambiguous oracle he crossed over to Euboea, where he died about 48, before the battle of Pharsalus. Claudius was of a distinctly religious turn of mind, as is shown by the interest he took in sacred buildings (the temple at Eleusis, the sanctuary of Amphiaraus at Oropus). He wrote a work on augury, the first book of which he dedicated to Cicero. He was also extremely superstitious, and believed in invocations of the dead. Cicero had a high opinion of his intellectual powers, and considered him a great orator (see Orelli, Onomasticon Tullianum).
A full account of all the Claudii will be found in Pauly-Wissowa’s Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, iii. 2 (1899).