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Ancient History Sourcebook:
Claudius (b. 10 BCE, r. 41 CE - d.54 CE):
A Discourse  in the Senate, c. 48 CE


[Introduction (adapted from Davis)]:

Claudius, the third successor of Augustus (41 to 54 A.D.), had a reputation as a   pedantic and long-winded individual. He was not without abilities as a ruler, however, and did much to equalize the condition of the Italians and the Provincials.

The following speech of his in the Senate (preserved on an inscription) illustrates at once the nature of an imperial harangue before the Conscript Fathers (the members of the Senate), the interruptions that seem to have been allowed even in the speech of an Emperor, the broad personalities in which Claudius indulged, and his liberal policy withal, especially to the Gauls. A version of the speech is also reported by Tacitus.

Inscription: Claudius: "It is surely an innovation of the divine Augustus, my great-uncle, and of Tiberius Caesar, my uncle, to desire that particularly the flower of the colonies and of the municipal towns, that is to say, all those that contain men of breeding and wealth, should be admitted to this assembly."

[Interruption, seemingly by a senator]: "How now? Is not an Italian senator to be preferred to a provincial senator!?"

Claudius: "I will soon explain this point to you, when I submit that part of my acts which I performed as censor, but I do not conceive it needful to repel even the provincials who can do honor to the Senate House. Here is this splendid and powerful colony of Vienna [Davis: modern Vienne in the South of France]; is it so long since it sent to us senators? From that colony comes Lucius Vestinus, one of the glories of the equestrian order, my personal friend, whom I keep close to myself for the management of my private affairs. Let his sons be suffered---I pray you--- to become priests of the lowest rank, while waiting until, with the lapse of years, they can follow the advancement of their dignity. As for that robber, Valerius Asiaticus from Vienna, I will pass over his hateful name. For I detest that hero of the gymnasium, who brought the consulship into his family before even his colony had obtained the full rights of Roman citizenship. I could say as much of his brother, stamped as unworthy by this unlucky relationship, and incapable henceforth of being a useful member of your body."

[Interrupting shout]: "Here now, Tiberius Caesar Germanicus! It's time to let the Conscript Fathers understand what your talk is driving at---already you've reached the very limits of Narbonnese Gaul!"

Claudius: "All these young men of rank, on whom I cast my glance, you surely do not regret to see among the number of the senators; any more than Persicus, that most high-born gentleman and my friend, is ashamed when he meets upon the images of his ancestors the name Allobrogius. And if such is your thought, what would you desire more? Do I have to point it out to you? Even the territory which is located beyond the province of Gallia Narbonnensis, has it not already sent you senators? For surely we have no regrets in going clear up to Lugdunum [Davis: Modern Lyons in France] for the members of our order. Assuredly, Conscript Fathers, it is not without some hesitation that I cross the limits of the provinces which are well known and familiar to you, but the moment is come when I must plead openly the cause of Further Gaul. It will be objected that Gaul sustained a war against the divine Julius for ten years. But let there be opposed to this the memory of a hundred years of steadfast fidelity, and a loyalty put to the proof in many trying circumstances. My father, Drusus, was able to force Germany to submit, because behind him reigned a profound peace assured by the tranquillity of the Gauls. And note well, that at the moment he was summoned to that war, he was busy instituting the census in Gaul, a new institution among them, and contrary to their customs. And how difficult and perilous to us is this business of the census, although all we require is that our public resources should be known, we have learned by all too much experience."


Source:

From: William Stearns Davis, ed., Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West, pp. 186-188,

Scanned by: J. S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton. Prof. Arkenberg has modernized the text.


This text is part of the Internet Ancient History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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© Paul Halsall, June 1998
halsall@murray.fordham.edu