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Claudius (gens)

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Claudius (gens)

The gens Claudia (Classical Latin: [ˈklawdɪa]), sometimes written Clodia, was one of the most prominent patrician houses at Rome. The gens traced its origin to the earliest days of the Roman Republic. The first of the Claudii to obtain the consulship was Appius Claudius Sabinus Regillensis, in 495 BC, and from that time its members frequently held the highest offices of the state, both under the Republic and in imperial times.

Plebeian Claudii are found fairly early in Rome's history. Some may have been descended from members of the family who had passed over to the plebeians, while others were probably the descendants of freedmen of the gens.[1]

In his life of the emperor Tiberius, who was a scion of the Claudii, the historian Suetonius gives a summary of the gens, and says, "as time went on it was honoured with twenty-eight consulships, five dictatorships, seven censorships, six triumphs, and two ovations." Writing several decades after the fall of the so-called "Julio-Claudian dynasty", Suetonius took care to mention both the good and wicked deeds attributed to members of the family.[2]

The patrician Claudii were noted for their pride and arrogance, and intense hatred of the commonalty. In his History of Rome, Niebuhr writes,

That house during the course of centuries produced several very eminent, few great men; hardly a single noble-minded one. In all ages it distinguished itself alike by a spirit of haughty defiance, by disdain for the laws, and iron hardness of heart.[3]

During the Republic, no patrician Claudius adopted a member of another gens; the emperor Claudius was the first who broke this custom, by adopting Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, afterwards the emperor Nero.[1][4][5]

Origin of the gens

According to legend, the first of the Claudii was a Sabine, by the name of Attius Clausus,[6] who came to Rome with his retainers in 504 BC, the sixth year of the Republic. At this time, the fledgling Republic was engaged in regular warfare with the Sabines, and Clausus is said to have been the leader of a faction seeking to end the conflict. When his efforts failed, he defected to the Romans. Clausus was enrolled among the patricians, and exchanged his Sabine name for the Latin Appius Claudius.[7][8]

Tiberius is said to have referred to this tradition, in a speech made before the Roman Senate, in which he argued in favor of admitting Gauls to that body. "My ancestors, the most ancient of whom was made at once a citizen and a noble of Rome, encourage me to govern by the same policy of transferring to this city all conspicuous merit, wherever found." The Claudii were also said to have been granted a tract of land for their dependents on the far side of the Anio,[9] and a burial site at the foot of the Capitoline Hill.[7][10][11]

By imperial times, the influence of the Claudii was so great that the poet Vergilius flattered them by a deliberate anachronism. In his Aeneid, he makes Attius Clausus a contemporary of Aeneas, to whose side he rallies with a host of quirites, or spearmen.[12]

The nomen Claudius, originally Clausus, according to legend, is usually said to be derived from the Latin adjective claudus, meaning "lame". As a cognomen, Claudus is occasionally found in other gentes. This etymology was argued by Antoine Meillet and Karl Braasch. However, since there is no tradition that any of the early Claudii were lame, the nomen might refer to some ancestor of Attius Clausus. It could also have been metaphorical, or ironic, and the possibility remains that this derivation is erroneous.[13][14]

The metathesis of Clausus into Claudius, and its common by-form, Clodius, was discussed in the Dictionnaire Étymologique Latin. The alternation of 'o' and 'au' seems to have been common in Sabine. The alternation of 's' and 'd' occurs in words borrowed from Greek: Latin rosa from Greek rhodos; but in this instance clausus or *closus is a Sabine word becoming clod- in Latin. The name could have come from Greek settlers in Latium, but there is no evidence in favor of this hypothesis.[15]

The Sabine praenomen Attius has been the subject of similar fascination for philologists. The form Attus is mentioned by Valerius Maximus, who connected it with the bucolic Greek name Atys. Braasch translated it as Väterchen, "little father," and connected it with a series of childhood parental names: "atta, tata, acca," and the like, becoming such names as Tatius (also Sabine) and Atilius.[16]

Praenomina used by the gens

The early Claudii favored the praenomina Appius, Gaius, and Publius. These names were used by the patrician Claudii throughout their history. Tiberius was used by the family of the Claudii Nerones, while Marcus, although used occasionally by the earliest patrician Claudii, was favored by the plebeian branches of the family. According to Suetonius, the gens avoided the praenomen Lucius because two early members with this name had brought dishonor upon the family, one having been convicted of highway robbery, and the other of murder.[1][11]

Branches and cognomina of the gens

The patrician Claudii bore various surnames, including Caecus, Caudex, Centho, Crassus, Nero, Pulcher, Regillensis, and Sabinus. The latter two, though applicable to all of the gens, were seldom used when there was a more definite cognomen. A few of the patrician Claudii are mentioned without any surname. The surnames of the plebeian Claudii were Asellus, Canina, Centumalus, Cicero, Flamen, and Marcellus.[1]

The earliest Claudii bore the surname Sabinus, a common surname usually referring to a Sabine, or someone of Sabine descent, which according to all tradition, the Claudii were.[17] This cognomen was first adopted by Appius Claudius, the founder of the gens, and was retained by his descendants, until it was replaced by Crassus.[1]

The surname Regillensis or Inregillensis, also attributed to the first of the Claudii, is more problematic. Regillensis was also a cognomen of the Postumia gens, presumably because Aulus Postumius Albus led the victorious Roman army at the Battle of Lake Regillus in 498 BC. It is entirely possible that Appius Claudius was also a participant in that battle, and assumed the same surname in consequence of this, although he is not mentioned in any surviving accounts of that battle.[18]

Niebuhr has suggested that Regillensis is derived not from Postumius' participation in the battle, but from a place of residence, perhaps a settlement, now lost, in the vicinity of Lake Regillus. This theory is supported by Suetonius, who writes that Claudius came ex Regillis oppido Sabinorum; that is, "from Regillum, a town of the Sabines." This appears to conflict with the tradition that Claudius was a native of Cures, and may simply be speculation on the part of Suetonius, but there is nothing inherently improbable about this theory.[11][19]

Crassus, sometimes given as the diminutive Crassinus, was a common surname usually translated as "thick, solid," or "dull". This cognomen succeeded that of Sabinus as the surname of the main family of the Claudia gens. It was borne by members of the family from the 5th to the 3rd century BC The other main families of the patrician Claudii were descended from Appius Claudius Caecus, a member of this stirps; his sons bore the surnames Crassus, Pulcher, Cento or Centho, and Nero. However, this generation saw the last of the Claudii Crassi.[1][20]

Pulcher, the surname of the next major branch of the Claudia gens, means beautiful, although it may be that the cognomen was given ironically. The Claudii Pulchri were an extensive family, which supplied the Republic with several consuls, and survived into imperial times.[1][20]

The other main branch of the patrician Claudii bore the surname Nero, originally a Sabine praenomen described as meaning, fortis ac strenuus, which roughly translated is "strong and sturdy." It may be the same as the Umbrian praenomen Nerius. This family was distinguished throughout the latter Republic, and gave rise to several of the early emperors, including Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero (by adoption). An oddity of the names by which these emperors are known today is that several of their ancestors bore the name Tiberius Claudius Nero; of three emperors belonging to the same family, one is known by a praenomen, one by a nomen, and one by a cognomen.[11]

The most illustrious family of the plebeian Claudii bore the surname Marcellus, which is a diminutive of the praenomen Marcus. They gained everlasting fame from the exploits of Marcus Claudius Marcellus, one of Rome's finest generals, and a towering figure of the Second Punic War, who was five times consul, and won the spolia opima, defeating and killing the Gallic king, Viridomarus, in single combat.

Most of those who used the spelling Clodius were descended from plebeian members of the gens, but one family by this name was a cadet branch of the patrician Claudii Pulchri, which voluntarily went over to the plebeians, and used the spelling Clodius to differentiate themselves from their patrician relatives.

Caecus, the surname of one of the Claudii Crassi, refers to the condition of his blindness, which is well-attested, although it appears that he did not become blind until his old age. According to one legend, he was struck blind by the gods during his censorship, after inducing the ancient family of the Potitii to teach the sacred rites of Hercules to the public slaves. The Potitii themselves were said to have perished as a result of this sacrilege. However, it should be noted that Claudius was relatively young at the time of his censorship in 312 BC, and was elected consul sixteen years later, in 296.[21]

Caecus' brother, who shared the same praenomen, was distinguished by the cognomen Caudex, literally meaning a "treetrunk", although metaphorically it was an insult, meaning a "dolt." According to Seneca, he obtained the surname from his attention to naval affairs.[22]

Members of the gens

See also Clodius for members of the gens who used the alternate spelling of the name primarily or solely.

Claudii Sabini et Crassi

  • Marcus Clausus, the father of Appius Claudius.
  • Appius Claudius M. f. Sabinus Regillensis, consul in 495 BC. Born Attius Clausus, a Sabine; brought his family and retainers to Rome in 504 BC, and was admitted to the patriciate.
  • Appius Claudius Ap. f. M. n. Sabinus Regillensis, consul in 471 BC, he was sent against the Aequi and Volsci, but his own soldiers revolted, and were punished with decimation. He fiercely opposed the agrarian law first brought forward by Spurius Cassius Viscellinus, and was brought to trial, but took his own life.[23][24][25]
  • Gaius Claudius Ap. f. M. n. Sabinus Regillensis, consul in 460 BC, the year that Appius Herdonius seized the Capitol. He was a staunch opponent of various laws and reforms favoring the plebeians.[26][27]
  • Appius Claudius Ap. f. Ap. n. Crassus, consul in 451 BC, he became head of the college of decemvirs, holding office until 449, when he was imprisoned for his actions as decemvir, and either killed himself or was put to death.[28][29][30]
  • Appius Claudius Ap. f. Ap. n. Crassus, tribunus militum consulari potestate in 424 BC, said by Livius to have been violently opposed to the plebeians and their tribunes.[31]
  • Publius Claudius Ap. f. Ap. n. Crassus, the younger son of the decemvir.[32]
  • Appius Claudius Ap. f. Ap. n. Crassus, tribunus militum consulari potestate in 403 BC, during the siege of Veii. He proposed a law allowing one of the tribunes of the plebs to halt the proceedings of the others.[33][34]
  • Appius Claudius P. f. Ap. n. Crassus, opposed the Licinian Rogations, opening the consulship to the plebeians. In 362 BC. he was appointed dictator to conduct the war against the Hernici; consul in 349, he died at the commencement of his year of office.[35]
  • Gaius Claudius Ap. f. Ap. n. Crassus, nominated dictator in 337 BC, but immediately resigned after the augurs pronounced the appointment invalid. His magister equitum was Gaius Claudius Hortator.[36]
  • Appius Claudius C. f. Ap. n. Caecus, censor in 312 BC, and consul in 307 and 296; he was once dictator, but the year is unknown. Caecus is also the earliest known Roman writer of prose and verse.
  • Appius Claudius C. f. Ap. n. Caudex, consul in 264 BC, at the beginning of the First Punic War; landing in Sicily, he defeated Hiero and the Carthaginians, and raised the siege of Messana.
  • Appius Claudius Ap. f. C. n. Crassus Rufus, the eldest son of Appius Claudius Caecus, he was consul in 268 BC, and the last of the Claudii known to have borne the surname Crassus.[37][38]
  • Claudia, the name of five daughters of Appius Claudius Caecus.[39][40][41][42]

Claudii Pulchri

Claudii Centhones

Claudii Nerones

Claudii Marcelli

  • Gaius Claudius (Marcellus), grandfather of the consul of 331 BC.
  • Gaius Claudius C. f. (Marcellus), father of the consul of 331 BC.
  • Marcus Claudius C. f. C. n. Marcellus, consul in 331 BC; he was appointed dictator in order to hold the elections in 327, but was prevented from doing so by the augurs, who apparently objected to a plebeian dictator.[74]
  • Marcus Claudius (M. f. C. n) Marcellus, consul in 287 BC.[75]
  • Marcus Claudius M. f. (M. n.) Marcellus, father of the consul of 222 BC.[37][76]
  • Marcus Claudius M. f. M. n. Marcellus, consul in 222, 215, 214, 210, and 208 BC, the great hero of the Second Punic War.
  • Marcus Claudius Marcellus, plebeian aedile in 216 BC.[77]
  • Marcus Claudius M. f. M. n. Marcellus, consul in 196 BC, triumphed over the Boii and Ligures.
  • Marcus Claudius M. f. M. n. Marcellus, consul in 183 BC.[78]
  • Marcus Claudius Marcellus, praetor in 188 or 185 BC; one of them was consul in 183, but they were two distinct individuals.[79]
  • Marcus Claudius Marcellus, tribunus plebis in 171 BC.[80]
  • Marcus Claudius M. f. M. n. Marcellus, consul in 166, 155, and 152 BC; triumphed over the Alpine Gauls and the Ligures.
  • Marcus Claudius M. f. M. n. Marcellus, son of the consul of 166 BC.[81]
  • Marcus Claudius Marcellus, praetor in 137 BC, was killed by lightning during his year of office.[82]
  • Marcus Claudius Marcellus, a lieutenant of Lucius Julius Caesar during the Social War; he held the fortress of Aesernia in Samnium for some time, but was ultimately compelled to surrender. He was a rival of the orator Lucius Licinius Crassus.
  • Marcus Claudius M. f. M. n. Marcellus, curule aedile in 91 BC.[83]
  • Gaius Claudius M. f. M. n. Marcellus, praetor in 80 BC, and afterwards governor of Sicily; the mildness and justice of his administration was contrasted with that of his predecessor, and subsequently that of Verres.[84][85]
  • Marcus Claudius M. f. Marcellus Aeserninus, a young man who appeared as a witness at the trial of Verres, in 70 BC.[86]
  • Claudius M. f. Marcellus, the brother of Marcellus Aeserninus, he was adopted by one of the Cornelii Lentuli, and became Publius Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus. He fought under Pompeius during the war against the pirates, in 67 BC, and was an orator of considerable merit. For his descendants, see Cornelia (gens).
  • Marcus Claudius Marcellus, one of the conspirators of Catiline in 63 BC; on the discovery of the plot, he attempted to instigate an insurrection amongst the Paeligni, but was defeated by the praetor, Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus, and put to death.[87][88]
  • Gaius Claudius M. f. Marcellus, son of the conspirator, he also took part in Catiline's conspiracy, and attempted to instigate a slave revolt at Capua, but was driven out by Publius Sestius, and took refuge in Bruttium, where he was put to death.[89][90]
  • Marcus Claudius Marcellus, consul in 51 BC, and a respected orator; he joined the party of Pompeius during the Civil War, but was subsequently pardoned by Caesar.
  • Gaius Claudius C. f. M. n. Marcellus, consul in 50 BC; he supported Pompeius, investing him with the command against Caesar during the Civil War; but he remained at Rome and obtained Caesar's pardon for himself and his cousin, Marcus.
  • Gaius Claudius M. f. M. n. Marcellus, consul in 49 BC; he was a partisan of Pompeius, and probably died in the Civil War. He is frequently confused with his cousin, who was consul in the preceding year.
  • Marcus Claudius M. f. (M. n.) Marcellus Aeserninus, quaestor in Hispania in 48 BC, he was sent by Gaius Cassius Longinus to put down a revolt at Corduba, but joined the revolt and went over to Caesar, placing his legions under the command of Marcus Aemilius Lepidus.
  • Marcus Claudius C. f. C. n. Marcellus, nephew of Augustus and stepson of Marcus Antonius; he was adopted by his uncle and married to his cousin, Julia. He was curule aedile in 23 BC. but died that autumn.
  • Marcus Claudius M. f. M. n. Marcellus Aeserninus, consul in 22 BC, possibly the same as the Marcellus who served under Lepidus during the Civil War.
  • Marcus Claudius M. f. M. n. Marcellus Aeserninus, son of the consul of 22 BC; he was trained as an orator by his grandfather, Gaius Asinius Pollio.[91][92][93]

Claudii Caninae

  • Gaius Claudius Canina, grandfather of the consul of 285 BC.
  • Marcus Claudius C. f. Canina, father of the consul of 285 BC.
  • Gaius Claudius M. f. C. n. Canina, consul in 285 and 273 BC.[37][94]

Claudii Aselli

  • Tiberius Claudius Asellus, tribunus militum under Gaius Claudius Nero, consul in 207 BC, during the Second Punic War; the following year he was praetor, and obtained Sardinia as his province. He was tribunus plebis in 204.[95][96]
  • Tiberius Claudius Asellus, an eques who was deprived of his horse and reduced to the condition of an aerarian by the censor Scipio Aemilianus in 142 BC; he was subsequently restored by Scipio's colleague, Lucius Mummius, and as tribunus plebis in 140 he accused Scipio.[97][98][99]


  • Gaius Claudius Cicero, tribunus plebis in 454 BC; he prosecuted Titus Romilius, the consul of the preceding year, for selling the spoils of the war with the Aequi without the permission of the soldiers.[100]
  • Gaius Claudius Hortator, appointed magister equitum by the dictator Gaius Claudius Crassus in 337 BC.[101]
  • Marcus Claudius C. f. Glicia, the son of a freedman, was nominated dictator by Publius Claudius Pulcher, following the Battle of Drepana in 249 BC. Glicia's appointment was immediately superseded, but nonetheless recorded in the consular fasti. In 236 he was legate to the consul Gaius Licinius Varus, but punished for entering into an unauthorized treaty with the Corsi.[37][102][103][104][105][106]
  • Quintus Claudius, tribunus plebis in 218 BC; probably the same person as Quintus Claudius Flamen, praetor in 208.[107]
  • Quintus Claudius Flamen, praetor in 208 BC, and subsequently propraetor in the territory of the Sallentini and Tarentum, during the Second Punic War.
  • Tiberius Claudius Centumalus, sued for fraud involving the sale of property to Publius Calpurnius Lanarius; judgment against Claudius was given by Marcus Porcius Cato, the father of Cato Uticensis.[108][109]
  • Quintus Claudius Quadrigarius, a historian of the early 1st century BC, he wrote a history of Rome from the sack of Rome by the Gauls in 390 BC. to the death of Sulla.
  • Sextus Clodius, a Sicilian rhetorician, under whom Marcus Antonius studied oratory, and whom he rewarded with a large estate in the Leontine territory.[110][111][112]
  • Lucius Clodius, praefectus fabrum to Appius Claudius Pulcher, consul in 54 BC; he was tribunus plebis in 43.[113][114]
  • Gaius Claudius, probably the descendant of a freedman of the Claudian house, was one of the suite of Publius Clodius Pulcher on his last journey to Aricia.[115][116]
  • Publius Clodius M. f., probably the Clodius sent into Macedonia by Caesar in 48 BC, and the same as Clodius Bithynicus, who fought on the side of Antonius in the Perusine War, and was put to death by order of Octavianus in 40.[117][118][119][120]
  • Appius Claudius C. f., mentioned by Cicero in a letter to Brutus; he attached himself to the party of Marcus Antonius, who had restored his father. It is uncertain whether he can be identified with either of two persons of this name who were proscribed by the triumvirs.[121][122]
  • Sextus Clodius, the accomplice of Publius Clodius Pulcher, after whose death he was exiled; he was restored by Marcus Antonius in 44 BC.
  • Gaius Claudius, a follower of Marcus Junius Brutus, who ordered him to put Gaius Antonius to death; afterwards he was sent to Rhodes in command of a squadron, and after his patron's death, he joined Cassius Parmensis.[123][124][125]
  • Lucius Claudius, Rex Sacrorum during the first century BC.
  • Claudius Felix, a name assigned by some writers to Marcus Antonius Felix, a freedman of the emperor Claudius, who was later procurator of Judaea.
  • Claudius Severus, leader of the Helvetii in AD. 69.[126]
  • Claudius Civilis, also known as Gaius Julius Civilis, a leader of the Batavi, who led the Batavian revolt in AD. 69.
  • Claudius Labeo, a leader of the Batavi, and rival of Civilis, who defeated him during the Batavian revolt.[127]
  • Claudius Capito, an orator, and a contemporary of the younger Plinius.[128]
  • Tiberius Claudius Sacerdos, consul suffectus in AD. 100.[129]
  • Gaius Claudius Severus, consul suffectus in AD. 112.
  • Lucius Catilius Severus Julianus Claudius Reginus, consul in AD. 120.
  • Marcus Gavius Claudius Squilla Gallicanus, consul in AD. 127.
  • Claudius Ptolemaeus, a Greek mathematician and astronomer of the 2nd century
  • Tiberius Claudius Atticus Herodes, a celebrated rhetorician; consul in AD. 143.
  • Gnaeus Claudius Severus, consul in AD. 146.[130][131]
  • Claudius Maximus, a stoic philosopher during the age of the Antonines.
  • Claudius Saturninus, a jurist during the reigns of Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius, and the author of Liber Singularis de Poenis Paganorum.[132]
  • Claudius Apollinaris, bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia from AD. 170; an early Christian apologist, he wrote to the emperor Marcus Aurelius. He also wrote against the Jews and Gentiles, as well as various doctrines considered heretical by the early church.[133][134][135][136][137][138]
  • Gnaeus Claudius Severus, consul in AD. 173.
  • Tiberius Claudius Pompeianus, consul in AD. 173, and probably consul suffectus in 176; he married Lucilla, the daughter of Marcus Aurelius.[139][140][141][142][143]
  • Maternus Tiberius Claudius, consul in AD. 185.
  • Claudius Galenus, a name assigned to the physician Galen.
  • Claudius Quintianus Pompeianus, a young senator, and the son-in-law of Tiberius Claudius Pompeianus and Lucilla; he was persuaded by Lucilla to attempt the life of her brother, the emperor Commodus, but failed and was put to death.[144][145][146][147]
  • Claudius Tryphoninus, a jurist during the reign of Septimius Severus.[148][149]
  • Tiberius Claudius Severus, consul in AD. 200.[150]
  • Claudius Aelianus, a scholar, rhetorician, and antiquarian of the early 3rd century
  • Appius Claudius Julianus, consul in AD. 224.
  • Claudius Pompeianus, consul in AD. 231.
  • Gnaeus Claudius Severus, consul in AD. 235.
  • Lucius Tiberius Claudius Aurelius Quintianus, consul in AD. 235.
  • Marcus Clodius Pupienus Maximus, emperor in AD. 238.
  • Marcus Aurelius Claudius Gothicus, emperor from AD. 268 to 270.
  • Marcus Claudius Tacitus, emperor from AD. 275 to 276.
  • Titus Claudius Marcus Aurelius Aristobulus, consul in AD. 285.
  • Claudius Eusthenius, secretary to the emperor Diocletian, he wrote lives of Diocletian, Maximian, Galerius, and Constantius.[151]
  • Claudius Mamertinus, the author of two panegyrics in honor of the emperor Maximian; the surname Mamertinus is uncertain.
  • Flavius Claudius Constantinus Caesar (Constantine II), emperor
  • Flavius Claudius Julianus emperor from AD. 361 to 363.
  • Claudius Mamertinus, consul in AD. 362.
  • Sextus Claudius Petronius Probus, consul in AD. 371.
  • Flavius Claudius Antonius, consul in AD. 382.
  • Claudius Claudianus, the last of the Latin classic poets, who flourished during the reigns of Theodosius, Arcadius, and Honorius.
  • Imp. Caesar Flavius Claudius Constantinus Augustus (Constantine III), usurper
  • Claudius Julius Eclesius Dynamius, consul in AD. 488.
  • Claudius Didymus, a Greek grammarian, who wrote about the mistakes of Thucydides relating to analogy, a separate work about analogy among the Romans, and an epitome of the works of Heracleon.[152]
  • Claudius Julius or Ioläus, a Greek writer of unknown date, who wrote a work on Phoenicia, and apparently another on the Peloponnesus. He was probably a freedman.[153][154]

See also


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