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3. Early Life and Upbringing

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In this lecture, we think about Claudius’ early life and upbringing, focusing in particular on: (i) his treatment in the reign of Augustus; (ii) his treatment in the reign of Tiberius; (iii) his treatment during the reign of Gaius (Caligula); (iv) how Claudius’ filled his time given his lack of public responsibilities – scholarship; and (v) the evidence for Claudius’ scholarship: spelling reform, interest in ‘rusticated’ masonry, etc.


In this course, Dr Matthew Nicholls (University of Oxford) explores the reign of the fourth Roman emperor, Claudius. In the first module, we think about Claudius’ family background and the unlikeliness of his route to power. After that, in the second module, we think about the role of the army, the senate and the people of Rome in Claudius’ accession. In the third module, we think about Claudius’ early life and upbringing – including his scholarly interests – before turning in the fourth and fifth modules to consider the primary achievements of his reign, including the conquest of Britain and his work to secure the grain and water supply to the city of Rome. In the sixth and final module, we think about the role of Claudius’ wives and freedman advisors in his reign, and especially on his (unfair?) presentation in some historians as a stock figure from Roman comedy.


Matthew Nicholls is a visiting professor of classics at the University of Reading and Senior Tutor at St John's College, Oxford, specialising in the political and social history of the Romans, and the way the built environments of Rome and cities around the empire expressed their values and priorities. In 2014, Matthew was presented with a Guardian Teaching Award for his 'Virtual Rome' project, a digital model of the city of Rome, showing the city as it appeared in c. AD 315.

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APA style

Nicholls, M. (2022, August 06). Claudius - Early Life and Upbringing [Video]. MASSOLIT.

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Nicholls, M. "Claudius – Early Life and Upbringing." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 06 Aug 2022,

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