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4. His Reign: Army, Provinces, People

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In this lecture, we think about Claudius’ reign from the point of view of the army, the provinces and the Roman people, focusing in particular on: (i) Claudius’ relationship with the army; (ii) his conquest of Britain in 43 AD, including the capture of Camelodunum (Colchester), his triumph in 44 AD, and the naming of his son Britannicus; (iii) his expansion of the empire, converting client kingdoms into provinces; (iv) his expansion of the benefits of Roman citizenship in a manner reminiscent of Julius Caesar; (v) the idea of Claudius as a populist (“the last of the populares”, C. E. Stevens); (vi) his municipal works, focused on securing the grain and water supply to Rome: the new harbour at Portus, the Aqua Claudia and Aqua Anio Novus; (vii) other measures to secure the grain supply: free insurance for shipbrokers, certain privileges and exemptions for ship-builders, etc.; (viii) other municipal works: drainage, road building, etc.; (ix) his generosity with Roman citizenship; and (x) his expansion of the pomerium to encompass the Aventine hill, a gesture of inclusion of the plebs.


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 - His Reign: Army, Provinces, People [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Nicholls, M. "Claudius – His Reign: Army, Provinces, People." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 06 Aug 2022,

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