Repost, with a few changes, from October 13, 2017.
“there are two different ways of writing history: one is to persuade men to virtue and the other is to compel men to truth.”
― Robert Graves, “I, Claudius: from the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius”
Yesterday was the anniversary of Roman Emperor Claudius I’s death in 54 A.D. Like many of his family, his death did not occur naturally – he was poisoned, likely by his wife – setting the stage for his great-nephew, Nero, to become Emperor in his place. I’ve always loved the writing of Robert Graves (Gods, Graves, and Scholars is a particular favorite), and I found his writings on Claudius – and the wonderful miniseries starring Derek Jacobi – to be completely mesmerizing. Such an unlikely ruler, and yet obviously far more clever than he was given credit for being. He lived to be 63 – itself surprising, and managed to survive as Emperor for 13 years. When younger, he had little interest in politics, perhaps one of the reasons that he lived long enough to become emperor, and he was actually a respected historian. Although no longer in existence, it seems that he wrote an extensive amount about the histories of Rome, Carthage, the Etruscans, as well as other regional history.
Strange anniversary to mark, perhaps, but we can always learn from history, and some historical persons are too fascinating to ignore.
Of course, as noted previously, October 13 didn’t exist in Rome in 1582. The Council of Trent gave us one of the reasons why ancient anniversaries are impossible to get right. Claudius’ own family provided a couple of others by inserting months into the calendar to further immortalize themselves.
To borrow a line from Douglas Adams’ “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe“:
“Time is bunk”.
Image from http://www.history.com