The Life of Claudius Gothicus


Historia Augusta


1

1

I have now come to the Emperor Claudius, whose life I must set forth in writing with all due care, out of respect for Constantius Caesar. I could not, indeed, refuse to write of him, inasmuch as I had already written of others, emperors created in tumult, I mean, and princes of no importance, all in that book which I composed about the thirty pretenders and which now includes even a descendant of Cleopatra and a Victoria;

2

for things had come to such a pass that, for the sake of comparison with Gallienus, I was forced to write even the lives of women.

3

And, in fact, it would not be right to leave unmentioned an emperor who left us such a scion of his race, who ended the war against the Goths by his own valour, who as victor laid a healing hand upon the public miseries, who, though not the contriver of the plan, nevertheless thrust Gallienus, that monstrous emperor, from the helm of the state, himself destined to rule for the good of the human race, who, finally, had he but tarried longer in this commonwealth, would by his strength, his counsel, and his foresight have restored to us the Scipios, the Camilli, and all those men of old.


2

1

Short, indeed, was the time of his rule — I cannot deny it — but too short would it have been, could such a man as he have ruled even as long as human life may last.

2

For what was there in him that was not admirable? that was not pre-eminent? that was not superior to the triumphant generals of remote antiquity?

3

The valour of Trajan, the righteousness of Antoninus, the self-restraint of Augustus, and the good qualities of all the great emperors, all these were his to such a degree that he did not merely take others as examples, but, even if these others had never existed, he himself would have left an example to all who came after.

4

Now the most learned of the astrologers hold that one hundred and twenty years have been allotted to man for living and assert that no one has ever been granted a longer span; they even tell us that Moses alone, the friend of God, as he is called in the books of the Jews, lived for one hundred and twenty-five years, and that when he complained that he was dying in his prime, he received from an unknown god, so they say, the reply that no one should ever live longer.

5

But even if Claudius had lived for one hundred and twenty-five years — as his life, so marvellous and admirable, shows us — we need not, as Tullius says of Scipio, have expected for him even a natural death.

6

For what great quality did not that man exhibit both at home and abroad? He loved his parents; what wonder in that? He loved also his brothers; that, indeed, may seem worthy of wonder. He envied none, but he punished evil-doers.

7

Judges guilty of theft he condemned openly and in public; but to the stupid he extended a sort of careless indulgence. He enacted most excellent laws.

8

Indeed, so great a man did he show himself in public affairs, that the greatest princes chose a descendant of his to hold the imperial power, and a bettered senate desired him.


3

1

Some one perhaps may believe that I am speaking thus to win the favour of Constantius Caesar, but your sense of justice and my own past life will bear me witness that never have I thought or said or done anything to curry favour.

2

I am speaking of the Emperor Claudius, whose manner of life, whose uprightness, and whose whole career in the state have brought him such fame among later generations that after his death the senate and people of Rome bestowed on him unprecedented rewards:

3

in his honour there was set up in the Senate-house at Rome, by desire of the entire senate, a golden clipeus — or clipeum, as the grammarians say — and even at the present time his likeness may be seen in the bust that stands out in relief;

4

in his honour — and to none before him — the Roman people at their own expense erected a golden statue ten feet high on the Capitol in front of the Temple of Jupiter, Best and Greatest;

5

in his honour by action of the entire world there was placed on the Rostra a column bearing a silver statue arrayed in the palm-embroidered tunic and weighing fifteen hundred pounds.

6

It was he who, as though mindful of the future, enlarged the Flavian House, which had also belonged to Vespasian and Titus, and — I say it reluctantly — to Domitian as well. It was he who, in a brief space of time, put an end to the war against the Goths.

7

Therefore the senate and people of Rome, foreign nations and provinces, too, must all be his flatterers, for indeed all ranks, all ages, and all communities have honoured this noble emperor with statues, banners, and crowns, shrines and arches, altars and temples.


4

1

It will be of interest, both to those who imitate righteous princes and to the whole world of mankind as well, to learn the decrees of the senate that were passed about this man, in order that all may know the official opinion concerning him.

2

For when it was announced in the shrine of the Great Mother on the ninth day before the Kalends of April, the day of the shedding of blood, that Claudius had been created emperor, the senators could not be held together for performing the sacred rites, but donning their togas they set forth to the Temple of Apollo, and there, when the letter of the Emperor Claudius was read, the following acclamations were shouted in his honour:

3

"Claudius Augustus, may the gods preserve you!" said sixty times. "Claudius Augustus, you or such as you we have ever desired for our emperor," said forty times. "Claudius Augustus, the state was in need of you," said forty times. "Claudius Augustus, you are brother, father, friend, righteous senator, and truly prince," said eighty times.

4

"Claudius Augustus, deliver us from Aureolus," said five times. "Claudius Augustus, deliver us from the men of Palmyra," said five times. "Claudius Augustus, set us free from Zenobia and from Vitruvia," said seven times. "Claudius Augustus, nothing has Tetricus accomplished," said seven times.


5

1

As soon as he was made emperor, entering into battle against Aureolus, who was the more dangerous to the commonwealth because he had found great favour with Gallienus, he thrust him from the helm of the state; then he pronounced him a pretender, sending proclamations to the people and also despatching messages to the senate.

2

It must be told in addition that when Aureolus pleaded with him and sought to make terms, this stern and unbending emperor refused to hearken, but rejected him with a reply as follows: "This should have been sought from Gallienus; for his character was like your own, he, too, could feel fear."

3

Finally, near Milan, by the judgement of his own soldiers Aureolus met with an end worthy of his life and character. And yet certain historians have tried to praise him, though indeed most absurdly.

4

For Gallus Antipater, the handmaiden of honours and the dishonour of historians, composed a preface about Aureolus, beginning as follows: "We have now come to an emperor who resembled his own name." Great virtue, forsooth, to get one's name from gold!

5

I, however, know well that among gladiators this name has often been given to courageous fighters. Indeed, only recently your own announcement of games contained in the list of the combatants this very name.


6

1

But let us return to Claudius. For, as we have said before, those Goths who had escaped when Marcianus chastised them and those whom Claudius, hoping to prevent what actually came to pass, had not allowed to break forth, fired all the tribes of their fellow-countrymen with the hope of Roman booty.

2

Finally, the various tribes of the Scythians, the Peucini, Greuthungi, Austrogothi, Tervingi, Visi, and Gepedes, and also the Celts and the Eruli, in their desire for plunder burst into Roman territory and there proceeded to ravage many districts; for meanwhile Claudius was busied with other things and was making preparation, like a true commander, for that war which he finally brought to an end;

3

and so it may seem that the destiny of Rome was retarded by the diligence of an excellent prince, but I, for my part, believe that it so came to pass in order that the glory of Claudius might be enhanced and his victory have a greater renown throughout the whole world.

4

There were then, in fact, three hundred and twenty thousand men of these tribes under arms.

5

Now let him who accuses us of flattery say that Claudius was not worthy of being beloved! Three hundred and twenty thousand armed men! What Xerxes, pray, had so many? What tale has ever imagined, what poet ever conceived such a number? There were three hundred and twenty thousand armed men!

6

Add to these their slaves, add also their families, their waggon-trains, too, consider the streams they drank dry and the forests they burned, and, finally, the labour of the earth itself which carried such a swollen mass of barbarians!


7

1

There is still in existence a letter of his, sent to the senate to be read before the people, in which he tells the number of the barbarians. It is as follows:

2

"From the Emperor Claudius to the senate and people of Rome." (This letter, it is said, he dictated himself, and I will not demand the version of the secretary of memoranda.)

3

"Conscript Fathers, you will hear with wonder what is only the truth. Three hundred and twenty thousand barbarians have come in arms into Roman territory. If I defeat them, do you requite my services; if I fail to defeat them, reflect that I am striving to fight after Gallienus' reign.

4

The whole commonwealth is exhausted. We are fighting now after Valerian, after Ingenuus, after Regalianus, after Lollianus, after Postumus, after Celsus, and after a thousand others, who, in their contempt for an evil prince, revolted against the commonwealth.

5

No shields, no swords, no spears are left to us now. The provinces of Gaul and Spain, the sources of strength for the state, are held by Tetricus, and all the bowmen — I blush to say it — Zenobia now possesses. Anything we accomplish will be achievement enough."

6

These barbarians, then, Claudius overcame by his own inborn valour and crushed in a brief space of time, suffering scarcely any to return to their native soil. What reward for such a victory, I ask you, is a shield in the Senate-house? What reward is one golden statue?

7

Of Scipio Ennius wrote: "What manner of statue, what manner of column shall the Roman people make, to tell of your deeds?"

8

We can say with truth that Flavius Claudius, an emperor without peer upon earth, is raised to eminence not by any columns or statues but by the power of fame.


8

1

They had, furthermore, two thousand ships, twice as many, that is, as the number with which all Greece and all Thessaly together once sought to conquer the cities of Asia. This number, however, was devised by the pen of a poet, while ours is found in truthful history.

2

And so do we writers flatter Claudius! The man by whom two thousand barbarian ships and three hundred and twenty thousand armed men were crushed, destroyed and blotted out, and by whom a waggon-train, as great as this host of armed men could fit out and make ready, was in part consigned to the flames and in part delivered over, along with the families of all, to Roman servitude.

3

This is shown by the following letter of his, written to Junius Brocchus, then in command of Illyricum:

4

"From Claudius to Brocchus. We have destroyed three hundred and twenty thousand Goths, we have sunk two thousand ships.

5

The rivers are covered over with their shields, all the banks are buried under their swords and their spears. The fields are hidden beneath their bones, no road is clear, their mighty waggon-train has been abandoned.

6

We have captured so many women that the victorious soldiers can take for themselves two or three apiece.


9

1

And would that the commonwealth had not had to endure Gallienus! Would that it had not had to bear six hundred pretenders! Had but those soldiers been saved who fell in divers battles, those legions saved which Gallienus destroyed, disastrously victorious, how much strength would the state have gained!

2

Now, indeed, my diligence has but gathered together for the preservation of the Roman commonwealth the scattered remains of the shipwrecked state."

3

For there was fighting in Moesia and there were many battles near Marcianopolis.

4

Many perished by shipwreck, many kings were captured, noble women of divers tribes taken prisoner, and the Roman provinces filled with barbarian slaves and Scythian husbandmen. The Goth was made the tiller of the barbarian frontier,

5

nor was there a single district which did not have Gothic slaves in triumphant servitude.

6

How many cattle taken from the barbarians did our forefathers see? How many ships? How many Celtic mares, which fame has rendered renowned? All these redound to the glory of Claudius. For Claudius gave the state both security and an abundance of riches.

7

There was fighting, besides, at Byzantium, for those Byzantines who survived acted with courage.

8

There was fighting at Thessalonica, to which the barbarians had laid siege while Claudius was far away.

9

There was fighting in divers places, and in all of them, under the auspices of Claudius, the Goths were defeated, so that even then he seemed to be making the commonwealth safe in days to come for his nephew Constantius Caesar.

10

1

It has fortunately come into my mind, and so I must relate the oracle given to Claudius in Comagena, so it is said, in order that all may know that the family of Claudius was divinely appointed to bring happiness to the state.

2

For when he inquired, after being made emperor, how long he was destined to rule, there came forth the following oracle:

3

"Thou, who dost now direct thy fathers' empire,

Who dost govern the world, the gods' viceregent,

Shalt surpass men of old in thy descendants;

For those children of thine shall rule as monarchs,

And make their children into monarchs also."

4

Similarly, when once in the Apennines he asked about his future, he received the following reply:

"Three times only shall summer behold him a ruler in Latium."

5

Likewise, when he asked about his descendants:

"Neither a goal nor a limit of time will I set for their power."

6

Likewise, when he asked about his brother Quintillus, whom he was planning to make his associate in the imperial power, the reply was:

"Him shall Fate but display to the earth."

7

These oracles I have included, in order that it may be clear to all that Constantius, scion of a family divinely appointed, our most venerated Caesar, himself springs from a house of Augusti and will give us, likewise, many Augusti of his own — with all safety to the Augusti Diocletian and Maximian and his brother Galerius.


11

1

While these things were being done by the Deified Claudius, the Palmyrenes, under the generals Saba and Timagenes, made war against the Egyptians, who defeated them with true Egyptian pertinacity and unwearied continuance in fighting.

2

Probatus, nevertheless, the leader of the Egyptians, was killed by a trick of Timagenes'. All the Egyptians, however, submitted to the Roman emperor, swearing allegiance to Claudius although he was absent.

3

In the consulship of Antiochianus and Orfitus the favour of heaven furthered Claudius' success. For a great multitude, the survivors of the barbarian tribes, who had gathered in Haemimontum, were so stricken with famine and pestilence that Claudius now scorned to conquer them further.

4

And so at length that most cruel of wars was brought to an end, and the Roman nation was freed from its terrors.

5

Now good faith forces me to speak the truth, and also the desire of showing to those who wish me to appear as a flatterer that I am not concealing what history demands should be told:

6

namely, that at the time when the victory was won in full, a number of Claudius' soldiers, puffed up with success — which "weakens the mind of even the wise" — turned to plundering; for they did not reflect that, while busied in mind and in body, they gave themselves up to seizing their prey, a very few could put them to flight.

7

And so, at the very moment of victory, about two thousand soldiers were slain by a few barbarians, who had already been routed.

8

When Claudius learned this, however, he assembled his army and seized all those who had shown a rebellious spirit, and he even sent them to Rome in chains to be used in the public spectacles. So, whatever damage either fortune or the soldiers had caused was made good through the courage of the excellent prince, and not only was victory won from the enemy, but revenge was taken as well.

9

In this war, throughout its whole length, the valour of the Dalmatian horsemen stood out as especially great, because it was thought that Claudius claimed that province as his original home; others, however, declared that he was a Dardanian and derived his descent from Ilus, a king of the Trojans and, in fact, even from Dardanus himself.


12

1

During this same period the Scythians attempted to plunder in Crete and Cyprus as well, but everywhere their armies were likewise stricken with pestilence and so were defeated.

2

Now when the war with the Goths was finished, there spread abroad a most grievous pestilence, and then Claudius himself was stricken by the disease, and, leaving mankind, he departed to heaven, an abode befitting his virtues.

3

He, then, moved away to the gods and the stars, and his brother Quintillus, a righteous man and the brother indeed, as I might truly say, of his brother, assumed the imperial power, which was offered him by the judgement of all, not as an inherited possession, but because his virtues deserved it; for all would have made him emperor, even if he had not been the brother of the Claudius their prince.

4

In his time those barbarians who still survived endeavoured to lay waste Anchialus and even to seize Nicopolis, but they were crushed by the valour of the provincials.

5

Quintillus, however, could do naught that was worthy of the imperial power because his rule was so short, for on the seventeenth day of his reign he was killed, as Galba had been and Pertinax also, because he had shown himself stern and unbending toward the soldiers and promised to be a prince in very truth.

6

Dexippus, to be sure, does not say that Quintillus was killed, but merely that he died. He does not, however, relate that he died of an illness, and so he seems to feel doubt.


13

1

Since we have now described his achievements in war, we must tell a few things, at least, concerning the kindred and the family of Claudius, lest we seem to omit what all should know:

2

now Claudius, Quintillus, and Crispus were brothers, and Crispus had a daughter Claudia; of her and Eutropius, the noblest man of the Dardanian folk, was born Constantius Caesar.

3

There were also some sisters, of whom one, Constantina by name, was married to a tribune of the Assyrians, but died at an early age.

4

Concerning his grandparents we know all too little, for varying statements have been handed down by most of the writers.

5

Now Claudius himself was noted for the gravity of his character, and noted, too, for his matchless life and a singular purity; he was sparing in his use of wine, but was not averse to food; he was tall of stature, with flashing eyes and a broad, full face, and so strong were his fingers that often by a blow of his fist he would dash out the teeth of a horse or a mule.

6

He even performed a feat of this kind as a youth in military service, while taking part in a wrestling-match between some of the strongest champions at a spectacle in the Campus Martius held in honour of Mars.

7

For, becoming angry at one fellow who grasped at his private parts instead of his belt, he dashed out all the man's teeth with one blow of his fist. This action won him favour for thus protecting decency;

8

for the Emperor Decius, who was present when this was done, publicly praised his courage and modesty and presented him with arm-rings and collars, but bade him withdraw from the soldiers' contests for fear he might do some more violent deed than the wrestling required.

9

Claudius himself had no children, but Quintillus left two sons, and Crispus, as I have said, a daughter.


14

1

Let us now proceed to the opinions that many emperors expressed about him, and in such wise, indeed, that it became apparent that he would some day be emperor.

2

A letter from Valerian to Zosimio, the procurator of Syria: "We have named Claudius, a man of Illyrian birth, as tribune of our most valiant and loyal Fifth Legion, the Martian, for he is superior to all the most loyal and most valiant men of old.

3

By way of supplies you will give him each year out of our private treasury three thousand pecks of wheat, six thousand pecks of barley, two thousand pounds of bacon, three thousand five hundred pints of well-aged wine, one hundred and fifty pints of the best oil, six hundred pints of oil of the second grade, twenty pecks of salt, one hundred and fifty pounds of wax, and as much hay and straw, cheap wine, greens and herbs as shall be sufficient, thirty half-score of hides for the tents; also six mules each year, three horses each year, fifty pounds of silverware each year, one hundred and fifty Philips, bearing our likeness, each year, and as a New-year's gift forty-seven Philips and one hundred and sixty third-Philips.

4

Likewise in cups and tankards and pots eleven pounds.

5

Also two red military tunics each year, two military cloaks each year, two silver clasps gilded, one golden clasp with a Cyprian pin, one sword-belt of silver gilded, one ring with two gems to weigh an ounce, one armlet to weigh seven ounces, one collar to weigh a pound, one gilded helmet, two shields inlaid with gold, one cuirasse, to be returned.

6

Also two Herculian lances, two javelins, two reaping-hooks, and four reaping-hooks for cutting hay.

7

Also one cook, to be returned, one muleteer, to be returned, two beautiful women taken from the captives.

8

One white part-silk garment ornamented with purple from Girba, and one under-tunic with Moorish purple.

9

One secretary, to be returned, and one server at table, to be returned.

10

Two pairs of Cyprian couch-covers, two white under-garments, a pair of men's leg-bands, one toga, to be returned, one broad-striped tunic, to be returned.

11

Two huntsmen to serve as attendants, one waggon-maker, one headquarters-steward, one waterer, one fisherman, one confectioner.

12

One thousand pounds of fire-wood each day, if there is an abundant supply, but if not, as much as there is and wherever it is, and four braziers of charcoal each day.

13

One bath-man and firewood for the bath, but if there is none, he shall bathe in the public bath.

14

All else, which cannot be enumerated here because of its insignificance you will supply in due amount, but in no case shall the equivalent in money be given, and if there should be a lack of anything in any place, it shall not be supplied, nor shall the equivalent be exacted in money.

15

All these things I have allowed him as a special case, as though he were not a mere tribune but rather a general, because to such a man as he an even larger allowance should be made."


15

1

Likewise in another letter of Valerian's, addressed to Ablavius Murena, the prefect of the guard, among other statements the following: "Cease now your complaints that Claudius is still only a tribune and has not been appointed the leader of our armies, about which, you were wont to declare, the senate and people also complain.

2

He has been made a general, and, in fact, the general in command of all Illyricum. He has under his rule the armies of Thrace, Moesia, Dalmatia, Pannonia, and Dacia.

3

Indeed, this man, eminent in my estimation as well, may hope for the consulship, and, if it accords with his wishes, he may receive the prefecture of the guard whenever he desires.

4

I would have you know, moreover, that we have allotted to him the same amount of supplies that the prefect of Egypt receives, the same amount of clothing that we have allowed to the proconsulate of Africa, the same amount of silver that the procurator of the mines in Illyricum receives, and the same number of servants that we allot to ourselves in each and every community; for I wish all to know my opinion of such a man."


16

1

Likewise a letter of Decius' concerning this same Claudius:

"From Decius to Messalla, the governor of Achaea, greetings." Among other orders the following: "But to our tribune Claudius, an excellent young man, a most courageous soldier, a most loyal citizen, necessary alike to the camp, the senate, and the commonwealth, we are giving instructions to proceed to Thermopylae, entrusting to his care the Peloponnesians also, for we know that no one will carry out more carefully all our injunctions.

2

You will assign him from the district of Dardania two hundred foot-soldiers, one hundred cuirassiers, sixty horsemen, sixty Cretan archers, and one thousand new recruits, all well armed.

3

For it is well to entrust new troops to him, inasmuch as none can be found more loyal, more valiant, or more earnest than he."


17

1

Likewise a letter of Gallienus', written when he was informed by his private agents that Claudius was angered by his loose mode of life:

2

"Nothing has grieved me more than what you have stated in your report, namely, that Claudius, my kinsman and friend, has been made very angry by certain false statements that have reached his ears.

3

I request you, therefore, my dear Venustus, if you are faithful to me, to have him appeased by Gratus and Herennianus, while the Dacian troops, even now in a state of anger, are still in ignorance, for I fear there may be some serious outbreak.

4

I myself am sending him gifts, and you will see to it that he accepts them willingly. You will take care, furthermore, that he shall not become aware that I know all this and so suppose that I am incensed against him, and, accordingly, out of necessity adopt some desperate plan.

5

I am sending to him, moreover, two sacrificial saucers studded with gems three pounds in weight, two golden tankards studded with gems three pounds in weight, a silver disk-shaped platter with an ivy-cluster pattern twenty pounds in weight, a silver dish with a vine-leaf pattern thirty pounds in weight, a silver bowl with an ivy-leaf pattern twenty-three pounds in weight, a silver vessel for fish twenty pounds in weight, two silver pitchers embossed with gold six pounds in weight and smaller vessels of silver amounting to twenty-five pounds in weight, ten cups of Egyptian and other workmanship,

6

two cloaks with purple borders of the true brilliance, sixteen garments of various kinds, a white one of part-silk, one tunic with bands of embroidery three ounces in weight, three pairs of Parthian shoes from our own supply, ten Dalmatian striped tunics, one Dardanian great-coat, one Illyrian mantle,

7

one hooded-cloak, two shaggy hoods, four handkerchiefs from Sarepta; also one hundred and fifty aurei with the likeness of Valerian and three hundred third-aurei with that of Saloninus."


18

1

He had also the approval of the senate before he became emperor, and weighty, indeed, it was. For when the announcement was made that he, together with Marcianus, had fought valiantly against the barbarian tribes in Illyricum, the senate acclaimed him thus:

2

"Claudius, our most valiant leader, hail! Hail to your courage, hail to your loyalty! Let us all decree a statue to Claudius. We all desire Claudius as consul.

3

So acts he who loves the commonwealth, so acts he who loves the emperors, so acted the soldiers of old. Happy are you, Claudius, in the approval of princes, happy are you in your own valour, you our consul, you our prefect! Long may you live, Valerius, and enjoy the love of your prince!"

4

It would be too long to set forth all the many honours that this man earned; one thing, however, I must not omit, namely, that both the senate and people held him in such affection both before his rule and during his rule and after his rule that it is generally agreed among all that neither Trajan nor any of the Antonines nor any other emperor was so beloved.