"He lurched and limped when he walked, drooled when he slept, slob- bered when he ate; he was cruelly considered a complete idiot. Who comes to mind? Frankenstein, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Elephant Man (John Merrick), or the Phantom of the Opera? Unlikely as it seems, this man, whom his mother referred to as a half-created being, was the most powerful man in Rome between 41 - 54 C.E. He is Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, otherwise known as uncle Claudius or as English author Robert Graves called him claw.. claw.. claw…. The Roman emperor Claudius survived the tyranny of the insane Caligula, and established an efficiently-run Empire stretching from Britain to Africa, from Spain to Palestine. He worked well with others and even had his share of military triumphs.
Remaining faithful to the ancient sources yet not boring us with extra- neous details Robert Graves wrote I, Claudius in 1934 when the cruelty of even the worst emperors was mirrored in Adolph Hitler and by a Nazi barbarism that threatened the boundaries of human decency. As I re-read I, Claudius and its sequel Claudius the God (1940) I was intrigued by the connection between personal poverty and power. Claudius was never poor economically though Graves often refers to him as poor uncle Claudius. His was a patient poverty, humble, humourous and wise. He may have looked like a fool but he was no fool. Claudius made his way through life clinging to a rather ambiguous message from a sarcastic oracle that he consulted as a young man. He didn’t insist on intellectual surety but exercised faith nonetheless. Grave’s Claudius does not strive for power or position but came by his emperorship almost by accident and with great reluctance.
I, Claudius is a lesson in leadership, a reminder not to judge by externals, a hilarious story and a classic of historical fiction. If it catches your fancy you might want to move on to the matchless portrayal of Claudius by Derrick Jacobi in the BBC 13-part mini-series I, Claudius (1976). There are many Roman fictional novels and mystery follow-ups. My favourite authors include: Robert Saylor (Roma Sub Rosa series), John Maddox Roberts (SPQR series) and Colleen McCullough (Masters of Rome series)."