Though he briefly became emperor, Claudius, the limping, stuttering grandson of Caesar Augustus, is not your usual Roman on a pedestal. Sly, even bitchy, an appalled observer of his treacherous times — in his voice you hear the worldliness of classical literature with none of its marble officialdom. A member of a ruthless and murderous imperial family, he survives because he seems to all around him the least consequential twig of the family tree. But Claudius bears enduring witness to a moment when the virtues of the Roman republic, which has already been disposed of by the time he begins his tale, are being lost to the bloodlusts and hubris of the Roman empire.
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