BBC History Magazine

ANNIVERSARIES

24 JANUARY AD 41

Claudius becomes emperor

The sickly scholar is invited to rule Rome in his nephew’s place

When the Roman aristocrat Tiberius Claudius Nero Germanicus, better known simply as Claudius, awoke on 24 January AD 41, he never imagined he would end the day as emperor. His nephew Caligula, in charge for almost four years, was still a young man. A sickly, scholarly figure, Claudius was 50 years old and had never been seen as a serious political figure. There seemed no reason for that to change.

And then, suddenly, everything was thrown into flux. During the Palatine Games, which were held to honour his ancestor Augustus, Caligula was murdered by the Praetorian Guard. The conspirators hoped - among other aims - to restore senatorial

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