the grandson of Augustus and Livia; the son of Antonia and Drusus. Also referred to as "Claudius the Idiot," "Claudius the Stammerer," and "Clau-Clau-Claudius," Claudius is the clear protagonist of the text. He is also presented as the historical author of the text, which he claims to have written nineteen hundred years ago in an effort to benefit posterity. Plagued with illness as a young child, Claudius has a heavy stammer, a limp, several nervous tics, and other physical defects. As such, he has a reputation in his family as a harmless idiot and is able to secretly discover the truth behind the political plots and intrigues of the time. By playing up his stammer and limp, Claudius is able to survive the reigns of three emperors and unwillingly becomes emperor himself after Caligula's assassination.
Claudius' paternal grandmother and the wife of Augustus. Livia is characterized by her boundless ambition and cunning. After she marries Augustus and shapes him into the emperor of Rome, her primary goal is to ensure that Tiberius will succeed Augustus. Over the course of the novel, Livia poisons numerous people who stand in her way, including Augustus, Marcellus, Agrippa, her first husband, Gaius, and Lucius. Although she is described as one of the worst "crab apples" of the Claudian line, Claudius cannot help but admire her strength. Throughout the novel, Livia professes to detest Claudius and tries to avoid him, but she ultimately confesses all of her sins to him at her deathbed, and he promises to make her a goddess.
Julius Caesar's successor as emperor and the husband of Livia. Augustus (known as Octavian before his succession) is generally a benevolent character, but he easily manipulated by Livia into taking unjust actions. All of his power as emperor is largely due to Livia's efforts, and he is careful not to offend her in any way. Augustus occasionally tries to exert his independence from Livia when it comes to important decisions (such as who will become his heir), but Livia usually gets what she wants. When Augustus threatens to suppress Tiberius as his heir, Livia poisons him. After his death, Augustus is deified.
the son of Livia and her first husband; Claudius' uncle. Tiberius is violent and antagonististic. Although he chafes under his mother's rule, he is manipulated by Livia almost as often as Augustus. After he is forced to divorce his first wife in order to marry Julia, all of Tiberius' good qualities disappear, and he becomes even more of a "bad apple" on the Claudian family tree. As emperor, he begins to display a propensity for bizarre pornography and exhibit many depraved sexual tendencies. He also eventually becomes estranged from Livia and must continually suffer her attempts to embarrass him. Tiberius is murdered by Macro and succeeded by Caligula.
the son of Drusus and Antonia; Claudius' older brother. Germanicus is Claudius' favorite sibling and a celebrated general in the Roman army. He supports Tiberius as emperor whole-heartedly, even giving owed funds to mutinous troops and forging Tiberius' signature to show that the funds came directly from the emperor. Tiberius becomes jealous of Germanicus and sends him and his family to govern in Antioch. Germanicus clashes with Piso, a politician in Antioch, and dies after a series of foreboding events. Although Piso and his wife are initially blamed for Germanicus' death, Claudius eventually discovers that Caligula was responsible.
the son of Agrippina and Germanicus; Claudius' nephew. Caligula's childhood is marked with a series of suspicious events that foreshadow his later madness. In addition to killing his father and setting Claudius' house on fire, Caligula is caught committing incest with his sister at a young age. When Tiberius is killed by Macro, Caligula becomes emperor and swiftly embarks on a reign of cruelty, depravity, and insanity in which people are killed randomly and all beautiful Roman women are seen to be his property. He comes to believe that he has metamorphosed into a god and even declares war against Neptune. Caligula is assassinated by Cassius and succeeded by Claudius.
Drusus' wife; Claudius' mother. Antonia is an extremely proud and noble woman. Although she does not treat with Claudius with any special consideration and seems to view him as a complete idiot, she witnesses the omen of the wolf cub and thus knows that Claudius will rule Rome. When she discovers Livilla's treachery with Sejanus, she locks Livilla in her room and starves her to death, forcing herself to hear the death of her daughter as punishment for her failure as a mother. Antonia kills herself in order to escape Caligula's reign of terror.
the youngest son of Julia and Agrippa; Augustus' grandson. Postumus is one of Claudius' closest friends during his youth and is known for his physical strength and benevolent nature. When Augustus names him his heir, Livia plots to have him banished and sets up a fake rape situation with Livilla, Claudius' sister and Postumus' long-time love. Postumus is captured and imprisoned on an island but not before he has told Claudius that Livia is the cause of his banishment. Augustus eventually discovers that Postumus is innocent and removes him from the island. When Livia discovers that Augustus plans to position Postumus as his heir again, she poisons Augustus but is unable to find Postumus. Eventually Postumus comes out of hiding and attempts to rally support against Tiberius and Livia in Rome. Sejanus' troops ambush Postumus and his supporters, and Tiberius has Postumus beheaded.
the daughter of Augustus and Scribonia. Livia is extremely jealous of Julia's beauty, and she does everything that she can to make life difficult for her during her childhood. Julia is married to Marcellus until Livia poisons him; then she is married to Agrippa until Livia poisons him. Finally, Julia marries Tiberius but Tiberius' indifference to her drives her to become sexually promiscuous. When her numerous infidelities are exposed, Julia is banished for life on the charge of promiscuous adultery.
the oracle at Cumae. At the beginning of the novel, Claudius recounts his meeting with the Sibyl at Cumae. In her prophecy, she tells him that he will become emperor and that he will "speak clear" in nineteen hundred years.
one of Augustus' oldest friends; Julia's second husband. Augustus initially seems to favor Marcellus as his heir and Livia pits Agrippa and Marcellus against each other. When Augustus surprisingly names Agrippa as his heir, the conflict between Agrippa and Marcellus intensifies. Agrippa withdraws himself some Rome so that he will not be in the middle of the conflict. After Marcellus' death, Augustus begs Agrippa to return to Rome and offers Julia as the prize. When Agrippa's services are no longer essential to Rome, Livia poisons him.
Claudius' mistress. The prostitute Calpurnia is an intelligent and good-hearted woman who truly seems to care for Claudius. Although they cannot always be together, depending on who he is married to at the time, Calpurnia is always there for Claudius when he needs any help.
the son of Octavia and Mark Antony; Julia's first husband. Marcellus is a favorite of Augustus and is on the path to becoming one of his heirs. Livia pretends to favor both Marcellus and Agrippa in order to promote jealousy between the two, and Marcellus is humiliated when Agrippa is declared to be Augustus' heir. Shortly after he is elected to a city magistracy, Marcellus dies, a victim of Livia's poison.
the oldest son of Julia and Agrippa. Gaius and his brother Lucius are favored by Augustus as potential heirs. Shortly after Gaius becomes the governor of Asia Minor, Livia poisons him, leaving the way open for Tiberius to be Augustus' heir.
the second son of Julia and Agrippa. Also seen as an obstacle to Tiberius' position as heir, Lucius is poisoned at Livia's orders during a voyage from Spain.
Livia's son; Antonia's husband; Claudius' father. Drusus is a beloved war-hero in the battles over Germany. He shares many of the republican sentiments of Claudius' grandfather and urges Augustus to take up the republican cause and abandon Livia's efforts for supreme power. Drusus falls from his horse while in Germany and dies of gangrene.
the Commander of the Praetorium Guard under Tiberius; Livilla's lover. Sejanus essentially rules Rome while Tiberius is living in Capri and becomes extremely power-hungry. He arranges a marriage between his adopted sister and Claudius in order to become a de facto member of the Imperial family. He also conspires with Livilla to remove Tiberius from power. When the plot is discovered, he is executed.
Claudius' sister; Sejanus' mistress. Claudius describes Livilla as one of the "crab apples" on the Claudian family tree. She plots with Livia in order to incriminate Postumus by accusing him of raping her. Later, she becomes Sejanus' mistress and conspires to kill Tiberius. Upon the discovery of Livilla's treachery, Antonia locks her in her room and starves her to death.
the daughter of Germanicus and Agrippina; Caligula's sister. Drusilla is Caligula's favorite sister and begins to commit incest with him at an early age. When Caligula becomes emperor and goes mad, he proclaims Drusilla to be a goddess and eventually murders her.
the daughter of Julia and Agrippa, she marries Germanicus and becomes one of the leaders of the anti-Tiberius faction after Germanicus' death
the daughter of Urgulania; Claudius' first wife. Urgulanilla is over six feet tall and dangerous, but Claudius is able to stay on her good side by a show of considerate indifference. Urgulanilla's one true love is Numantina, the first wife of Claudius' brother-in-law, Plautius. When Plautius divorces Numantina, Urgulanilla revenges herself on Plautius by killing Plautius' new wife.
Claudius' third wife. Caligula gives Messalina to Claudius, and Claudius cannot help but fall in love with her youth and beauty. The novel ends before we see the truth of Messalina's character, but "Claudius the God" reveals the extent of Messalina's personal depravity.
the wife of Mark Antony; Augustus' sister; Marcellus' mother. Praised in Rome for her beauty, modesty, and unwavering nobility, Octavia is Livia's primary female rival. Livia does everything that she can to torment Octavia, but Octavia remains morally above the political intrigues of the rest of the family.
the soldier who assassinates Caligula
Claudius' second tutor. Athenodorus instills in Claudius a love of history and truth and also helps him to overcome his stammer.
the second to youngest daughter of Germanicus and Agrippina; Caligula's sister. Like Drusilla and Lesbia, Agrippinilla has an incestuous relationship with her brother during his reign.
Livia's close friend and confidante; the mother of Urgulanilla. Through her influence with the Vestal Virgins, Urgulania is able to help Livia achieve her political ends. It is unclear how many people Urgulania is responsible for killing, but Livia admits to Claudius that she was a key component of many of Livia's murders.
Tiberius' first wife and only love. Livia forced Tiberius to divorce Vipsania in order to make him free to marry Julia. Tiberius never forgives his mother, and he continues to love only Vipsania.
Marcus Porcius Cato
Claudius' first tutor. Cato is unkind and ignorant as a tutor and constantly boasts about his ancestors. He beats Claudius constantly until Postumus intervenes and is eventually replaces by Athenodorus as Claudius' tutor.
Augustus' first wife. When Livia decides to leave her first husband, she seduces Augustus and convinces him to leave Scribonia and marry her instead.
Livia's personal doctor. Musa becames very wealthy after he "cures" Augustus. However, Augustus' recovery seems to be more related to Livia and her delicate use of poison.
A maid for Antonia, Claudius' mother.
the military staff-surgeon for Claudius' father. Despite his best efforts, Xenophon was not allowed to treat Claudius' father, and Livia's personal physician cared for him instead.
an influential historian. Claudius meets Pollio and Livy in a library and discusses the merits of history. Claudius prefers Pollio's style of writing because it is dedicated to the truth. When he finds out who Claudius is, Pollio urges Claudius to continue to play the fool so that he will stay alive.
Claudius' slave. Polybius, named for the famous historian, helps Claudius write many of his histories.
the granddaughter of one of Augustus' old generals; Claudius' first real love. Augustus decides to engage Medullina Camilla to Claudius, and Livia is furious at him for this sign of independence. On the day of their wedding, Camilla is stuck with a poisoned needle and dies. With her death, Livia is able to engage Claudius to a girl of her choosing.
the son of Claudius and Urgulanilla. Sejanus suggests that Drusillus be engaged to his daughter. Claudius is willing to agree, despite his dislike of his son, but Livia arranges for Drusillus' murder before the wedding can take place.
the son of Tiberius and Vipsania; the first husband of Livilla. Castor is almost as cruel and antagonistic as his father and, when Tiberius presents him as the potential heir to the throne, many people conspire to kill Castor. Castor dies of tuberculosis, making a conspiracy unnecessary, but also leaving Sejanus with more opportunity for power.
the governor of Syria. Jealous of Germanicus' popularity, Tiberius appoints Piso to work as his agent against Germanicus in Syria. Piso and his wife, Plancina, are blamed for Germanicus' death, but they are innocent of the crime. In order to save herself, Plancina kills Piso and presents it as a suicide.
The daughter of Julia and Agrippa. Julilla is banished to a small island on the same charge as her mother: promiscuous adultery.
a prominent historian. Claudius meets Livy and Pollio in a library, but he is not as impressed with Livy's writing style because it is not based on fact.
the daughter of Julilla and Aemilius. Claudius is betrothed to Aemilia for a short period of time. The engagement is broken after it is revealed that Aemilia's parents are involved in a conspiracy against Augustus.
the husband of Julilla; the father of Aemilia. Aemilius is involved in a plot to remove Augustus from power but the plot could not get any support. Aemilius is neither executed nor banished; Augustus simply deprives him of all of his honors.
the first wife of Plautius; Urgulanilla's one true love and obsession.
a slave. Clement has a strikingly similar appearance to Postumus and takes Postumus' place on his island of exilement.
Caligula's son. Gemellus is one of the first to fall in Caligula's killing spree against members of his family. Caligula accuses his son of being a traitor, but there is no evidence of any wrong-doing.
the Commander of the Praetorian Guard under Tiberius; Sejanus' replacement. Macro smothers Tiberius at Caligula's orders and then serves under Caligula until Caligula has him executed.
the youngest daughter of Germanicus and Agrippina; Caligula's sister. Like Drusilla and Agrippinilla, Lesbia had an incestuous relationship with her brother during his reign.
Piso's wife. Plancina is accused with her husband of murdering Germanicus through witchcraft. Although they are both innocent, Plancina seeks help from Livia and, together, they kill Piso and stage his death as a suicide in order to get Plancina acquited.
Claudius' brother-in-law and friend. Plautius divorces his first wife, Numantina, in order marry the wealthier Apronia. When Claudius comes to visit, Plautius plays a practical joke on him by sending him to the bedroom containing Urgulanilla. That night, Urgulanilla kills Apronia as revenge for Plautius' poor treatment of her. When Plautius is accused of killing Apronia himself, he kills himself.
Sejanus' sister; Claudius' second wife. Sejanus uses Aelia's marriage to Claudius as a way to gain entrance to the Imperial family. Aelia despises Claudius, and Claudius is happy to divorce her when Sejanus falls from power.
one of Augustus' close friends. Fabius accompanies Augustus when he visits Postumus on the island.
Pollio's son; Vipsania's second husband. Gallus is the only senator who questions Tiberius' decision to deify Augustus.
the eldest son of Germanicus. Nero is the only child of Germanicus and Agrippina who had a truly benevolent character and very similar to his father.
the chieftain of a German tribe and one of Germanicus' primary enemies in Germany.
an auror/prophet who works for Tiberius.
I, Claudius Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for I, Claudius is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
the grandson of Augustus and Livia; the son of Antonia and Drusus. Also referred to as "Claudius the Idiot," "Claudius the Stammerer," and "Clau-Clau-Claudius," Claudius is the clear protagonist of the text....
This is a pretty involved question for a short answer forum. I would begin by reading through gradesaver's page on themes, particulary the section named Republic vs Monarchy. The direct link has been provided below.