Claudia (gens)

Tiberius Claudius Nero, Second Roman Emperor

The gens Claudia (Classical Latin: [ˈklawdɪa]), sometimes written Clodia, was one of the most prominent patrician houses at Rome. The gens traced its origin to the earliest days of the Roman Republic. The first of the Claudii to obtain the consulship was Appius Claudius Sabinus Regillensis, in 495 BC, and from that time its members frequently held the highest offices of the state, both under the Republic and in imperial times.[1]

Plebeian Claudii are found fairly early in Rome's history. Some may have been descended from members of the family who had passed over to the plebeians, while others were probably the descendants of freedmen of the gens.[1]

In his life of the emperor Tiberius, who was a scion of the Claudii, the historian Suetonius gives a summary of the gens, and says, "as time went on it was honoured with twenty-eight consulships, five dictatorships, seven censorships, six triumphs, and two ovations." Writing several decades after the fall of the so-called "Julio-Claudian dynasty", Suetonius took care to mention both the good and wicked deeds attributed to members of the family.[2]

The patrician Claudii were noted for their pride and arrogance, and intense hatred of the commonalty. In his History of Rome, Niebuhr writes,

That house during the course of centuries produced several very eminent, few great men; hardly a single noble-minded one. In all ages it distinguished itself alike by a spirit of haughty defiance, by disdain for the laws, and iron hardness of heart.[3]

During the Republic, no patrician Claudius adopted a member of another gens; the emperor Claudius was the first who broke this custom, by adopting Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, afterwards the emperor Nero.[1][4][5]

Origin of the gens

According to legend, the first of the Claudii was a Sabine, by the name of Attius Clausus, who came to Rome with his retainers in 504 BC, the sixth year of the Republic.[6][lower-roman 1] At this time, the fledgling Republic was engaged in regular warfare with the Sabines, and Clausus is said to have been the leader of a faction seeking to end the conflict. When his efforts failed, he defected to the Romans, bringing with him no fewer than five hundred men able to bear arms, according to Dionysius.[8]

Clausus, who exchanged his Sabine name for the Latin Appius Claudius, was enrolled among the patricians, and given a seat in the Senate, quickly becoming one of its most influential members.[6][7][lower-roman 2] His descendants were granted a burial site at the foot of the Capitoline Hill, and his followers allotted land on the far side of the Anio, where they formed the core of what became the "Old Claudian" tribe.[6][7][8]

The emperor Claudius is said to have referred to these traditions in a speech made before the Roman Senate, in which he argued in favor of admitting Gauls to that body. "My ancestors, the most ancient of whom was made at once a citizen and a noble of Rome, encourage me to govern by the same policy of transferring to this city all conspicuous merit, wherever found."[9] By imperial times, the influence of the Claudii was so great that the poet Virgil flattered them by a deliberate anachronism. In his Aeneid, he makes Attius Clausus a contemporary of Aeneas, to whose side he rallies with a host of quirites, or spearmen.[lower-roman 3][10]

The nomen Claudius, originally Clausus, is usually said to be derived from the Latin adjective claudus, meaning "lame". As a cognomen, Claudus is occasionally found in other gentes. However, since there is no tradition that any of the early Claudii were lame, the nomen might refer to some ancestor of Attius Clausus. It could also have been metaphorical, or ironic, and the possibility remains that this derivation is erroneous. The metathesis of Clausus into Claudius, and its common by-form, Clodius, involves the alternation of 'o' and 'au', which seems to have been common in words of Sabine origin. The alternation of 's' and 'd' occurs in words borrowed from Greek: Latin rosa from Greek rhodos; but in this instance clausus or *closus is a Sabine word becoming clod- in Latin. The name could have come from Greek settlers in Latium, but there is no evidence in favor of this hypothesis.[11][12]


The early Claudii favored the praenomina Appius, Gaius, and Publius. These names were used by the patrician Claudii throughout their history. Tiberius was used by the family of the Claudii Nerones, while Marcus, although used occasionally by the earliest patrician Claudii, was favored by the plebeian branches of the family.[13] According to Suetonius, the gens avoided the praenomen Lucius because two early members with this name had brought dishonor upon the family, one having been convicted of highway robbery, and the other of murder.[1][7] The plebeian Claudii seem to have used all of the praenomina that the patrician Claudii used (although with less attachment to Appius), as well as Quintus, Sextus, and at least occasionally Lucius.[14]

The praenomen Appius is often said to have been unique to the Claudii, and nothing more than a Latinization of the Sabine Attius. But in fact there are other figures in Roman history named "Appius", and in later times the name was used by plebeian families such as the Junii and the Annii. Thus, it seems more accurate to say that the Claudii were the only patrician family at Rome known to have used Appius. As for its Sabine equivalent, Attius has been the subject of much discussion by philologists. The form Attus is mentioned by Valerius Maximus, who connected it with the bucolic Greek name Atys. Braasch translated it as Väterchen, "little father," and connected it with a series of childhood parental names: "atta, tata, acca," and the like, becoming such names as Tatius (also Sabine) and Atilius.[15]

During the late Republic and early Empire, the Claudii Nerones, who gave rise to the Imperial family, adopted the praenomen Decimus, seldom used by any patrician family. Subsequently they began to exchange traditional praenomina for names that first entered the family as cognomina, such as Nero, Drusus, and Germanicus.

Branches and cognomina

The patrician Claudii bore various surnames, including Caecus, Caudex, Centho, Crassus, Nero, Pulcher, Regillensis, and Sabinus. The latter two, though applicable to all of the gens, were seldom used when there was a more definite cognomen. A few of the patrician Claudii are mentioned without any surname. The surnames of the plebeian Claudii were Asellus, Canina, Centumalus, Cicero, Flamen, and Marcellus.[1]

The earliest Claudii bore the surname Sabinus, a common surname usually referring to a Sabine, or someone of Sabine descent, which according to all tradition, the Claudii were.[lower-roman 4] This cognomen was first adopted by Appius Claudius, the founder of the gens, and was retained by his descendants, until it was replaced by Crassus.[1]

Regillensis, occasionally found as Inregillensis, a surname of the earliest Claudii, is said to be derived from the town of Regillum, a Sabine settlement, where Appius Claudius lived with his family and retainers before coming to Rome. Its exact location is unknown, but it must have been in the vicinity of Lake Regillus, where one of the most important battles in the early history of the Roman Republic was fought. The same cognomen was borne by a family of the Postumii, although in this instance the surname is supposed to have been derived from the Battle of Lake Regillus, in which the victorious Roman general was the dictator Aulus Postumius Albus.[7][17][18]

Crassus, sometimes given as the diminutive Crassinus, was a common surname usually translated as "thick, solid," or "dull".[19] This cognomen succeeded that of Sabinus as the surname of the main family of the Claudia gens. It was borne by members of the family from the fifth to the third century BC. The other main families of the patrician Claudii were descended from Appius Claudius Caecus, a member of this stirps; his sons bore the surnames Crassus, Pulcher, Cento or Centho, and Nero. However, this generation saw the last of the Claudii Crassi.[13]

Pulcher, the surname of the next major branch of the Claudia gens, means beautiful, although it may be that the cognomen was given ironically.[20] The Claudii Pulchri were an extensive family, which supplied the Republic with several consuls, and survived into imperial times.[13]

Claudius, Fourth Roman Emperor

The other main branch of the patrician Claudii bore the surname Nero, originally a Sabine praenomen described as meaning, fortis ac strenuus, which roughly translated is "strong and sturdy." It may be the same as the Umbrian praenomen Nerius. This family was distinguished throughout the latter Republic, and gave rise to several of the early emperors, including Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero. An oddity of the names by which these emperors are known today is that several of their ancestors bore the name Tiberius Claudius Nero; of three emperors belonging to the same family, one is known by a praenomen, one by a nomen, and one by a cognomen.[7]

The most illustrious family of the plebeian Claudii bore the surname Marcellus, which is a diminutive of the praenomen Marcus. They gained everlasting fame from the exploits of Marcus Claudius Marcellus, one of Rome's finest generals, and a towering figure of the Second Punic War, who was five times consul, and won the spolia opima, defeating and killing the Gallic king, Viridomarus, in single combat.[21]

Most of those who used the spelling Clodius were descended from plebeian members of the gens, but one family by this name was a cadet branch of the patrician Claudii Pulchri, which voluntarily went over to the plebeians, and used the spelling Clodius to differentiate themselves from their patrician relatives.[22]

Caecus, the surname of one of the Claudii Crassi, refers to the condition of his blindness, which is well-attested, although it appears that he did not become blind until his old age. According to one legend, he was struck blind by the gods during his censorship, after inducing the ancient family of the Potitii to teach the sacred rites of Hercules to the public slaves. The Potitii themselves were said to have perished as a result of this sacrilege. However, it should be noted that Claudius was relatively young at the time of his censorship in 312 BC, and was elected consul sixteen years later, in 296.[23]

Caecus' brother, who shared the same praenomen, was distinguished by the cognomen Caudex, literally meaning a "treetrunk", although metaphorically it was an insult, meaning a "dolt." According to Seneca, he obtained the surname from his attention to naval affairs.[24]


This list includes abbreviated praenomina. For an explanation of this practice, see filiation.

See also Clodius for members of the gens who used the alternate spelling of the name primarily or solely.

Claudii Sabini et Crassi

Claudii Pulchri

Claudii Centhones

Claudii Nerones

Claudii Marcelli

Claudii Caninae

Claudii Aselli

Claudii Pompeiani



  1. Various sources give several variations of his original praenomen and nomen, including Attius Clausus,[6] Atta Claudius,[7] and Titus Claudius.[8]
  2. An alternative tradition, mentioned by Suetonius, asserted that the Claudii came to Rome with the Sabine king Titus Tatius, during the reign of Romulus, the founder and first King of Rome.[7]
  3. "Lo! Clausus of old Sabine blood, who leads a mighty host, himself a host in might! From whom the Claudian tribe and clan to-day, since Rome was with the Sabine shared, spreads wide through Latium....[10]
  4. Presumably, the Claudii were proud of their Sabine heritage, and used this surname to assert their ethnic identity.[16]
  5. The Capitoline Fasti assign him the filiation Ap. f. M. n., apparently making him identical with the consul of 471, but this may be a mistake, as the weight of tradition is against it, and the Fasti are thought to contain numerous errors and later emendations.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, p. 762 ("Claudia Gens").
  2. Suetonius, "Life of Tiberius", 1–3.
  3. Niebuhr, vol. I, p. 599.
  4. Suetonius, "Life of Claudius", 39.
  5. Tacitus, Annales, xii.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Livy, ii. 16
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Suetonius, "Life of Tiberius", 1.
  8. 1 2 3 Dionysius, v. 40.
  9. Tacitus, Annales, xi. 24.
  10. 1 2 Aeneid, book vii, lines 706, 707.
  11. Dictionnaire étymologique latin, p. 44.
  12. Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue latine, p. 126.
  13. 1 2 3 Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, pp. 765–775 ("Claudius").
  14. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. I, p. 775 ("Claudius" [plebeians]).
  15. Braasch, pp. 7-8.
  16. Farney, p. 88.
  17. Livy, xxx. 45.
  18. Niebuhr, History of Rome, vol. i. p. 556.
  19. Cassell's Latin and English Dictionary, "Crassus".
  20. Cassell's Latin and English Dictionary, "Pulcher".
  21. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. II, p. 927 ("Marcellus", no. 2).
  22. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. I, p. 771 ("Claudius", no. 40).
  23. Livy, ix. 29.
  24. Seneca the Younger, De Brevitate Vitae, 13.
  25. Livy, ii. 56-61.
  26. Dionysius, ix. 43-45, 48-54.
  27. Niebuhr, vol. ii, pp. 186, 219-228.
  28. Livy, iii. 15-21, 35, 40, 58; iv. 6.
  29. Dionysius, x. 9, 12-17, 30, 32; xi. 7-11, 49, 55, 56.
  30. Livy, iii. 33, 35-58.
  31. Dionysius, x. 54–xi. 46.
  32. Fasti Capitolini
  33. Livy, iv. 35, 36.
  34. Livy, vi. 40.
  35. Livy, v. 1-6, 20.
  36. Niebuhr, vol. ii, p. 439, note 965.
  37. Livy, vi. 40-42; vii. 6 ff, 24, 25.
  38. 1 2 Livy, viii. 15.
  39. 1 2 3 4 5 Fasti Capitolini.
  40. Marcus Velleius Paterculus, i. 14.
  41. Valerius Maximus, viii. 1. § 4.
  42. Suetonius, "Life of Tiberius", 2.
  43. Aulus Gellius, x. 6.
  44. Livy, xxix. 14.
  45. Ovid, Fasti, iv. 305 ff.
  46. Cicero, De Haruspicum Responsis, 13.
  47. Valerius Maximus, i. 8. § 11.
  48. Pliny the Elder, vii. 35.
  49. Livy, xxiii. 2.
  50. Cicero, De Legibus, iii. 19.
  51. Cicero, Pro Scauro, ii. 32, De Oratore, ii. 60, 70.
  52. Cicero, Pro Caelio, 14.
  53. Valerius Maximus, v. 4. § 6.
  54. Plutarch, "Life of Tiberius Gracchus," 4.
  55. Appian, Bellum Civile, i. 68.
  56. Sallust, Historiae, fragment 1.
  57. Cicero, Pro Domo Sua, 32.
  58. Quintus Asconius Pedianus, in Cic. Mil., p. 36.
  59. Cicero, Epistulae ad Atticum, xiv. 13. A.
  60. Valerius Maximus, iii. 5. § 3.
  61. Cicero, Tusculanae Quaestiones, i. 1, Brutus, 18.
  62. Livy, xx. 34, xxv. 2.
  63. Livy, xxxi. 14, 22 ff
  64. Joannes Zonaras, Epitome Historiarum, ix. 15.
  65. Livy, xl. 59; xli. 22, 31, 33; xlii. 25; xliii. 11, 12.
  66. Suetonius, "Life of Tiberius," 3.
  67. Aulus Gellius, xiii. 22.
  68. Livy, xxix. 11; xxx. 26, 39.
  69. Livy, xxxiii. 43; xxxvii. 55.
  70. Livy, xl. 18.
  71. Livy, xli. 5, 8, 18; xlii. 19; xlv. 16.
  72. Florus, Epitome de T. Livio Bellorum Omnium Annorum DCC libri duo, iii. 6.
  73. Appian, Bella Mithridatica, 95, Bellum Civile, ii. 5.
  74. Sallust, The Conspiracy of Catiline, 50.
  75. Livy, viii. 18, 24.
  76. Fasti Siculi.
  77. Plutarch, "Life of Marcellus," 1.
  78. Livy, xxiii. 30.
  79. Livy, xxxix. 23, 44, 45, 54-56; xliv. 18.
  80. Livy, xxxviii. 35, 42.
  81. Livy, xlii. 32.
  82. Drumann, vol. ii, p. 393.
  83. Julius Obsequens, Liber de Prodigiis, 83.
  84. Cicero, De Oratore, i. 13.
  85. Pseudo-Asconius, ad Verr., p. 206.
  86. Cicero, In Verrem, ii. 3, 21, iii. 16, 91, iv. 40, 42, ff., Divinatio in Caecilium, 4, De Divinatione, ii. 35, De Legibus, ii. 13, Epistulae ad Familiares, xv. 8, Pro Sulla, 6
  87. Cicero, In Verrem, iv. 42. Several editions give Marcellus' praenomen as Gaius.
  88. Cicero, In Catilinam, i. 8.
  89. 1 2 Orosius, vi. 6.
  90. Cicero, Pro Sestio, 4.
  91. Suetonius, "Life of Octavian", 43.
  92. Seneca the Elder, lib. iv. praef.
  93. Tacitus, Annales, iii. 11.
  94. Fasti Siculi, 354.
  95. Livy, xxvii. 41; xxviii. 10; xxix. 11.
  96. Appian, De Bello Annibalico, 37.
  97. Cicero, De Oratore, ii. 64, 66.
  98. Aulus Gellius, ii. 20, iii. 4.
  99. Valerius Maximus, vi. 3. § 8.
  100. Cassius Dio, lxxi. 3, 20, lxxiii. 3.
  101. Herodian, i. 8. § 6.
  102. Julius Capitolinus, "Life of Marcus Aurelius", 20.
  103. Vulcatius Gallicanus, "Life of Avidius Cassius", 11.
  104. Aelius Lampridius, "Life of Commodus".
  105. 1 2 3 4 5 Mennen, pp. 95–97.
  106. Cassius Dio, lxxii. 4.
  107. Herodian, i. 8.
  108. Aelius Lampridius, Commodus, 4.
  109. Ammianus Marcellinus, xxix. 4.
  110. Livy, iii. 31.
  111. Suetonius, "Life of Tiberius," 2.
  112. Livy, Epitome, xix.
  113. Cassius Dio, fragment 45.
  114. Zonaras, viii. p. 400. B.
  115. Valerius Maximus, vi. 3. § 3. Some sources identify the legate of 236 as Marcus Claudius Clineas. His fate is uncertain; he is said to have been delivered up to the Corsi, who returned him unharmed. According to various authorities he was then imprisoned, banished, or put to death.
  116. Livy, xxi. 63.
  117. Cicero, De Officiis, ii. 16.
  118. Valerius Maximus, viii. 2. § 1.
  119. Cicero, Epistulae ad Atticum, iv. 15, Philippicae, ii. 4, 17, iii. 9.
  120. Cassius Dio, xlv. 30, xlvi. 8.
  121. Suetonius, De Claris Rhetoribus, 5.
  122. Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares, iii. 4-6, 8.
  123. Pseudo-Cicero, Epistulae ad Brutum, i. 1.
  124. Cicero, Pro Milone, 17.
  125. Quintus Asconius Pedianus, in Cic. Mil., p. 33, ed. Orelli.
  126. Julius Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Civili, iii. 57.
  127. Appian, Bellum Civile, v. 49.
  128. Eckhel, v. p. 172.
  129. Jean Foy-Vaillant, "Anton." nos. 14, 15, "Claud." 43-46.
  130. Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares, xi. 22.
  131. Appian, Bellum Civile, iv. 44, 55.
  132. Cassius Dio, xlvii. 24.
  133. Plutarch, " Life of Antonius," 22, "Life of Brutus," 28.
  134. Appian, Bellum Civile, v. 2.
  135. Tacitus, Historiae, i. 68.
  136. Tacitus, Historiae, iv. 18, 56, 66, 70.
  137. Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, vi. 13.
  138. Fasti.
  139. Aelius Spartianus, "Life of Septimius Severus", 1.
  140. Codex Justinianus, 6. tit. 26. s. 1.
  141. Digesta seu Pandectae, 17. tit. 1. s. 6. § 7, 20. tit. 3. s. 1. § 2, 50. tit. 19. s. 16, 50. tit. 7. s. 4.
  142. Eusebius of Caesarea, Historia Ecclesiastica, iv. 27, v. 19.
  143. Jerome, De Viris Illustribus, 26, Epistulae, 84.
  144. Nicephorus, iv. 11.
  145. Photius, Cod. 14.
  146. Theodoret, de Haereticarum Fabularum, iii. 2.
  147. Chronicon Paschale.
  148. Cassius Dio, lxxv. 2.
  149. Aurelius Victor, Epitome de Caesaribus, 20.
  150. Digesta seu Pandectae, 23. tit. 3. s. 78. § 4, 27. tit. 1. s. 44, 48. tit. 19. s. 39, 49. tit. 14. s. 50.
  151. Codex Theodosianus, 1. tit. 9. s. 1.
  152. Codex Justinianus, 8. tit. 45. s. 1, et alibi.
  153. Flavius Vopiscus, Carinus, 18.
  154. Suda, s. v. Διδυμος.
  155. Stephanus of Byzantium, Ethnica, s. vv. Ακη, Ιουδαια, Δωρος, Λαμπη, Γαδειρα.
  156. Πελοποννγσιακα, Schol. ad. Nicand. Ther., 521.


External links

Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Claudius (gens).

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Smith, William, ed. (1870). "article name needed". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 

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