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Friday, May 30, 2014

I, Claudius (1976)

The Julio Claudian rulers had some problems after Augustus died and they are all on display in this 12 part series that spans the end of Augustus' reign through the reign of Claudius.

Augustus was a very astute politician, and he ended the years of war that plagued the end of the Roman Republic.  He accomplished this by subtly changing the Roman government in a way that was acceptable to them but not quite a monarchy.  The stability that he eventually brought to government (after substantial purging of all those who opposed him) was remarkable.  He also brought peace--he was not a great warrior, not like Julius Caesar or Mark Anthony.  Instead he had a loyal right hand man who was a great warrior in Agrippa, which, combined with his military strategy brought stability to all that was Rome.  He replaced client kings with province governors who were faithful to him, and so the taxes flowed in, as did the grain.  He made the military a professional one, with benefits and a retirement plan, so that he had well trained men that were loyal to him.  The one thing that he did a very bad job at was judging his wife.  This series is quite damning in that respect.  Livia wanted Tiberius to be his successor, and everyone who stood in his way died.  Probably not a coincidence.

Tiberius' reign is not generously portrayed here--he proceeded to kill off all possible successors to him, all family members mind you, and without much thought to their character.  Unlike Augustus, he had a very corrupt right hand man who led him very much astray, and left Rome with no one but Caligula to rule the place.  Caligula does not come out well here, but he appears more mad than evil and I believe he more of a sociopath than he was crazy, but no matter, he is not the ruler of ones dreams, and it is a relief when the men charged with guarding him take his life.  Then to Claudius, who is the teller of the story, who is really the last man standing.  Very well done and the story sticks pretty close to historical accounts, so you can actually learn a little history while you watch.

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