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]


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.[i][6] 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][ii] 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 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.[iii][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]

Other Languages
български: Клавдии
català: Gens Clàudia
Deutsch: Claudier
español: Gens Claudia
Esperanto: Gens Claudia
français: Claudii
íslenska: Claudius (ætt)
italiano: Gens Claudia
עברית: קלאודיים
Latina: Gens Claudia
Lëtzebuergesch: Claudier
magyar: Claudia gens
Nederlands: Gens Claudia
polski: Klaudiusze
português: Cláudia (gens)
русский: Клавдии
svenska: Gens Claudia
Türkçe: Claudius (gens)
українська: Клавдії