Staff Pick: I, Claudius
Who first established 365 days in a year or named the summer months of July and August? The regional dominance of Ancient Rome and its shaping of Western civilization gave us our language, academia, government, and the modern calendar.
After Julius Caesar was assassinated, Augustus ended the centuries-old republic and established the Roman Empire. The award-winning BBC mini-series, “I, Claudius” (1976), is an entertaining and well-made production that chronicles the history of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty and the first rulers or “Caesars.”
The show is based on Robert Graves’ historical fiction novel of the same title and begins with Claudius, the fourth Roman Emperor, who is near the end of his life and surrounded by spies. As Claudius narrates, the audience travels back in time to watch the ailing emperor’s family history unfold.
Among shifting allegiances and murderous, backstabbing aristocrats, we find quite the palace intrigue and learn about the challenges of establishing a new order of succession. What cunning political games did the warring factions play? Was Claudius’ grandmother really so treacherous or a victim to historical character assassination?
Claudius notably survived the early infighting, which claimed the lives of those waiting to reign as Caesar because he appeared non-threatening. As a result of childhood illness, he was partially deaf, with a limp and speech impediment. However, accentuating his perceived handicaps allowed him to avoid the fate of so many relatives and remain underestimated.
You’ll find many recognizable actors including Patrick Stewart, John Hurt, and Margaret Tyzak. Though not officially rated, the show is not suitable for all audiences.
It was not always good to rule in Ancient Rome. To find out why simply follow these HooplaDigital instructions and log in with your Greenwich or Perrot Library card number and pin.