"I, Claudius" and the Accuracy of its Portrayals of Historical Figures

Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted (Opt-Out)

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Hans-Friedrich Mueller




I Claudius, Imperial Rome, Claudius, Livia, Tacitus, Suetonius, Cassius Dio, Seneca, Robert Graves


The 1976 television mini-series I, Claudius has been lauded for its style and performances. Is it, however, a historically accurate portrayal of the life and family of the Roman emperor Claudius? In order to determine whether the series is truthful to the actual personalities and relationships of the Roman imperial family, I analyze both the historical and fictional portrayals of major characters. Ancient writers such as Seneca, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio, in addition to the reconstructions of modern scholars, help to establish the historical versions of these figures, while the television series I, Claudius provides the fictional versions. Comparison of the two allows us to establish whether or not I, Claudius can be described as a true-to-history description of the emperor Claudius and his family, or whether the show was written more purely for the purpose of entertainment.

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