How accurate is series I Claudius

Jan 2015
2,698
MD, USA
#2
Well, it's *fiction*. Much of it is based on Suetonius and other Roman authors, and some parts are surprisingly accurate in that regard. BUT it "fills in" a lot of details of events and characters, plus we have to keep in mind that even ancient authors were biased or simply wrong sometimes. For example, there is apparently a compelling argument that Claudius was not just found hiding behind the curtains after Caligula was killed, but was canny enough to seize power in the confusion. And it's possible that Postumus really was a nasty rapist whom Augustus banished for good reason, not just the innocent victim of a frame.

But there are other folks who know the sources in better detail! This is just what I've heard. I *can* tell you that the costuming is a little iffy, and the soldiers' kit if pretty bad. But I LOVE the show, it's really one of the best historical things ever done. Fabulous writing.

Matthew
 
May 2011
13,454
Navan, Ireland
#3
Can not say much different to Matthew.

My understanding is that its fiction and a story based on roughly true events -- a great deal of the details are obviously 'poetic licence' --- Robert Graves did base history on 'good history' but its only his interpretation and other interpretations could be valid-- for instance Caligula wasn't the monster shown in the book perhaps etc.
 
Oct 2015
671
Virginia
#4
I agree with Matthew...it's great stuff.

But I think it reflects Robert Graves history (and anti-Imperial propaganda) more than Julio-Claudian family history. I mean do you really believe Livia murdered Agrippa, Marcellus, Gaius and Lucius Caesar, Posthumus, possibly Germanicus and her own son Drusus, and her companion, confidant and husband of 51 years just to ensure that Tiberius (who didn't want the job) would succeed Augustus? Sian Phillips almost pulled it off though (stay away from the figs). Nor do I think Augustus (demagogue, terrorist, benevolent magistrate, statesman...chameleon) could be duped...even by his wife.
 
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#5
Well, it's *fiction*. Much of it is based on Suetonius and other Roman authors, and some parts are surprisingly accurate in that regard. BUT it "fills in" a lot of details of events and characters, plus we have to keep in mind that even ancient authors were biased or simply wrong sometimes. For example, there is apparently a compelling argument that Claudius was not just found hiding behind the curtains after Caligula was killed, but was canny enough to seize power in the confusion. And it's possible that Postumus really was a nasty rapist whom Augustus banished for good reason, not just the innocent victim of a frame.

But there are other folks who know the sources in better detail! This is just what I've heard. I *can* tell you that the costuming is a little iffy, and the soldiers' kit if pretty bad. But I LOVE the show, it's really one of the best historical things ever done. Fabulous writing.

Matthew
Sir, I can absolutely agree with you that "I Claudius" is really good series and anyone who loves JulioClaudian dynasty must watch it!
It is also true that many things aren't accurate (even when I watched I Claudius for the first time I thought it is 98% accurate), but there is one series older than I Claudius called "The Caesars" from 1968. Maybe you watched it, but if you didn't I would recommend it to you. The Caesars is mini-series (6 episodes) and it hasn't much characters as I Claudius has, but its very interesting. I would like to talk about it and about Tiberius in The Caesars.
 
Jun 2018
42
New Hampshire
#6
Well, it's *fiction*. Much of it is based on Suetonius and other Roman authors, and some parts are surprisingly accurate in that regard. BUT it "fills in" a lot of details of events and characters, plus we have to keep in mind that even ancient authors were biased or simply wrong sometimes. For example, there is apparently a compelling argument that Claudius was not just found hiding behind the curtains after Caligula was killed, but was canny enough to seize power in the confusion. And it's possible that Postumus really was a nasty rapist whom Augustus banished for good reason, not just the innocent victim of a frame.

But there are other folks who know the sources in better detail! This is just what I've heard. I *can* tell you that the costuming is a little iffy, and the soldiers' kit if pretty bad. But I LOVE the show, it's really one of the best historical things ever done. Fabulous writing.

Matthew
Interesting hypothesis. I have recently begun to suspect that Claudius may have ultimately been responsible for Gaius's assassination for the purpose of seizing the purple.

Do you think there may be some truth in this?
 
Aug 2015
2,201
uk
#7
There is a lot of supposition , and at the end of the day that is all any of us can hope for 2000 years after the events. I guess the argument against is the same as for; prove it isn't so - which no one can do. There is nothing outright unbelievable , although it does take some wild leaps of faith (eg Livia poisoning Augustus). Regardless, the book (and tv series) are marvellously entertaining and easily as good (if not better) than most historical drama today.

In fact with Culloden, Henry VIII, Elizabeth R, Colditz, Secret Army and I,Claudius , British historical drama of the 60s and 70s is probably unsurpassed.

Btw if you like I,Claudius then probably the best modern day equivalent is Rome. And if you head in the other direction then the b&w 1960s series The Caesars is worth a watch too for a slightly different perspective.
 
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Jun 2018
42
New Hampshire
#8
There is a lot of supposition , and at the end of the day that is all any of us can hope for 2000 years after the events. I guess the argument against is the same as for; prove it isn't so - which no one can do. There is nothing outright unbelievable , although it does take some wild leaps of faith (eg Livia poisoning Augustus). Regardless, the book (and tv series) are marvellously entertaining and easily as good (if not better) than most historical drama today.

In fact with Culloden, Henry VIII, Elizabeth R, Colditz, Secret Army and I,Claudius , British historical drama of the 60s and 70s is probably unsurpassed.

Btw if you like I,Claudius then probably the best modern day equivalent is Rome. And if you head in the other direction then the b&w 1960s series The Caesars is worth a watch too for a slightly different perspective.
Very true. In addition, modern historians can only know what the ancient historians determined to tell us. And as many of us familiar with the subject already know, history during the early Imperial period was written by those of the senatorial class. Any emperor who did not pander to senatorial interests was thus vilified in the historical literature of the time.

Regarding the Julio-Claudian Dynasty, it is interesting to note that only Augustus fit the category of a "good" emperor from the official senatorial perspective.
 
Aug 2015
2,201
uk
#10
Personally I didn't much care for the HBO series "Rome." It was a bit too raunchy for my liking. I Claudius however is very good, based upon the single episode I've seen anyway.

To be fair most of the 'adult' scenes revolve around Pullo, and it's far tamer (and much better) than the Spartacus series. I mention it as it's about the best Roman drama programme since I,Claudius.

The good news is that I,Claudius improves by every episode and John Hurt and (especially) Biggins are just how I now imagine Caligula and Nero to be to this day.