Claudius's relations with the Senate
The Primary Record
Here, for once, we really DO have access to some primary sources, and are not reliant on Tacitus and Suetonius.
It ill befits the dignity of the Senate that the consul designate should repeat the phrases of the consuls word for word as his opinion, and that every one else should merely say 'I approve'
It is time now, Tiberius Caesar Germanicus, to reveal to the senators where your speech is headed; for you have already come to the extreme limits of Gallia Narbonensis!
... but we get to the bottom of the tablet and Claudius still has yet to make a single valid point.
Tacitus and Suetonius
Apart from the fact that you can’t believe a word they say, Tacitus and Suetonius allow the student to build a picture of the relations between emperor and senate.
So – did Claudius make up with the Senate, or break up with them?
Claudius set himself to restore the relations of cordiality which had subsisted between senate and Princeps under Augustus”.
Claudius managed to maintain a façade of decency in his relations with the Senate – as when he consulted it on the subject of his marriage – despite the series of persecutions.
Other modern historians agree. Michael Gagarin (2009) sees the involvement of the Senate as a ‘necessary pretence’. And
Alisdair Gibson (2012) agrees; for him Claudius’s genius was that he managed to be ‘all things to all men’ – convincing the Senate about their continued importance
while he convinced the army that he was their emperor.
You can read the summary-of-mentions sheet here.
Study the summary-of-mentions sheet. Looking at the list of reported interactions between Claudius and the Senate, make FIVE key comments about Claudius's relations with the Senate?
Then click the yellow pointer to compare the comments that my pupils made:
The writers and historians who have considered this topic have suggested various theories:
Judging from your own analysis of the sources, explain which you think best fits the facts?
Now write an answer to the following question:
'Claudius respected the Senate.' How far do the ancient sources support this opinion?
In your answer you should:
• give a brief account of Claudius's relarions with the Senate;
• discuss whether Claudius tried to increase or decrease the power of the Senate;
• show knowledge of the relevant sections of Tacitus and Suetonius;
• consider how reliable you think these sources are.