I, Claudius, Day Six, Chapters 17-19

March 14, 2008

Chapters 17-19

Chapter 17. This chapter is good. Tiberius. “The Senate soon found that if he spoke with studied elegance in favour of a motion he meant that he wanted it voted against, and that if he spoke with studied elegance against it this meant that he wanted it passed; and that on the very few occasions when he spoke briefly and without any rhetoric he meant to be taken literally.” (225) Gotta love Gallus and Haterius. Love them. Gotta love how they tease/annoy Tiberius by bringing up Livia. “When they saw that there was nothing that Tiberius hated so much as hearing Livia praised they kept it up. Haterius even suggested just as the Greeks were called by their fathers’ names, so Tiberius should be named after his mother and that it should be a crime to call him other than Tiberius Liviades–or perhaps Livigena.” (226-227)  But poor Haterius is eventually forced to be silent.  And Gallus alone is left to mock Tiberius in the future.

I’ve got to wonder. Did Claudius really mean this??? Or was he being all tongue-in-cheek here??? “For I must make it plain, if I have not already done so, that however criminal the means used by Livia to win the direction of affairs for herself, first through Augustus and then through Tiberius, she was an exceptionally able and just ruler; and it was only when she ceased to direct the system that she had built up that it went wrong.” (228) I get that she was good at managing things her way. But to call her “just” I’m tending to think that surely Claudius is in jest. How could murdering people right and left be a “just” way to rule the land?

Tiberius’s three trusted friends. (relatively speaking when it comes to “trusted” and “friends”) Sejanus. Thrasyllus. Nerva. My favorite line, “Tiberius envied him [Sejanus] this talent as he envied Nerva his honesty; for though he had progressed far in the direction of evil, he still felt hampered by unaccountable impulses towards the good.” (229)

Claudius squeezes many other things into this chapter–including the fact that he’s removed himself to the country and taken up a mistress–but one key thing that I think will develop or that I think is interesting in and of itself is the dream of Briseis. Her dream that he needs to hide amongst the trees and wait for the thieves to all die.  “So choose a good tree, Master Claudius, and don’t come down till the last of the thieves are dead. That’s what my dream said.” (237)

Chapter 18

A good chapter, but oh-poor-Postumus. Claudius discovers via messenger that Postumus is alive and well. I wanted to yell and shout and scream at poor Claudius in this letter. Why oh why oh why did he have to write to Germanicus to tell him that Postumus is alive. You think he would have learned by now that all of his outgoing and ingoing mail would be read. That all mail directed to Germanicus (no matter who from) is most likely being monitored by the evil that is Livia and Tiberius. Postumus comes back only to be killed. Better in my humble opinion to NOT come back at all. Better to live anywhere, go anywhere out of the realm, out of the dominion of those that would kill you with very little thought or remorse. Why did he want to come back then? Why not wait for confirmation that Germanicus would back him up with the whole regiment or two under his command? Why not wait until Livia was dead? Why be in a hurry? Didn’t Postumus realize he was only safe so long as people thought he was dead?

Chapter 19

Somewhat pointless and less exciting than the other two.

Tension between Germanicus and Tiberius. No one trusts Livia. But Tiberius keeps her around anyway. Livia relies on spies and informers to keep her aware of what goes on everywhere. To talk against Augustus–to talk as if he wasn’t a god–could land you in prison or could hand you a death sentence. Not a fun place to live.

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