Born in Lugdunum in 10 BC as Tiberius Claudius Nero Germanicus, the emperor Claudius had a shaky start in life. He was handicapped and had a physical appearance of mental incapacitation, although he was, in fact, rather smart. He was treated with disrespect from everybody around him. After the murder of his nephew Caligula in 41 AD, Claudius fled to a balcony of the palace and hid behind the curtains, knowing that he was the next in line for the throne and that the murderers may very well come after him, too. However, they found him and he was made emperor, albeit reluctantly, when he made the decision for the senate, revoking their powers of appointment momentarily. This was the beginning of many tense Imperial reigns, as the senate would remain bitter about their lack of control of who the next emperor would be for quite a while.
Despite his physical hindrances and military inexperience, the army was very kind to him because he was the brother of Germanicus, who they loved.
Claudius, like any other royal, needed help on occasion, and he hired many state secretaries. The most important of these is Narcissus, the ab epistulis, who took action when a crisis arose during Claudius' temporary leave of absence in 48. Claudius' third wife, a twenty-three-year-old named Valeria Messalina, was cheating on him with a man named Gaius Silius. They attempted a coup in which they would place hers and Claudius' seven-year-old son Britannicus on the throne and rule the Roman Empire as regents. When Claudius found out, he was at a loss, but Narcissus worked quickly. He arrested and executed Silius and drove Messalina to suicide.
However, this can be seen as a double-edged sword. Although he stopped the problem at the time, Narcissus may have caused a problem for Claudius in the future. Claudius married for a fourth time in 49 to a woman named Agrippina the Younger. She was named Augusta, an honor that she was the first to receive, and when she married Claudius, she fully intended to make her twelve-year-old son, Nero, a child from a previous marriage, the heir to the emperor's throne rather than Claudius' biological son, Britannius, who was younger than Nero. Cunningly, she had Nero marry Claudius' daughter, Octavia, and upon their marriage, Claudius adopted him as his heir.
Claudius died in the year 54 of unknown causes. A widely popular story is that Agrippina fed him poisoned mushrooms and he died, but some argue that she did not have enough motive. However, it is possible that it was a natural death, as he was sixty-four, or even an accidental poisoning, as it is easy to pick the wrong mushroom to eat in Italy.
Claudius had been a difficult child to raise due to his handicaps, and he had stomachaches that "made him think of suicide," but his health had become better as he grew older, despite the blatant truth that there had to have been something wrong with him that wasn't just a one-time disease. He was supposedly very bright, despite what others thought of him when he was younger. He was on his way to being a historian, had he not become emperor.