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The gens Claudia was one of the oldest patrician families in ancient Romemarker. For several centuries its members were regularly leaders of the city and empire. In the names assigned to periods by historians, the Julio-Claudian dynasty of initial Roman emperors derives in part from the gens Claudia. Any male of the family had a nomen Claudius; any female, Claudia. Collectively they were the Claudii (masculine plural). Of them Suetonius says: "In the course of time they amassed twenty-eight consulships, five dictatorships, seven censorships, six triumphs and two ovations."


According to Livy the gens was founded in the consulships of Publius Valerius (Poplicola, his fourth) and Titus Lucretius (Tricipitinus, his second), which, according to the official fasti of Augustus (see List of Roman consuls), would have been in the year 505/504 BC. In Livy's chronology, which is four years later, the date is 501/500 BC.

At that time a war was going on with the Sabines. They had just been defeated and were deliberating a last maximum effort against Rome (which subsequently failed). The vote was for war, but a leading dissenter, Attius Clausus, with "a large retinue of clients" (showing that he was a wealthy landowner patronizing numerous freedmen) fled to Rome ab Inregillo, "from Inregillus" or "Inregillum." The nature of the latter place is not known; it could be just "from the vicinity of Lake Regillus" but more likely it was a settlement, now lost. Suetonius calls it ex Regillis oppido Sabinorum, "from Regilla (plural) a town of the Sabines." In that case inregillum would be "from the vicinity of Regillum."

This act, treacherous to the Sabines, was rewarded as great patriotism and loyalty by the Romans. By an act of the Senate Appius Claudius—the Roman version of Attius Clausus, innovated for the occasion—was made a citizen and given senatorial rank; that is, he was enrolled as a patrician. The emperor Tiberius said of the first Appius Claudius in a speech to the Senate in favor of admitting Gauls to the Senate: "My ancestors, the most ancient of whom was made at once a citizen and a noble of Rome, encourage me to govern by the same policy of transferring to this city all conspicuous merit, wherever found." To qualify for senatorial rank, Claudius had to be a landowner; he was given sufficient land beyond the Anio River just north of Rome. The population of this region was later known as "the old Claudian tribe."

Suetonius tells an alternative story, that "Atta Claudius" was invited by Titus Tatius to settle at Rome in the time of the kings, but he is not sure whether that was under Romulus or later. This is the less likely story, as the fasti list Appius Claudius Sabinus Inregillensis as in the 15th college of consuls along with Publius Servilius Priscus. Sabinus Inregillensis perhaps began as a cognomen but by the time of his consulship was an agnomen. Sabines at Rome used Sabinus to establish ethnic identity (of which they were proud), and Inregillensis identifies his home town. Similarly, the ancestor, Clausus (possibly an earlier one), who assisted Aeneas in the war against Latinus, might be a poetic fiction or anachronism; or it is possible that the emperors retained a tradition of ancient Sabine Clausans.


The etymology of Appius Claudius could be clearer if the original name were known better. The derivation of Claudius perhaps most frequently quoted is that of Antoine Meillet, who linked it with claudus/clodus, "lame." The alternation o/au seems to have been common in Sabine. As there is no evidence of lameness in any of the Claudii, one must presume a prehistoric lame Sabine ancestor; however Clodus was also a name and was distinct from Clodius. The alternation of s/d occurs in words borrowed into Latin from Greek: rosa from Greek rhodos, but clausus or *closus is Sabine becoming clod- in Latin. It might have come from Greek settlers in Latium, but there is no evidence. William Smith connects Attius with a Sabine name Attus given by Valerius Maximus (which is close to the Greek bucolic name Attys), establishing an alternation u/iu. According to Meillets's etymology, the original would have belonged to a Sabine country gentleman named "Attus the Lame", or "Attus, son of the lame", but without a more certain literary tradition or epigraphic evidence, this derivation is total speculation. For the Attius, Attus or Atta, Karl Braasch translated it as Väterschen, "little father", connecting it with a series of childhood parental names: atta, tata, acca and the like, becoming such names as Tatius (a fellow Sabine) and Atilius. He also asserted the "lame" meaning of Clausus.

Branches of the gens Claudia

Early Republic (509-264 BC)

The Claudii Sabini Regillenses shared the geographic agnomen with the Postumii Albi Regillenses, who must also have been Sabines.

Sabinus Regillensis

  • Арpius Claudius Sabinus Regillensis (or less likely Regillensis Sabinus), Consul 471, son of the founder. Sent against the Volsci "He hated the people more than his father had done" and therefore "tormented his army" with excessive military discipline until they began to passively resist. Running away from one battle they were slaughtered in the next. Assembling his men Claudius executed the officers before them and decimated the rest. On leaving office he was tried for crimes while in office. The trial was continued but before a new date could be set he died "of a distemper."
  • Gaius Claudius Appius Sabinus Regillensis, Quaestor 471, Consul 460, son of the founder.

Crassinus Regillensis

  • Ap. Claudius Ap. f. M. n. Crassinus Regillensis Sabinus Cos. Decemvir
  • Ap. Claudius Ap. f. Ap. n. Crassin. Regillensis Tr. mil.
  • Ap. Claudius P. f. Ap. n. Crassinus Regillensis Tr. mil. Dict. Cos. triumph
  • C. Claudius Ap. f. Ap. n. Crassinus Regillensis Dict.
  • C. Claudius Ap. f. P. n. Crassinus Regillensis Dict.

Middle Republic (264-133 BC)

The following branches were descended from the censor Appius Claudius Caecus.

Late Republic (133-31 BC)

There were several major branches of the Claudian gens at the end of the Republic.

  • One obscure patrician branch of the family appears to have had no cognomen. A Lucius Claudius served as Rex Sacrorum in the mid-1st Century BC. He is doubly unusual, since "Lucius" is rare in any of the branches of the Claudii and unusual among patricians in general.

  • Those Claudii with the cognomen Marcellus (fem.Marcella, meaning martial) were plebeians. In the first century BC, this branch had three consuls in three successive years (51-49 BC; two brothers and their first cousin); they favoured the praenomina Gaius and Marcus. Gaius Claudius Marcellus (consul 49 BC) was married to Augustus' sister Octavia Minor and their son, Marcus, was married to Augustus' daughter, Julia the Elder. A sub-branch or off-shoot, whose antecedents are unclear, was additionally cognominated Aeserninus as in Marcus Claudius Marcellus Aeserninus.

  • Those Claudii with the cognomen Pulcher (fem. Pulchra, meaning "beautiful") were patricians and also very prominent in the Middle and Late Republic; they favoured the praenomina Appius (the only family to bear this praenomen) and Publius. A plebeian offshoot of this family was created when a Publius Claudius Pulcher, youngest son of an Appius, had himself adopted by a plebeian (for political reasons) and was thereafter known as Publius Clodius. One of his sisters, Clodia, wife of her cousin Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer, also adopted this vulgar spelling. This branch however fell into obscurity with Clodius's death; his daughter Clodia was briefly married to Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, the future Augustus.

  • As noted, some plebian Claudians used the gentilicium "Clodius."

Notable members of the gens Claudia

Note: Consuls of 51 and 49 BC were brothers and first cousins to the consul of 50 BC. Note: Claudians after the death of Nero were most likely descended from freedmen of the Claudians, or men granted citizenship by Claudians.


  1. Tiberius, 1.
  2. History of Rome, Book II.16.
  3. Tacitus, Annals, Book XI.24.
  4. The authors cite
  5. This was allegedly meant ironically, as were some other Roman cognomina; the first Claudius Pulcher and most of his descendants were far from good-looking.
  6. This was allegedly meant ironically, as were some other Roman cognomina; the first Claudius Pulcher and most of his descendants were far from good-looking.

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