31 Facts About Britannicus


Tiberius Claudius Caesar Britannicus, usually called Britannicus, was the son of Roman Emperor Claudius and his third wife, Valeria Messalina.


Britannicus was given to his father in AD 43 after his conquest of Britain.


Britannicus came to be known by his new name, which seems to have replaced Germanicus altogether.


Britannicus' father had been reigning for less than a month, and his position was boosted greatly by the birth of an heir.


Britannicus had four siblings: a half-brother, Claudius Drusus, by Claudius' first wife who died before Britannicus was born; a half-sister, Antonia, by Claudius' second wife ; a sister by the same mother named Octavia; and an adoptive brother, Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, who was adopted in AD 49 and renamed Nero Claudius Caesar as a result.


Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, a Roman historian, wrote from the late first century that Claudius adored Britannicus; carried him around at public events; and "would wish him happy auspices, joined by the applauding throng".


Britannicus was tutored by Sosibius, who was a close associate of Publius Suillius Rufus and a friend of his mother.


Britannicus took part in the celebrations of Rome's 800th anniversary in AD 48.


Britannicus' father was there, as was Lucius Domitius and his mother Agrippina, the last two surviving descendants of Germanicus.


Britannicus had grown so frantically enamoured of Gaius Silius, the handsomest of the young nobility of Rome, that she drove from his bed Junia Silana, a high-born lady, and had her lover wholly to herself.


Britannicus acquiesced and waited for Claudius to leave Rome before se performed the sacrifice and entered the bigamous marriage.


Britannicus's father claimed to be uninterested in another marriage, but it was not long until he remarried.


At the games of the circus, Nero appeared in triumphal robes while Britannicus was still dressed as a boy.


Britannicus's stepbrother became more politically active following his marriage to Octavia.


Britannicus exempted the people of Ilium from all public burdens by arguing that Rome was descended from Troy through Aeneas, procured funds for the colony of Bononia, which had been devastated by fire, and the people of Rhodes had their freedom restored.


Meanwhile, Britannicus himself was kept in reserve in case Nero died, with deaths of princes being recent such as that of Tiberius Gemellus.


Suetonius reports that Claudius wished Rome to have a "real Caesar", and Britannicus enjoyed support from Claudius' loyal and influential freedman Narcissus.


Britannicus's father wished to bestow upon him the toga and to declare Britannicus as his heir.


In late 54, Britannicus was within six months of reaching manhood by Roman tradition and had matured early.


Claudius' freedman Narcissus, Britannicus' champion according to Tacitus, had been driven to suicide after a harsh imprisonment.


Britannicus began a relationship with a slave girl, and removed Pallas, a favourite of Agrippina, from his post as secretary of the treasury.


That Britannicus was now of full age, he who was the true and worthy heir of his father's sovereignty, which a son, by mere admission and adoption, was abusing in outrages on his mother.


Britannicus shrank not from an utter exposure of the wickedness of that ill-starred house, of her own marriage, to begin with, and of her poisoner's craft.


In one such attempt, during the feast of Saturn, he and Nero were playing a game among a group of their friends, and Nero chose Britannicus to sing a song with the expectation that Britannicus would embarrass himself.


Britannicus was poisoned at a dinner party attended by his sister, Octavia, Agrippina and several other notables.


Tacitus' account of the event is that Britannicus was given a hot drink, which was tested by a food taster, and when he asked for it to be cooled, the poison was added to it with the cold water.


Nero claimed to those present that Britannicus was merely experiencing an epileptic seizure and that he had been affected by the condition since childhood.


Britannicus criticised Nero's singing voice, and referred to his adoptive brother by his original name of Lucius Domitius.


Britannicus even claimed to have tasted the poison, which resulted in a serious and long illness.


Britannicus is portrayed in Britannicus by French playwright Jean Racine.


Britannicus was played by Graham Seed in I, Claudius, a 1976 television series by Jack Pulman.