Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Big Read II: I, Claudius Ch. 23-26

Chapter 23: Urgulanilla's passions
~Sejanus still looking for an Imperial family connection. He gives Claudius a tip, to bet on Scarlet, not the unlucky color Leek Green. Tiberius keeps the winnings. Mobster.
~Antonia discovers Caligula and Drusilla doing naughty things. Claudius gets her to think of Agrippina before she goes to the Emperor with the charge.
~To avoid further clashes with his mother, Claudius goes to his brother-in-law's house, where he meets his wife unexpectedly. She scares him. She makes him stay, but won't go to sleep until he goes to sleep, and he won't go to sleep until she does, because he's afraid she'll kill him. He finally falls asleep, and wakes up in time to realize she's killing her brother's new wife. Claudius covers for them both, and Plautius is charged. Plautius has a doctor help him kill himself. Claudius tells us he would have come forward, really he would, but didn't know until it was too late.
~Sejanus arranges Claudius's divorce from Urgulanilla. He'd found a slave "who might have been Numantina's twin." Urgulanilla would have his child. Claudius could marry Sajanus's sister Aelia. S hints that he sent the letter that sparked Urgulalilla's revenge for Numantina. Claudius does as bid, and petitions Livia for divorce. Livia orders the child exposed. Claudius warns Urgulanilla to find a dead baby.

Chapter 24: Tiberius vs. Livia
~Tiberius and Livia are feuding. Livia reads old letters from Tiberius and Augustus, the most incriminating.
~Claudius makes clear to us, his readers, that Tiberius was in fact a good ruler. He managed the needs of the country well. "Of six million Roman citizens, a mere two or three hundred suffered for Tiberius's jealous fears."
~Agrippina appeals to Tiberius. It doesn't help. She falls ill. She tries again. She asks him to allow her to marry. Unfortunately she names Gallus, Tiberius's comic nemesis. Tiberius invites her to a banquet, his method of scaring those he mistrusted. Of all foods, Agrippina could not eat apples, and that is what Tiberius handed her. "Why did Tiberius not immediately try her on a treason-charge, as Sejanus urged? Because Agrippina was still under Livia's protection." Why, I wonder?

Chapter 25: Claudius in Livia's presence
~Claudius presents himself for Livia's birthday, as invited. Livia predicts Caligula will be the next Emperor. She has an agreement with him: she will not reveal his horrible nasty secret, and he will make her a goddess so she won't rot in hell. What? Livia is afraid? She says, "I have done many impious things--no great ruler can do otherwise. I have put the good of the Empire before all human considerations." She wants Claudius to make sure it happens. She wants him to swear.
~Claudius will on one condition. He's had a bit to drink, all cards are out on the table, perhaps the first time in Livia's life? "Yes, after the twentieth cup; and it's a simple condition. After thirty-six years of neglect and aversion you surely don't expect me to do anything for you without making conditions, do you?"
~He wants to know who killed the members of his family. He will not attempt to avenge their deaths. He says, "I believe that evil is its own punishment." He is an historian. He wants to know the truth. And she tells him. Wow.
~Yes: grandfather; Augustus; Agrippa; Lucius; Marcellus; Gaius; Drusillus. No: father (gangrene); Germanicus (Plancina on her own). But she would have done both because they "had decided to restore the Republic." Claudius was spared only because he might have revealed the whereabouts of Postumus. Urgualania used confessions to recruit assassins. The sinners gained absolution through doing Livia's dirty work.
~Finally, Livia hands him a book. "It was the collection of rejected Sibylline verses that I have written about in the first pages of this story, and when I came across the prophecy called "The Succession of Hairy Ones" I thought I knew why Livia had invited me to dinner and made me swear that oath. If I had sworn it. It all seemed like a drunken dream."

Chapter 26: The end of an era: Livia dies
~Tiberius leaves Rome, sets up an island Bacchanal paradise. He authorizes Sejanus to speak for him, and "to remove the leaders of Agrippina's party by whatever means seemed most convenient."
~Tiberius and Livia accidentally meet in Naples. Just to mess with him, Livia says, "be very careful of the barbel you eat on your island." Tiberius was fond of that fish. It got a poor fisherman killed when he tried to offer one.
~Claudius married Aelia. This meant he couldn't see Agrippina and her children anymore, as it was a given that she would tell her brother Sejanus anything and everything.
~Nero too trusting, confides in brother Drusus, who goes to Sejanus. Nero soon abandoned by most friends. Gallus remains, who now heckles Sejanus instead of Tiberius. He keeps proposing statues and other honors.

"Tiberius suddenly realized that while all the goings and comings at Capri were known to Sejanus and could to a great extent be controlled by him, he himself only knew as much as Sejanus cared to tell him about the comings and goings by Sejanus's front door."

~Caligula reneges on his agreement with Livia when she is dying. Of course he does. She should have known better. Funny how fear clouds the thinking. Claudius promises to follow through, and puts the special coin in her mouth. The Senate would have made her a demi-goddess, but Tiberius reverses all, and does not preside at her funeral. He also does not honor the bequests in her will that went to others, including Claudius. Mobster.

Don't forget to visit the Big Read originator: Bookshelves of Doom.

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