Clau'dius Ii. or Clau'dius Gothicus
(M. AURELIUS CLAUDIUS, surnamed GOTHICUS), Roman emperor A. D. 268-270, was descended from an obscure family in Dardania or Illyria, and was indebted for distinction to his military talents, which recommended him to the favour and confidence of Decius, by whom he was entrusted with the defence of Thermopylae against the northern invaders of Greece. By Valerian he was nominated captain-general of the Illyrian frontier, and commander of all the provinces on the Lower Danube, with a salary and appointments on the most liberal scale; by the feeble and indolent son of the latter he was regarded with mingled respect, jealousy, and fear, but always treated with the highest consideration. Having been summoned to Italy to aid in suppressing the insurrection of Aureolus, he is believed to have taken a share in the plot organized against Gallienus by the chief officers of state, and, upon the death of that prince, was proclaimed as his successor by the conspirators, who pretended that such had been the last injunctions of their victim--a choice confirmed with some hesitation by the army, which yielded however to an ample donative, and ratified with enthusiastic applause by the senate on the 24th of March, A. D. 268, the day upon which the intelligence reached Rome.
The emperor signalized his accession by routing on the shores of the Lago di Garda a large body of Alemanni, who in the late disorders had succeeded in crossing the Alps, and thus was justified in assuming the epithet of Germanicus.
The destruction of Aureolus also was one of the first acts of the new reign : but whether, as some authorities assert, this usurper was defeated and slain by Claudius in the battle of the Adda, or slain by his own soldiers as others maintain who hold that the action of Pons Aureoli (Pontirolo
) was fought against Gallienus before the siege of Milan was formed, the confusion in which the history of this period is involved prevents us from deciding with confidence. [AUREOLUS.] A more formidable foe now threatened the Roman dominion. The Goths, having collected a vast fleet at the mouth of the Dniester, manned it is said by no less than 320,000 warriors, had sailed along the southern shores of the Euxine. Proceeding onwards, they passed through the narrow seas, and, steering for mount Athos, landed in Macedonia and invested Thessalonica.
But having heard that Claudius was advancing at the head of a great army, they broke up the siege and hastened to encounter him.
A terrible battle was fought near Naissus in Dardania (A. D. 269); upwards of fifty thousand of the barbarians were slain; a still greater number sank beneath the ravages of famine, cold, and pestilence; and the remainder, hotly pursued, threw themselves into the defiles of Haemus. Most of these were surrounded and cut off from all escape; such as resisted were slaughtered; the most vigorous of those who surrendered were admitted to recruit the ranks of their conquerors, while those unfit for military service were compelled to labour as agricultural slaves.
But soon after these glorious achievements, which gained for the emperor the title of Gothicus,
by which he is usually designated, he was attacked by an epidemic which seems to have spread from the vanquished to the victors, and died at Sirmium in the course of A. D. 270, after a reign of about two years, recommending with his last breath his general Aurelian as the individual most worthy of the purple.
Claudius was tall in stature, with a bright flashing eye, a broad full countenance, and possessed extraordinary muscular strength of arm.
He was dignified in his manners, temperate in his mode of life, and historians have been loud in extolling his justice, moderation, and moral worth, placing him in the foremost rank of good emperors, equal to Trajan in valour, to Antoninus in piety, to Augustus in self-controul--commendations which must be received with a certain degree of caution, from the fact, that the object of them was considered as one of the ancestors of Constantine, his niece Claudia being the wife of Eutropius and the mother of Constantius Chlorus.
The biography of Trebellius Pollio is a mere declamation, bearing all the marks of fulsome panegyric; but the testimony of Zosimus, who, although no admirer of Constantine, echoes these praises, is more to be trusted.
It is certain also that he was greatly beloved by the senate, who heaped honours on his memory : a golden shield bearing his effigy was hung up in the curia Romana, a colossal statue of gold was erected in the capitol in front of the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, a column was raised in the forum beside the rostra, and a greater number of coins bearing the epithet divus,
indicating that they were struck after death, are extant of this emperor than of any of his predecessors. (Trebell. Pollio, Claud.;
Aurel. Vict. Epit.
34, de Caes.
34; Eutrop. 9.11
; Zosim. 1.40-43; Zonar. 12.25
. Trebellius Pollio and Vopiscus give Claudius the additional appellation of Flavius,
and the former that of Valerius
also, names which were borne afterwards by Constantius.)