You know what would have really helped me make sense of all this would have been a family tree. This was worse than Russian novels, where everyone has at least four names and a nickname. But these guys changed names whenever they felt like it, used a limited set to choose from (Nero? Oh, not THAT Nero), divorced and hooked up depending on the politics of the moment, and let’s not even get into the suicides, forced and otherwise, and the murders. Good grief, SO many poisonings! OK, maybe a family tree wouldn’t have helped much with this incestuous lot.
So I must admit top not having a lot of background knowledge in Roman history, but it seems as if there was Augustus, who followed Julius Caesar and was Rome’s first Emperor. He seemed comparatively decent, but had an evil wife who was really into the whole poisoning thing. Eventually he was followed by Tiberius (a nephew? I swear, I couldn’t keep track) who was acceptable at first, but started going downhill at the end, but wait. Because look who follows him. Caligula, who was absolutely on and beyond. So when he finally gets offed, SO many murders later, guess who’s in line next. Our titular Claudius. And how did he managed not to go the way of his brother and so many others? Because he stammered.
Written off as a mental misfit early on, he lurked in the background, mis-performed on the rare occasion he was dragged out for some ritual or another, and indulged himself in his passion for, wait for it, writing history. Well, that’s his story, but I don’t think I trust anyone in this town.