Page 0924

924

UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.

senators were filled with zeal for the restoration of the impossible.

Resolutions were adopted to honor the assassins of the late prince, and to

put away his widow and child. The praetorians, however, had now come to

know the hand that fed them, and they took upon themselves the easy task of

showing the foolishness of the reactionary dream of the Senate. Claudius,

the son of Drusus Claudius Nero, and uncle of Caligula, had assumed the

role of an imbecile. During the reigns of Tiberius and Caligula idiocy was

of prime value, especially in those of high birth. Claudius had discovered

that to be a fool was to have a breastplate. Whether the praetorians

believed him wiser than he seemed, or deemed it better for themselves that

the Empire should have an imbecile for its head, does not appear. At any

rate, they chose him for Emperor; and he was dragged from his hiding-place

in the palace to assume the duties of government.

Without great abilities, the new Caesar showed much wisdom in the beginning

of his reign. He imitated the policy of Augustus. The exiles were recalled

and the devastations wrought by the late ruler were effaced as rapidly as

possibly.

After the conquest of the island by Julius Caesar, but little attention had

been paid to Britain. The firm establishment and growth of Roman

institutions in Gaul, however, and the extension of civilization to the

British Channel, had naturally attracted the interest of the Empire to the

important island beyond. Commercial relations had sprung up between

Londinium and the towns of the continent, and ships passed constantly

between the Thames and the Rhine. Thus far the Romans had had no more than

a bare footing in the south-eastern part of the island. It remained for

Claudius to signalize his reign by conquering the British tribes as far as

the Avon and the Severn. In the course of a campaign into the country of

the Silures, the general of Claudius met the famous British chieftain

Caractacus, whom he overthrew in a great battle. The native king was

captured and sent to Rome to grace the triumph of the victor. He was

permitted as a prisoner to address the Emperor, and is said to have made