I, Claudius is a 1976 BBC Television adaptation of Robert Graves's I, Claudius and Claudius the God. Written by Jack Pulman,[1] it proved one of the corporation's most successful drama serials of all time.

It starred Derek Jacobi as Claudius, with Siân PhillipsBrian BlessedGeorge BakerJohn Hurt and Patrick Stewart.


 [hide*1 Plot


Main article: List of I, Claudius episodes

I, Claudius follows the history of Rome, narrated by the elderly Claudius, from the death of Marcellus, nephew and son-in-law of Augustus, in the first episode to Claudius' own death in the last. The series opens with Augustus, the emperor of Rome, attempting to find an heir, and his wife, Livia, plotting to elevate her own son Tiberius to this position.

The plotting and double-crossing continue for many decades, through the conspiracy of Sejanus and the rule of the lunatic emperor Caligula, culminating in the seemingly accidental rise to power by Claudius.


The series was produced by Joan Sullivan and Martin Lisemore, and directed by Herbert Wise in the studios at BBC Television Centre. Production was delayed because of complex negotiations between the BBC and the copyright holders of Alexander Korda's aborted 1937 film version. This did, however, give the scriptwriter Jack Pulman more time to fine-tune his script.

I, Claudius was made at a relatively low cost of £60,000 for an hour of broadcast material, in a series that had a total running time of 650 minutes.[2] Considering pound sterling inflation, the entire show would have cost £3,960,000 in 2013.


Wilfred Josephs wrote the title music. David Wulstan and the Clerkes of Oxenford ensemble provided the (diegetic) music for most episodes.

Awards and reception[edit]Edit

During its original airing in 1976, the BBC estimated that I, Claudius had an average audience of 2,500,000 viewers per episode, based on rating surveys.[3]

Among other awards, the series won three BAFTAs in 1977 (Derek Jacobi, Best Actor (TV); Siân Phillips, Best Actress (TV); Tim Harvey, Best Design (TV)).

The series was subsequently broadcast in the United States as part of PBSMasterpiece Theatre series, where it received critical acclaim. Tim Harvey won a 1978 Emmy for Outstanding Art Direction. The producers and director received nominations for Emmys. In a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted for by industry professionals, I, Claudius was placed 12th.

In 2007 it was listed as one of Time magazine's "100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME."[4]


Actor Character
Derek Jacobi Claudius
Siân Phillips Livia Drusilla
George Baker Tiberius
John Hurt Caligula
Brian Blessed Augustus
Patrick Stewart Lucius Aelius Sejanus
Margaret Tyzack Antonia Minor
Patricia Quinn Livilla
John Paul Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa
Sheila White Valeria Messalina
Christopher Biggins Nero
Ian Ogilvy Nero Claudius Drusus
David Robb Germanicus
John Castle Agrippa Postumus
Fiona Walker Agrippina the Elder
Frances White Julia the Elder
James Faulkner Herod Agrippa
Kevin McNally Castor
John Rhys-Davies Naevius Sutorius Macro
Christopher Guard Marcus Claudius Marcellus
Stratford Johns Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso
Bernard Hepton Marcus Antonius Pallas
John Cater Tiberius Claudius Narcissus
Barbara Young Agrippinilla
Beth Morris Julia Drusilla
Ashley Knight Young Claudius
Actor Character
Simon MacCorkindale Lucius Caesar
Sheila Ruskin Vipsania Agrippina
Angela Morant Octavia the Younger
Graham Seed Britannicus
Jo Rowbottom Calpurnia
Lyndon Brook Appius Junius Silanus
Sam Dastor Cassius Chaerea
Kevin Stoney Thrasyllus of Mendes
Freda Dowie Milonia Caesonia & Sibyl
Irene Hamilton Munatia Plancina
Darien Angadi Aulus Plautius
Peter Bowles Caractacus
Norman Eshley Marcus Vinicius
John Bennett Xenophon
Patsy Byrne Martina
Douglas Melbourne Tiberius Gemellus
Karin Foley Helen
Earl Rhodes Gaius Caesar
Richard Hunter Drusus Caesar
Russell Lewis Young Lucius
Robert Morgan Young Caligula
Cheryl Johnson Claudia Octavia
Isabel Dean Lollia Paulina
Liane Aukin Aelia Paetina
Moira Redmond Domitia Lepida the Younger
Bernard Hill Gratus
Norman Rossington Sergeant of the Guard


I Claudius was preceded by the 1968 ITV historical drama The Caesars which covered very similar ground, but differed in its less sensationalist approach to the main characters and their motivations.[5] The BBC's subsequent historical dramas The Borgias (1981) and The Cleopatras (1983) were produced in a similar vein, although they did not match the critical and commercial success of I, Claudius.


[1][2]Cover of the US release of the first I, Claudius DVD. There has since been a remastered edition with a different cover.

Most VHS and DVD versions of the TV series include the 1965 BBC documentary The Epic That Never Was, about the uncompleted Korda film version of the first book, featuring interviews with key production staff and actors as well as most of the surviving footage. The 2002 UK DVD edition also contains a documentary on the series, I, Claudius – a Television Epic, as well as some alternate and deleted scenes. The DVD release was updated on 2 December 2008. While this release has better-improved audio and video than the 2000 US DVD version, it was met with hostile reviews from some customers. This version, for example, had some parts either cut or censored from the original version and no subtitles or closed captioning.[6][7] A 35th anniversary edition was released on 27 March 2012. It includes the twelve episodes (in their uncut states) on four discs, SDH subtitles, and one disc of bonus features.

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