He made an expedition into Gaul, and talked of conquering Britain, but he got no further than the shore of the channel, where, instead of setting sail, he bade the soldiers gather up shells, which he sent home to the Senate to be placed among the treasures of the Capitol, calling them the spoils of the conquered ocean. Then he collected the German slaves and the tallest Gauls he could find, commanded the latter to dye their hair and beards to a light color, and brought them home to walk in his triumph. The Senate, however, were slow to understand that he could really expect a triumph, and this affronted him so much that, when they offered him one, he would not have it, and went on insulting them. He made his horse a consul, though only for a day, and showed it with golden oats before it in a golden manger. Once, when the two consuls were sitting by him, he burst out laughing, to think, he said, how with one word he could make both their heads roll on the floor.
The provinces were not so ill off, but the state of Rome was unbearable. Everybody was in danger, and at last a plot was formed for his death; and as he was on his way from his house to the circus, and stopped to look at some singers who were going to perform, a party of men set upon him and killed him with many wounds, after he had reigned only five years, and when he was but thirty years old.
CLAUDIUS AND NERO.
Poor dull Claudius heard an uproar and hid himself, thinking he was going to be murdered like his nephew, but still worse was going to befall him. They were looking for him to make him Emperor, for he was the last of his family. He was clumsy in figure, though his face was good, and he was a kind-hearted man, who made large promises, and tried to do well; but he was slow and timid, and let himself be led by wicked men and women, so that his rule ended no better than that of the former Caesars.
He began in a spirited way, by sending troops who conquered the southern part of Britain, and making an expedition thither himself. His wife chose to share his triumph, which was not, as usual, a drive in a chariot, but a sitting in armor on their thrones, with the eagles and standards over their heads, and the prisoners led up before them. Among them came the great British chief Caractacus, who is said to have declared that he could not think why those who had such palaces as there were at Rome should want the huts of the Britons.
Claudius was kind to the people in the distant provinces. He gave the Jews a king again, Herod Agrippa, the grandson of the first Herod, who was much loved by them, but died suddenly after a few years at Caesarea, after the meeting with the Tyrians, when he let them greet him as a god. There were a great many Jews living at Rome, but those from Jerusalem quarrelled with those from Alexandria; and one year, when there was a great scarcity of corn, Claudius banished them all from Rome.