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On this day in AD 54 the Roman Emperor Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus died, supposedly poisoned.
Known today as Claudius, he was the fourth Roman emperor and one of the best. Born into the imperial family and partly disabled by a deformed leg, he was not seen as a threat when his predecessor Caligula was murdered.
Found hiding after the event by the Praetorian Guard, he was proclaimed emperor on the spot. The story was told by English poet Robert Graves in his 1934 novel I Claudius. His rule turned out to be wise and effective and Rome was a much more powerful nation when he died.
It was 25 years after his death that Mount Vesuvius near Naples, erupted burying the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Here is part of a poem about Pompeii by Thomas Babington Macaulay, Pompeii:
Well have they mouldering walls, Pompeii, known,
Decked in those charms, and by that rage o’erthrown.
Sad City, gayly dawned thy latest day,
And poured its radiance on the scene as gay.
The leaves scarce rustled in the sighing breeze;
In azure dimples curled the sparkling seas,
And as the golden tide of light they quaffed,
Campania’s sunny meads and vineyards laughed,
While gleamed each lichened oak and giant pine
On the far sides of swarthy Apennine.
Then mirth and music through Pompeii rung;
Then verdant wreaths on all her portals hung;
Her sons with solemn rite and jocund lay,
Hailed the glad splendours of that festal day
Today I ask that I shall strive to do my best, whatever my disabilities.