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During his reign the Empire began the conquest of Britain (if the earlier invasions of Britain by Caesar and Caligula's aborted attempts are not counted).

Having a personal interest in law, he presided at public trials, and issued up to twenty edicts a day.

These events damaged his reputation among the ancient writers, though more recent historians have revised this opinion.

Many authors contend that he was murdered by his own wife.

When the Arch of Pavia was erected to honor the Imperial clan in 8 BC, Claudius' name (now Tiberius Claudius Nero Germanicus after his elevation to paterfamilias of Claudii Nerones on the adoption of his brother) was inscribed on the edge—past the deceased princes, Gaius and Lucius, and Germanicus' children.

He was a descendant of the Octavii Rufi (through Gaius Octavius), Julii Caesares (through Julia Minor and Julia Antonia), and the Claudii Nerones (through Nero Claudius Drusus); he was a great-nephew of Augustus through his full sister Octavia Minor, a nephew of Tiberius through his father Drusus, Tiberius' brother, an uncle of Caligula and finally a great-uncle of Nero through Caligula's father and Nero's grandfather Germanicus, his brother.

Claudius was born on 1 August 10 BC at Lugdunum (modern Lyon, France). His mother, Antonia, may have had two other children who died young.

During his reign, Claudius revived the rumor that his father Drusus was actually the illegitimate son of Augustus, to give the appearance that Augustus was Claudius' paternal grandfather.

In 9 BC, his father Drusus unexpectedly died on campaign in Germania, possibly from illness.

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In 7 AD, Livy was hired to tutor him in history, with the assistance of Sulpicius Flavus.