Britannicus

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Tiberius Claudius Caesar Britannicus (12 February 41 — before 12 February 55) was the son of the Roman emperor Claudius and his third wife Valeria Messalina. He became the heir-designate of the empire at his birth, less than a month into his father's reign. He was still a young boy at the time of his mother's downfall and Claudius' marriage to Agrippina the Younger. This allowed Agrippina's older son Nero to eclipse him in the public's mind. He lived only months into his step brother Nero's reign, murdered just before his 14th birthday.

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Birth and early childhood

Britannicus was probably born on 12 February 41 to the Roman Emperor Claudius and his wife Valeria Messalina[1]. He was the oldest surviving son of his father at birth, Claudius's son by his first marriage to Plautia Urgulanilla having died at the age of 14 nearly two decades before. He was accordingly named Tiberius Claudius Germanicus, sharing his father's praenomen as recognition of his status as heir. Britannicus' father had been reigning for less than a month, and his position was boosted greatly by the arrival of a successor. To mark the birth, the emperor issued sestertii with the obverse Spes Augusta - the hope of the imperial family. Two years later, in 43, Claudius was granted the honorific "Britannicus" by the senate as a reward for his conquest of Britain. The emperor refused it for himself, but accepted it on behalf of his young son. This is the name by which the boy became known to posterity. According to Suetonius, Claudius doted extensively on Britannicus. He carried him around at public events, and shouted "Good luck to you, my boy!" to elicit a similar response from the crowds. He was supposedly a precocious child.

The fall of his mother, Messalina

In 48, Britannicus became a pawn in the acts that led to the demise of Messalina. One of the conditions for her bigamous marriage to Gaius Silius was that he adopt her son as his own. They apparently then planned to rule as regents for the boy after the planned overthrow of Claudius. Messalina may have believed this was the only way to prevent her son from being killed with his father. Messalina and Silius were discovered shortly after their wedding and put to death, having never launched their coup.

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