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I, Claudius
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I, Claudius

I, Claudius is a novel by Robert Graves, first published in 1934, dealing sympathetically with the life of the Roman emperor Claudius. Graves's interpretation of the story owes much to Tacitus.

The book was to have been the subject of a 1937 film, produced by Alexander Korda and starring Charles Laughton, but it was dogged by ill-luck, culminating in a serious accident involving the female star, Merle Oberon, which caused filming to be abandoned.

In 1975, the book, together with its sequel, Claudius the God, was finally adapted by the BBC, and proved one of the corporation's most successful drama serials of all time. It starred Derek Jacobi as Claudius, Siān Phillips as Livia, George Baker as Tiberius, John Hurt as Caligula and Brian Blessed as Augustus. Also included in the cast were Patrick Stewart as Sejanus and John Rhys-Davies as Macro. Wilfrid Josephs provided the suitably eerie title music.

Production of the series was delayed because of complex negotiations between the BBC and the copyright holders of the aborted film version. This did however give scriptwriter Jack Pulman more time to fine-tune his script.

The series was subsequently broadcast in the United States as part of PBS' s Masterpiece Theatre series, where it was widely acclaimed and accepted. It has come to be widely regarded as one of the best television series ever made, which is remarkable given the violence and highly sexual themes contained within. 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.

The DVD of the TV series also includes a BBC documentary on the film project, featuring interviews with key production staff and actors as well as most of the surviving footage.