Ancient history

Emperor Claudius grants citizenship to all Gallic nobles

Last updated:2022-07-25

Following the assassination of Emperor Caligula in 41, the Roman Emperor Claudius (10 BC – 54 AD) ascended the throne. Unprepared, he nevertheless gradually imposed himself, strengthening the imperial powers in the face of the Senate. He led an active foreign policy and thus conquered many countries such as Brittany (now Great Britain). From this annexation, he is decked out with a nickname, Britannicus, which he passes on to his son. Advocating the uniqueness of the Empire, it unites the surrounding provinces.



Emperor Claudius is the first to be born outside Rome. Indeed, he was born in full Gaul, in Lugdunum (today Lyon), so he has a different vision of citizenship compared to the natives of Rome. Also, he supports a policy of openness towards the provinces colonized by the Empire.

At that time, to access the Senate, it was imperative to be a Roman citizen. Opposing this discrimination, the Gauls, annexed since Julius Caesar, filed a request in the Senate in 48 AD so that the high Gallic dignitaries, the nobles, could access high office. But this claim provokes indignation among the Romans, who consider themselves the only legitimate heirs to Roman citizenship.

Despite the wrath of the senators, the Emperor Claudius made a founding speech in the Senate for the Empire:he gave citizenship to the nobles of Gaule Chevelue, that is to say to the territories located between the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Rhine (Narbonne Gaul already has it). It thus opens access to the Roman magistracy (political and administrative functions) and offers the Gauls the rights reserved for the Romans, including the cursus honorum (course of honors).

This speech was transcribed in a bronze table, called Table Claudian. This was at the time displayed in the sanctuary of the Three Gauls (a monument erected in Lugdunum), which shows how essential the edict was for the Gauls. Two pieces of bronze were discovered by chance, by a draper, in 1528, in the district of Croix-Rousse (Lyon), which explains why the plural is usually used to designate this table. About 40% of the text is missing compared to the text transcribed by the historian Tacitus in his Annals . This table is 140 cm high and 193 cm wide and weighs no less than 222 kg! A founding piece in the history of the Gallic and French people, this table is now housed in the Gallo-Roman museum in Lyon.


When he delivered the speech before the Senate which gave access to the Roman magistracy to all Gallic nobles, Claude secured the support of the annexed provinces of the Empire. This integration of the colonies into the Empire, through citizenship, continued the pax romana (Roman peace) established by Octave, and allows Claude to consolidate the territory by calming the conflicts. In addition, Gaul is geographically located at a strategic point for the development of trade. From then on, uniting the Gauls with the Roman people strengthened the power of the Empire a little more. The policy of openness initiated by Claude will be continued by Vespasian, Marc-Aurèle or Caracalla (edict of Caracalla in 212).