Recap for 'I, Claudius,' Episode Nine: 'Zeus, by Jove!'

Combining Roman history with campy, soapy melodrama, "I, Claudius" is a must-see for TV fans and history buffs alike. Keep up to speed with these treacherous Romans with KCET's recap series and character guide.

Where we left off:

Tiberius, after some coaxing by Caligula, had Sejanus murdered. Disgusted by her daughter, Antonia locked Livilla in her bedroom until she died.


"Zeus, by Jove!" is filled with death and resurrection. You would think Livia's absence would calm things down, but no, Caligula (John Hurt) is crazier than she was -- can we please note how creepy John Hurt looks?

Tiberius (George Baker) fakes his death early on so he can see what Caligula would do when the time actually came. Bad move, Tiberius. Caligula tells everyone Tiberius has died, and then has the job finished. He watches as Macro (John Rhys-Davies -- Gimli from "Lord of the Rings") smothers Tiberius to death, leaving Caligula and Gemellus as heirs to the throne.

Herod (James Faulkner) returns to Rome to visit Caligula, and he is just in time to see Caligula completely lose it and make Livia look utterly normal. The new ruler of Rome falls into a coma, however, after displaying some serious headaches and mental issues.

To make things worse, Caligula claims he has metamorphosed into Zeus after waking from his illness. He has Gemellus killed, and names his sister-wife Drusilla (Beth Morris) a goddess. She gets pregnant, and Caligula decides to try and recreate the birth of Athena (because he has gone completely insane and legitimately thinks this is okay). What does Athena's birth entail? Don't worry, you'll find out soon.

Claudius' mother, Antonia (Margaret Tyzack), is so sickened by the downward spiral that is her family that she commits suicide.

The juice (A.K.A. that awkward moment when):

And now, back to the birth of Athena. When Caligula finds out his sister is pregnant, he tries to relive the myth of Zeus and Athena's birth. After conceiving Athena, Zeus feared the child would be more powerful than he was. He ate Athena, but after a huge headache one of the gods hit his head with an axe and Athena leapt from his head.

Caligula feared the same would happen with Drusilla's baby. So what does he do? He chains her up in his room after getting her drunk, dresses up as Zeus -- complete with a fake beard -- and then cuts her stomach open to eat the fetus. She dies screaming, and he emerges from the bedroom with his face covered in blood.

What is wrong with these people?

Line of the night:

Herod doesn't appear regularly in the series, but when he does, he always has great sarcastic things to say. This episode is no different. After Macro tells the senators of Caligula's "transformation" into a god, Lentilus is the first to jump on the bandwagon. He completely believes that Caligula and Drusilla have changed, and he tells the other senators, "Gentlemen, posterity will envy us!"

Herod, ever the skeptic, replies, "Posterity will call you an ass, you idiot!"

Historical Spotlight:

History supports the claim the Caligula deemed himself a living god. He often appeared in public dressed as various gods, including Mercury, Apollo and even Venis. He was referred to as Jupiter in several public documents. However, there is no proof that he killed Drusilla and tried to eat their child to emulate Athena's birth. It is rumored that they were lovers, but their relationship never escalated into a marriage the way it is depicted in "I, Claudius."

Drusilla died in 38 A.D. of fever -- not by a knife to the stomach.