Recap for 'I, Claudius,' Episode Twelve: 'A God in Colchester'

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:
Claudius is now the ruler of Rome. Things are not all sunshine and rainbows, though, as his wife Messalina has been sleeping with other men behind his back.

If you thought Messalina's (Sheila White) sexuality was a problem last episode, then you're in for a surprise. While Claudius (Derek Jacobi) is leading an Invasion of Britain, she sleeps around to her heart's content. She even has a contest with a prostitute to see who could sleep with more people in one night (as noted in the history section of the last recap). Naturally, Messalina wins.

Remember when Herod (James Faulker) told Claudius not to trust anyone? His advice wasn't for nothing. Herod, believing he was the "King of Jews," organized a rebellion against Claudius to take over the east. Alas, the rebellion never happens because Herod dies.

Messalina takes Gaius Silius as her lover, and together they plot to divorce their spouses and rule Rome. Why they thought that half-baked idea would work, I don't know. They go through with it anyway, and while Claudius is away they get married for all of Rome to see. Claudius doesn't find out until Calpurnia (Jo Rowbottom) and his servants tell him the truth -- even then, he needs convincing. Messalina is killed shortly after.

Just at seems everything around him is falling apart, Claudius learns the Brits have made him a god, dedicating a temple to him at Colchester.

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

The entirety of "A God in Colchester" is juicy, considering the lasciviousness that surrounds the empire thanks to Messalina. What is particularly messed up, though, is the way she lies to Claudius to get out of going with him on his trip. Once he's gone, she goes behind his back and marries Gaius Silius. The entire time, she's been giving Silius gifts and taking expensive things from the palace to his home -- including gifts from Claudius.

They have a very large, over-the-top party, and all of Rome knows what she has done. It must have been really awkward for Claudius to find that out.

Line of the night:
You can't help but feel awful for Claudius in this episode. His best friend turns into an enemy, his wife sleeps around and then she divorces him to get married behind his back. Early on, Claudius delivers a line that perfectly captures this: "I was her slave. Is there anything so foolish as a man in love?"

Historical spotlight:
The conquest of Britannia noted at the beginning of the episode really did happen. In 43 A.D., Claudius started the campaign to prove his military prowess and gain some respect from the people. He was gone for 16 days and oversaw the taking of Colchester, where he was deified and had a temple named for him. Later on, he conquered North Africa, the Balkans and part of Turkey for the empire.