Claudius II commonly known as Claudius Gothicus, was Roman Emperor from 268 to 270. During his reign he fought successfully against the Alamanni and scored a crushing victory against the Goths at the Battle of Naissus. He died after succumbing to a smallpox plague that ravaged the provinces of the Empire.
Claudius' origin is uncertain. Born on May 10, 213,he was either from Sirmium in Pannonia Inferior or from Naissus Dardania.
Claudius had served with the Roman army for all his adult life, making his way up the military hierarchy until the Emperor Gallienus made him the commander of his elite cavalry force. In September 268 he found himself assigned as a military tribune with the Emperor, besieging the usurper Aureolus in Milan. There, the troops proclaimed him Emperor, amid charges, never proven, that he murdered his predecessor Gallienus.
However, he soon proved to be less than bloodthirsty, as he asked the Roman Senate to spare the lives of Gallienus' family and supporters. He was less magnanimous toward Rome's enemies, however, and it was to this that he owed his popularity.
It is possible Claudius gained his position and the respect of the soldiers by being physically strong and especially cruel. A legend tells of Claudius knocking out a horse's teeth with one punch. When Claudius performed as a wrestler in the 250's, he supposedly knocked out the teeth of his opponent when his genitalia had been grabbed in the match.
Claudius, like Maximinus Thrax before him, was of barbarian birth. After an interlude of failed aristocratic Roman emperors since Maximinus's death, Claudius was the first in a series of tough soldier-emperors who would eventually restore the Empire from the Crisis of the third century.