|Bust of Claudius II Gothicus |
from Santa Giulia Museum in
Born in the present day Balkan peninsula, little is known of Claudius's early life. His path to the throne was via the Roman army and he distinguished himself as a man of tremendous strength--a tale is told of him knocking out a horse's teeth with his fist. He was eventually promoted to the rank of cavalry commander and upon the assassination of the emperor Gallienus, he was declared emperor by the army outside of Milan.
He won the title "Gothicus" by defeating a huge army of Goths which had ravaged the provinces of Illyricum and Pannonia at the Battle of Naissus in AD 269. His victory was so complete that it would be another 100 years before the Goths would menace the Empire again.
Claudius reigned during a time when Christians were actively persecuted by the empire and Claudius himself is identified in legend as the emperor under whom Saint Valentine was martyred in AD 270. What is perhaps most interesting about Claudius, however, is that he identified in some sources as the grandfather of Constantius Chlorus and therefore, the great grandfather of Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor.
A good biography of Claudius Gothicus may be found here: