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Livia

(b. 58 bc)


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Wife of Augustus, b. 58 bc. The granddaughter of Marcus Livius Drusus (2), she first married in 43 or 42 Tiberius Claudius Nero, whom she accompanied on his flight after the Perusine War. She bore him Tiberius, the future emperor, and Drusus. In 39, in order to marry Octavian (the future Augustus), she was divorced though pregnant with her second son. Although she had no further children, she retained Augustus' respect and confidence throughout his life. As consort of the princeps, she became an effective model of old-fashioned propriety, her beauty, dignity, intelligence, and tact fitting her for her high position. She played a role in the Augustan system which was unusually formal and conspicuous for a woman, and on Augustus' death became a principal figure in his cult and (by his will) a member of his family, as Julia Augusta. She was believed to have interceded successfully on behalf of conspirators, but some took her influence on Augustus to be malign, and saw her as a ruthless intriguer (her grandson Gaius (1) called her ‘Ulixes stolatus’, ‘Odysseus in a matron's gown’), while the tradition grew up that she had manipulated the affairs of Augustus' household on behalf of her sons, especially Tiberius, to the extent of involvement in the deaths of Marcus Claudius Marcellus, Gaius and Lucius Caesar, Agrippa Postumus and Germanicus, and even of Augustus himself. But after ad 14 her continuing influence caused discord between her and Tiberius, who was even supposed to have retired from Rome in 26 chiefly to avoid her. She died in 29, but Tiberius' hostility ensured that her will was not executed until Gaius' reign, and that she was not deified until that of Claudius.

Nicholas Purcell

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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