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Livia

Livia: First Lady of Imperial Rome

ANTHONY A. BARRETT
Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 450
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1nq0jw
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  • Book Info
    Livia
    Book Description:

    Livia (58 B.C.-A.D. 29)-the wife of the first Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, and mother of the second, Tiberius-wielded power at the center of Roman politics for most of her long life. Livia has been portrayed as a cunning and sinister schemer, but in this biography (the first in English devoted to her) Livia emerges as a much more complex individual. Achieving influence unprecedented for a woman, she won support and even affection from her contemporaries and was widely revered after her death.Anthony A. Barrett, author of acclaimed biographies of Caligula and Agrippina, here examines Livia's life and her role in Roman politics. He recounts the events of her life, from her early days as a member of the wealthy and powerful Claudian family through her final conflicts with the new Emperor Tiberius. Barrett also considers how Livia helped shape the pattern of Roman government that prevailed for the next four centuries.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12716-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xiii)
  5. Map of the Roman World at the Time of the Death of Livia
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  6. SIGNIFICANT EVENTS
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  7. PART I THE LIFE OF LIVIA

    • 1 FAMILY BACKGROUND
      (pp. 3-18)

      The expulsion of the last hated king from Rome, an event dated traditionally to 510 BC, ushered in a republican form of government that was to endure for more than four centuries and which was regarded by later Romans, especially those from the elite levels of society, with pride and an often naive nostalgia. At the outset, Roman society was characterised by a fundamental division between the patricians, who held a virtual monopoly over the organs of power, and the plebeians, who were essentially excluded from the process. Although the power and privileges of the patricians were eroded during the...

    • 2 MARRIAGE
      (pp. 19-27)

      In 39 Livia’s harrowing experiences of restless exile came to an end when she returned with her husband to Rome. Her return would have far-reaching consequences not only for herself but for the entire Roman world, for it led to her lifelong association with a man who was to determine the shape of Rome’s history for centuries to come. If there is such as a thing as the aphrodisiac of power, then Octavian might be said to have exercised an unmatched sexual attraction in the Rome of the time. He was still only in his early twenties, but an individual...

    • 3 IN THE SHADOWS
      (pp. 28-44)

      We hear relatively little about Livia in the first thirty years or so after her marriage to Octavian, a considerable period in any relationship, and one in which she and her husband passed from youth to middle age. There are a number of reasons for this general silence. To the extent that there was a “first lady” in Rome during these years, this role belonged not to Livia but to Octavian’s sister, Octavia, who garnered the lion’s share of the attention, almost all of it favourable. A second reason was Livia’s own good political sense. She no doubt anticipated that...

    • 4 THE PUBLIC FIGURE
      (pp. 45-72)

      The generous tribute that Augustus paid to Drusus at his funeral involved more than empty words strung together for the occasion. The emperor was genuinely attached to his stepson and earlier had publicly stated that Drusus was to be his joint heir. The fact that the funeral procession was accompanied by images of both Claudians and Julians was remarkable, for Drusus had never been adopted by Augustus. There are later parallels of a sort for the arrangement. Augustus’ own funeral procession was accompanied by effigies of his own ancestors and of prominent Romans since the time of Romulus. Moreover, when...

    • 5 A NEW REIGN
      (pp. 73-100)

      The death of Augustus brought about a dramatic and inevitable change in Livia’s situation. For the previous half-century or so her role had depended essentially on her personal bond with her husband. She was now the mother of a princeps whose notion of the principate differed greatly from his predecessor’s and certainly from her own.

      It is difficult to get a clear picture of the relationship that had developed between mother and son in the years before Tiberius came to power. Although the sources suggest that her husband had found Tiberius’ personality tiresome and irritating, they give little insight into...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
  8. PART II LIVIAN THEMES

    • 6 THE PRIVATE LIVIA
      (pp. 103-114)

      Livia was a prominent figure in Roman society for most of her long adult life. Yet we have surprisingly little direct information about Livia the person, as opposed to Livia the wife or mother of the princeps. To some extent this was doubtless her own doing. Although she was capable of considerable charm and affability, to the extent of earning a mild rebuke from Tacitus for displaying these qualities more than was traditionally expected in women of the old school, behind her public persona Livia maintained a deliberate reserve. She may not have been so inclined by nature, but she...

    • 7 WIFE OF THE EMPEROR
      (pp. 115-145)

      By the early empire the image of women of past times was clouded by a nostalgic romanticism. The Roman woman was by tradition devoted to her husband, whom she would not think to cross, and she spent her time and energies on the efficient running of her household, a paragon of impeccable virtue, a perfect marriage partner. The realm of the woman was strictly thedomus.A famous and familiar tomb inscription of the end of the second century bc expressed the most fulsome praise that could be bestowed on a deceased wife:Domum servavit. Lanam fecit(she kept house;...

    • 8 MOTHER OF THE EMPEROR
      (pp. 146-173)

      In many respects Tiberius was eminently unsuited to the task he assumed in AD 14. Up to that point he had been trained primarily as a soldier, and even after being acknowledged unequivocally as Augustus’ successor, and thus marked out for a future political role, he still continued to serve, with considerable distinction, with the troops on the frontiers, rather than in an administrative apprenticeship in Rome. Nor had he any taste, or instinct, for political life, which he viewed as inevitably corrupting. More than once he commented on the increasing perils facing any man the higher he climbed in...

    • 9 WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE
      (pp. 174-185)

      Despite Livia’s public image as a woman who lived soberly and unpretentiously, the evidence indicates that by the time of her death she had become one of the most wealthy women in Rome. The terms of her will, if correctly reported, seem to leave no doubt on this issue. In it she left a legacy of fifty million sesterces to her favourite, Galba.¹ Romans were restricted in the proportion of their estate that they could leave in individual legacies. The Lex Falcidia stipulated that at least one quarter of the whole inheritance had to be reserved for the heir(s) of...

    • 10 FRIEND, PATRON, AND PROTECTOR
      (pp. 186-214)

      By Livia’s time Romans were well acquainted with the phenomenon of women playing an influential, if indirect, role in public life. Their influence came not through military command or through political office—these were still very much male preserves—but through the exploitation of family connections in the complex personal process by which political business was often conducted in Rome. Precedents of sorts could be cited from the earliest period of Roman history and tradition. The Sabine women, abducted by a subterfuge, interceded between their new Roman husbands and their former families and persuaded the two groups to form an...

    • 11 DEATH AND REPUTATION
      (pp. 215-226)

      Laxatives and red wine had provided Livia with a healthy life, but they could not, of course, guarantee immortality. She had been seriously ill in AD 22. In 29, probably early in the year, she fell ill again, and finally passed away, at the age of eighty-six.¹ Tiberius did not attend his mother in her final illness, but because we have no idea how long it lasted, or whether its true seriousness had been appreciated, it would be dangerous to join Suetonius in ascribing unfilial motives.² That said, Tiberius’ conduct certainly seems to conflict with his behaviour on previous similar...

  9. APPENDICES

    • APPENDIX 1: SOURCES
      (pp. 229-302)
    • APPENDIX 2: THE ROMAN SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT
      (pp. 303-304)
    • APPENDIX 3: LIVIA’S MATERNAL ORIGINS
      (pp. 305-306)
    • APPENDIX 4: LIVIA’S NAME
      (pp. 307-308)
    • APPENDIX 5: LIVIA’S BIRTHDATE
      (pp. 309-310)
    • APPENDIX 6: HUSBANDS OF SCRIBONIA
      (pp. 311-312)
    • APPENDIX 7: THE BIRTH OF DRUSUS
      (pp. 313-314)
    • APPENDIX 8: LIVIA’S AEDES AND THE TEMPLE OF CONCORD
      (pp. 315-316)
    • APPENDIX 9: THE DOMUS AUGUSTA
      (pp. 317-317)
    • APPENDIX 10: THE CONSPIRACY OF CORNELIUS CINNA
      (pp. 318-319)
    • APPENDIX 11: THE CELEBRATION OF LIVIA’S MARRIAGE
      (pp. 320-320)
    • APPENDIX 12: PALATINE VESTA
      (pp. 321-321)
    • APPENDIX 13: THE TITLE AUGUSTA IN THE JULIO-CLAUDIAN PERIOD
      (pp. 322-323)
    • APPENDIX 14: ANTONIA AS AUGUSTA
      (pp. 324-325)
    • APPENDIX 15: AUGUSTUS’ PALATINE RESIDENCE
      (pp. 326-328)
    • APPENDIX 16: LIVIA’S FESTIVAL ON THE PALATINE
      (pp. 329-330)
    • APPENDIX 17: DATE OF THE LETTER TO THE SAMIANS
      (pp. 331-332)
    • APPENDIX 18: THE CULT OF BONA DEA AND LIVIA
      (pp. 333-334)
    • APPENDIX 19: AGRIPPINA AND LIVIA IN AD 28–29
      (pp. 335-336)
  10. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. 337-346)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 347-386)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 387-412)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 413-425)