3. The daughter of the emperor Claudius, by his third wife, the notorious Valeria Messalina, was born about A. D. 42; since Tacitus, speaking of her death in A. D. 62, says that she was then in the twentieth year of her age. (Tac. Ann. 14.64
) She was called Octavia after her great grandmother, the sister of Augustus [No. 2].
As early as the year 48, Octavia was betrothed by Claudius to L. Silanus, a youth of distinguished family and much beloved by the people; but Agrippina, who had secured the affections of the weak-minded Claudius, resolved to prevent the marriage, in order that Octatvia might marry her own son Domitius, afterwards the emperor Nero.
She had no difficulty in rendering Silanus an object of suspicion to Claudius; and as Silanus saw that he was doomed, he put an end to his life at the beginning of the following year (A. D. 49), on the very day on which Claudius was married to Agrippina. Octavia was now betrothed to the young Domitius, but the marriage did not take place till A. D. 53, the year before the death of Claudius, when Nero, as he was now called, having been adopted by Claudius, was only sixteen years of age, and Octavia but eleven. (Tac. Ann. 12.58
.) Suetonius, with less probability, places the marriage still earlier (Ner.
7). Nero from the first never liked his wife, and soon after his succession ceased to pay her any attention.
He was first captivated by a freedwoman of the name of Acte, who shortly after had to give way to Poppaea Sabina, the wife of Otho, who was afterwards emperor. Of the latter he was so enamoured that he resolved to recognize her as his legal wife; and accordingly in A. D. 62 he divorced Octavia on the alleged ground of sterility, and in sixteen days after married Poppaea. But Poppaea, not satisfied with obtaining the place of Octavia, induced one of the servants of the latter to accuse her of adultery with a slave; but most of her slaves when put to the torture persisted in maintaining the innocence of their mistress. Notwithstanding this she was ordered to leave the city and retire to Campania, where she was placed under the surveillance of soldiers; but in consequence of the complaints and murmurs of the people, Nero recalled her to Rome.
The people celebrated her return with the most unbounded joy, which, however, only sealed her ruin. Poppaea again worked upon the passions and the feais of her husband; Anicetus was induced to confess that he had been the paramour of Octavia; and the unhappy girl was thereupon removed to the little island of Pandataria, where she was shortly after put to death.
The scene of her death is painted by the masterly hand of Tacitus.
She feared to die; and as her terror was so great that the blood would not flow from her veins after they were opened, she was carried into a lath and stifled by the vapour.
It is even added that her head was cut off and sent to Rome to glut the vengeance of Poppaea. Her untimely end excited general commiseration. (Tac. Ann. 11.32
; Suet. Cl. 27
, Ner. 7, 35; D. C. 9.31
.) Octavia is the heroine of a tragedy, found among the works of Seneca, but the author of which was more probably Curiatius Maternus. See Octavia Praeteata. Curiatio Materno vindicat.