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2. Livia Drusilla, the wife of Augustus, was the daughterof Livius Drusus Claudianus [DRUSUS, No. 7], who had been adopted by one of the Livia gens, but was a descendant of App. Claudius Caecus. Livia was born on the 28th of September, B. C. 56-54. (Letronne, Recherches pour servir à l'Histoire de l'Egypte, p. 171.) She was married first to Tib. Claudius Nero; but her beauty having attracted the notice of Octavian at the beginning of B. C. 38, her husband was compelled to divorce her, and surrender her to the triumvir. She had already borne her husband one son, the future emperor Tiberius, and at the time of her marriage with Augustus was six months pregnant with another, who subsequently received the name of Drusus. It was only two years previously that she had been obliged to fly before Octavian, in consequence of her husband having fought against him in the Perusinian war. (Suet. Tib. 3, 4; Vell. 2.75, 79; Suet. Aug. 62; D. C. 48.15, 34, 44.)

Livia never bore Augustus any children, but she continued to have unbounded influence over him till the time of his death. The empire which she had gained by her charms she maintained by the purity of her conduct and the fascination of her manners, as well as by a perfect knowledge of the character of Augustus, whom she endeavoured to please in every way. She was a consummate actress, excelled in dissimulation and intrigue, and never troubled either herself or her husband by complaining of the numerous mistresses of the latter. There was only one subject which occasioned any dissension between them, and that was the succession. Augustus naturally wished to secure it for his own family, but Livia resolved to obtain it for her own children; and, according to the common opinion at Rome, she did not scruple to employ foul means to remove out of the way the family of her husband. Hence she was said to be " gravis in rempublicam mater, gravis domui Caesarum noverca." (Tac. Ann. 1.10.) The premature death of Marcellus was attributed by many to her machinations, because he had been preferred to her sons as the husband of Julia, the daughter of Augustus. (D. C. 53.33.) But for this there seems little ground. The opportune death both of C. Caesar and L. Caesar seems much more suspicious. These young men were the children of Julia by her marriage with Agrippa; and being the grandchildren of Augustus, they presented, as long as they lived, an insuperable obstacle to the accession of Tiberius, the son of Livia. But Lucius died suddenly at Massilia in A. D. 2, and Caius in Lycia A. D. 4, of a wound, which was not considered at all dangerous. It was generally suspected that they had both been poisoned, by the secret orders of Livia and Tiberius. She was even suspected of having hastened the death of Augustus in A. D. 14.

Augustus left Livia and Tiberius as his heirs ; and by his testament adopted her into the Julia gens, in consequence of which she received the name of Julia Augusta. By the accession of her son to the imperial throne, Livia had now attained the long-cherished object of her ambition, and by means of her son thought to reign over the Roman world. But this the jealous temper of Tiberius would not brook. At first all public documents were signed by her as well as by Tiberius, and letters on public business were addressed to her as well as to the emperor; and with the exception of her not appearing in person in the senate or the assemblies of the army and the people, she acted as if she were the sovereign. She openly said that it was she who had procured the empire for Tiberius , and to gratify her the senate proposed to confer upon her various extraordinary honours. Thereupon Tiberius, perceiving that he was becoming a mere cypher in the state, forbade all these honours, and commanded her to retire altogether from public affairs; but she had gained such an ascendancy over him, that he did not feel himself his own master as long as he was in her neighbourhood, and accordingly removed his residence from Rome to Capreae. Such was the return she was destined to receive for all the toil she had sustained and the crimes she had probably committed, in order to secure the empire for her son. Tiberius no longer disguised the hatred he felt for his mother, and for the space of three years he only spoke to her once. When she was on her death-bed, he even refused to visit her. She died in A. D. 29, after suffering from repeated attacks of illness, at a very advanced age, eighty-two according to Pliny (Plin. Nat. 14.8), eighty-six according to Dio Cassius (58.2). Tiberius did not attempt to dissemble the joy which he felt at her death. He took no part in the funeral rites, and forbade her consecration, which had been proposed by the senate, on the ground that she had not wished it herself. Her funeral oration was delivered by her great-grandson, C. Caesar, subsequently the emperor Caligula; but Tiberius would not allow her testament to be carried into effect. The legacies which she had left were not fully paid till the accession of Caligula; and her consecration did not take place till the reign of Claudius. (Tac. Ann. 1.3, 5, 8, 10, 14, 5.1, 2; D. C. 57.12, 58.2, 59.1, 2, 60.5; Suet. Tib. 50, 51.)

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  • Cross-references from this page (13):
    • Suetonius, Tiberius, 3
    • Suetonius, Tiberius, 51
    • Tacitus, Annales, 1.10
    • Tacitus, Annales, 1.14
    • Tacitus, Annales, 1.5
    • Tacitus, Annales, 1.8
    • Tacitus, Annales, 5.1
    • Tacitus, Annales, 5.2
    • Tacitus, Annales, 1.3
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 62
    • Suetonius, Tiberius, 4
    • Suetonius, Tiberius, 50
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 14.8
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