Livia - Wife of Augustus
Posted on 27th December 2020
Livia Drusilla was born on 30 January 58BC. She is best known for being the wife of Augustus, first emperor of Rome.
Livia married her first husband, Tiberius Claudius Nero around 43BC and her first child, the future emperor Tiberius was born in 42BC.
Following the death of Julius Caesar, Octavian (the future emperor Augustus) formed a triumvirate to rule Rome. As Livia’s husband chose to fight against Octavian, she was forced with her child to flee Rome.
Over time the triumvirate issued an amnesty against its enemies and Livia returned to Rome around 39BC. Around this time, she was introduced to Octavian and they were married almost immediately even though they were both already married to other people.
Octavian divorced his wife Scribonia even though she had just given birth to his daughter Julia and Livia was divorced from her husband. It is believed Livia’s husband was given little choice in the matter and he was persuaded to agree. Livia was six months pregnant with her second child to her husband when she divorced and married Octavian.
Octavian became emperor Augustus on 16 January 27BC.
Livia became a great counsellor to her husband during his reign. This was unusual for women in Rome as they normally deferred to their husbands, but Livia held a position that allowed her to influence his policies and petition him on behalf of others.
During her marriage, Livia was given the right to control her own finances, and this allowed her to push many people of her choosing into political power. Her own lust for power was as strong as her husband.
Augustus only had a daughter from his first marriage, so he had no direct heir. Livia started to push her sons from her first marriage into power. She believed one of her sons should be the next emperor and Augustus’ heir.
Augustus however named his nephew Marcellus as his successor, but he died young in 23BC with Livia suspected of being complicit in his death. She is also suspected of being complicit in the death of Augustus’ grandsons Gaius and Lucius whom he had adopted as his sons.
The scheming Livia was determined to clear the way of succession, her lust for power never sated until she secured her son the throne.
Her manipulation of Augustus gained her son Tiberius a marriage to Augustus’ daughter Julia the Elder in 11BC. Augustus then adopted Tiberius as his son in 4BC and named him his successor.
Livia had finally succeeded in securing her son as emperor. Her true intention though was to secure further power for herself.
Augustus died in 14AD and many believe Livia had been involved in his death.
In Augustus’ will, he had adopted Livia into the Julian family and granted her the title of Augusta. She was now to be known as Julia Augusta.
Augustus left one third of his estate to Livia and the other two thirds to Tiberius. This money made Livia very wealthy and helped with her continued influence over others including her son Tiberius who was now emperor.
In 20AD it was deemed treason to speak against Livia and in 24AD she was granted a theatre seat among the Vestal Virgins.
Livia secured much political power and was given many honours by the senate, but this made Tiberius resentful and when he retired to the island of Capri, it is believed he left Rome because he could not endure his mother any longer.
Livia fell ill in 29AD, Tiberius made no effort to visit his mother, deciding instead to stay on the island of Capri. Livia died on 28 September 29AD in Rome, but still Tiberius refused to return, sending the future emperor Caligula back to Rome to deliver the funeral oration (speech).
Tiberius’ hatred for his mother was complete when he vetoed all the honours the senate had bestowed on her including divine honours. He also cancelled the fulfilment (reading) of her will.
Livia was a proud woman dedicated and faithful to her husband during her marriage, even though Augustus himself was unfaithful to her throughout their marriage.
She always appeared poised and dignified and became an important counsellor to Augustus, however she also knew how to manipulate him for her own gain.
This manipulation was to turn into a craving for power; which she needed her son to secure for her. It also, in the end, secured her son’s hatred for her.
Many years later in 42AD during the reign of emperor Claudius, all honours were restored to Livia and she was named Diva Augusta – The Divine Augusta. A statue of her was erected next to her husband in the Temple of Augustus.
Livia and the Julio-Claudian Dynasty
Wife of Emperor Augustus
Mother of Emperor Tiberius
Paternal Grandmother of Emperor Claudius
Paternal Great Grandmother of Emperor Caligula
Maternal Great-Great Grandmother of Emperor Nero
Tagged as: Junior Ancient Rome
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