Livia was the wife of Augustus, and as such was the Empress of Rome. She was actually married already when Augustus (earlier known as Octavian) fell in love with her. Octavian himself was also still married to his first wife at the time. Livia was actually pregnant when the young ruler decided he had to take her as his bride! Much like his uncle Julius Caesar, he let nothing stop him when he made up his mind in this matter.
Livia was born the daughter of Roman Senator Marcus Livius Drusus Claudianus. Her name at birth was Livia Drusilla. She was first married to Tiberius Claudius Nero. This marriage ended in order for Livia to be married to Augustus. After the end of the marriage her first husband moved to Greece with their older son.
Her marriage to Augustus lasted 51 years, despite the fact that they never had children together. She did suffer one miscarriage during the marriage. Augustus allowed her to run her own finances (a show of great faith given women were not generally allowed to do such a thing). Otherwise their union was rather tempestuous, but they remained together no matter what happened. Many people believed that Livia had killed her husband by poisoning him, but there was no proof. When he was deified after death she gained the honorific title of Augusta.
Livia helped her sons gain political power, and was known for her ruthlessness in honor of them. Livia’s son Tiberius became the new Emperor after the death of Augustus! She had unofficial, but very real, power in Rome during the reign of her son. In fact even speaking against her was ruled as treason during this time. Ancient writers portray her as domineering, and some even stated Tiberius loathed her. However, he allowed her great power and when she died he gave her funeral oration.
This often maligned woman was one who held true power in Rome, and that is reason enough for ancient writers to vilify her! Much like Cleopatra, she was a woman too strong for the men in her era to take (they simply feared her)!
I hope you have enjoyed reading about this strong woman. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
- Livia: The First Lady of Imperial Rome by Anthony A. Barrett
- Augustus: The First Emperor of Rome by Adrian Goldsworthy
- https://www.bt.com/tv/drama/livia-drusilla-true-story-domina-sky-atlantic (These last two articles are about a new tv series about her!)