Livia Drusilla

Bust of Livia Drusilla at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

By Gabby Storey

Livia Drusilla (59 BC-29 AD) was born to Marcus Livius Drusus Claudianus and Alfidia. She was married to Tiberius Claudius Nero, in 43 BC, and they had their first child, Tiberius, in 42 BC. In 40 BC the family were forced to flee Italy owing to the elder Tiberius’ opposition to Octavian.

Livia and her family returned to Rome in 39 BC, pregnant with her second son, Nero Claudius Drusus. She met Octavian around this time and both parties were divorced shortly thereafter. Octavian and Livia were married on 17 January 38 BC. Their union was childless, with one miscarriage recorded.

Despite this, Livia played a significant role as counsellor and adviser, and had control of her own finances and lands, which was unusual at this time. Her son Tiberius married Augustus’ (Octavian) daughter Julia in 11 BC and was adopted as Octavian’s heir in 4 AD. Rumours circulated regarding Livia’s involvement in the removal of her step-grandchildren, however most modern historians dispute this.

Augustus died in 14 AD and left Livia a third of his estates and granted her the honorific of augusta, allowing her to maintain her status and power as a widow. However, the relationship between Livia and Tiberius deteriorated owing to her domination in politics and power. She died in 29 AD, after an illness, with their relationship still unrepaired.

Recommended Reading

Annelise Friesenbach, The First Ladies of Rome: The Women Behind the Caesars (London: Vintage, 2010)

Anthony Barrett, Livia – First Lady of Imperial Rome (London: Yale University Press, 2002)

Matthew Dennison, Livia, Empress of Rome. A Biography (New York: St Martin’s Press, 2011)

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