Livia Drusilla: Deciphering Between Traditional Views of Rome’s First Lady
On a warm August night in the year AD 14, Augustus Caesar sat down to dinner at the home where his father had lived and died, and did not live to see the next day. At the age of seventy-five, Augustus had held the position of Emperor of the Roman Empire for fifty-two years, and had been married to Livia Drusilla for as many years. Though Livia was Augustus’s third wife, she was without a doubt the woman who held the most influence in his life, and one of the few women whose name endures in ancient history. Unfortunately, that endurance does not come without skepticism and scandal. Livia was accused of poisoning Augustus for fear that reconciliation with his last remaining heir would stand in the way of her own son’s succession to the throne. This accusation is only one of several against Livia surrounding the untimely deaths of each of Augustus’s chosen heirs in the years leading up to his own death at Nola. Though it is debatable whether there is any truth to these accusations, it is pertinent to study them simply for the fact that they appear in ancient sources.