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This Week In History

Octavian and Livia Married – January 17, 38 BC

During the period of the Second Triumvirate, Tiberius Claudius Nero was fighting on the side of Julius Caesar’s assassins, against the triumvirs. After the Battle of Philippi, he continued to fight on the side of Lepidus and Marc Antony against Octavian. When the triumvirs came to a peace agreement, and the proscriptions began, Tiberius Claudius Nero was forced to flee Italy with his wife, Livia Drusilla, and son and future emperor, Tiberius.

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Livia as Ops

In 40 BC, Octavian married Scribonia, relative of Sextus Pompey. It was a political maneuver, but it did result in the only known offspring Octavian would foster – a daughter named Julia (the Elder or Major). In 39 BC, a general amnesty was announced between the triumvirs and the Pompeian faction.

During this time, Tiberius Claudius Nero returned to Rome and Livia was personally introduced to Octavian. Historians write that even though Octavian was already married, he was immediately smitten by Livia, who was also still married. On January 17, 38 BC, Octavian divorced Scribonia and married Livia, who was forced to divorce her husband, and was six-months pregnant with her second child, Nero Claudius Drusus. Although this marriage was built on love, and did endure for 52 years, they did not produce any children together. The marriage lasted until Octavian’s (then Augustus) death in 14 AD and Livia had to turn a blind eye to her husband’s extra-marital affairs, which are rumored to have been extensive.

Livia is remembered for both her chastity and dignity, as well as her ruthless ambition to do everything she could to ensure her son, Tiberius, would become emperor. Although still up for debate, some historians credit Livia with the deaths of Gaius and Lucius Caesar, the sons of Julia and Agrippa and grandsons of Augustus. She may also have been involved with the assassination of Agrippa Postumus and possibly even the poisoning of Augustus himself, who died in 14 AD.

During their marriage, Livia accompanied Augustus on many of his campaigns and he bestowed upon her the title of augusta, the first lady to receive that title. She was also adopted into the Julii family and was the matriarch of a long line of rulers. Livia’s likeness was used extensively on provincial coinage during the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius, but on Imperial issues it was mostly Livia in the guise of Pax.

After the death of Augustus, Tiberius did inherit the throne of the Roman Empire, as his mother intended. However, he did not care for her domineering disposition and eventually went into self-exile in Capri. In 22 AD, Livia fell ill, and Tiberius hastily returned to Rome, albeit only out of necessity and not because he wanted to be there. In 22/23, Tiberius issued a sestertius issued with a carpentum, alluding to a supplicatio by the senate for her recovery, along with a dupondius with Livia as Salus (health). Once recovered, Tiberius returned to Capri and remained there until after Livia died in 29 AD, when she was 87 years old.

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