Link to Instruction materials link to Companion home page link to Worlds of Roman Women in texts & images

Macrobius, Saturnalia 2.5.2-5, 7, 9: Julia

Young Julia
Julia Augusti, late 1st century BCE

Julia (39 BCE-14/15 CE), the daughter of Augustus, was as celebrated for her beauty, wit, and kind-heartedness as for her indiscretions. During her second marriage, to M.Vipsanius Agrippa (28-12 BCE), a man twenty-three years older than she, Julia engaged in love affairs. Whether Agrippa knew about them or not is unclear. Augustus may have been unaware of her activities. Macrobius, a grammarian of the late 4th century CE, portrays him putting the best construction on what he heard and saw. In 2 BCE, invoking the provisions of his legislation on marriage, the Lex Julia, he referred the matter to the Senate. She was divorced from Tiberius, her third husband, and, accompanied by her mother, Scribonia, a virtuous woman, was exiled to the island of Pandateria (Ventotene), where she was forbidden the company of men or access to wine (Suetonius, Aug.65). In 3 CE Augustus allowed her to move to Rhegium, southern Italy, where she died shortly after her father. Julia may well have been the love poets' model of the “new woman,” for a time exercising control over her body and satisfying her sexual and emotional needs. Despite the fact that she submitted to three marriages aimed at advancing her father’s political goals and that she fulfilled traditional expectations by producing six legitimate heirs (see Julio-Claudian family), perhaps because of her high status, her body became the ground of contention between the world of state and her private world.

   
2. Annum agebat tricesimum et octavum, tempus aetatis, si mens sana superesset, vergentis in senium: sed indulgentia tam fortunae quam patris abutebatur, cum alioquin litterarum amor multaque eruditio, quod in illa domo facile erat, praeterea mitis humanitas minimeque saevus animus ingentem feminae gratiam conciliarent, mirantibus qui vitia noscebant tantam pariter diversitatem.
 
3. Non semel praeceperat pater, temperato tamen inter indulgentiam gravitatemque sermone, moderaretur profusos cultus perspicuosque comitatus. Idem cum ad nepotum turbam similitudinemque respexerat qua repraesentabatur Agrippa, dubitare de pudicitia filiae erubescebat.
  
4. Inde blandiebatur sibi Augustus laetum in filia animum usque ad speciem procacitatis, sed reatu liberum: et talem fuisse apud maiores Claudiam credere audebat. Itaque inter amicos dixit duas habere se filias delicatas, quas necesse haberet ferre, rem publicam et Iuliam.
  
5. Venerat ad eum licentiore vestitu, et oculos offenderat patris tacentis. Mutavit cultus sui postera die morem, et laetum patrem adfectata severitate conplexa est. At ille, qui pridie dolorem suum continuerat, gaudium continere non potuit, et “Quantum hic,” ait, “in filia Augusti probabilior est cultus?” Non defuit patrocinio suo Iulia his verbis: “Hodie enim me patris oculis ornavi, heri viri.”
  
7. Eadem Iulia mature habere coeperat canos, quos legere secrete solebat. Subitus interventus patris aliquando oppressit ornatrices. Dissimulavit Augustus deprehensis super vestem earum canis: et aliis sermonibus tempore extracto induxit aetatis mentionem, interrogavitque filiam, utrum post aliquot annos cana esse mallet an calva: et cum illa respondisset: “Ego, pater, cana esse malo,” sic illi mendacium obiecit: “Quid ergo istae te calvam tam cito faciunt?”
  
9. Cumque conscii flagitiorum mirarentur quomodo similes Agrippae filios pareret quae tam vulgo potestatem corporis sui faceret, ait: “Numquam enim nisi navi plena tollo vectorem.”
  

Click on the underlined words for translation aids and commentary, which will appear in a small window. Close the small window after each use.


Ann R. Raia and Judith Lynn Sebesta
Return to The World of Body
August 2006