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Cornelius Tacitus, Annales I.3-6 excerpts: Livia

Livia
The Empress Livia, dressed as Ceres, Tiberian era

As in her own day, Livia (born in 59/58 BCE) remains an enigma for historians. The facts of her life are well known, from her divorce and hasty marriage to Octavian in 38 BCE, her previously unprecedented position as the wife of the first emperor and mother of the second, to her death in 29 CE and deification in 42 CE by her grandson Claudius. However, her character, motivations, and the behind-the-scenes role she may have played are subject to very divergent interpretations. The historian Tacitus, writing more than 80 years after the death of Livia, opens his Annales with a description of Augustus' efforts to secure the succession of a Julian male to the principate (see this slide show of the candidates). While Livia is not the focus of Tacitus' narration, he uses oblique references, hearsay, and innuendo to suggest that Livia played a role in state events that was highly inappropriate for a woman. His portrayal of her has been exaggerated and popularized by the novelist Robert Graves in I, Claudius and the television series based upon it.

   
Chapter 3  
(3) ut Agrippa vita concessit, Lucium Caesarem euntem ad Hispaniensis exercitus, Gaium remeantem Armenia et vulnere invalidum mors fato propera vel novercae Liviae dolus abstulit, Drusoque pridem extincto Nero solus e privignis erat, illuc cuncta vergere: filius, collega imperii, consors tribuniciae potestatis adsumitur omnisque per exercitus ostentatur, non obscuris, ut antea, matris artibus, sed palam hortatu. click here for more information
(4) nam senem Augustum devinxerat adeo, uti nepotem unicum Agrippam Postumum, in insulam Planasiam proiecerit . . . . click here for more information
 
Chapter 4  
(3) pars multo maxima inminentis dominos variis rumoribus differebant . . . .  
(5) accedere matrem muliebri inpotentia: serviendum feminae duobusque insuper adulescentibus, qui rem publicam interim premant, quandoque distrahant.  
 
Chapter 5  
(1) Haec atque talia agitantibus gravescere valetudo Augusti, et quidam scelus uxoris suspectabant.  
(2) quippe rumor incesserat, paucos ante menses Augustum, electis consciis et comite uno Fabio Maximo, Planasiam vectum ad visendum Agrippam; click here for more information
(3) multas illic utrimque lacrimas et signa caritatis spemque ex eo fore ut iuvenis penatibus avi redderetur: quod Maximum uxori Marciae aperuisse, illam Liviae.  
(4) gnarum id Caesari; neque multo post extincto Maximo, dubium an quaesita morte, auditos in funere eius Marciae gemitus semet incusantis, quod causa exitii marito fuisset.  
(5) utcumque se ea res habuit, vixdum ingressus Illyricum Tiberius properis matris litteris accitur; neque satis conpertum est, spirantem adhuc Augustum apud urbem Nolam an exanimem reppererit. click here for more information
(6) acribus namque custodiis domum et vias saepserat Livia, laetique interdum nuntii vulgabantur, donec provisis quae tempus monebat simul excessisse Augustum et rerum potiri Neronem fama eadem tulit.  
   
Chapter 6  
(1) Primum facinus novi principatus fuit Postumi Agrippae caedes, quem ignarum inermisque ... centurio aegre confecit. click here for more information
 

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Ann R. Raia and Judith Lynn Sebesta
Return to The World of State
October 2006