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Livia was the wife of Augustus Caesar from 38BC to his death in 14 AD. She divorced her first husband when she was 6 months pregnant with her second son. She was the mother of Tiberius, the grandmother of Claudius, the great grandmother of Caligula, and the great-great-grandmother of Nero, all of which became emperors. Augustus also divorced his pregnant wife in order to marry Livia. His previous wife bore him his only child, Julia. Even though the marriage was out of love and respect, there was also a great deal of politics, which played a role in the marriage.

Livia was a caring wife, and she sometimes accompanied Augustus on his journeys. She often influenced his decisions, and when asked how she received the power, she simply replied that she never meddled, and always handled herself well around him, even though she often did meddle. Even though she did not bear him any children, he did not divorce her, for they truly needed each other.

Her second son died and she then attempted to put her first son, Tiberius, in line to follow Augustus. She was rumored to have arranged the marriage of her grandson, Claudius, to the daughter of a prominent man. It was said that she used her charm, wit, and good looks in order to influence her ideas onto other people.

Livia achieved the status of “wicked stepmother,” for she often was rumored to use her power and witchery in order to benefit her and her sons. After Augustus married his daughter, Julia, to his nephew, Marcellus, Livia knew that he would succeed Augustus. She was said to have poisoned him when she offered to take care of him, because he died of a small cold at a very young age. Julia was then married to her father’s ally, Agrippa who was to become the sole heir to the throne. Tiberius was also married to Vispania, Agrippa’s daughter. When Agrippa died, Livia again tried to make it so that her son could gain the throne.

Augustus then adopted his grandson’s Gaius and Lucius, the sons of Julia and Agrippa. They were to inherit the throne. Julia was then arranged to marry Tiberius. Tiberius, however was forced into the marriage and became cold toward Julia. He was exiled for slapping her. This set Livia’s hopes back a bit. Julia was then exiled for sleeping with many of the men in the empire. Livia was thought to have made this evident to Augustus. When Gaius and Lucius died, there were hints that she poisoned them with her witchery, in order to pave the way for her son. After much arguing, Livia finally convinced Augustus to let her son return, and Augustus then adopted Tiberius. Tiberius then adopted his nephew Germanicus, which was Drusus’s son. Augustus then adopted the last son of Julia and Agrippa, Postumus.

She then was rumored to have made it so that Postumus would be accused of rape by the married woman whom he had been sleeping with in the empire. She was also said to have poisoned Augustus himself, because he learned of her witchery, and tried to bring Postumus back from exile. She was said to have poisoned his figs, and led him to eat them when he was sick. After he died, she received 1/3rd of his estate, and her son received 2/3rd of the estate. It was odd for a woman to get this much wealth, and it was believed that she bribed the maiden of the vestal virgins to allow her to see the will, which would give her the chance to change it in her favor. Postumus was then executed for unclear reasons, but Livia was said to have also had a hand in this order.

After her son became emperor, it was said that he did not like her, and she quickly realized that she would not have the power in which she used to. Augustus was made a deity, and Livia was still looked upon as sort of a vestal virgin of his church. She had much power over these people, and when she died in 29AD, her son, Tiberius, refused her requests to become a deity. However, she was stilled revered to in many prayers. Tiberius, on the other hand, would not speak of her in happiness, and was not at her deathbed or funeral to look upon his mother.

The ideas that Livia poisoned many of these people came from the historian, Tacitus. Suetonius, however, portrayed her and Augustus to be more loving toward each other, and never said anything about the witchery in which Tacitus claimed Livia practiced. I suggest that you look them both up, and decide for yourself. There is an excellent miniseries called I, Claudius, which portrays the lives of the Julio-Claudian emperors. Livia is portrayed quite well in this series, yet they used the Tacitus version, and not the Suetonius version. This entire story is wonderful entertainment, and it makes for informational reading. I suggest that you read up on it sometime.

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