In 40, after the Perusinian war and only two years before Livia's marriage with Octavianus, Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia had been forced to flee from Italy in fear of the vengeance of Octavianus. Who on the other hand was Octavianus? A parvenu, with a nobility altogether too recent! His grandfather was a rich usurer of Velitrae now Velletri , a financier and a man of affairs; it was only his immediate father who succeeded by dint of the riches of the usurer grandfather in entering the Roman nobility.
He had married a sister of Caesar and, though still young when he died, had become a senator and pretor.
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Octavianus was, therefore, the descendant, as we should express it in Europe to-day, of rich bourgeois recently ennobled. Although by adopting him in his will Caesar had given him his name, that of an ancient patrician family, the modest origin of Octavianus and the trade of his grandfather were known to everybody. In a country like Rome where, notwithstanding revolutions, the old nobility was still highly venerated by the people and formed a closed caste, jealous of its exclusive pride of ancestry, this obscurity of origin was a handicap and a danger, especially when Octavianus had as colleagues Antony and Lepidus, who could boast a much more ancient and illustrious origin than his own.
We can readily explain, therefore, even without admitting that Livia had aroused in him a violent passion, why the future Augustus should have been so impatient to marry her in 38 B. The times were stormy and uncertain; the youthful triumvir, whom a caprice of fortune had raised to the head of a revolutionary dictatorship, was certainly the weakest of the three colleagues, because of his youth, his slighter experience, the feebler prestige among his soldiers, and, last of all, the greater obscurity of his lineage.
Antony, especially, who had fought in so many wars, with Caesar and alone, who belonged to a family of really ancient nobility, was much more popular than he among the soldiers and had stronger relations with the great families. He was therefore more powerful than Octavianus both in high places and in low. A marriage with Livia meant much to the future Augustus. It would open for him a door into the old aristocracy; it would draw him closer to those families which, in spite of the revolution, were still so influential and venerable; it would be the means of lessening the hatred, contempt, and distrust in which these families held him.
It was for him what Napoleon's marriage with Marie Louise and the consequent connection with the imperial family of Austria had been for the former Corsican officer, become Emperor of the French. Since, now, a lady who belonged to one of these great families was disposed to marry him, it would have been foolish to put obstacles in the way; it was necessary to act with despatch; time and fortune might change.
Such are the motives that may have induced Augustus to hasten the nuptials. But what were the motives of Livia in accepting this marriage, in such stormy times, when the fortunes of the future Augustus were still so uncertain? A passage in Velleius Paterculus would lead us to believe that he who devised this historic marriage was none other than that same first husband of Livia, Tiberius Claudius Nero himself! According to our ideas it is inconceivable; but not at all strange according to the ideas of the Roman.
It is probable that Tiberius Claudius Nero, feeling that the triumph of the revolution was now assured, had wished by this marriage to attach to the cause of the old aristocracy the youngest of the three revolutionary leaders. Already well along in years and infirm,—he was to die shortly after,—Nero, who well knew the intelligence of his young wife, was perhaps planning to place her in the house of the man in whom all saw one of the future lords of Rome.
Thus he would bind him to the interests of the aristocracy. In the person of Livia there entered into the house of Octavianus the old Roman nobility, which, defeated at Philippi, was striving to reacquire through the prestige and the cleverness of a woman what it had not been able to maintain by arms. All her life long, with constancy, moderation, and wonderful tact, Livia fulfilled her mission.
She succeeded in resolving into the admirable harmony of a long existence that contradiction between the liberty conceded to her sex and the self-denial demanded of it by man as a duty. She was assuredly one of the most perfect models of that lady of high society whom the Romans in all the years of their long and tempestuous history never ceased to admire. Even and serene, completely mistress of herself and of her passions, endowed with a robust will, she accommodated herself without difficulty to all the sacrifices which her rank and situation imposed upon her.
She changed husbands without repugnance, though her marriage to Octavianus occurred but five years after the proscriptions, while he was still red with the blood of her family and friends. Likewise she renounced her two sons, the future emperor Tiberius, who had been born before her second marriage, as well as the one who had been born after. So too when, a few years later, Tiberius Claudius Nero died, appointing Augustus their guardian, with equal serenity she took them back and educated them with the most careful motherly solicitude.
To the second husband, whom politics had given her, she was a faithful companion. Scandal imputed to her absurd poisonings which she did not commit, and accused her of insatiable ambitions and perfidious intrigues.
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No one ever dared accuse her of infidelity to Augustus or of dissolute conduct. The great fame, power, and wealth of her husband did not disturb the calm poise of her spirit. In that palace of Augustus, adorned with triumphal laurel, toward which the eyes of the subjects were turned from every part of the empire, in that palace where, in little councils with the most eminent men of the senate, were debated the supreme interests of the world,—laws and elections, wars and peace,—she preserved the beautiful traditions of simplicity and industry.
These she had learned as a child in the house of her father,—a house as much more illustrious with inherited glory as it was poorer in wealth than that which Victory had prepared for Augustus on the Palatine. We know—it is Suetonius who tells us—that this house on the Palatine built by Augustus, in which Livia spent the larger part of her life, was small and not at all luxurious.
In it there was not a single piece of marble nor a precious mosaic; for forty years Augustus slept in the same bedchamber, and the furniture of the house was so simple that in the second century of our era it was exhibited to the public as an extraordinary curiosity. The imperial pair had several villas, at Lanuvium, at Palestrina, at Tivoli, but all of them were unpretentious and simple. Nor was there any more pomp and ceremony about the dinners to which they invited the conspicuous personages of Rome, the dignitaries of the state and the heads of the great families.
Only on very special occasions were six courses served; usually there were but three. Moreover, Augustus never wore any other togas than those woven by Livia; woven not indeed and altogether by Livia's hands,—though she did not disdain, now and then, to work the loom,—but by her slaves and freed-women.
Faithful to the traditions of the aristocracy, Livia counted it among her duties personally to direct the weaving-rooms which were in the house. As she carefully parceled out the wool to the slaves, watching over them lest they steal or waste it, and frequently taking her place among them while they were at work, she felt that she too contributed to the prosperity and the glory of the empire.
Lives of the Caesars
Simplicity, loyalty, industry, an absolute surrender of one's own personality to the family and its interests,—these, in the great families, were the traditional feminine virtues which lived again in Livia to the admiration of her contemporaries. But with these virtues were associated also the need and the pride of participating in the affairs and work of her husband, that interest in politics which had been common to the intelligent women of the nobility.
No one at Rome was astonished, especially in the upper classes, that Livia should occupy herself actively with politics; that Augustus should frequently come to her for counsel, or that he should not make any serious decision without having consulted her; that, in short, she should at the same time attend to her husband's clothes and aid him in governing the empire. For so had done from time immemorial all the great ladies of the aristocracy, mindful of their good repute and the prosperity of their families.
And Livia must have tried the more earnestly to fulfil all that her education had taught her to consider a sacred duty, since to a woman of her old-fashioned breeding the times must have appeared especially difficult and perilous. The civil wars had greatly reduced in numbers the historic aristocracy of Rome, and the peace which followed after so long a time and which had been so anxiously invoked, very soon began to threaten the prosperity of the remnant of that nobility with a more insidious but more inevitable ruin.
About 18 B. Women submitted with more and more repugnance to those obligatory marriages, arranged for reasons of state, which had formerly been the tradition and the sure bulwark of dominion for the aristocracy. The increase of celibacy was rendering sterile the most celebrated stocks; the most lamentable vices and disorders became tolerated and common in the most illustrious families, and ruinous habits of extravagance spread generally among that aristocracy, once so simple and austere.
All this had grown up after the conquest of Egypt, which had established more points of contact with the East; and it increased in proportion as those industries and the commerce in articles of luxury which had flourished at Alexandria under the Ptolemies were gradually transplanted to Rome, where the merchants hoped to establish among their conquerors the clientele which had been lost with the fall of the Kingdom of the Nile. The ladies especially took up with the new oriental customs, and, preferring expensive stuffs and jewels, turned from the loom, which Livia had wished to preserve as the emblem of womanhood.
Many young men of the great families were beginning to show a distaste for the army, for the government of the state, for jurisprudence, for all those activities which had been the jealous privilege of the nobility of the past. One gave himself up to literary pursuits, another cultivated philosophy, another busied himself only with the increase of his inherited fortune, while another lived only in pleasure and idleness.
So it happened that there began to appear descendants of great houses who refused to be senators; every year an effort had to be made to find a sufficient number of candidates for the more numerous positions like the questorship, and in the army it was no easy matter to fill all the posts of the superior officers which were reserved for members of the nobility. The Roman aristocracy then, that glorious Roman aristocracy which had escaped the massacres of the proscriptions and of Philippi, ran grave danger of dying out through a species of slow suicide, if energetic measures were not taken to supply the necessary remedies.
It is certain that Livia had a conspicuous part in the policy of restoring the aristocracy, to which Augustus was impelled by the old nobility, especially toward the year 18 B.
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The Lex de maritandis ordinibus attempted by various penalties and promises to constrain the members of the aristocracy to contract marriage and to found a family, thus combatting the increasing inclination to celibacy and sterility. The Lex de adulteriis aimed to reestablish order and virtue in the family, by threatening the unfaithful wife and her accomplice with exile for life and the confiscation of a part of their substance. It obliged the husband to expose the crime to the tribunals; if the husband could not or would not make the accusation, it provided that the father should do so; and in case both husband and father failed, it authorized any citizen to step forth as accuser.
Finally the Lex sumptuaria was designed to restrain the extravagance of wealthy families, particularly that of the women, prohibiting them from spending too large a part of the family fortune in jewels, apparel, body slaves, festivities, or buildings, especially in the building of sumptuous villas, then a growing fashion. In short, it was the purpose of these laws to bring the ladies of the Roman aristocracy to a course of conduct patterned upon the example of Livia.
In the protracted discussions concerning these laws, which took place in the senate, Augustus on one occasion made a long speech in which he cited Livia as a model for the ladies of Rome. He set forth minutely the details of her household administration, telling how she lived, what relations she had with outsiders, what amusements she thought proper for a person of her rank, how she dressed and at what expense. And no one in the senate judged it unworthy of the greatness of the state or contrary to custom thus to introduce the name and person of a great lady into the public discussion of so serious a matter of governmental policy.
Livia, then, about 18 B. Having been safely preserved by good fortune through the long civil wars, this model was now set back again upon a fitting pedestal in the most powerful and richest family of the empire. She was the living example of all the virtues which the Romans most cherished, a beloved wife and a heeded counselor to the head of the state, honored with that veneration which power, virtue, nobility of birth, and the dignified beauty of face and figure drew from every one; furthermore, there were her two sons, Tiberius and Drusus, both intelligent, handsome, full of activity, docile to the traditional education which she sought to give them in order that they might be the worthy continuators of the great name they bore.
Livia, with all this in her favor, might have been expected to live a happy and tranquil life, serenely to fulfil her mission amid the admiration of the world. But opposition and difficulties sprang up in her own family. In 39 B.
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Augustus had had by Scribonia a daughter, Julia. Following in the government of his family, as in so large a part of his politics, the traditions of the old nobility, Augustus gave his daughter in marriage when very young,—she was not yet past seventeen,—just as he early gave wives to Livia's two sons, whose guardian he was. In each case in order to assure within his circle harmony and power, he chose the consort in his own family or from among his friends. To Tiberius he gave Agrippina, a daughter of Agrippa, his close friend and most faithful collaborator; to Drusus he gave Antonia, the younger daughter of Mark Antony and Octavia, sister of Augustus.
To Julia he gave Marcellus, his nephew, the son of Octavia and her first husband. But while the marriages of Drusus and Tiberius proved successful and the two couples lived lovingly and happily, such was not the case with the marriage of Julia and Marcellus. As a result, disagreeable misunderstandings and rancors soon made themselves felt in the family. We do not know exactly what were the causes of these disagreements. It seems that Marcellus, under the influence of Julia, assumed a tone somewhat too haughty and insolent, such as was not becoming in a youth who, although the nephew of Augustus, was still taking his first steps in his political career; and it seems too that this conduct of his was especially offensive to Agrippa, who, next to Augustus, was the first person in the empire.
In short, at seventeen, Julia desired that her husband should be the second personage of the state in order that she might come immediately after Livia or even be placed directly on an equality with her. According to the Roman ideas of the family and of its discipline, this was a precocious and excessive ambition, unbecoming a matron, much less a young girl.
For the duty of the woman was to follow faithfully and submissively the ambitions of her lord and not to impart to him her own ambitions or make him her tool. In contrast to Livia, who was so docile and placid in her respect for the older traditions of the aristocracy, so firm and strong in her observance of the duties, not infrequently grievous and difficult, which this tradition imposed, Julia represented the woman of that new generation which had grown up in the times of peace—a type more rebellious against tradition, less resigned to the serious duties and difficult renunciations of rank; much more inclined to enjoy its prerogatives than disposed to bear that heavy burden of obligations and sacrifices with which the previous generations had balanced privilege.
Beautiful and intelligent, even in the early years of her first marriage she showed a great passion for studies, and a fine artistic and literary taste, and with these a lively inclination toward luxury and display which hardly suited with the spirit or the letter of the Lex sumptuaria which her father had carried through in that year. But fraught with greater danger than all this was her ardent and passionate temperament, which both in the family and in politics was altogether too frequently to drive her to desire and to carry through that which, rightly or wrongly, was forbidden to a woman by law, custom, and public opinion.
It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that a young woman endowed with so fiery and ambitious a nature did not become in the hands of Augustus as docile a political instrument as Livia. Julia wished to live for herself and for her pleasure, not for the political greatness of her father; and indeed, Augustus, who had a fine knowledge of men, was so impressed by this first unhappy experiment that when Marcellus, still a very young man, died in 23 B.
For a moment, indeed, he did think of bestowing her not upon a senator but upon a knight, that is, a person outside of the political aristocracy, evidently with the intention of stifling her too eager ambitions by taking from her all means and hope of satisfying them. Then he decided upon the opposite expedient, that of quieting those ambitions by entirely satisfying them, and so gave Julia, in 21 B.
Agrippa was twenty-four years older than she and could have been her father, but he was in truth the second person of the empire in glory, riches, and power. Soon after, in 18 B. Thus Julia suddenly saw her ambitions gratified. She became at twenty-one the next lady of the empire after Livia, and perhaps even the first in company with and beside her.
Young, beautiful, intelligent, cultured, and loving luxury, she represented at Livia's side and in opposition to her, the trend of the new generation in which was growing the determination to free itself from tradition. She lavished money generously, and there soon formed about her a sort of court, a party, a coterie, in which figured the fairest names of the Roman aristocracy. Her name and her person became popular even among the common people of Rome, to whom the name of the Julii was more sympathetic than that of the Claudii, which was borne by the sons of Livia.
The combined popularity of Augustus and of Agrippa was reflected in her.
THE WOMEN OF THE CAESARS
It may be said, therefore, that toward 18 B. So true is this that about this time, Augustus, wishing to place himself into conformity with his law de maritandis ordinibus , reached a significant decision. Since that law fixed at three the number of children which every citizen should have, if he wished to discharge his whole duty toward the state, and since Augustus had but a single daughter, he decided to adopt Caius and Lucius, the first two sons that Julia had borne to Agrippa. This was a great triumph for her, in so far as her sons would henceforth bear the very popular name of Caesar.
But the difficulties which the first marriage with Marcellus had occasioned and which Augustus had hoped to remove by this second marriage soon reappeared in another but still more dangerous form, for they had their roots in that passionate, imperious, bold, and imprudent temperament of Julia. This temperament the Roman education had not succeeded in taming; it was strengthened by the undisciplined spirit of the times. And with it Julia soon began to abuse the fortune, the popularity, the prestige, and the power which came to her from being the daughter of Augustus and the wife of Agrippa.
Little by little she became possessed by the mania of being in Rome the antithesis of Livia, of conducting herself in every case in a manner contrary to that followed by her stepmother. If the latter, like Augustus, wore garments of wool woven at home, Julia affected silks purchased at great price from the oriental merchants. These the ladies of the older type considered a ruinous luxury because of the expense, and an indecency because of the prominence which they gave to the figure.
Where Livia was sparing, Julia was prodigal. If Livia preferred to go to the theater surrounded by elderly and dignified men, Julia always showed herself in public with a retinue of brilliant and elegant youths. If Livia set an example of reserve, Julia dared appear in the provinces in public at the side of her husband and receive public homage. In spite of the law which forbade the wives of Roman governors to accompany their husbands into the provinces, Julia prevailed upon Agrippa to make her his companion when in the year 16 B.
Everywhere she appeared at his side, at the great receptions, at the courts, in the cities; and she was the first of the Latin women to be apotheosized in the Orient. Paphos called her "divine" and set up statues to her; Mitylene called her the New Aphrodite, Eressus, Aphrodite Genetrix. These were bold innovations in a state in which tradition was still so powerful; but they could scarcely have been of serious danger to Julia, if her passionate temperament had not led her to commit a much more serious imprudence.
Agrippa, compared to her, was old, a simple, unpolished man of obscure origin who was frequently absent on affairs of state. In the circle which had formed about Julia there were a number of handsome, elegant, pleasing young men; among others one Sempronius Gracchus, a descendant of the famous tribunes. Julia seems toward the close to have had for him, even in the lifetime of Agrippa, certain failings which the Lex de adulteriis visited with terrible punishments. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, if from this time on there should have been fostered between Julia and Livia a half-suppressed rivalry.
The fact is, in itself, very probable and several indications of it have remained in tradition and in history. We know also that two parties were already beginning to gather about the two women. One of these might be called the party of the Claudii and of the old conservative nobility, the other the party of the Julii and of that youthful nobility which was following the modern trend. As long as Agrippa lived, Augustus, by holding the balance between the two factions, succeeded in maintaining a certain equilibrium. With the death of Agrippa, which occurred in 12 B.
Julia was now for the second time a widow, and by the provisions of the Lex de maritandis ordinibus should remarry. Augustus in the traditional manner sought a husband for her, and, seeking him only with the idea of furthering a political purpose, he found for her Tiberius, the elder son of Livia.
Tiberius was the stepbrother of Julia and was married to a lady whom he tenderly loved; but these were considerations which could hardly give pause to a Roman senator. In the marriage of Tiberius and Julia, Augustus saw a way of snuffing out the incipient discord between the Julii and the Claudii, between Julia and Livia, between the parties of the new and of the old nobility. He therefore ordered Tiberius to repudiate the young, beautiful, and noble Agrippina in order to marry Julia. For Tiberius the sacrifice was hard; we are told that one day after the divorce, having met Agrippina at some house, he began to weep so bitterly that Augustus ordered that the former husband and wife should never meet again.
But Tiberius, on the other hand, had been educated by his mother in the ancient ideas, and therefore knew that a Roman nobleman must sacrifice his feelings to the public interest. As for Julia, she celebrated her third wedding joyfully; for Tiberius, after the deaths of Agrippa and of his own brother Drusus, was the rising man, the hope and the second personage of the empire, so that she was not forced to step down from the lofty position which the marriage with Agrippa had given her.
Tiberius, furthermore, was a very handsome man and for this reason also he seems not to have been displeasing to Julia, who in the matter of husbands considered not only glory and power. The marriage of Julia and Tiberius began under happy auspices. Julia seemed to love Tiberius and Tiberius did what he could to be a good husband. Julia soon felt that she was once more to become a mother and the hope of this other child seemed to cement the union between husband and wife. But the rosy promises of the beginning were soon disappointed.
Tiberius was the son of Livia, a true Claudius, the worthy heir of two ancient lines, an uncompromising traditionalist, therefore a rigid and disdainful aristocrat, and a soldier severe with others as with himself. He wished the aristocracy to set the people an example of all the virtues which had made Rome so great in peace and war: religious piety, simplicity of customs, frugality, family purity, and rigid observance of all the laws. The luxury and prodigality which were becoming more and more wide-spread among the young nobility had no fiercer enemy than he.
He held that a man of great lineage who spent his substance on jewels, on dress, and on revels was a traitor to his country, and no one demanded with greater insistence than he that the great laws of the year 18 B. Julia, on the other hand, loved extravagance, festivals, joyous companies of elegant youths, an easy, brilliant life full of amusement. For greater misfortune, the son who was born of their union died shortly after and discord found its way between Julia and Tiberius.
Sempronius Gracchus, who knew how to profit by this, reappeared and again made advances to Julia. She again lent her ear to his bland words and the domestic disagreement rapidly became embittered. Tiberius,—this is certain,—soon learned that Julia had resumed her relations with Sempronius Gracchus, and a new, intolerable torment was added to his already distressed life. According to the Lex de adulteriis , he as husband should have made known the crime of his wife to the pretor and have had her punished.
He had been one of those who had always most vehemently denounced the nobility for their weakness in the enforcement of this law. Now that his own wife had fallen under the provisions of the terrible statute, to which so many other women had been forced to submit, the moment had come to give the weak that example of unconquerable firmness which he had so often demanded of others. But Julia was the daughter of Augustus. Could he call down, without the consent of Augustus, so terrible a scandal upon the first house of the empire, render its daughter infamous, and drive her into exile?
Augustus, though he desired his daughter to be more prudent and serious, yet loved and protected her; above all, he disliked dangerous scandal, and Julia dared to do whatever she wished, knowing herself invulnerable under his protection and his love. To this hard and false situation Tiberius, fuming with rage, had to adjust himself. He lived in a separate apartment, keeping up with Julia only the relations necessary to save appearances, but he could not divorce her, much less publish her guilt.
The situation grew still worse when political discontent began to use for its own ends the discord between Julia and Tiberius. Tiberius had many enemies among the nobility, especially among the young men of his own age; partly because his rapid, brilliant career had aroused much jealousy, partly because his conservative, traditionalist tendencies toward authority and militarism disturbed many of them. More and more among the nobility there was increasing the desire for a mild and easy-going government which should allow them to enjoy their privileges without hardship and which should not be too severe in imposing its duties upon them.
On the other hand, Julia was most ambitious. Since, after the disagreements with Tiberius had broken out, she could no longer hope to be the powerful wife of the first person of the empire after Augustus, she sought compensation. Thus there formed about Julia a party which sought in every way to ruin the lofty position which Tiberius occupied in the state, by setting up against him Caius Caesar, the son of Julia by Agrippa, whom Augustus had adopted and of whom he was very fond.
This was a manoeuver of the Julian party to attract popular attention to the youth, to prepare a rival for Tiberius in his quality as principal collaborator of Augustus, and to gain a hold upon the future head of the state.
The move was altogether very bold; for this nomination of a child consul contradicted all the fundamental principles of the Roman constitution, and it would probably have been fatal to the party which evolved it, had not the indignant rage of Tiberius assured its triumph. Tiberius opposed this law, which he took as an offense, and he wished Augustus to oppose it, and at the outset Augustus did so. But then, either because Julia was able to bend him to her desires or because in the senate there was in truth a strong party which supported it out of hatred for Tiberius, Augustus at last yielded, seeking to placate Tiberius with other compensations.
But Tiberius was too proud and violent an aristocrat to accept compensations and indignantly demanded permission to retire to Rhodes, abandoning all the public offices which he exercised. He certainly hoped to make his loss felt, for indeed Rome needed him. But he was mistaken. This act of Tiberius was severely judged by public opinion as a reprisal upon the public for a private offense. Augustus became angry with him and in his absence all his enemies took courage and hurled themselves against him.
The honors to Caius Caesar were approved amid general enthusiasm and the Julian party triumphed all along the line; it reached the height of power and popularity, while Tiberius was constrained to content himself with the idle life of a private person at Rhodes. But at Rome Livia still remained.
From that moment began the mortal duel between Livia and Julia. Tiberius had now broken with Augustus, he had lost the support of public opinion, he was hated by the majority of the senate. At Rhodes he soon found himself, therefore, in the awkward position of one who through a false move has played into the hands of his enemies and sees no way of recovering his position. They were his mother, Livia, and his sister-in-law, Antonia, the widow of that brother Drusus who, dying in his youth, had carried to his grave the hopes of Rome.
Antonia was the daughter of the emperor's sister Octavia and of Mark Antony, the famous triumvir whose name remains forever linked in story with that of Cleopatra. This daughter of Antony was certainly the noblest and the gentlest of all the women who appear in the lugubrious and tragic history of the family of the Caesars.
Serious, modest, and even-tempered, she was likewise endowed with beauty and virtue, and she brought into the family and into its struggles a spirit of concord, serenity of mind, and sweet reasonableness, though they could not always prevail against the violent passions and clashing interests of those about her. As long as Drusus lived, Drusus and Antonia had been for the Romans the model of the devoted pair of lovers, and their tender affection had become proverbial; yet the Roman multitude, always given to admiring the descendants of the great families, was even more deeply impressed by the beauty, the virtue, the sweetness, the modesty, and the reserve of Antonia.
After the death of Drusus, she did not wish to marry again, even though the Lex de maritandis ordinibus made it a duty. Whether living at her villa of Bauli, where she spent the larger part of her year, or at Rome, the beautiful widow gave her attention to the bringing up of her three children, Germanicus, Livilla, and Claudius. Ever since the death of Octavia, she had worshiped Livia as a mother and lived in the closest intimacy with her, and, withdrawn from public life, she attempted now to bring a spirit of peace into the torn and tragic family.
Antonia was very friendly with Tiberius, who, on his side, felt the deepest sympathy and respect for his beautiful and virtuous sister-in-law. It cannot be doubted, therefore, that in this crisis Antonia, who was bound to Livia by many ties, must have taken sides for Livia's son Tiberius. The situation grew worse and worse. Public opinion steadily became more hostile to Tiberius and more favorable to Julia and her elder son, and it was not long before they wished to give to her younger son, Lucius, the same honors which had already been bestowed upon his brother Caius.
Private interest soon allied itself with the hatred and rancor against Tiberius; and scarcely had he departed when the senate increased the appropriation for public supplies and public games. All those who profited by these appropriations were naturally interested in preventing the return of Tiberius, who was notorious for his opposition to all useless expenditures.
Any measure, however dishonest, was therefore considered proper, provided only it helped to ruin Tiberius; and his enemies had recourse to every art and calumny, among other things actually accusing him of conspiracies against Augustus. Even for a woman as able and energetic as Livia it was an arduous task to struggle against the inclinations of Augustus, against public opinion, against the majority of the senate, against private interest, and against Julia and her friends. Indeed, four years passed during which the situation of Tiberius and his party grew steadily worse, while the party of Julia increased in power.
Finally the party of Tiberius resolved to attempt a startlingly bold move. They decided to cripple the opposition by means of a terrible scandal in the very person of Julia. The Lex Julia de adulteriis , framed by Augustus in the year 18, authorized any citizen to denounce an unfaithful wife before the judges, if the husband and father should both refuse to make the accusation. This law, which was binding upon all Roman citizens, was therefore applicable even to the daughter of Augustus, the widow of Agrippa, the mother of Caius and Lucius Caesar, those two youths in whom were centered the hopes of the republic.
She had violated the Lex Julia and she had escaped the penalties which had been visited on many other ladies of the aristocracy only because no one had dared to call down this scandal upon the first family of the empire. The party of Tiberius, protected and guided by Livia, at last hazarded this step.
It is impossible to say what part Livia played in this terrible tragedy. It is certain that either she or some other influential personage succeeded in gaining possession of the proofs of Julia's guilt and brought them to Augustus, threatening to lay them before the pretor and to institute proceedings if he did not discharge his duty. Augustus found himself constrained to apply to himself his own terrible law.
He himself had decreed that if the husband, as was then the case of Tiberius, could not accuse a faithless woman, the father must do so. It was his law, and he had to bow to it in order to avoid scandals and worse consequences. He exiled Julia to the little island of Pandataria, and at the age of thirty-seven the brilliant, pleasing, and voluptuous young woman who had dazzled Rome for many years was compelled to disappear from the metropolis forever and retire to an existence on a barren island. She was cut off by the implacable hatred of a hostile party and by the inexorable cruelty of a law framed by her own father!
The exile of Julia marks the moment when the fortunes of Tiberius and Livia, which had been steadily losing ground for four years, began to revive, though not so rapidly as Livia and Tiberius had probably expected. Julia preserved, even in her misfortune, many faithful friends and a great popularity. For a long time popular demonstrations were held in her favor at Rome, and many busied themselves tenaciously to obtain her pardon from Augustus, all of which goes to prove that the horrible infamies which were spread about her were the inventions of enemies.
Julia had broken the Lex Julia ,—so much is certain,—but even if she had been guilty of an unfortunate act, she was not a monster, as her enemies wished to have it believed. She was a beautiful woman, as there had been before, as there are now, and as there will be hereafter, touched with human vices and with human virtues. As a matter of fact, her party, after it had recovered from the terrible shock of the scandal, quickly reorganized. Firm in its intention of having Julia pardoned, it took up the struggle again, and tried as far as it could to hinder Tiberius from returning to Rome and again taking part in political life, knowing well that if the husband once set foot in Rome, all hope of Julia's return would be lost.
It was either Tiberius or Julia; and more furiously than ever the struggle between the two parties was waged about Augustus. Caius and Lucius Caesar, Julia's two youthful sons, of whom Augustus was very fond, were the principal instruments with which the enemies of Tiberius fought against the influence of Livia over Augustus.
Every effort was made to sow hatred and distrust between the two youths and Tiberius, to the end that it might become impossible to have them collaborate with him in the government of the empire, and that the presence of Julia's sons should of necessity exclude that of her husband. A further ally was soon found in the person of another child of Julia and Agrippa, the daughter who has come down into history under the name of the Younger Julia.
Augustus had conceived as great a love for her as for the two sons, and there was no doubt that she would aid with every means in her power the party averse to Tiberius; for her mother's instincts of liberty, luxury, and pleasure were also inherent in her. Married to L. Aemilius Paulus, the son of one of the greatest Roman families, she had early assumed in Rome a position which made her, like her mother, the antithesis of Livia. She, too, gathered about her, as the elder Julia had done, a court of elegant youths, men of letters, and poets,—Ovid was of the number,—and with this group she hoped to be able to hold the balance of power in the government against that coterie of aged senators who paid court to Livia.
She, too, took advantage of the good-will of her grandfather, just as her mother had done, and in the shadow of his protection she displayed an extravagance which the laws did not permit, but which, on this account, was all the more admired by the enemies of the old Roman Puritanism. As though openly to defy the sumptuary law of Augustus, she built herself a magnificent villa; and, if we dare believe tradition, it was not long before she, too, had violated the very law which had proved disastrous to her mother. Thus, even after the departure of Julia, her three children, Caius, Lucius, and Julia the Younger, constituted in Rome an alliance which was sufficiently powerful to contest every inch of ground with the party of Livia; for they had public opinion in their favor, they enjoyed the support of the senate, and they played upon the weakness of Augustus.
In the year 2 A. The condition of the empire was growing worse on every side; the finances were disordered, the army was disorganized, and the frontiers were threatened, for revolt was raising its head in Gaul, in Pannonia, and especially in Germany. Every day the situation seemed to demand the hand of Tiberius, who, now in the prime of life, was recognized as one of the leading administrators and the first general of the empire.
But, for all Livia's insistence, Augustus refused to call Tiberius back into the government. The Julii were masters of the state, and held the Claudii at a distance. Perhaps Tiberius would never have returned to power in Rome had not chance aided him in the sudden taking off, in a strange and unforeseen manner, of Caius and Lucius Caesar. The latter died at Marseilles, following a brief illness, shortly after the return of Tiberius to Rome, August 29, in the year 2 A. It was a great grief to Augustus, and, twenty months after, was followed by another still more serious.
In February of the year 4, Caius also died, in Lycia, of a wound received in a skirmish. These two deaths were so premature, so close to each other, and so opportune for Tiberius, that posterity has refused to see in them simply one of the many mischances of life. Later generations have tried to believe that Livia had a hand in these fatalities.
Yet he who understands life at all knows that it is easier to imagine and suspect romantic poisonings of this sort than it is to carry them out. Even leaving the character of Livia out of consideration, it is difficult to imagine how she would have dared, or have been able, to poison the two youths at so great a distance from Rome, one in Asia, the other in Gaul, by means of a long train of accomplices, and this at a moment when the family of Augustus was divided by many hatreds and every member was suspected, spied upon, and watched by a hostile party.
Furthermore, it would have been necessary to carry this out at a time when the example of Julia proved to all that relationship to Augustus was not a sufficient defense against the rigors of the law and the severity of public opinion when roused by any serious crime. Besides, it is a recognized fact that people are always inclined to suspect a crime whenever a man prominent in the public eye dies before his time. At Turin, for example, there still lives a tradition among the people that Cavour was poisoned, some say by the order of Napoleon III, others by the Jesuits, simply because his life was suddenly cut off, at the age of fifty-two, at the moment when Italy had greatest need of him.
Indeed, even to-day we are impressed when we see in the family of Augustus so many premature deaths of young men; but precisely because these untimely deaths are frequent we come to see in them the predestined ruin of a worn-out race in history. All ancient families at a certain moment exhaust themselves. This is the reason why no aristocracy has been able to endure for long unless continually renewed, and why all those that have refused to take in new blood have failed from the face of the earth.
There is no serious reason for attributing so horrible a crime to a woman who was venerated by the best men of her time; and the fables which the populace, always faithful to Julia, and therefore hostile to Livia, recounted on this score, and which the historians of the succeeding age collected, have no decisive value.
The deaths of Caius and Lucius Caesar were therefore a great good fortune for Tiberius, because it determined his return to power. The situation of the empire was growing worse on every hand; Germany was in the midst of revolt, and it was necessary to turn the army over to vigorous hands. Augustus, old and irresolute, still hesitated, fearing the dislike which was brewing both in the senate and among the people against the too dictatorial Tiberius.
At last, however, he was forced to yield. The more serious, more authoritative, more ancient party of the senatorial nobility, in accord with Livia and headed by a nephew of Pompey, Cnaeus Cornelius Cinna, forced him to recall Tiberius, threatening otherwise to have recourse to some violent measures the exact character of which we do not know. The unpopularity of Tiberius was a source of continual misgivings to the aging Augustus, and it was only through this threat of a yet greater danger that they finally overcame his hesitation.
On June 26, in the fourth year of our era, Augustus adopted Tiberius as his son, and had conferred upon him for ten years the office of tribune, thus making him his colleague. Tiberius returned to power, and, in accordance with the wishes of Augustus, adopted as his son Germanicus, the elder son of Drusus and Antonia, his faithful friend.
He was an intelligent, active lad of whom all entertained the highest hopes. On his return to power, Tiberius, together with Augustus, took measures for reorganizing the army and the state, and sought to bring about by means of new marriages and acts of clemency a closer union between the Julian and Claudian branches of the family, then bitterly divided by the violent struggles of recent years.
The terms of Julia's exile were made easier; Germanicus married Agrippina, another daughter of Julia and Agrippa, and a sister of Julia the Younger; the widow of Caius Caesar, Livilla, sister of Germanicus and daughter of Antonia, was given to Drusus, the son of Tiberius, a young man born in the same year as Germanicus.
Drusus, despite certain defects, such as irascibility and a marked fondness for pleasure, gave evidence that he possessed the requisite qualities of a statesman—firmness, sound judgment, and energy. The policy which dictated these marriages was always the same—to make of the family of Augustus one formidable and united body, so that it might constitute the solid base of the entire government of the empire. But, alas! Too much had been hoped for in recalling Tiberius to power.
During the ten years of senile government, the empire had been reduced to a state of utter disorder. The measures planned by Tiberius for reestablishing the finances of the state roused the liveliest discontent among the wealthy classes in Italy, and again excited their hatred against him. In the year 6 A. In an instant of mob fury, they even came to fear that the peninsula would be invaded and Rome besieged by the barbarians of the Danube.
Tiberius came to the rescue, and with patience and coolness put down the insurrection, not by facing it in open conflict, but by drawing out the war to such a length as to weary the enemy, a method both safe and wise, considering the unreliable character of the troops at his command. But at Rome, once the fear had subsided, the long duration of the war became a new cause for dissatisfaction and anger, and offered to many a pretext for venting their long-cherished hatred against Tiberius, who was accused of being afraid, of not knowing how to end the war, and of drawing it out for motives of personal ambition.
The party averse to Tiberius again raised its head and resorted once more to its former policy—that of urging on Germanicus against Tiberius. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while. No cover image. Read FREE! Excerpt "MANY things that among the Greeks are considered improper and unfitting," wrote Cornelius Nepos in the preface to his "Lives," "are permitted by our customs.
Holum University of California Press, Read preview Overview. Behind Every Great Man. National Catholic Reporter, Vol.