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Book IV
Chapter I

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Augustus
by
John Buchan

published by
Hodder and Stoughton
London 1937

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Book IV
Chapter III

Book IV: Pater Patriae

 p235  Chapter II

Caesar's Household

What is the price of Experience? do men buy it for a song?

Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No, it is bought with the price

Of all that a man hath, his house, his wife, his children.

William Blake.


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I

A great man may be fortunate in his ordering of the state, but have no such felicity in his own household, for the reason, perhaps, that the qualities needed in public affairs are too hard and stiff in texture for the little enclave of the family. In the famous Paris cameo,1 which dates from the early reign of Tiberius, the Julio-Claudians are represented as a happy group, with the deified Augustus brooding above them. That is the figure he would fain have presented, but, in the very year when the ambition of his life had been gratified and he was hailed as the Father of his Country, he stood before the world as an indifferent father of a family. Rome was convulsed by the disgrace of Julia, his daughter and only child.

The Julias had been the principal ladies of his house. There was his great-great-aunt, the wife of Marius, whose funeral eulogy Julius himself had spoken. There was his grandmother, the sister of Julius. There was the daughter of Julius, who had died young and had been married to Pompey, twenty years her senior, the first of several ill-fated political matches. His own daughter, Julia, had been born on the very day on which he divorced Scribonia, the wife whose temper he had found intolerable.2 The elder women of the Julian race had  p236 been, like Octavia, gentle and faithful, but this Julia seems to have had something of her mother's waywardness. Now, at the age of thirty-seven, she was embarked on the high tides of scandal.

Woman's Place in Rome It is surprising that writers of romance, who have so diligently combed the ancient world for subjects, have neglected this daughter of Augustus, for her career had many of the true elements of tragedy. Rome, at the time, was a difficult place for women, especially for such an one as Julia. Their life was at once dangerously trammelled and dangerously free. They played a notable part, as in all aristocracies. In the heroic age of Greece women had been potent figures; with the democracy of the city-state they sank into obscurity; in the essentially aristocratic society of Rome they again became prominent. Under the patriarchal scheme of the Republic a wife had been subject to the control of her husband, but even by the law of the Twelve Tables the women of the family had their rights, and intestate inheritances were divided equally between sons and daughters. In time the old solemn type of marriage was largely superseded by what was no more than a personal contract. The husband's control became only a form, and a wife managed her own property. Divorce was simple and expenditure. A great lady could remain a dutiful wife and mother, and at the same time play a large part in social life; such was Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi, who had a famous salon; such was her granddaughter, Sempronia, who was implicated in Catiline's conspiracy. The lust of power turned some of them into unsexed viragos, like Antony's wife Fulvia, or mischievous wantons, like Clodia. But women could exercise great influence in public affairs without losing their character. "We rule the world," said old Cato, "but our women rule us."3

Marriages among the aristocracy were matters of  p237 arrangement, on financial or political grounds, and might or might not be accompanied by affection. We have many instances of the tenderest devotion between husbands and wives, and the beautiful epitaph from a tomb on the Appian Way might have been written of countless Roman matrons.4 Women like Octavia did their duty uncomplainingly under the cruellest handicaps. But there was no guarantee that a marriage arranged in cold blood would have this happy consequence. Chastity in a wife was important, but there was no bilateral monogamic idealism. A husband might take his pleasure where he pleased without criticism. Sex to the Romans was a plain fact of nature with little glamour about it and less chivalry, and the Roman temper was far removed from the Frauendienst of the Middle Ages. Love was a terrible thing, a tragic madness, as in the Greek dramas, and in the passion of Catullus for Lesbia's "burning eyes";5 or it was a placid domestic affection; or it was common sensuality. The ancient world, on the whole, was of Dr. Johnson's opinion that it "had no great influence upon the sum of life." The only love tragedy in the Iliad is the story of Anteia and Bellerophon, which occupies six lines out of fifteen thousand. In Roman literature there is scarcely a hint of the romance of young love and its innocence. The Cynthias and Delias and Pyrrhas of the poets were slave girls or courtesans.

A woman, born into such a society, could, if she were happily wedded, find satisfaction in husband and children; but if she missed that, the only other avenues were ambition and adultery. She could set her heart on power or on pleasure. JuliaJulia seems to have had something of the  p238 fineness and esprit of her father's race, marred by the caprice of her mother Scribonia. Her portraits show that she had beauty,6 but her dark hair was early streaked with grey, which gave her much concern. Her childhood in the house on the Palatine cannot have been gay. Livia, her stepmother, was a woman of the old school, with strict ideas about the upbringing of youth, and Augustus, while anxious to play a father's part, was too busy to see much of his daughter. A girl was not likely to find much charm in the grave and preoccupied Agrippa, or in a dry lawyer like Ateius Capito, or in the airs and attitudes of Maecenas. Julia, as a child, seems to have been on easy terms with her father, and to have been allowed to chaff him and to answer him pertly. She was carefully shielded from young men, and was inordinately proud of her rank, having little else to think about.7

At fourteen she was married to her cousin Marcellus, which might have been well enough had Marcellus lived, but at sixteen she was left a widow, and was promptly espoused to the elderly Agrippa. She bore him five children, Gaius, Lucius, the younger Julia, Agrippina, and a posthumous son, Agrippa. She seems to have been reasonably happy with him. She accompanied him on his Eastern travels, was nearly drowned in the Scamander, and was hailed as a goddess in various Asian cities — a bad thing for a woman with her overweening pride of birth. But it was the old story of crabbed age and youth. She had much time on her hands when Agrippa was abroad on duty, and she amused herself with books, but principally with dress, and won a name for extravagance. She began, too, to see too much of young men, especially of one of the Gracchi. Augustus scolded her but failed to keep an eye on her, though Livia was a vigilant duenna.

Agrippa died, and Julia was again on the market. Presently at the age of twenty-eight she was married to Tiberius, who was three years older. Her new husband, whose heart was with the wife whom he had  p239 been compelled to divorce, was ill-fated to be the mate of a brilliant and audacious woman. At first she seems to have done her best, for she accompanied him on his Dalmatian campaign, and there bore him a son who died. But after that the breach widened. Julia in Rome lived wholly among the younger set, and stories began to circulate about her doings. She was seen with drunken revellers in the streets, and was a frequent guest at dubious male parties. Tiberius was well aware of the scandals and suffered them in silence, but the position, for a proud man, was intolerable, and was one of the reasons for his retreat to Rhodes.

Then suddenly Augustus learned from Livia what was happening, since all Rome rang with the story. He was wounded to the work in his pride and self-respect. At the very time when he was attempting to purify Roman morals his own child was revealed as the leader of that light-witted raffishness which he detested. He must have been aware, too, that he was not free from blame, and in the extremity of his anger we may detect the prick of conscience. He referred the business to the Senate and asked for the legal penalty. Her two chief lovers were a son of Mark Antony and Fulvia, and the young Gracchus; the former committed suicide and the latter was banished. Julia herself was exiled to the island of Pandataria, off the Campanian coast.

Such was the fate of this bright and brittle creature who, under happier circumstances, might have been great, for she had an excellent mind, and, as her popularity with the Roman mob showed, the magic of personality. Neither her father nor her husband ever saw her again. She was denied the simplest luxuries, and, though she was later allowed to live on the mainland, her exile was never rescinded. When she died a few weeks after Augustus, her ashes were forbidden the imperial Mausoleum. Nor did her tragedy end at Pandataria. Her daughter, the younger Julia, who married L. Aemilius Paullus, travelled the same road. In A.D. 9 she was detected in adultery and was banished to the island of Tremesus on the Apulian coast, where, supported by a scanty allowance from Livia, she lived miserably until  p240 her death twenty years later. Her fall crushed the wings of a butterfly poet, for Ovid had apparently been privy to the affair and was himself exiled to the bleak shores of the Black Sea. The tragedy of his daughter weakened the prestige of Augustus in Rome, for a strong Julia party came into being, and it left a deep scar on his soul. In the words of Suetonius, "he bore the death of his kin with far more resignation than their misconduct."8

II

The Heirs Presumptive With his daughter in disgrace and Tiberius sulking in Rhodes, Augustus turned with an almost passionate affection to the two grandsons with whom rested the hope of the Julian succession. The boys suffered all the disadvantages of heirs presumptive, for they had been forced into public prominence too soon and had not borne their honours discreetly, and they were surrounded by flatterers who increased their arrogance. In 1 B.C. Gaius was sent on a roving commission to the Eastern provinces, being invested with a special proconsular imperium. He had as his chief-of‑staff M. Lollius, who had not been very successful with the legions on the Rhine. His grandfather, in bidding him farewell, wished him "the integrity of Pompey, the courage of Alexander, and his own good luck." Tiberius arranged to meet him, but the interview was not satisfactory. Lollius had poisoned the mind of Gaius against his stepfather, and the grandson wrote to Augustus a damaging report; the consequence was that the request of Tiberius for permission to return home was refused.9 There had been trouble in Parthia, for Phraates, the king who had restored the standards to Rome, had been murdered and succeeded by his son Phraataces, who also organized a revolution in Armenia, where Artavasdes was replaced by Tigranes. The first task of Gaius was therefore to  p241 settle this new frontier problem. He met Phraataces on an island in the Euphrates and patched up an unsatisfactory truce. Lollius, owing to the revelations of the Parthian king, fell into disgrace and was dismissed. His successor, Quirinius, one of the best soldiers of the day, was a friend of Tiberius, and, principally owing to his influence, Gaius agreed to his stepfather's return to Rome, a consent which Augustus had made a condition of his own approval. Livia had been pressing the point, and the wiser heads in Rome, seeing the clouds banking in the North, had clamoured for the employment of the ablest of Roman commanders. In A.D. 2 Tiberius was back in the capital, though he was not yet allowed to take part in public affairs.

The hopes which Augustus had set on his grandsons were destined to a melancholy defeat. In August A.D. 2 Lucius, the younger of the princes, who had been sent on a mission to the West, died at Marseilles on his way to Spain. Gaius moved north to Armenia, where Tigranes had been slain, and, with the assent of Augustus, gave the crown to Artabazanes, the king of Media. His next purpose was an expedition to Arabia, but in quelling a local Armenian revolt he was badly wounded. Sick and dispirited, he gave up his Arabian plan and started on the return voyage to Italy, but in February A.D. 4 he died at Limyra in Lycia. It was the last of the family bereavements of the Princeps, and it seems to have been felt acutely, for he had come to regard his grandsons with a doting affection. "Light of my eyes," he had written to Gaius two years before, "I miss you desperately when you are away from me, especially on such a day as this. Wherever you are, I hope you have kept my sixty-fourth birthday in health and happiness, for, as you see, I have passed the grand climacteric, which for us old men is the sixty-third year.a I have prayed to the gods that I may spend the time that remains to me in a prosperous Rome, while you are playing the man and learning to take up my work."10

The deaths of the princes left Tiberius as the only  p242 possible successor. Augustus accepted the inevitable, and that year he adopted him as his son, while Tiberius in turn adopted Germanicus. He was also given the tribunician power for ten years. He was therefore both the colleague of the Princeps and the heir‑apparent, and, as the bodily strength of Augustus declined, the actual administrator of the empire. The imperial family now consisted of the Claudians — Tiberius; the younger Drusus, the son of Tiberius by his first wife; the sons of the elder Drusus, Germanicus, now a youth of nineteen, and Claudius (the future emperor), a loutish boy of fourteen: the Julians — the surviving children of Julia and Agrippa, the younger Julia, Agrippina (who was to marry Germanicus) and Agrippa Postumus. There were also collaterals, the children of Octavia. Agrippa Postumus is a puzzling figure. He seems to have been a case of arrested development, perhaps half an idiot. He had great bodily strength, but showed an aptitude for nothing except field sports, and he took insensate dislikes to his relatives, especially his grandmother. On these facts all our authorities agree.11 But it is possible that Livia had given him cause for his dislike of her, and that with gentler handling something might have been made of him. He was a keen fisherman, and few anglers are altogether vile. His adoption was rescinded and he was banished, under strict surveillance, to an island on the way to Corsica. There is some evidence that Augustus, in the voyage taken just before his death, wished to visit the exile with a view to reconciliation,12 for he was the only male left of his own blood.

III

Livia Livia was to survive Augustus for fifteen years and to reach the great age of eighty‑six; fifty‑two years was the span of their married life. When she died she was the mother of the empire, an institution like the principate, and to speak against her was to slander the majesty of  p243 Rome. In the provinces she was "Mater Patriae" and "Genetrix Orbis," and in many parts of the East she was identified with the local goddess. But there had always been a party, the party of the exiled Julias, which hated her; they regarded her as the cruel stepmother of the fairy-tales, and whispered dark libels in secret. Later, when the Julio-Claudians had degenerated into mountebanks and monsters, a cloud of suspicion arose against the woman who was responsible for the Claudian strain. She was accused of a series of murders in the interests of her own offspring — of Marcellus,13 of Gaius and Lucius, of Agrippa Postumus, of Augustus himself.14 The gossip-writers, and even the grave Tacitus out of his hatred for Tiberius, hint at, or explicitly charge, a succession of crimes, which, if true, would make her one of the great criminals of the world. For such scandals there is not a shadow of evidence; they are simply the old legend of the "gravis noverca" which human nature is always prone to credit, supported by the popular repute of certain later empresses like Messalina and Faustina. Tiberius was quite capable of accomplishing on his own account the death of Agrippa Postumus; it was physically impossible for Livia to have murdered Gaius and Lucius; Marcellus perished in the midst of an epidemic; and as for her husband, we have ample proof of her lasting devotion. The wholesale nature of the libels provides their refutation.15

There are no portraits of Livia in the beauty of her youth, when Augustus was her devout lover.b The bust in the Uffizi galleryc shows her in early middle life, with features nobly moulded and a grave matronly comeliness.  p244 The Copenhagen head16 is of an older woman, for the cheeks have begun to fall in and the eyes are sunken; the hair, dressed elaborately in bandeaux and curls, frames a countenance of notable dignity and grace. Strength and urbanity are in the clean‑cut jaw and exquisite nose, and the delicate lines of the mouth. She was a type of the true Roman aristocracy, with all its virtues and all its limitations, and in this lay part of her appeal to her husband. She embodied in her life the ideal of the Roman matron, shunning publicity, scrupulous in her domestic tasks, spinning her own wool and making with her own hands her husband's clothes, setting an example of simplicity and good-breeding to a world where fastidiousness was going out of date. Her chastity was beyond the breath of scandal.17 She saved the lives of some nudists who met her in the street by saying that to a woman such as herself naked men were no whit different from statues.18 Augustus was tolerant of ribaldry at his own expense, but would suffer no insult to Livia.19 Though she accompanied her husband on many of his travels she would not permit any advertisement of her doings; for her a woman's life should be the "fallentis semita vitae." Virgil does not mention her, nor Horace, nor Propertius, and we may be certain that this silence was her own wish.

There was a gentle side to her character. Even Tacitus admits that she did much to curb the severities of Tiberius, and that her apartments in the palace were a sanctuary for those in trouble. Her advice to Augustus was always on the side of lenity. She seems to have had moments when she could unbend and forget the grande dame in the woman. She was charitable to the sick, and maintained at her own cost many orphan girls and boys. She provided dowries for poor brides, and assistance for  p245 the parents of large families, and decent tombs for her slaves.20 She was a fond, almost too fond, mother, and a most dutiful wife, and to the end she retained the affection of her husband, which would have been beyond the power of a mere model of the chilly virtues.21

But her chief attribute was a calm, balancing wisdom. She made a haven of domestic peace for the busy master of the world. Once she confessed that her power over Augustus came from "doing gladly whatever pleased him, not meddling with any of his affairs, and, especially, pretending to be blind to the favourites with whom he fell in love."22 This wise complaisance made her husband her slave as soon as the passions of youth were gone. She never offered an opinion until it was asked for, but Augustus came to her frequently for counsel. When he conferred with her he was accustomed to make notes of what he wanted to say — a remarkable tribute to her critical acumen. There is a letter from him to her on the subject of how to treat her difficult grandson, Claudius, the future emperor, which shows how he strove to carry her with him in all family decisions.23 With this respect for her brains there was mingled, perhaps, a certain awe of her person. The grandson of the country banker could not rid himself of his reverence for pure aristocratic blood, and his practical genius had its moments of unwilling admiration for a long-descended and unpractical pride. Both her husband and her son seem to have been a little afraid of the stately woman who spun on the Palatine. When the Julian laws were before the Senate Augustus was unwise enough to tell the senators that they should admonish and command their wives, and they replied gleefully that they would like to know how he admonished and commanded Livia.24

p246 Character of Augustus IV

We have seen the main features of the construction to which Augustus gave his life, and in the next chapter we shall consider that more subtle and intangible thing, the soul which he sought to build up in his people, since he knew well that without the requisite spirit the letter was dead. That is to say, we are engaged in the study of a creative mind. Of the character apart from the mind there is not a great deal to note. It can be said truly of Augustus that the mind was the man. His moral qualities were in full accord with his intellectual powers; they were such as were needed for the fulfilment of his task; in his work he completely realized himself, and there were no unsatisfied longings left over, no gift or quality which missed its mark. His public life was also his private life, and he had no secret world hid from his fellows. All his days were passed in the glare of publicity, and to his contemporaries, as to later generations, he was fully intelligible; a man like themselves, only built on a grander scale, a figure as obvious as the Zeus of Olympia, revered, saluted, but not discussed, for there were no mysteries about it. The gossip-writers a century later found much to admire in him, but little of personal interest to record. The picture they give is on the whole a pleasant one, but it is colourless; to them he was something statuesque, grandiose, marmoreal, with few of the ragged ends of life.

He was a man with a mission, which he pursued with as austere a devotion as any saint or prophet, but there was very little mysticism in it. He began with two purposes — to avenge his great kinsman, and to make himself the first man in the state, and these he followed with cold resolution in the face of desperate odds. Then came the purpose of using the power he had won to build an orderly world. In later life his task was the perfecting of his new mechanism. He was supported, to begin with, by the zest of overcoming difficulties, and later by a personal pride in his achievement. Such a career meant constant toil, a campaign in which there could be no  p247 discharge. There was little chance of an inner life for one whose waking hours were crowded with urgent practical duties. No man in history was ever forced to labour so continuously and decide daily on graver issues. We can see from his portraits what toll this took of body and spirit. In all of them there is the same fine modelling of forehead, mouth, and chin, the same calm, forward-looking eyes; but the Octavius of the British Museum is a boy of sixteen with the world before him; the Augusta of the Prima Porta is the man who has founded the principate and received back from Parthia the lost eagles; in the Ancona head he is in his early fifties, at the zenith of his powers, the high priest of the Roman faith and the ruler of the world; while in the statue from the Terme Museum age has come upon him, the forehead is lined, the shoulders a little bowed, and the eyelids a little weary.25

The essentials of his character have already been made clear in his work. He had his passions, but they were never allowed to interfere with his efficiency. As we have seen, there is every reason to discredit the charges made by Mark Antony against his youth, repeated by the gossips; but in sexual matters he was no precisian, for sexual licence was to the Romans as natural and pardonable as an extra bottle of wine at dinner. Cicero plumed himself on flirting with disreputable actresses; the lawyer Hortensius wrote lascivious poetry,26 and no one thought the worse of him; it was all what Horace called "permitted indulgence."27 Of adultery, the only serious charge is Dio's about the wife of Maecenas; but the story does not hang together, and in any case it is improbable, since Augustus at the time was beginning his puritan crusade. In middle life his conduct was irreproachable. The cruelty with which he was charged in his youth was wholly absent from his maturity. He was severe, and with cause, to erring servants, and he was implacable towards his daughter and granddaughter, but in the latter cases he had good grounds of public policy.  p248 He had schooled himself by a long discipline to do nothing, and to overlook nothing, which might interfere with the success of his work.

Habits and Tastes Yet the man, so far as we can see him behind the colossal façade of his achievements, was friendly, easy of access, affable to all, the honnête homme whom everybody could understand, a Henri Quatre without the gasconade. The house on the Palatine was a very modest palace, being without mosaics or marbles, and having a colonnade of plain Alban stone. He slept there in the same room summer and winter, but sometimes, when his health was poor, he would retire to the villa of Maecenas on the Esquiline, which was believed to be more salubrious, and which, from a disused graveyard and refuse-heap, had been turned into a garden paradise. He had several country houses, but far fewer than the great nobles. One was nine miles out of Rome on the Flaminian Way, one was on a spur of the Alban mountains, one at Praeneste, and one at Tibur. All these dwellings were austerely furnished, but the parks were elaborately laid out. Business was apt to follow him there, and occupy most of his time, so when he wanted a true holiday he went yachting along the Campanian coast, using a modest villa at Capri as his base.

Part of his strength lay in his retention of the tough bourgeois common sense of his upbringing. This was more than the self-conscious simplicity of the old type of aristocrat, and it gave him his power with the middle class, who were to be the backbone of the empire. He had the countryman's sturdy good-humour, which could give and receive plain words. He could never be made ridiculous, for he was always ready to laugh at himself and to prick the bladder of fulsome praise. He met every man squarely on his own ground, and if he were proved wrong he admitted it. Like Cromwell, he welcomed frank and honest speech. The stories handed down may or may not be apocryphal, but, taken together, they prove the kind of repute he left behind him. He could be trusted to deal fairly with opponents, and there was a brusque kindliness even in his reproofs. Tiberius, the true aristocrat, was offended by the free speech which  p249 he permitted, but Augustus comforted him: "My dear fellow, don't be childish and worry because people say hard things of me. It is enough if we can prevent them doing us any harm."28 He had pride of the deepest, but he was without vanity and the maladjustments of vanity. But he would tolerate nothing which lowered the dignity of his office. Offensive lampoons, and above all offensive panegyrics which might bring the principate into contempt, were sternly suppressed. There was a line beyond which no man might venture without drawing the lightnings of his formidable eyes.

His tastes were those of the better type of Roman country gentleman. Working from morn to night, he had no time for frills, but ample leisure would not have disposed him to luxury. His clothes were home-made and of an old‑fashioned pattern. He preferred the plainest food and the commoner sorts of wine, and his diet was always frugal. He liked to have his family about him at meals, especially the younger members, and he was fond of good talk. Now and then he gave a gala banquet, with professional entertainers and handsome gifts for the guests. Games of chance he found a recreation, but he does not appear to have played for high stakes. The routine of his days was to rise an hour or two after daybreak — he had often bad nights and liked his morning sleep; to work until noon; then a light meal and a short nap without undressing; a little air and exercise before he dined at any time between four and seven; then work again until bedtime. He rarely dined out. His daily exercise was a short walk or run, or a game with children, and when he allowed himself a holiday he went yachting or fishing.

He had no serious hobbies. As a young man he had dabbled in letters and written a tragedy; in later life he composed an occasional epigram, prepared his memoirs, and made a collection of his letters and speeches. Horace might hail the Muses as the consolers of great Caesar's leisure, but he was never more than their casual worshipper. He knew that he was an imperfect scholar and  p250 an indifferent writer, and he refused to inflict his compositions on the world. But he read widely, especially in Greek literature, and he was a fastidious critic both of the written and the spoken word, hating anything which savoured of the fantastic or the turgid.29 He was also keenly interested in geography and exploration, and was what Tertullian said of Hadrian, "a seeker after everything strange."30

The Solitary Life There could be nothing narrow about a life so rich in varied duties, but, though the palace was filled all day with a multitude coming and going, its master lived a solitary life. As there were none to share his responsibilities, so there were none to share his confidence. He cannot be said to have had any real intimate, not even Livia. Agrippa was his trusted lieutenant and the architect of much of his fortunes, but Agrippa was primarily a soldier. As for Maecenas, the grasshopper must often have become a burden. Virgil he loved and revered, but he had no opportunity to see much of him, and Livy's smooth, rhetorical mind must have palled on one who liked sharp edges and clear colours. Horace, perhaps, was nearest to him in temperament, but Horace was not disposed to be a courtier. He had no favourites among his officials and no underling had any influence over him.

In the life he led, with leisure only to cultivate his family, the one chance of an intimate was among his immediate kind. Tiberius would have met his needs, and the fragments which we possess of his letters to his stepson have sometimes a note of wistful affection. "Good‑bye, most delightful of men! Success to you as you war for me and for the Muses." . . . "When anything turns up that troubles me or calls for special thought, I long desperately for my dear Tiberius." . . . "When I hear that you are worn out by constant hardships may heaven confound me if my own body does not ache in sympathy. I beseech you to spare yourself, lest the news of your illness kill your mother and me and put the empire in peril. It matters nothing whether or not I am well if  p251 you are ill."31 But there can have been little response from Tiberius; the Claudian and the Julian were very different strains, and the shadows of Vipsania and Gaius and Lucius stood between them. Augustus had stores of affection which were never expended except upon Livia and small children. He had a great capacity for friendship, for, says Suetonius, "though he did not readily make friends, he clung to them with the utmost constancy."32 Yet, except for a very few, these were tepid friendships. Augustus never found his true intimate; indeed, his position and his duties forbade it and forced him into a magnificent loneliness. The state was to him more of a spouse than Livia, more of a comrade than Agrippa.


The Author's Notes:

1 In the Cabinet des Médailles, reproduced in C. A. H. (Plates), IV.157. See Bernoulli, Röm. Ikonographie, II.275 sq.

Thayer's Note: On the Web, more accessibly, see its page at the Bibliothèque Nationale, its current location.

2 Suet. Div. Aug. 62.

3 Cf. the account given by Cicero (ad Att. XV.11) of the family council where Brutus and Cassius were present, and Servilia, the mother of Brutus, took the leading part. Well-born women, too, interested themselves in literature; examples are Cornelia, Sulpicia, who belonged to the coterie of Messalla Corvinus, and the younger Agrippina, who wrote memoirs.

4 "Stranger, what I have to say is quickly told; stop and read it to the end. Here is the unbeautiful tomb of a most beautiful lady. Claudia was the name her parents gave her. Her husband she loved with her whole heart. Two sons she bore; of them the one she leaves on earth, the other she buried under the sod. Charming in discourse, gentle in mien, she kept the house, she made the wool. I have finished. Go thy way."

Thayer's Note: The actual stone inscription has been lost. CIL VI.15346, No. 52 in Franz Bücheler's Carmina Latina Epigraphicaq.v.; also referred to as ILLRP 973, ILS 8403, CLE 52, and CIL I2.1211.

5 The tale of Dido and Aeneas is often taken as an instance of romantic love, but it seems to me to be on the same plane as the ἄτη of Medea and Phaedra.

6 There is a bust in the Uffizi gallery at Florence, and her head appears with Agrippa's on a gem. See Bernoulli, op. cit.

7 Macrob. Saturn. II.5.

8 Div. Aug. 65.

9 Accounts differ as to the place of meeting and the nature of Tiberius's reception (Dio LV.10.18‑19;º Vell. II.101; Suet. Tib. 12), but the balance of evidence seems to support the view given above.

10 Aul. Gell. XV.7; Malcovati, 13.

11 Tac. Ann. I.3; Suet. Div. Aug. 65; Vell. II.112; Dio LV.32.

12 Pliny N. H. VII.150.

13 It is possible that this rumour may have arisen from the grief of Octavia. The distraught mother, we are told, "oderat omnes matres et in Liviam maxime furebat." Seneca, ad Marciam II.5.

14 Tac. Ann. I.5, III.19, IV.71, V.1; Dio LIII.33, LV.10a.10,º LVI.30. Modern historians (Merivale, Drumann, Gardthausen) have shown themselves ready to believe improbable scandals about Livia. The matter is intelligently discussed by C. C. Barini in Rend. Linc. (1922), XXI.25‑33.

15 The scandals about Livia contained in Tacitus and Dio have been critically examined by M. P. Charlesworth in A. J. Phil. (1923), XLIV.145‑57.

16 In the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. The head and shoulders of a statue, generally identified as Livia, are in the Villa dei Misteri at Pompeii. From the pigment remaining she seems to have had brown hair and eyes.

17 The circumstance of her marriage to Augustus were a little shocking according to Roman tradition. It is just possible that Drusus, who was wholly different in character from Tiberius, was Augustus's son.

18 Dio LVIII.2.

19 Seneca, de ira III.33.

20 C. I. L. VI.2101.

21 Suetonius's words are "dilexit et probavit unice et perseveranter." Div. Aug. 62.

22 Dio LVIII.2.

23 Suet. Div. Claud. 3; Malcovati, 6‑7.

24 Dio LIV.16.

25 C. A. H. (Plates), IV.146‑51.

26 as did Augustus, if we may believe Martial (XI.20).

27 Sat. I.4.113.

28 Suet. Div. Aug. 51; Malcovati, 9.

29 Suet. Div. Aug. 84‑9.

30 "curiositatum omnium explorator."

31 Suet. Div. Aug. 66.

32 Suet. Tib. 21; Malcovati, 10‑12.


Thayer's Notes:

a Sir Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica, IV.12.

b The head we see here does appear to be that of the young Livia; I have unfortunately no information as to its provenance, nor as to whether it was known at the time our book was published.

[image ALT: A photograph of a Roman marble head of an attractive young woman with wavy hair parted in the middle; she wears a pleasant half-smile. The sculpture is slightly damaged: the tip of her nose is missing, and part of the right side of her veil. She is Livia, the mother of Roman emperor Augustus; she is discussed on this webpage.]

Head of the young Livia, now in the National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen.

Photo © Livius.Org, by kind permission;
from that site's page on Livia.

c

[image ALT: A photograph of a marble bust of a Roman matron of about 40 years of age. She wears a pleated robe gathered somewhat above the waist by a ribbon-style cloth belt, and a veil dropping onto her shoulders. She is Livia, the mother of Roman emperor Augustus; she is discussed on this webpage.]

The portrait-bust of Livia in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Photo Fratelli Alinari, ca. 1890, now in the public domain.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 22 Aug 17