Caesar's Daughter

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Caesar's Daughter ISBN 0-7541-0493-1 a 1999 novel by Edward Burton centred on Julia Caesaris, the daughter of Augustus. The novel is set in 1st century BC Rome and focuses on how rumours can elevate into something more than they really are, as the result of gossip. As a result the novels gives us an interpretation that humans have not changed much since then.

Plot[edit]

The story begins with Julia over looking her life while she is starving to death under the rule of her stepbrother Tiberius; she decides to write her story down before she dies. The book introduces us to the three-dimensional character of Julia, which begins with her birth into a world where war with Ptolemaic Egypt is certain.

She is a rebellious little girl who is willful, passionate but with a gentleness and compassion for the people of Rome. She has republican sentiments like her father, but seems to have a more liberal view on how Rome should be run. Dearly beloved by nearly everyone she meets except her stepmother, Livia. Julia is loyal to her father, but not afraid to criticize his decisions. Julia grows up among intrigue and ultimately becomes its victim. Under the influence of her mother Scribonia, the poets Horace and Ovid, she begins to enjoy her life. Her only true friend is her slave and later freedwoman, Phoebe.

As a little girl, she is told by one of her cousins the truth about her father and Livia's marriage; neither of them sleep together. Livia finds virgins, pregnant senator's wives and various other women instead. This shocks Julia and she loses respect for her father. When she is thirteen, she is nearly seduced by Calpurnius Piso who falls passionately in love with her. However, he fails when Julia is married at fourteen to her cousin Marcellus, whom Julia has a slight crush on. However, Marcellus is cannot bring himself to consummate their marriage. Julia is humiliated time and time again by the other women her age who mock her because of her failure to have a baby and not being able to tell them she was in fact still a virgin. When he falls ill a few years later and dies, this hits Julia quite hard and she takes the blame for his death although it wasn't her fault.

Following Marcellus' death, she is betrothed to Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, a man more than twice her age. She confides Agrippa that Marcellus never consummated their marriage and makes him swear never to tell anyone. Though at first Julia dislikes the idea of marrying Agrippa, she quickly grows fond of him and eventually falls in love with him. She finally marries Agrippa and falls pregnant instantly. Nine months after their marriage she gives birth to her son Gaius and upon Agrippa's return she falls pregnant with her "little monster" daughter Vipsania Julia. Around the time that she falls pregnant with her third child, Augustus passes a law making adultery a public crime and also enforces a law saying that all couples should have at least three children in order to receive extra privileges, such as viewing public games. Julia and Agrippa are covered, as too are people like Scribonia (who as Julia, Cornelia and Cornelius) but others have not, including Julia's close friend, the poet Horace. On Augustus' renewing of Lex Iulia and rule against bachelorism, she tries to protest on behalf of many of her friends. Upon the birth of her son Lucius, Augustus attempts to adopt Gaius and Lucius as his own sons (so both he and Livia will fit into the new law) but Julia refuses, advising him to get his own extra two children. Julia soon afterwards gives birth to her daughter Agrippina.

Julia becomes friends with a woman named Aemilia and her husband Lucius Vinicius after the meeting of matrons, where Julia was worshiped in the guise of Diana. She also spends time with her cousins Claudia Marcella (Agrippa's ex-wife) and Iullus Antonius, the son of Mark Antony. Julia also attempts to aid Tiberius, husband to Agrippa's eldest daughter Vipsania in his poor self-esteem by watching him at his cavalry practice. Around this time, Scribonia gathers some information about Augustus' love affairs that leak through Julia. To counter the rumours, Tiberius starts a rumour that Julia had 'conceived a passion' for him and, out of his jealousy Iullus spreads the rumours. It is only when Scribonia finds out about the rumours that she helps Julia counter then by advising her not to go near Tiberius anymore. She tells Agrippa about what Tiberius has been spreading and that it isn't true, and he believes her.

Julia falls pregnant with her fifth child but Agrippa catches a fever and because of Julia's pregnancy, she cannot go to him. He dies from the fever. Julia is devastated. Through her grief, she begins to call the baby inside her by Agrippa's name and upon his birth she names him Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa Postumus for his father and she cherishes him above all of her children because he looks and behaves so much like his father.

Following Agrippa's death, Augustus finally forces Julia to let him adopt Gaius and Lucius, but she refuses to let him have Postumus. Augustus also forces Julia into marriage with Tiberius, who is forced to divorce his wife in order to marry her. Augustus sends him away to fight in a campaign so they at least won’t have to see him. Not long after the marriage, Julia gets a visit from Octavia, who never fully recovered from Marcellus’ death, who tells her the truth about Livia; she wanted the marriage between Julia and Tiberius because it led to the possibility that he might be the next emperor. Octavia dies soon afterwards.

Iullus Antonius also becomes a close friend of Julia’s, and tells her that he had strongly opposed the marriage because he felt it threatened Gaius and Lucius’ claims to the throne. He then reveals to Julia that he has fallen in love with her and his real motives for protesting for against her marriage to Tiberius were partly because he wanted her for himself and he had urged Augustus to let her marry him instead. He shares with her his desires to see Gaius on the throne after Augustus dies, as well as his desires to marry Julia. She realises that he had only become her friend with the intention of becoming her lover and sends him away, but Iullus makes a promise to her that if anything were to happen to Tiberius, she would let him marry her. After the meeting, Iullus pursues Julia sexually by sending her love letters, gifts and various other forms to show his affection. Though Julia desires him also, she resists the temptation from fear of falling pregnant while Tiberius is away.

Tiberius returns from his campaign after two years, and though Julia tries to be kind to him, he treats her coldly because he has heard of Iullus’ passions for her. Tiberius insults Julia constantly and hysterically blames her for his divorce from Vipsania. Julia realises that her husband is mentally unstable and only realises his cruelty when be brutally rapes her upon returning from his campaign. Julia is devastated by her situation and Tiberius cruelty’s drives her to giving into Iullus, beginning an affair with him. They disguise their relationship behind her pregnancy and are forced to meet each other in secret at friends’ homes.

Iullus aids Julia in promoting her sons to the people of Rome. They begin to favour the boys and Iullus over Tiberius.

Julia gives birth to Tiberius’ son but he dies only a few weeks after being born. After a while, Tiberius is no longer able to tolerate Julia taking Iullus’ side over his and decides to retire from Rome. When Julia requests a divorce, Augustus refuses because it will cut him off from the Claudian family. Desperate to marry Julia and assure the boys place in the succession, Iullus comes up with a plan to murder Tiberius while he’s out of Rome because if Tiberius were to die, Augustus would have no one but Iullus to turn to and it would remove the Claudians from the picture forever. When Iullus goes to Julia with the plan, she refuses to help him and says she won’t support him.

Not long after this, Julia is arrested with her friends for adultery. She is also charged with treason against the emperor, not for trying to murder Tiberius but Augustus. Though Julia denies everything, Augustus flies into a violent rage and demands she be exiled or executed to the senate. Iullus Antonius and the others are arrested, including Julia’s brother Cornelius and while her friends are exiled, Iullus is forced to write a confession before he is executed. He admits that he did commit adultery with Julia but that she knew nothing of his plans and took responsibility for everything, in an attempt to save her from execution. He consequently commits suicide to avoid execution and to avoid further questioning. Rumours begin to fly that Augustus has gone mad and that Julia had begun another civil war, taking the place of Cleopatra and Iullus the place of Mark Antony. When Phoebe is taken to prison and threatened with torture, she commits suicide in order to keep Julia and Iullus’ affair to herself. Scribonia saves Julia from execution by visiting Augustus and threatening an uprising of the people if he makes such a move. He agrees to just exile her and allows Scribonia to go with her into exile.

Julia finishes the story by telling of how she has been locked in her house and refused to eat. The novel’s ending is bittersweet and satisfying.