Urgulania

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Urgulania (fl. 24 AD), was a prominent noblewoman during the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius, and a friend of the empress Livia. She was the mother of Marcus Plautius Silvanus (consul in 2 BC), who had distinguished himself with Tiberius in the Balkans. She was the grandmother to Plautia Urgulanilla, the first wife of the emperor Claudius, and another Plautius Silvanus, the suspect in a famous murder case.

Due to her closeness with Livia, Tacitus asserts that she held herself above the law. He relates the tale of a man named Lucius Piso who sued Urgulania in the courts. She refused her summons, and instead traveled to the palace where she had Livia issue a statement against Piso's actions. Livia called Tiberius and guard to come and stay with them, which forced Piso to go to them instead of the court. Livia paid a settlement and the matter was closed. Tacitus also states that at a trial where she was called as a witness, Urgulania demanded that the praetor take her deposition in her own home, rather than the attend the court. Even the vestal virgins did not have this privilege.[1]

In 24 AD, Urgulania's star fell as a result of two blows to her family's reputation. Her grandson Silvanus' new wife, Apronia, was found dead in their home, apparently pushed from a great height. Tiberius himself came to investigate the crime scene, and Silvanus was implicated, and tried to claim that his ex-wife had cursed him. Before the trial could begin, Urgulania (perhaps at Livia's behest) sent her grandson a dagger. He used it on himself, saving himself (and her) the disgrace of being convicted of murder.[2]

Claudius divorced her granddaughter Urgulanilla due to a possible role in the murder.[3] Urgulanilla was also put away for adultery, and gave birth to an illegitimate daughter shortly after the divorce.[4] Urgulania's marriage connection with the imperial family was severed.

Understandably, Urgulania is not written of again after these events.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tacitus, Annals 2.34.
  2. ^ Tacitus, Annals 4.22.
  3. ^ Suetonius, Life of Claudius 26.
  4. ^ Suetonius, Life of Claudius 27.