Claudia Livia Julia
Woman on the Great Cameo of France identified as Livilla
|Died||AD 31 (aged 43)|
|Cause of death||Starvation|
Drusus Julius Caesar
Tiberius Julius Caesar Nero Gemellus
Tiberius Claudius Caesar Germanicus II Gemellus
Claudia Livia Julia (Classical Latin: LIVIA•IVLIA; c. 13 BC – AD 31) was the only daughter of Nero Claudius Drusus and Antonia Minor and sister of the Roman Emperor Claudius and general Germanicus, and thus the paternal aunt of the emperor Caligula and maternal great-aunt of emperor Nero, as well as the niece and daughter-in-law of Tiberius. She was named after her grandmother, Augustus' wife Livia Drusilla, and commonly known by her family nickname Livilla ("little Livia"). She was born after Germanicus and before Claudius.
She was twice married to the potential successor in the Julio-Claudian dynasty, first to Augustus' grandson Gaius Caesar (died 4 AD) and later to Tiberius' son Drusus the Younger (died AD 23). Allegedly, she helped her lover Sejanus in poisoning her second husband and died shortly after Sejanus fell from power in AD 31.
Livilla was married twice, first in 1 BC to Gaius Caesar, Augustus' grandson and potential successor. Thus, Augustus had chosen Livilla as the wife of the future Emperor. This splendid royal marriage probably gave Livilla grand aspirations for her future, perhaps at the expense of the ambition of Augustus' granddaughters, Agrippina the Elder and Julia the Younger. However, Gaius died in AD 4, cutting short Augustus' and Livilla's plans.
In the same year, Livilla married her cousin Drusus Julius Caesar (Drusus the Younger), the son of Tiberius. When Tiberius succeeded Augustus as Emperor in AD 14, Livilla again was the wife of a potential successor. Drusus and Livilla had three children, a daughter named Julia Livia in around AD 7 and twin brothers in AD 19: Germanicus Gemellus who died in 23, and Tiberius Gemellus who survived infancy.
Livilla's standing in her family
Tacitus reports that Livilla was a remarkably beautiful woman, despite the fact she was rather ungainly as a child. The Senatus Consultum de Cn. Pisone patre indicates that she was held in the highest esteem by her uncle and father-in-law, Tiberius, and by her grandmother Livia Drusilla.
According to Tacitus, she felt resentment and jealousy against her sister-in-law Agrippina the Elder, the wife of her brother Germanicus, to whom she was unfavourably compared. Indeed, Agrippina fared much better in producing imperial heirs to the household (being the mother of the Emperor Caligula and Agrippina the Younger) and was much more popular. Suetonius reports that she despised her younger brother Claudius; having heard he would one day become Emperor, she deplored publicly such a fate for the Roman people.
Affair with Sejanus
Possibly even before the birth of the twins, Livilla had an affair with Lucius Aelius Sejanus, the praetorian prefect of Tiberius – later on, some (including Tiberius) suspected Sejanus to have fathered the twins. Drusus, heir apparent since the death of Germanicus in AD 23, died in the same year, shortly after striking Sejanus in an argument. According to Tacitus, Suetonius, Cassius Dio, Sejanus had poisoned Drusus, not only because he feared the wrath of the future Emperor but also because he had designs on the supreme power, and aimed at removing a potential competitor, with Livilla as his accomplice. If Drusus was indeed poisoned, his death aroused no suspicions at the time.
Sejanus now wanted to marry the widowed Livilla. Tiberius in 25 rejected such a request but in 31 eventually gave way. In the same year, the Emperor received evidence from Antonia Minor, his sister-in-law, that Sejanus planned to overthrow him. Tiberius had Sejanus denounced in the Senate, then had him arrested and dragged off to prison to be put to death. A bloody purge then erupted in Rome, most of Sejanus' family (including his children) and followers sharing his fate.
Accusations and death
Hearing of the death of her children, Sejanus' former wife Apicata committed suicide. Before her death, she addressed a letter to Tiberius, accusing Sejanus and Livilla of having poisoned Drusus. Drusus' cupbearer Lygdus and Livilla's physician Eudemus were questioned and under torture confirmed Apicata's accusation.
Livilla died shortly afterwards, either being killed or by suicide. According to Cassius Dio, Tiberius handed Livilla over to her mother, Antonia Minor, who locked her up in a room and starved her to death.
Early in 32, the Senate proposed "terrible decrees...against her very statues and memory".
The iconographic identification of Livilla has posed many problems to date, mainly due to the damnatio memoriae voted against her by the Senate after her death. Several possibilities have been advanced but none has to date received widespread acceptance. However, a portrait type that survives in at least three replicas and which we may refer to as the "Alesia type" may very well represent Livilla. All these replicas show the head of a lady in her blossom years, with a hairstyle clearly from the Tiberian period. The physiognomy is close but not identical to portraits of Antonia Minor, Livilla's mother, and some replicas seem to bear the marks of voluntary damage (that one would expect from a damnatio memoriae). For all these reasons, it has been proposed to see in this portrait type a representation of Livilla.
A cameo portrait of a lady with the silhouettes of two infants, has been tentatively identified as Livilla. Although it is possible that the seated woman on right on the Great Cameo of France represents Livilla, it seems more likely that the female figure seated on the left and holding a roll represents Livilla, depicted there as the widowed wife of Drusus the Younger, seen just above her as one of the three heavenly imperial male figures.
Appearance on television
In the 1976 BBC TV series adaptation of I, Claudius she was played by Patricia Quinn. Here she has an affair with Agrippa Postumus, but Livia persuades her to frame him for rape, leading to his exile. She murders Drusus with the help of Sejanus and also plots with him to murder Tiberius, but her mother finds the evidence and sends it to Tiberius via Claudius. She also believes Livilla is trying to murder her daughter for standing in her way. Livilla is then locked in a room by her mother, who says Livilla won't leave until she is dead.
Others with the same name
|Ancestors of Livilla|
- E. Groag, A. Stein, L. Petersen - e.a. (edd.), Prosopographia Imperii Romani saeculi I, II et III (PIR), Berlin, 1933 - L 303
- Varner, Eric R. (2004-01-01). Monumenta Graeca et Romana: Mutilation and Transformation; Damnatio Memoriae and Roman Imperial Portraiture. Leiden: Brill. p. 93. ISBN 9004135774.
- Tacitus, Annals, 4.3
- Beth Severy, Family and State in the Early Imperial Monarchy: The Senatus Consultum de Pisone Patre, Tabula Siarensis, and Tabula Hebana,” CP 95 (2000), pp. 318-337
- Annelise Freisenbruch, Caesars' wives: Sex, Power and Politics in the Roman Empire. Free Press, New York, 2010, p. 90.
- Tacitus, Annals, 2.43
- Suetonius, Vita Claudii, 2.2.
- Levick, Barbara, Tiberius the Politician. Routledge, 2nd edition, New York, 1999, p. 127
- Tacitus, The Annals 4.3
- Dio Cassius, 58.11.7
- Tacitus, Annals 6.2
- Pliny Natural History 29.20.
- Tacitus, Annales 6.29. Dio Cassius 58.24.5
- F. Queyrel, Une princesse Julio-claudienne à Alésia in Revue. archéologique de l'Est et du Centre Est, 1993, n°44, pp. 411-428
- http://www.jasperburns.com/gasvips.htm, figure 10
- L. Giuliani, Leggere un'immagine. Il Grand Camée de France e la successione di Tiberio, storicamente.org (2004-2007)..
Media related to Livilla at Wikimedia Commons