Livia (gens)

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For the Roman historian, see Livy.
Livia Drusilla, wife of the emperor Augustus, whose father was adopted into the Livia gens from the Claudii, the clan of the renowned Appius Claudius.

Gens Livia was a family in ancient Rome. All male individuals bore the name Livius while females were called Livia. Collectively they were called Livii (plural male form) or, very rarely, Liviae (plural female form). Both male and female names might be qualified by one or more agnomina. Males in addition had a praenomen, a surname. For these the family preferred Marcus, Gaius, Lucius or Titus.

The Livii are known mainly from the Roman Republic. However, they must be much older as they descended into five branches designated by five agnomina: Denter, Drusus, Libo, Macatus and Salinator. The most famous were the Livii Drusi, who rose to imperial rank. Smith says[1] (citing Suetonius[2]) that the family was of plebeian origin[when?], but was of great prominence in the Roman Republic, having been honoured with "eight consulships, two censorships, three triumphs, a dictatorship and a mastership of the horse."


The only words that look like Livy in the Latin dictionary are a set related to English livid: livere, "be blue"; livor, "blueness"; lividus, "blue", livesco, "grow blue" and so on. Accordingly, it has been proposed that Livius and the Gallic name Livo mean "blue."[3] This derivation had been taken so much for granted that biological nomenclaturists named the common pigeon Columba livia with a supposed meaning of "blue pigeon." The root would be Indo-European *sli-, "blue", in the stem *sli-wo-, with the *s- dropping away in only Celtic and Latin. There is also a Romanian name Liviu Associated with the name of Livius.

There was not, however, a Latin adjective, *livius, "blue". The dictionaries now generally give livor as the source of neo-Latin livius. Moreover, lividus has a -d- too many and Livo has no -i-; that is, Livius does not fit the "blue" derivation. The linguist Julius Pokorny therefore hypothesizes "aber lat. Livius vielleicht etrusk.", "but Latin Livius is perhaps Etruscan".[4] Certainly, no stories of any legendary men named blue exist.

Family members known in history[edit]

No or unknown agnomen[edit]

  • Lucius Livius, tribunus plebis during the Entrapment of Caudine Forks, 321 BC, during the Second Samnite War. The magistrates negotiated a surrender without a vote of the people and later regretted the Samnite terms. Spurius Postumius Albinus, general and consul, proposed the magistrates surrender themselves to the Samnites as criminals for breaking their oaths, relieving the populus Romanus of any responsibility for breaking the peace, as they had never ratified the treaty. Livius opposed but Postumius browbeat him into resigning and joining the surrender party, calling him a "sacrosanct gentleman."[5] He could not as tribune surrender. The Samnites saw through the ruse and refused the surrender, insisting on the terms of the peace. In Livy, the war continued.
  • Marcus Livius, member of the plenipotentiary board sent to Carthage after the fall of Saguntum in 219 BC to inquire if Hannibal's attack on it had been authorized and declare war if Hannibal could not be brought to justice.[6] He was married to the daughter of Pacuvius Calavius, chief magistrate of Capua in 217 BC. Pacuvius was a patrician who had married a daughter of Appius Claudius.[7]
  • Gaius Livius of Patavium, father of Livy
  • Livy (Titus Livius), of Patavium, who came to Rome in the 1st century BC and wrote a magnum opus, Ab Urbe Condita (book)
  • Titus Livius Priscus, son of Livy
  • Titus Livius Longus, son of Livy
  • Livia Quarta, daughter of Livy.


  • Marcus Livius Denter was the first Livius to become consul, in 302 BC. Previously he had been one of the pontiffs chosen from the plebeians when the numbers of pontiffs and augurs were augmented by adding plebeians. At that time the consulship was opened to the plebeians.[8] This information identifies the Livii as a plebeian family.


Livius Drusus was often shortened to just Drusus, especially if other agnomina were present, but technically all Drusi were Livii. During the early empire, Livia Drusilla started a Drusus line in the Claudii.

Through a paternal line[edit]

  • Livius Drusus, the first of the branch, received the name by killing a Gallic chieftain, Drausus, in personal combat.[9] Livius was propraetor in Gaul. This Gaul can only have been Gallia Cisalpina. He is said to have brought back the gold paid to the Senones as a bribe to remove their army from Rome. Whether the story is true or not, it identifies Drausus as a chief of the Senones, dating Drusus to the consulship of Publius Cornelius Dolabella (consul 283 BC), when the Senones were defeated and scattered, for the most part vacating north Italy.
  • Marcus Livius Drusus, adoptive father of Aemilianus
  • Marcus Livius Drusus Aemilianus, adopted from the Aemilii
  • Gaius Livius Drusus, son of Aemilianus, consul for 147 BC
  • Marcus Livius Drusus (censor) (died 108 BC), son of Gaius, tribune 121 BC with Gaius Gracchus, consul 112 BC, censor 109 BC, married Cornelia
  • Gaius Livius Drusus, son of Gaius, brother of Marcus
  • Marcus Livius Drusus (tribune) (died 91 BC), son of the censor, active member of the populares party, continuing the legislative work of the Gracchi, uncle to his sister Livia's children
  • Mamercus Aemilius Lepidus Livianus, son of the censor, adopted into the Aemilii Lepidi, married Cornelia Sulla and had issue, consul in 77 BC, and princeps senatus.
  • Livia Drusa, daughter of the censor, sister of the tribune, wife of Quintus Servilius Caepio and mother of Quintus Servilius Caepio the Younger, as well as two daughters Servilia; wife of Marcus Porcius Cato Salonianus and mother of Cato the Younger and a daughter, Porcia. Most of the children were bought up in the house of their uncle on the Palatine hill, where they remained after the death of their mother, who was divorced.
  • Marcus Livius Drusus Claudianus (died 42 BC), Roman senator and adopted son of the tribune. Born Appius Claudius Pulcher, a member of the Claudii descended from Appius Claudius Caecus, he was received into the house of the tribune as an infant and was brought up along with the tribune's nieces and nephews by the tribune's wife, Servilia, sister of Livia Drusa's first husband. Claudianus was therefore his adopted name. As an adult he chose the losing side of the Liberators' civil war and committed suicide in his tent after the first Battle of Philippi. His daughter Livia Drusilla by his wife Aufidia became Augustus' wife. Apparently the emperor held no grudges against the Livii, even tolerating the republicanism of the author, Livy, distant kinsman of Livia Drusilla.
  • Livia Drusilla, daughter of Claudianus, third and final wife of Augustus Caesar.

Through a maternal line[edit]


  • Marcus Livius Drusus Libo, aedile 28 BC, consul 15 BC, the son of Lucius Scribonius Libo, was adopted by Drusus Claudianus, founding the Drusi Libones. He appears on a coin as M. Livi L. F. Drusus Libo,[10] "Marcus Livius Drusus Libo, son of Lucius", combining elements of both families. Technically the full name of the branch started by him would have been the Livii Drusi Claudiani Libones but his son was known as Drusus Libo. The Drusi of note at this point were a legal line continued by adoption from other clans. Libo, the founder of the line, was the adoptive brother of Livia Drusilla, Augustus' third wife.
  • Lucius Scribonius Libo Drusus, son of Marcus Livius Drusus Libo, is by name a conundrum. If he was a Drusus he should have been a Livius but the Livii have been excised from his name, which has reverted to the Scribonii, his father's natural family. It may be relevant that he was tried by Tiberius for treason involving necromancy (which the Romans took very seriously, as the slaying of Remus by Romulus demonstrates). Apparently the emperor believed Libo was cursing him, a common practice, as many written curses have been found in sacred springs. He was defended by his father's natural sister, Scribonia. When it became evident that he would be convicted he took his own life. Subsequently he was convicted, disowned, disinherited and his property confiscated. It was probably at this time that he was removed from the Livii, reverting to being a Scribonius. The Julio-Claudians adopted from the Livii; consequently, it seems unlikely Tiberius would allow Lucius to remain among them. The Drusi Libones ended here.


  • Marcus Livius Macatus, defender of Tarentum during Second Punic War between 214 and 212 BC.


No story survives concerning how the Salinator branch got its name. The stem, sal-, means "salt", a valuable commodity often used as money. Salinae in general were salt-works but the Salinae district at the foot of the Aventine hill was probably the place where salt from Ostia was offloaded and sold.[11] The salinator was a salt-merchant, but the word came to mean a money-dealer or banker (as salt was money). The Livii Salinatores may not have been named from that occupation; M. Livius Salinator, consul 207 BC, set a fixed price for the salt sold at Salinae, which did not endear him to the salinatores. There was, however, at least one more Salinator before him. Moreover, Salinator was not unique to the Livii; L. Oppius Salinator wore it, whether by marriage, adoption or independent assignment.

  • Marcus Livius Salinator, recipient or purchaser of Andronicus, an educated Greek, immediately after the fall of Tarentum to Rome in 272 BC, and decemvir in 236 BC
  • Lucius Livius Andronicus, originally brought into the family of Livius Salinator in 272 BC to tutor the children, he was set free, assumed the name Lucius Livius Andronicus and after writing poetry became the founder of Roman drama c. 240 BC
  • Marcus Livius Salinator, one of the children of M. Livius Salinator tutored by Andronicus. He was consul in 219 and 207 BC. Convicted unjustly of misappropriating booty during the Second Illyrian War of 219, he went into mourning on his estates until rehabilitated and ordered back to the Senate by the censors to help with the emergency of the Second Punic War. He was of invaluable assistance as a general at the Battle of the Metaurus, where he helped vanquish Hasdrubal before he could join Hannibal, and the Battle of Zama.
  • Gaius Livius Salinator, son of Marcus, praetor in 191, fleet admiral in 190, general subsequently, consul in 188 BC

Extensions of the name[edit]

The town of Forlì in Emilia-Romagna, Italy, was called Forum Livii after Livius Salinator, who in legend founded the town.

The given name still is used in Romanian as Liviu. In European languages, Livia is still an ordinary girl's name.


  1. ^ Smith, William (1867). "Livia Gens". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology 2. The Ancient Library. 
  2. ^ Tiberius 3.
  3. ^ Walde, Alois (1906). Lateinisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (in German). Heidelberg: Carl Winter's Universitäts Büchhandlung. p. 346. 
  4. ^ "(s)li". Indogermanisches Etymologisches Woerterbuch (in German). Leiden University. 1998–2003 [1959]. p. 965. 
  5. ^ Livy, History of Rome, Book IX.8.
  6. ^ Livy, History of Rome, XXI.18.
  7. ^ Livy, History of Rome, XXIII.2.
  8. ^ Livy, History of Rome, Book X.9.
  9. ^ Graves, John Thomas (1890). "Drusus". In Smith, William. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology I. London: John Murray.  Graves cites Suetonius, Tiberius, 3.
  10. ^ Smith, William, ed. (1890). "Drusus". A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. Abaeus-Dysponteus. London: J.Murray. 
  11. ^ Grandazzi, Alexandre (1997). The foundation of Rome: myth and history. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. pp. 86–87. Salinae... does not refer to the salt fields, since the coastline is located nearly thirty kilometres away, but rather to a site for unloading, stocking and supplying the precious product. 

See also[edit]