Empress of Rome Livia Drusilla

Statue of Livia Drusilla
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Livia (58 B.C. - A.D.29) was a long-lived, influential matriarchal figure in the early years of the Roman Principate. She was held up as an example of womanly virtue and simplicity. Her reputation has also been negative: she may have been a murderer and has been described as treacherous, avaricious, and power-hungry. She may have been instrumental in the banishment of Augustus' daughter, Julia.

Livia was the wife of the first Roman emperor, Augustus, mother of the second, Tiberius, and deified by her grandson, the Emperor Claudius.

Livia's Family and Marriages

Livia Drusilla was the daughter of Marcus Livius Drusus Claudius (note the Claudian, the gens that had produced Appius Claudius the Blind and the colorful Clodius the Beautiful, among others) and Alfidia, daughter of M. Alfidius Lurco, in c. 61 B.C. In his book, Anthony Barrett says Alfidia appears to have come from Fundi, in Latium, near Campania, and that Marcus Livius Drusus may have married her for her family's money. Livia Drusilla may have been an only child. Her father may also have adopted Marcus Livius Drusus Libo (consul in 15 B.C.).

Livia married Tiberius Claudius Nero, her cousin when she was 15 or 16—around the time of the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C.

Livia was already the mother of the future emperor, Tiberius Claudius Nero, and pregnant with Nero Claudius Drusus (January 14, 38 B.C. - 9 B.C.) when Octavian, who would be known to posterity as the Emperor Augustus Caesar, found he needed the political connections of Livia's family. He arranged for Livia to be divorced and then married her after she gave birth to Drusus, on January 17, 38. Livia's sons Drusus and Tiberius lived with their father until he died, in 33 B.C. They then lived with Livia and Augustus.

Augustus Adopts Livia's Son

Octavian became the Emperor Augustus in 27 B.C. He honored Livia as his wife with statues and public displays; however, instead of naming her sons Drusus or Tiberius as his heirs, he acknowledged his grandchildren Gaius and Lucius, sons of Julia, his daughter by his previous marriage to Scribonia.

By 4 A.D., Augustus' grandsons had both died, so he had to look elsewhere for heirs. He wanted to name Germanicus, son of Livia's son Drusus, as his successor, but Germanicus was too young. Since Tiberius was Livia's favorite, Augustus eventually turned to him, with provision made for Tiberius to adopt Germanicus as his heir.

Augustus died in 14 A.D. According to his will, Livia became a part of his family and was entitled to be called Julia Augusta from then on.

Livia and Her Descendants

Julia Augusta exerted a strong influence on her son Tiberius. In A.D. 20, Julia Augusta interceded successfully with Tiberius on behalf of her friend Plancina, who was implicated in the poisoning of Germanicus. In A.D. 22 he minted coins showing his mother as the personification of Justice, Piety, and Health (Salus). Their relationship deteriorated and after the Emperor Tiberius left Rome, he would not even return for her funeral in 29 A.D., so Caligula stepped in.

Livia's grandson the Emperor Claudius had the Senate deify his grandmother in A.D. 41. Commemorating this event, Claudius minted a coin depicting Livia (Diva Augusta) on a throne holding a scepter.


  • Larry Kreitzer "Apotheosis of the Roman Emperor" Larry Kreitzer The Biblical Archaeologist, 1990
  • Alice A. Deckman "Livia Augusta" The Classical Weekly, 1925.
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Gill, N.S. "Empress of Rome Livia Drusilla." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/livia-drusilla-empress-of-rome-120730. Gill, N.S. (2020, August 27). Empress of Rome Livia Drusilla. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/livia-drusilla-empress-of-rome-120730 Gill, N.S. "Empress of Rome Livia Drusilla." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/livia-drusilla-empress-of-rome-120730 (accessed March 29, 2023).