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THIS PAINTING, ON CANVAS, FILLS THE UPPER PART OF THE REAR WALL OF THE
CHANCEL IN THE CHURCH OF THE ASCENSION, NEW YORK CITY
The frame was designed by Stanford White; and the angels on the base
were modeled by Louis Saint-Gaudens.
THE WOMEN OF THE CÆSARS
SECOND PAPER: LIVIA AND JULIA
BY GUGLIELMO FERRERO
Author of “The Greatness and Decline of Rome," etc.
N the year 38 B.c. it suddenly became such barter and exchange must be a per
son of light manners and of immoral inOctavianus (afterward the Emperor Au- clinations. At Rome, however, no gustus), one of the triumvirs of the re- would have been amazed at such a marpublic, and colleague of Mark Antony and riage or at the procedure adopted, had it Lepidus in the military dictatorship estab- not been for the extraordinary haste, lished after the death of Cæsar, had sent which seemed to indicate that it was undeup for decision to the pontifical college, sirable or impossible to wait until Livia the highest religious authority of the state, should have given birth to her child, and a curious question. It was this: Might a which made it necess
essary to trouble the divorced woman who was expecting to pontifical college for its somewhat sophisbecome a mother contract a marriage with tical consent. For all were accustomed to another man before the birth of her child ? seeing the marriages of great personages The pontifical college replied that if there made and unmade in this manner and on still was doubt about the fact the new such bases. Why, then, were these nupmarriage would not be permissible; but if tials so precipitately concluded, apparently it was certain, there would be no impedi- with the consent of all concerned? Why ment. A few days later, it was learned did they all, Livia and Octavianus not less that Octavianus had divorced his wife than Tiberius Claudius Nero seem so imScribonia and had married Livia, a young patient that everything should be settled woman of nineteen. Livia's physical con- with despatch? dition was precisely that concerning which The legend which then formed about the pontiffs had been asked to decide, and the family of Augustus, a legend hostile in order to enter into this marriage she at almost every point, has interpreted this had obtained a divorce from Tiberius marriage as a tyrannical act, virtually Claudius Nero (father of the Emperor an abduction, by the dissolute and perverse Tiberius).
triumvir. I, too, in my “Greatness and The two divorces and the new marriage Decline of Rome" expressed my belief were concluded with unwonted haste. that this haste, at least, was the effect not The first husband of Livia, acting the part of political motives but of a passionate of a father, gave her a dowry for her new love inspired in the young triumvir by the alliance and was present at the wedding. very beautiful Livia. A longer reflection Thus Livia suddenly passed into the house upon this episode has persuaded me, howof her new husband, where, three months ever, that there is another manner, less later, she gave birth to a son, who was poetic perhaps, but more Roman, of excalled Drusus Claudius Nero. This child plaining, at least in part, this famous alliOctavianus immediately sent to the house ance, which was to have so great an innof its father.
portance in the history of Rome. To us, marriage customs of this sort To arrive at the motives of this marseem brutal and shameless. We should riage we must consider who was Livia and infer that a woman who lent herself to who was Octavianus ? Livia was a woman of great beauty, as her portraits prove. tion which broke out after the death of But this was not all. She belonged also Cæsar, the father of Livia in the year 43 to two of the most ancient and conspicu- had been proscribed by the triumvirs; he ous families of the Roman nobility. Her had fought with Brutus and Cassius and father, Marcus Livius Drusus Claudianus, had died by his own hand after Philippi. was by birth a Claudius, adopted by a In 40, after the Perusinian war and only Livius Drusus. He was descended from two years before Livia's marriage with Appius the Blind, the famous censor and Octavianus, Tiberius Claudius Nero and perhaps the most illustrious personage of Livia had been forced to flee from Italy in the ancient republic. His grandfather, fear of the vengeance of Octavianus. his great-grandfather, and his great-great- Who on the other hand was Octavigrandfather had
anus? A parvenu, . been consuls, and
with a nobility alconsuls and censors
together too recent! may be found in the
grandfather collateral branches
was a rich usurer of the family. A
of Velitrae (now sister of his grand
Velletri), a finanfather had been
cier and a man the wife of Ti
of affairs; it was berius Gracchus;
only his immediate a cousin of his
father who sucfather had married
ceeded by dint of Lucullus, the great
the riches of the general. He came,
usurer grandfather therefore, of one of
in entering the the most ancient
Roman nobility. and glorious fam
He had married a ilies. Not less noble
sister of Cæsar was the family of
and, though still the Livii Drusi
when he who had adopted
died, had become a him. It counted
senator and pretor. eight consulships,
was, two censorships,
therefore, the dethree triumphs, and
we one dictatorship.
it Thus the father of
in Europe to-day, Livia belonged by
of rich bourgeois birth and adoption l'rom a photograph by Brogi of the marble bust now in the Vatican
recently ennobled. to two of those THE YOUNG AUGUSTUS
Although by adoptancient, aristocratic
ing him in his will families which for a long time and even Cæsar had given him his name, that of an in the midst of the most tremendous ancient patrician family, the modest origin revolutions the people had venerated as of Octavianus and the trade of his grandsemi-divine and into whose story was in- father were known to everybody. In a terwoven the history of the great republic. country like Rome, where, notwithstanding Nor had the first husband given to Livia revolutions, the old nobility was still highly been less noble, for Tiberius Claudius venerated by the people and formed a Nero was descended like Livia from Ap- closed caste, jealous of its exclusive pride pius the Blind, though through another of ancestry, this obscurity of origin was a son of the great censor.
In Livia was
handicap and a danger, especially when concentrated the quintessence of the great Octavianus had as colleagues Antony and Roman aristocracy: she was at Rome Lepidus, who could boast a much more what in London to-day the daughter of ancient and illustrious origin than his own. the Duke of Westminster or the Duke of We can readily explain, therefore, even Bedford would be. In the great revolu- without admitting that Livia had aroused
in him a violent passion, why the future greater obscurity of his lineage. Antony, Augustus should have been so impatient especially, who had fought in so many to marry her in 38 s.c. The times were wars, with Cæsar and alone, who belonged stormy and uncertain; the youthful tri- to a family of really ancient nobility, was
umvir, whom a caprice of fortune had much more popular than he among the raised to the head of a revolutionary dic- soldiers and had stronger relations with tatorship, was certainly the weakest of the the great families. He was therefore three colleagues, because of his youth, his more powerful than Octavianus both in slighter experience, the feebler prestige high places and in low. A marriage with among his soldiers, and, last of all, the Livia meant much to the future Augustus.