She was a granddaughter of the empress Livia (after whom she was named), sister of Germanicus and Claudius, daughter-in-law of Agrippa and Tiberius, and aunt of Caligula, Agrippina the Younger and Britannicus. See also the Julio-Claudian family tree.
We know little of her relationships with her family members, though 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). She may have felt resentment and jealousy over her sister-in-law Agrippina the Elder, the wife of Germanicus, to whom she was unfavourably compared . Indeed, Agrippina fared much better in producing imperial heirs to the household and was much more popular. However, Tacitus informs us that Livilla was a remarkably beautiful woman, despite the fact she was rather ungainly as a child . As most of the female members of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, she may also have been very ambitious, especially for her male offspring.
She was married twice, first in 2 BC to Gaius Caesar, grandson and also adoptive son of Augustus and his potential successor. Thus, Livilla was destined by Augustus to be the wife of his heir. 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 4, and Livilla married her cousin Drusus, son of Tiberius. Her daughter Julia was born shortly after this second wedding.
In 19 she gave birth to twin sons, Tiberius Gemellus and Germanicus Gemellus; only Tiberius Gemellus survived infancy. In this time it appears she was seduced by Sejanus, the praetorian prefect of Tiberius. Sejanus had designs on the supreme power, and needed to remove Drusus as a potential successor. Ancient sources (Tacitus, Suetonius, Dio Cassius) concur that with Livilla as his accomplice he poisoned her husband. If Drusus was indeed murdered, then it was done so skillfully that his death in 23 seemed natural and caused no suspicion. Sejanus' request to marry Livilla in 25 was however rejected by Tiberius.
In 31 Tiberius finally allowed Livilla and Sejanus to be betrothed. Yet in that same year Tiberius received evidence from his sister-in-law Antonia that Sejanus planned to overthrow him. Tiberius had Sejanus denounced in the Senate, then arrested and dragged off to prison to be put to death. A bloody purge then erupted in Rome, most of Sejanus' family and followers sharing his fate. Among the innocent victims of the purge were Sejanus' children. Aelius Strabo, the eldest, was the first to be executed. Upon learning of his death, Sejanus' former wife Apicata committed suicide, but not before addressing a letter to Tiberius claiming that Drusus (Castor) had been poisoned, with the complicity of Livilla. Drusus’ cupbearer Lygdus and Livilla's physician Eudemus were now tortured, and seemed to confirm Apicata’s accusation. Livilla too perished, whether by execution or suicide. Dio Cassius mentions one version of her fate, namely that out of regard for her mother Tiberius handed Livilla over to her for punishment, whereupon Antonia locked her in her room and starved her to death.
At the beginning of 32 the Senate proposed "terrible decrees...against her very statues and memory" . There were to be further allegations of adultery - with her physician Eudemus and with the great senator Mamercus Scaurus .
A cameo portrait of a lady with the silhouettes of two infants, has been tentatively identified as Livilla . Although it may be possible that the seated woman on right on the Great Cameo of France represents Livilla, it seems more probable that the female figure seated on the left and holding a roll is in fact representing Livilla, depicted there as the widowed wife of Drusus the Younger, seen just above her as one of the three heavenly imperial male figures.
The character of Livilla appeared in the 1968 British television series The Caesars and was portrayed by Suzan Farmer. She also appeared in the 1976 BBC TV series I, Claudius and was played by Patricia Quinn. In the 1985 mini-series A.D. Anno Domini, which chronicles the very beginning of Christianity and its struggle with the Roman Empire, the character of Livilla was played by Susan Sarandon.
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