I CANNOT remember my father, who died when I was an infant, but as a young man I never lost an opportunity of gathering information of the most detailed sort about his life and character from every possible person – senator, soldier, or slave – who had known him. I began writing his biography as my apprentice-task in history, and though that was soon put a stop to by my grandmother, Livia, I continued collecting material in the hope of one day being able to finish the work. I finished it, actually, just the other day, and even now there is no sense in trying to put it into circulation. It is so republican in sentiment that the moment Agrippinilla – my present wife – came to hear of its publication every copy would be suppressed and my unfortunate copying-scribes would suffer for my indiscretions. They would be lucky to escape with their arms unbroken and their thumbs and index fingers unlopped, which would be a typical indication of Agrippinilla’s pleasure. How that woman loathes me!
My father’s example has guided me throughout life more strongly than that of any other person whatsoever, with the exception of my brother Germanicus. And Germanicus was, all agree, my father’s very image in feature, body (but for his thin legs), courage, intellect, and nobility; so I readily combine them in my mind as a single character. If I could start this story fairly with an account of my infancy, going no farther back than my parents, I would certainly do so, for genealogies and family histories are tedious. But I shall not be able to avoid writing at some length about my grandmother Livia (the only one of my four grandparents who was alive at my birth) because unfortunately she is the chief character in the first part of my story, and unless I give a clear account of her early life her later actions will not be intelligible. I have mentioned that she was married to the Emperor Augustus: this was her second marriage, following her divorce from my grandfather. After my father’s death she became the virtual head of our family, supplanting my mother Antonia, my uncle Tiberius (the legal head), and Augustus himself – to whose powerful protection my father had committed us children in his will.
Livia was of the Claudian family, one of the most ancient of Rome, and so was my grandfather. There is a popular ballad, still sometimes sung by old people, of which the refrain is that the Claudian tree bears two sorts of fruit, the sweet apple and the crab, but that the crabs outnumber the apples. Among the crab sort the balladist reckons Appius Claudius the Proud, who put all Rome in a tumult by trying to enslave and seduce a free-born girl called Virginia, and Claudius Drusus, who in Republican days tried to make himself King of all Italy, and Claudius the Fair, who, when the sacred chickens would not feed, threw them into the sea, crying ‘Then let them drink,’ and so lost an important sea-battle. And of the former sort the balladist mentions Appius the Blind, who dissuaded Rome from a dangerous league with King Pyrrhus, and Claudius the Tree-Trunk, who drove the Carthaginians out of Sicily, and Claudius Nero (which in the Sabine dialect means The Strong), who defeated Hasdrubal as he came out of Spain to join forces with his brother, the great Hannibal. These three were all virtuous men, besides being bold and wise. And the balladist says that of the Claudian women too, some are apples and some are crabs, but that again the crabs outnumber the apples.
My grandfather was one of the best of the Claudians. Believing that Julius Caesar was the one man powerful enough to give Rome peace and security in those difficult times, he joined the Caesarean party and fought bravely for Julius in the Egyptian War. When he suspected that Julius was aiming at personal tyranny, my grandfather would not willingly further his ambitions in Rome, though he could not risk an open breach. He therefore asked for and secured the office of pontiff and was sent in that capacity to France to found colonies of veteran soldiers there. On his return after Julius’s assassination he incurred the enmity of young Augustus, Julius’s adopted son, who was then known as Octavian, and of his ally, the great Mark Antony, by boldly proposing honours for the tyrannicides. He had to flee from Rome. In the disturbances that followed he sided now with this party and now with that, according as the right seemed to lie here or there. At one time he was with young Pompey, at another [41 B.C.] other he fought with Mark Antony’s brother against Augustus, at Perusia in Etruria. But convinced at last that Augustus, though bound by loyalty to avenge the murder of Julius, his adopted father – a duty which he ruthlessly performed – was not tyrant-hearted and aimed at the restoration of the ancient liberties of the people, he came over to his side and settled at Rome with my grandmother Livia, and my uncle Tiberius, then only two years old. He took no more part in the Civil Wars, contenting himself with his duties as a pontiff.
My grandmother Livia was one of the worst of the Claudians. She may well have been a re-incarnation of that Claudia, sister of Claudius the Fair, who was arraigned for high treason because once when her coach was held up by a street crowd she called out, ‘If only my brother was alive! He knew how to clear crowds away. He used his whip.’ When one of the Protectors of the People (‘tribunes’, in Latin) came up and angrily ordered her to be silent, reminding her that her brother, by his impiety, had lost a Roman fleet: ‘A very good reason for wishing him alive,’ she retorted. ‘He might lose another fleet, and then another, God willing, and thin off this wretched crowd a little.’ And she added: ‘You’re a Protector of the People, I see, and your person is legally inviolable, but don’t forget that we Claudians have had some of you protectors well thrashed before now, and be damned to your inviolability.’ That was exactly how my grandmother Livia spoke at this time of the Roman people. ‘Rabble and slaves! The Republic was always a humbug. What Rome really needs is a king again.’ That at least is how she talked to my grandfather, urging him that Mark Antony, and Augustus (or Octavian, I should say) and Lepidus (a rich but unenergetic nobleman), who between them now ruled the Roman world, would in time fall out; and that, if he played his hand well, he could use his dignity as a pontiff and the reputation for integrity which was conceded him by all factions as a means to becoming king himself. My grandfather replied sternly that if she spoke in this strain again he would divorce her; for in the old style of Roman marriage the husband could put his wife away without a public explanation, returning the dowry that had come with her, but keeping the children. At this my grandmother was silent and pretended to submit, but all love between them died from that moment. Unknown to my grandfather, she immediately set about engaging the passions of Augustus.
This was no difficult matter, for Augustus was young and impressionable and she had made a careful study of his tastes: besides which, she was by popular verdict one of the three most beautiful women of her day. She had picked on Augustus as a better instrument for her ambitions than Antony – Lepidus did not count – and that he would stick at nothing to gain his ends and proscriptions he had shown two years before, when 2,000 knights and 300 senators belonging to the opposing faction had been summarily put to death, by far the greatest number of these at Augustus’s particular instance. When she had made sure of Augustus she urged him to put away Scribonia – a woman older than himself, whom he had married for political reasons – telling him that she had knowledge of Scribonia’s adultery with a close friend of my grandfather’s. Augustus was ready to believe this without pressing for detailed evidence. He divorced Scribonia, though she was quite innocent, on the very day that she bore him his daughter, Julia; whom he took from the [38 B.C.] birth-chamber before Scribonia had as much as seen the little creature, and gave to the wife of one of his freedmen to nurse. My grandmother – who was still only seventeen years old, nine years younger than Augustus – then went to my grandfather and said, ‘Now divorce me. I am already five months gone with child, and you are not the father. I made a vow that I would not bear another child to a coward, and I intend to keep it.’ My grandfather, whatever he may have felt when he heard this confession, said no more than ‘Call the adulterer here to me and let us discuss the matter together in private.’ The child was really his own, but he was not to know this, and when my grandmother said that it was another’s he believed her.
My grandfather was astonished to find that it was his pretended friend Augustus who had betrayed him, but concluded that Livia had tempted him and that he had not been proof against her beauty; and perhaps Augustus still bore a grudge against him for the unlucky motion that he had once introduced in the Senate for rewarding Julius Caesar’s assassins. However it may have been, he did not reproach Augustus. All that he said was: ‘If you love this woman and will marry her honourably, take her; only let the decencies be observed.’ Augustus swore that he would marry her immediately and never cast her off while she continued faithful to him; he bound himself by the most frightful oaths. So my grandfather divorced her. I have been told that he regarded this infatuation of hers as a divine punishment on himself because once in Sicily at her instigation he had armed slaves to fight against Roman citizens; moreover, she was a Claudian, one of his own family, so for these two reasons he was unwilling to show her public dishonour. It was certainly not for fear of Augustus that he assisted in person at her marriage a few weeks later, giving her away as a father would his daughter and joining in her wedding hymn. When I consider that he had loved her dearly and that by his generosity he risked the name of coward and pander, I am filled with admiration for his conduct.
But Livia was ungrateful – angry and ashamed that he seemed to take the matter so calmly, giving her up tamely as if she were a thing of little worth. And when her child, my father, was born three months later she was deeply vexed with Augustus’s sister Octavia, Mark Antony’s wife – these were my two other grandparents – because of a Greek epigram to the effect that parents were fortunate who had three-months’ children: such short gestation had hitherto been confined to cats and bitches. I do not know whether Octavia was truly the author of this verse, but, if she was, Livia made her pay dearly for it before she had done. It is unlikely that she was the author, for she had herself been married to Mark Antony while with child by a husband who had died; and, in the words of the proverb, cripples do not mock cripples. Octavia’s was, however, a political marriage and legalized by a special decree of the Senate: it was not brought about by passion on one side and personal ambition on the other. If it be asked how it happened that the College of Pontiffs consented to admit the validity of Augustus’s marriage with Livia, the answer is that my grandfather and Augustus were both pontiffs, and that the High Pontiff was Lepidus, who did exactly what Augustus told him.
As soon as my father was weaned Augustus sent him back to my grandfather’s house, where he was brought up with my uncle Tiberius, the elder by four years. My grandfather, as soon as the children reached the age of understanding, took their education in hand himself, instead of entrusting it to a tutor, as was already the general custom. He never ceased to instil in them a hatred of tyranny and a devotion to ancient ideals of justice, liberty, and virtue. My grandmother Livia had long grudged that her two boys were out of her charge – though indeed they visited her daily at Augustus’s palace, which was quite close to their home on the Palatine Hill – and when she found in what way they were [33 B.C.] being educated she was greatly annoyed. My grandfather died suddenly while dining with some friends, and it was suspected that he had been poisoned, but the matter was hushed up because Augustus and Livia had been among the guests. In his will the boys were left to Augustus’s guardianship. My uncle Tiberius, aged only nine, spoke the oration at my grandfather’s funeral.
Augustus loved his sister Octavia dearly and had been much grieved on her account when, soon after her marriage, he learnt that Antony, after starting out for the East to fight a war in Parthia, had stopped on the way to renew his intimacy with Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt; and still more grieved at the slighting letter that Octavia had received from Antony when she went out to help him the next year with men and money for his campaign. The letter, which reached her when she was half-way on her journey, ordered her coldly to return home and attend to her household affairs; yet he accepted the men and money. Livia was secretly delighted at the incident, having long been assiduous in making misunderstandings and jealousies between Augustus and Antony, which Octavia had been as assiduous in smoothing out. When Octavia returned to Rome, Livia asked Augustus to invite her to leave Antony’s house and stay with them. She refused to do so, partly because she did not trust Livia and partly because she did not wish to appear a cause of the impending war. Finally Antony, incited by Cleopatra, sent Octavia a bill of divorce and declared war on Augustus. This was the last of the Civil Wars, a duel to the death between the only two men left on their feet – if I may use the metaphor – after an all-against-all sword-fight in the universal amphitheatre. Lepidus was still alive, to be sure, but a prisoner in all but name, and quite harmless – he had been forced to fall at Augustus’s feet and beg for his life. Young Pompey, too, the only other person of importance, whose fleet had for a long time commanded the Mediterranean, had by now been defeated by Augustus, and captured and put to death by Antony. The duel between Augustus and Antony was short. Antony was totally defeated in the sea-battle off Actium, in Greece. [31 B.C.] He fled to Alexandria, and there took his own life – as did Cleopatra too. Augustus assumed Antony’s Eastern conquests as his own and became, as Livia had intended, the sole ruler of the Roman world. Octavia remained true to the interests of Antony’s children – not only his son by a former wife, but actually his three children by Cleopatra, a girl and two boys – bringing them up with her own two daughters, one of whom, Antonia the younger, was my mother. This nobility of mind excited general admiration at Rome.
Augustus ruled the world, but Livia ruled Augustus. And I must here explain the remarkable hold that she had over him. It was always a matter of wonder that there were no children of the marriage, seeing that my grandmother had not shown herself unfruitful and that Augustus was reported to be the father of at least four natural children, besides his daughter Julia, who there is no reason for doubting was his own daughter. He was known, moreover, to be passionately devoted to my grandmother. The truth will not easily be credited. The truth is that the marriage was never consummated. Augustus, though capable enough with other women, found himself as impotent as a child when he tried to have commerce with my grandmother. The only reasonable explanation is that Augustus was, at bottom, a pious man, though cruelty and even ill-faith had been forced on him by the dangers that followed his grand-uncle Julius Caesar’s assassination. He knew that the marriage was impious: this knowledge, it seems, affected him nervously, putting an inner restraint on his flesh.
My grandmother, who had wanted Augustus as an instrument of her ambition rather than as a lover, was more glad than sorry for this impotence. She found that she could use it as a weapon for subjecting his will to hers. Her practice was to reproach him continually for having seduced her from my grandfather, whom she protested that she had loved, by assurances to her of deep passion and by secret threats to him that if she were not given up he would be arraigned as a public enemy. (This last was perfectly untrue.) Now look, she said, how she had been tricked! This passionate lover turned out to be no man at all; any poor charcoal-burner or slave was more of a man than he! Even Julia was not his real daughter, and he knew it. All that he was good for, she said, was to fondle and fumble and kiss and make eyes like a singing eunuch. It was in vain that Augustus protested that with other women he was a Hercules. Either she would refuse to believe it or she would accuse him of wasting on other women what he denied her. But that no scandal of this should go about she pretended on one occasion to be with child by him and then to have a miscarriage. Shame and unslakable passion bound Augustus closer to her than if their mutual longings had been nightly satisfied or than if she had borne him a dozen fine children. And she took the greatest care of his health and comfort, and was faithful to him, not being naturally lustful except of power; and for this he was so grateful that he let her guide and rule him in all his public and private acts. I have heard it confidently stated by old palace officials that, after marrying my grandmother, Augustus never looked at another woman. Yet all sorts of stories were current at Rome about his affairs with the wives and daughters of notables; and after his death, in explaining how it was that she had so complete a command of his affections, Livia used to say that it was not only because she was faithful to him but also because she never interfered with his passing love-affairs. It is my belief that she put all these scandals about herself in order to have something to reproach him with.
If I am challenged as to my authority for this curious history I shall give it. The first part relating to the divorce I heard from Livia’s own lips in the year she died. The remainder, about Augustus’s impotence, I heard from a woman called Briseis, a wardrobe-maid of my mother’s, who had previously served my grandmother as a page-girl, and being then only seven years old had been allowed to overhear conversations that she was thought too young to understand. I believe my account true and will continue to do so until it is supplanted by one that fits the facts equally well. To my way of thinking, the Sibyl’s verse about ‘wife, no wife’ confirms the matter. No, I cannot close the matter here. In writing this passage, with the idea, I suppose, of shielding Augustus’s good name, I have been holding something back which I shall now after all set down. Because, as the proverb says, ‘truth helps the story on’. It is this. My grandmother Livia ingeniously consolidated her hold on Augustus by secretly giving him, of her own accord, beautiful young women to sleep with whenever she noticed that passion made him restless. That she arranged this for him, and without a word said beforehand or afterwards, forbearing from the jealousy that, as a wife, he was convinced that she must feel; yet everything was done very decently and quietly, the young women (whom she picked out herself in the Syrian slave-market – he preferred Syrians) being introduced into his bedroom at night with a knock and the rattle of a chain for signal, and called away again early in the morning by a similar knock and rattle; and that they kept silence in his presence as if they were succubi who came in dreams – that she contrived all this so thoughtfully and remained faithful to him herself in spite of his impotence with her, he must have considered a perfect proof of the sincerest love. You may object that Augustus, in his position, might have had the most beautiful women in the world, bond or free, married or unmarried, to feed his appetite, without the assistance of Livia as procuress. That is true, but it is true nevertheless that after his marriage to Livia he tasted no meat, as he once said himself, though perhaps in another context, that she had not passed as fit for eating.
Of women, then, Livia had no cause to be jealous, except only of her sister-in-law, my other grandmother, Octavia, whose beauty excited as much admiration as her virtue. Livia had taken malicious pleasure in sympathizing with her over Antony’s faithlessness. She had gone so far as to suggest that it had been largely Octavia’s own fault in dressing in so modest a way and behaving with such decorum. Mark Antony, she pointed out, was a man of strong passions, and to hold him successfully a woman must temper the chastity of a Roman matron with the arts and extravagances of an Oriental courtesan. Octavia should have taken a leaf from Cleopatra’s book: for the Egyptian, though Octavia’s inferior in looks and her senior by eight or nine years, knew well how to feed his sensual appetite. ‘Men such as Antony, real men, prefer the strange to the wholesome,’ Livia finished sententiously. ‘They find maggoty green cheese more tasty than freshly pressed curds.’ ‘Keep your maggots to yourself,’ Octavia flared at her.
Livia herself dressed very richly and used the most expensive Asiatic perfumes; but she did not allow the least extravagance in her household, which she made a boast of running in old-fashioned Roman style. Her rules were: plain but plentiful food, regular family worship, no hot baths after meals, constant work for everyone, and no waste. ‘Everyone’ was not merely the slaves and freedmen but every member of the family. The unfortunate child Julia was expected to set an example of industry. She led a very weary life. She had a regular daily task of wool to card and spin, and cloth to weave, and needlework to do, and was made to rise from her hard bed at dawn, and even before dawn in the winter months, to be able to get through it. And because her stepmother believed in a liberal education for girls, she was set, among other tasks, to learn the whole of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey by heart.
Julia had also to keep a detailed diary, for Livia’s benefit, of what work she did, what books she read, what conversations she had, and so on; which was a great burden to her. She was allowed no friendships with men, though her beauty was much toasted. One young man of ancient family and irreproachable morals, a Consul’s son, was bold enough to introduce himself to her one day at Baiae on some polite pretext, when she was taking the half-hour’s walk allowed her by the seaside, accompanied only by her duenna. Livia, who was jealous of Julia’s good looks and of Augustus’s affection for her, had the young man sent a very strong letter, telling him that he must never expect to hold public office under the father of the girl whose good name he had tried to besmirch by this insufferable familiarity. Julia herself was punished by being forbidden to take her walk outside the grounds of the villa. About this time Julia went quite bald. I do not know whether Livia had a hand in this: it seems not improbable, though certainly baldness was in the Caesar family. At all events, Augustus found an Egyptian wig-maker who made her one of the most magnificent fair wigs that was ever seen, and her charms were thus rather increased than diminished by her mischance; she had not had very good hair of her own. It is said that the wig was not built, in the usual way, on a base of hair net but was the whole scalp of a German chieftain’s daughter shrunk to the exact size of Julia’s head and kept alive and pliant by occasional rubbing with a special ointment. But I must say that I don’t believe this.
Everyone knew that Livia kept Augustus in strict order and that, if not actually frightened of her, he was at any rate very careful not to offend her. One day, in his capacity as Censor, he was lecturing some rich men about allowing their wives to bedizen themselves with jewels. ‘For a woman to overdress,’ he said, ‘is unseemly. It is the husband’s duty to restrain his wife from luxury.’ Carried away by his own eloquence he unfortunately added: ‘I sometimes have occasion to admonish my own wife about this.’ There was a delighted cry from the culprits. ‘Oh, Augustus,’ they said, ‘do tell us in what words you admonish Livia. It will serve as a model for us.’ Augustus was embarrassed and alarmed. ‘You mis-heard me,’ he said, ‘I do not say that I had ever had occasion to reprimand Livia. As you know well, she is a paragon of matronly modesty. But I certainly should have no hesitation in reprimanding her were she to forget her dignity by dressing, as some of your wives do, like an Alexandrian dancing-girl who has by some queer turn of fate become an Armenian queen-dowager.’ That same evening Livia tried to make Augustus look small by appearing at the dinner-table in the most fantastically gorgeous finery she could lay her hands on, the foundation of which was one of Cleopatra’s ceremonial dresses. But he got well out of an awkward situation by praising her for her witty and opportune parody of the very fault he had been condemning.
Livia had grown wiser since the time that she had advised my grandfather to put a diadem on his head and proclaim himself king. The title ‘king’ was still execrated at Rome on account of the unpopular Tarquin dynasty to which, according to legend, the first Brutus (I call him this to distinguish him from the second Brutus, who murdered Julius) had put an end – expelling the royal family from the City and becoming one of the first two Consuls of the Roman Republic. Livia realized now that the title of king could be waived so long as Augustus could control the substantial powers of kingship. By following her advice he gradually concentrated in his single person all the important Republican dignities. He was Consul at Rome, and when he passed the office to a reliable friend he took in exchange the ‘High Command’ – which, though nominally on a level with the consulship, ranked in practice above this or any other magistracy. He had absolute control of the provinces, too, and power to appoint the provincial governors-general, together with the command of all armies and the right of levying troops and of making peace or war. In Rome he was voted the life-office of People’s Protector, which secured him against all interference with his authority, gave him the power of vetoing the decisions of other office-holders, and carried with it the inviolability of his person. The title ‘Emperor’, which once merely meant ‘field-marshal’ but has recently come to mean supreme monarch, he shared with other successful generals. He also had the Censorship, which gave him authority over the two leading social orders, those of Senators and Knights; on the pretext of moral shortcomings he could disqualify any member of either order from its dignities and privileges – a disgrace keenly felt. He had control of the Public Treasury: he was supposed to render periodic accounts, but nobody was ever bold enough to demand an audit, though it was known that there was constant juggling between the Treasury and Privy Purse.
Thus he had command of the armies, the control of the laws – for his influence on the Senate was such that they voted whatever he suggested to them – the control of public finances, the control of social behaviour, and inviolacy of person. He even had the right of summarily condemning any Roman citizen, from ploughman to senator, to death or perpetual banishment. The last dignity that he assumed was that of High Pontiff, which gave him control of the entire religious system. The Senate were anxious to vote him whatever title he would accept, short of King: they were afraid to vote him the kingship, for fear of the people. His real wish was to be called Romulus, but Livia advised him against this. Her argument was that Romulus had been a king and that the name was therefore dangerous, and further that he was one of the Roman tutelary deities and that to take his name would seem blasphemous. But her real feeling was that it was not a grand enough title. Romulus had been a mere bandit-chieftain and was not among the first rank of the Gods. On her advice he therefore signified to the Senate that the title Augustus would be agreeable to him. So they voted him that. ‘Augustus’ had a semi-divine connotation, and the common title of King was nothing by comparison.
How many mere kings paid tribute to Augustus! How many were marched in chains in Roman triumphs! Had not even the High King of remote India, hearing of Augustus’s fame, sent ambassadors to Rome, begging for the protection of his friendship, with propitiatory presents of remarkable silks and spices; and rubies, emeralds, and sardonyx; and tigers, then for the first time seen in Europe; and the Indian Hermes, the famous armless boy, who could do the most extraordinary things with his feet? Had not Augustus put an end to that line of kings in Egypt that went back at least 3,000 years before the foundation of Rome? And at that fateful interruption of history what monstrous portents had not been seen? Had there not been flashes of armour from the clouds and bloody rain falling? Had not a serpent of gigantic size appeared in the main street of Alexandria and uttered an incredibly loud hiss? Had not the ghosts of dead Pharaohs appeared? Had not their statues frowned? Had not Apis, the sacred bull of Memphis, uttered a bellow of lamentation and burst into tears? This was how my grandmother reasoned with herself.
Most women are inclined to set a modest limit to their ambitions; a few rare ones set a bold limit. But Livia was unique in setting no limit at all to hers, and yet remaining perfectly levelheaded and cool in what would be judged in any other woman to be raving madness. It was only little by little that even I, with such excellent opportunities for observing her, came to guess generally what her intentions were. But even so, when the final disclosure came, it came as a shock of surprise. Perhaps I had better record her various acts in historical sequence, without dwelling on her hidden motives.
On her advice, Augustus prevailed on the Senate to create two new Divinities, namely, the Goddess Roma, who represented the female soul of the Roman Empire, and the Demi-god Julius, the warlike hero who was Julius Caesar in apotheosis. (Divine honours had been offered to Julius, in the East, while he was still alive; that he had not refused them was one of the reasons for his assassination.) Augustus knew the value of a religious bond to unite the province with the City, a bond far stronger than one based merely on fear or gratitude. It sometimes happened that after long residence in Egypt or Asia Minor even true-born Romans turned to the worship of the gods they found there and forgot their own, thereby becoming foreigners in all but name. On the other hand, Rome had imported so many religions from the cities she had conquered, giving alien deities, such as Isis and Cybele, noble temples in the City – and not merely for the convenience of visitors – that it was reasonable that she should now, in fair exchange, plant gods of her own in these cities. Roma and Julius, then, were to be worshipped by such provincials as were Roman citizens and wished to be reminded of their national heritage.
The next step that Livia took was to arrange for delegations of provincials not fortunate enough to possess full citizenship to visit Rome and beg to be given a Roman God whom they might worship loyally and without presumption. On Livia’s advice Augustus told the Senate, half-jokingly, that these poor fellows, while obviously they could not be allowed to worship the superior deities, Roma and Julius, must not be denied some sort of God, however humble. At this Maecenas, one of Augustus’s ministers, with whom Augustus had already discussed the advisability of taking the name of Romulus, said: ‘Let us give them a God who will watch over them well. Let us give them Augustus himself.’ Augustus appeared somewhat embarrassed but admitted that Maecenas’s suggestion was a sound one. It was an established custom among Orientals, and one which might well be turned to Roman profit, to pay divine honours to their rulers; but since it was clearly impracticable for Eastern cities to worship the whole Senate in a body, putting up 600 statues in each of their shrines, one way out of the difficulty, certainly, was for them to worship the Senate’s chief executive officer, who happened to be himself. So the Senate, feeling complimented that each member had in him at least one six-hundredth part of divinity, gladly voted Maecenas’s motion, and shrines to Augustus were immediately erected in Asia Minor. The cult spread, but at first only in the frontier provinces, which were under the direct control of Augustus, not in the home provinces, which were nominally under the control of the Senate, nor in the City itself.
Augustus approved of Livia’s educative methods with Julia and of her domestic arrangements and economies. He had simple tastes himself. His palate was so insensitive that he did not notice the difference between virgin olive oil and the last rank squeezings when the olive-paste has gone a third time through the press. He wore homespun clothes. It was justly said that, Fury though Livia was, but for her unwearying activity Augustus would never have been able to undertake the immense task he set himself of restoring Rome to peace and security after the long disasters of the Civil Wars – in which he himself had, of course, played so destructive a part. Augustus’s work filled fourteen hours a day, but Livia’s, it was said, filled twenty-four. Not only did she manage her huge household in the efficient way I have described, but she bore an equal share with him in public business. A full account of all the legal, social, administrative, religious, and military reforms which they carried out between them, to say nothing of the public works which they undertook, the temples which they re-edified, the colonies they planted, would fill many volumes. Yet there were many leading Romans of the elder generation who could not forget that this seemingly admirable reconstitution of the State had only been made possible by the military defeat, secret murder, or public execution of almost every person who had defied the power of this energetic pair. Had their sole and arbitrary power not been disguised under the forms of ancient liberty they would never have held it long. Even as it was there were no less than four conspiracies against Augustus’s life by would-be Brutuses.