JULIA, DAUGHTER OF AUGUSTUS

 

Although they could not hold public office there were many women who were able from a position behind the scene to influence the course of Roman history.  Julia was not one of them.  She attracts the attention of the historian only because she was the daughter of Augustus.  Nevertheless, her story is fascinating because of the light it shines on the lives of upper class women at the beginning of the Empire.

Augustus was married three times but those marriages produced only one child, a daughter, Julia.  The Emperor had divorced Julia's mother before the birth in about 39 BCE.

Julia's first husband died after only two years when she was just 16 years old. Hoping for a grandson to groom to take over the reigns of government, Augustus arranged for her to marry Agrippa, a rich man more than double her age. Rumor had it that she enjoyed many affairs during the marriage.

Agrippa died after 9 years, leaving Julia wealthy enough to live as she pleased until her father stepped in and arranged yet another marriage, this time with Tiberius, son by another husband of the Emperor's wife.  Julia's third husband, like the others before him, had been forced by Augustus to divorce an earlier wife in order to be free to marry the Emperor's daughter.  Julia had not wished to marry again and simply resumed her many affairs; Tiberius retired to Rhodes to live a quiet life as a private citizen.

Augustus had shamelessly arranged three marriages for his daughter in order to suit his own political ends.  Though he had simply taken it for granted that that was the Roman way, he really did love her, but Julia's behavior was putting him in a very difficult position.  The moral reforms that Augustus had insisted on making law required a father to act if a husband was unwilling or unable to curb a wife's adultery.  With each new affair public pressure on Augustus increased.  He had to make an example of her or rescind the entire family values program.

Julia was banished to a barren island.  Her daughter, also called Julia, took up her mother's ways and was sent into exile by her grandfather to an island in the Adriatic.

Tiberius eventually became Emperor and allowed his ex-wife to move to a somewhat less inhospitable island where she remained until her death.

 

 

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