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The significance of women in the Imperial family

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The significance of women in the Imperial family: By Kurt Attard During the time of the Roman Empire women were not allowed to play any part in the political life of the empire. However women were still able to influence powerful men and manipulate them to use there power for the wants of woman. The most powerful woman in the roman society was either the wife of a principate or the mother of one. Examples of influential woman in the imperial family include Livia Drusilla, Julia Agrippina and Octivia. The only woman that seemed to have a stable position with both power and security was the wife of the emperor. For example the Livia Drusilla (58 BC-29 AD), an influential consort of Augustus, who was depicted in imperial propaganda as the embodiment of womanliness and dedication, while her enemies believed her to be a ruthless seeker of power. Through the example of Livia it can be seen how influential a wife of a powerful man can be. Augustus married her when she was very young taking her away from her first husband Tiberius Nero. From then on, Augustus' affection was fixed on her. They stayed together till the end, despite certain insecurity from not giving Augustus an heir. Livia was the most powerful woman of her time and Augustus appeared to have taken most of her advice. She sometimes accompanied him from Rome and always served as a trusted confidante and advisor. When a beloved great grandson of Augustus' died (a son of Germanicus'), she saw to it that the child's statue was placed in his private quarters, demonstrating power she did contain. ...read more.


Wood: "As the wife of Claudius, she had received more open acknowledgments of a formal role in government than any woman before her: she was the first wife of a living princeps to bear the title Augusta, and the first living woman to appear on gold and silver coins, in a portrait profile identified by name, during her lifetime." She then convinced Claudius to adopt her son and in 50 A.D. Nero became the probable heir to the throne, even over Claudius's real son Britannicus. This futher highlights the significance of woman in the imperial family. Seneca became Nero's tutor, and in 53 A.D. Nero married Claudius's daughter Octavia. Claudius then became dispensible and when Agrippina had all the succession arrangements she wanted in place (or before Claudius could make arrangements against what she wanted). Agrippina supposedly poisoned him with a plate of mushrooms and then concealed news of his death until arrangements were made for Nero's succession. She later became priestess of Divus Claudius, and remained loyal to his memory. It was actually good politics, and gave her a position a important significance comparable to Livia's. Agrippina controlled affairs of state for the first year of Nero's rule. More open acknowledgment of her role as almost-co-ruler than any other imperial woman before or after. She listened to senate meetings from behind a curtain and even had an escort of lictors like a magistrate. She had her portrait on coins, sometimes more prominent than Nero's. ...read more.


The senate declared war. Despite Antony's rejection, divorce in 32 BC and suicide in 30 BC, Octavia was the sole caretaker of the children. She became guardian to Cleopatra Selene, Ptolemy Philadelphus and Iullus Antonius, her ex-husband's remaining children. Octavia never remarried. Augustus had adopted her son Marcus as his heir, but Marcus died of illness in 23 BC. Octavia had opened the Library of Marcellus in his memory, while her brother built a threatre in Rome in his honor. This demonstrates that woman could play an important role as this added to the imperial buildings of the time. She never recovered from his death and retired from public life. Her final years were spent hiding in the dark and dressing in mourning. She had woven clothes for her brother. Augustus built two monuments for his public works program, the Colonnades of Octavia and the Paragon of Virtue in her honor. She was one of the first Roman women to have coins minted in her image. She died in 11 BC, sometime after her niece Julia Caesaris married Tiberius. Her beloved brother gave her the highest posthumous honours, built the Gate of Octavia in her memory, declared her as a goddess and built temples for her. This once again highlights the significance of some women. All in all, it can be seen that women in the imperial family had a very significant and influential role and could exercise their power through the relationship of blood. Although each individual woman looked at was significant in a different way all were women living in a context of male superiority where women were not to have any political power at all. ...read more.

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