First Lady of Imperial Rome

Anthony A. Barrett

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Livia (58 B.C.–A.D. 29)—the wife of the first Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, and mother of the second, Tiberius—wielded power at the center of Roman politics for most of her long life. Livia has been portrayed as a cunning and sinister schemer, but in this biography (the first in English devoted to her) Livia emerges as a much more complex individual. Achieving influence unprecedented for a woman, she won support and even affection from her contemporaries and was widely revered after her death.

Anthony A. Barrett, author of acclaimed biographies of Caligula and Agrippina, here examines Livia’s life and her role in Roman politics. He recounts the events of her life, from her early days as a member of the wealthy and powerful Claudian family through her final conflicts with the new Emperor Tiberius. Barrett also considers how Livia helped shape the pattern of Roman government that prevailed for the next four centuries.

Anthony A. Barrett, professor of classics at the University of British Columbia, is also the author of Caligula: The Corruption of Power and Agrippina: Sex, Power, and Politics in the Early Empire, both published by Yale University Press.

An alternate selection of the History Book Club

“In his previous books on Caligula and Agrippina, Anthony Barrett has amply proven his competence as an imperial biographer. Now he adds an excellent biography of Livia—as appealing to the general reader as it is satisfying to the scholar.”—Colin M. Wells, Trinity University, San Antonio

“The first full-length book in English on (probably) the most important woman in (all) Roman imperial history. Barrett combines painstaking study of the ancient evidence with full awareness of contemporary scholarship.”—Gwyn Morgan, University of Texas at Austin

“In reading Anthony Barrett’s biography of Livia, I not only learned about this remarkable woman, but also gained a meaningful appreciation of life and society in her time.”—Howard Alper, President, The Royal Society of Canada

"Barrett’s excellent life of Livia, the first Julio-Claudian empress and arguably the most important, forms a worthy companion to his earlier biography, Agrippina. . . . Clearly written, with translations of all Latin and Greek passages appearing in the text, a lengthy bibliography, notes, helpful stemmata, maps, plans, and illustrations."—Choice

"Barrett is an assured and often amusing guide."—Mark Golden, Globe and Mail (Toronto)

“An excellent biography.”—Patrick Madigan, Haythrop Journal

"A first-rate collection of material."—Mary Beard, Times Literary Supplement

Selected by as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2003 by Choice Magazine
ISBN: 9780300091960
Publication Date: August 11, 2002
450 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
29 b/w illus.

Sex, Power, and Politics in the Early Empire

Anthony A. Barrett

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