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Empress of Rome: The Life of Livia

3.16  ·  Rating Details ·  98 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
Empress of Rome is a brand-new biography of one of the most fascinating, perplexing and powerful figures of the ancient world: the empress Livia. Second wife of the emperor Augustus and the mother of his successor Tiberius, Livia has been vilified by posterity (most notably by Tacitus and Robert Graves) as the quintessence of the scheming Roman matriarch, poisoning her rel ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published May 1st 2010 by Quercus Books
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Apr 10, 2012 Nikki rated it really liked it
Empress of Rome is a meticulously detailed biography of the first empress of Rome, Livia, the wife of Augustus. It deals with the accusations of murder that were levelled at her by later writers, touches on the reason for Tacitus et al.'s hatred of her, and tries to present a positive image of her. It notes her happy marriage and her faithfulness to both Augustus and her first husband (though she abandoned the first husband for Augustus ultimately), and examines the role she played in defining t ...more
Livia's always held a certain fascination for me. She's a fairly obscure figure among non-history-buffs. (Versus Cleopatra. Everyone knows about Cleopatra.) Yet during her era, no other woman held the sort of precedence that she did. Praised for her beauty--praised, at the time, for her matronly virtues--she would go down in history as a wicked stepmother sort of figure, a scheming matriarch who makes men's penises shrivel up at the sound of her name. (No, seriously. Is it any surprise that "I, ...more
Feb 13, 2014 Aaron rated it really liked it
I picked up this book because I have been interested in Livia since watching "I, Claudius" in my college years. She was a wife, mother, and grandmother to a number of earliest emperors of Rome. History has also left her with a reputation of being willing to do anything to help her family, including poisoning and murdering rivals to the men in her life.

This book and its author strive to paint a different picture of Livia, a woman from a very old and established Roman family. Since most of the his

Dennison might be a great researcher, but he's no story teller. He took a fascinating figure from history and wrote a very boring book about her.
I have to say I enjoyed this much more than the other book about Livia that was published at the same time. This one was much more detailed. Rather than simply saying "we don't know" about things that happened in her life Dennison gave examples from what is known about women's lives in general at that time. Therefore this book was not just a good book about Livia's life but also about women in Roman times. It did however feel like he was trying to cram too much in. In order to explain Livia's li ...more
This is a really interesting book. The author makes connections and comes to good conclusions based in a sound appraisal of the existing sources and an understanding of then-current Roman outlook with no benefit of historical hindsight. This book could have been up there with Anthony Barrett's biography of Livia.

Yes, I said "could have."

I don't know why, but this book seems to have suffered from the lack of a good copyeditor. The author frequently chooses large or impressive words when a sharper
Nov 26, 2012 Sasha rated it liked it
Author is completely focused on presenting Livia as a virtuous roman empress rather than poisonous behind-the-scenes villainess. There might be something about it, as every historical document dating from contemporary times describes her as a cautious and regal presence - gossip and speculations about her assumed ambitions, power and influence came much, much later after her death and it might be that historians simply detested the idea of woman having a power that Livia had. Unfortunately, whil ...more
Daniel Kukwa
I wish I could give this a 3.5 star rating, but I'm keeping it at 3 due to the reading experience being not quite as smooth as I would have liked. It's almost an anti-Livia biography, and it goes out of its way to debunk her popular image. While it does this very successfully, the end result makes her the least interesting guest at this particular Roman history party. Each page in the book places her in the company of more compelling & more villainous characters; the small section on Cleopat ...more
Vicki Cline
Mar 06, 2014 Vicki Cline rated it really liked it
Livia was the wife of Rome's first emperor, Augustus, and the mother of the second one, Tiberius. She lived to be 86 and had her share of difficult days. Many of us only know her through Graves' I, Claudius, where she comes off as a rather efficient murderess. This book takes a dispassionate look at the ancient sources and presents a more balanced view. There's a lot about Augustus and Tiberius in the book, since it's only in relation to them that she was deemed relevant in the olden days. She a ...more
Jan 29, 2016 Erika rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
A well written, approachable and enjoyable book it doesn't really reveal anything overwhelmingly new about Livia but then there doesn't seem to be much out there at all. What I did enjoy was how he used what little there is known to create at least a feeling of what her life may have been like and to point out the inconsistencies and biases in the recorded histories that paint her as a villainess without trying to claim that none of them were true.

Not an earth shattering book but enjoyable, I c
Rena Sherwood
Don't know much about Livia, Augustus' wife? You still won't know much after reading Livia, Empress of Rome: A Biography. You'd be better off reading Caesar's Wives, which is much more entertaining and nowhere near as repetitive. Dennison keeps repeating that the rumors about Livia being a ruthless murderess and then goes on to write that Caligula shagged his sisters -- which has never been proven to have happened. Head. Wall. BANG. (Ouch.)


May 27, 2011 Sue rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure how to rate this book. Dennison is a good writer and presented a lot of great historical information that was easy to read. However, I think the book isn't titled correctly. There is some information on Livia but most of the information is on Roman culture and the place of women in their culture. I did enjoy Dennison's theories on Livia and her relationship with her son, Tiberius and her husbands, Nero and of course Augustus. This is a book worth reading as long as you're prepared ...more
Juliana James
Jan 16, 2016 Juliana James rated it liked it
Well researched and composed, particularly given how little about Livia is documented. However, the book jumps around in time and topics. It doesn't really root itself in anything or give the reader something substantial to follow. Feels more like a rebuttal to I, Claudius rather than a biography standing on it's own. It would have been nice to see the author add up the known facts of Livia to illustrate a person, life or figure head; but he never gets far into the Livia he believed existed, bef ...more
Jun 24, 2012 Colin rated it it was amazing
I read this on my Kindle. An excellent biography of Rome's first "empress," Livia, the wife of Augustus. Dennison does an excellent job of drawing together all the extend sources - and there is more there than you might think - and drawing a fairly complete picture of Livia and her place in Augustus' principate.
Feb 12, 2012 Amanda rated it liked it
Very interesting but it lacked flow. The historical backtracking interrupted the flow of the story and made it difficult to keep track of what was going on. Still, an interesting look at an intriguing woman.
Lauren Albert
Most of the faults of the book are not the fault of the author. I mean what can you do but speculate when you are a biographer and you have very little factual information? Dennison does give the reader a pretty good feel for what it was like to be an elite woman in Rome at the time.
Kylian Gimberg
Mar 12, 2016 Kylian Gimberg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history

Erg goede onderzoeker, iets mindere schrijver. Wel erg verhelderend.
Feb 11, 2011 Bill marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
This one didnt grab me either perhaps later.
Jul 20, 2011 David rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
Doesn't quite rehabilitate Livia like Dennison wants it to. Also, it's not an interesting read, though the subject should be.
Apr 12, 2013 April rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Did not finish... I don't think some biographies are for me... Well presented but I got bored.
Livia Komosa
was nice to read another point if view that Livia didn't poison everyone she met.
Kate Degelau-Pierce
Kate Degelau-Pierce rated it it was ok
Jun 24, 2016
Manda rated it liked it
Sep 01, 2012
Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Dec 16, 2016
Ewald Jozefzoon
Ewald Jozefzoon rated it really liked it
Feb 25, 2016
thetis rated it really liked it
Jul 29, 2015
Michelle rated it it was amazing
Aug 04, 2014
Andrea Gold
Andrea Gold rated it really liked it
Apr 03, 2014
Geert Claassens
Geert Claassens rated it it was ok
Mar 05, 2017
Pamela Holmes
Pamela Holmes rated it really liked it
Apr 13, 2013
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