Livia: First Lady of Imperial Rome
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Livia: First Lady of Imperial Rome

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  49 ratings  ·  9 reviews
Livia, wife of the first Roman emperor Caesar Augustus and mother of the second, Tiberius, wielded extraordinary power at the centre of Roman politics. In this biography of Livia, the first in English, Anthony Barrett sets aside the portrait of a cunning and sinister schemer to reveal Livia as a complex figure whose enduring political influence helped shape Roman governmen...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published January 11th 2004 by Yale University Press (first published January 1st 2002)
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Ok I admit that everything I know about Livia I learned from I Claudius. The entire point of this book seemed to be that everything in I Claudius was WRONG. As a historian I can understand how frustrating it must be to be a professor and have to explain to your students again and again that you shouldn't get your history from television (even BBC dramas from back in the day). But unfortunatley the author seemed to be so intenet on dis-proving popular conceptions of Livia he lacked any other thes...more
A solid look at the actual life of Livia, wife of the emperor Augustus, as opposed to the sensationalized version I, Claudius made so popular. The real Livia seems to have crafted herself a solid image as the epitome of the respectable Roman matron, while keeping her real cleverness out of the public eye, for which her great-grandson Caligula memorialized her with the bon mot 'Ulysses in a stola'. The research on the subject seems solid, but the book itself could be better organized. It is split...more
Pete daPixie
The sleeve of this book contains a review which says, "as appealing to the general reader as it is satisfying to the scholar." I think I would recommend this work more for the student of Classical history than for the general reader. 'Livia-First Lady of Imperial Rome' is clearly a well researched biography, one that you would expect from it's author, Anthony A. Barrett, professor of Classics.
I found that I needed to exercise all powers of concentration to stay with this one. The genealogy of th...more
Kathy  Petersen
Professor Barrett cautions that Livia, first lady of the Roman Empire, was a much different person than the evil virago portrayed by Robert Graves in the novel I, CLAUDIUS and, I add, by Sian Phillips in the BBC series of the same name. But both the novel wirter and the actress did such a fabulous job with the fictional Livia that I am hard put to remove “her” from this thorough [really thorough:] biography of the wife of Caesar Augustus. I was partially successful.

Barrett’s academe flooded ever...more
I've wavered between a two and three star rating for Livia: First Lady of Imperial Rome by Anthony A. Barrett. Finally, on account of his exhaustive research I've come down on a three star rating.

Apparently there is not much in the way of hard evidence as to Livia's personality or actions. Barrett makes it very clear that historians Tacitus', Seneca and Suetonius et als are torn, and conflicting in their portrayal of Livia. The former being the most acid and hostile to Livia.

Barrett begins his...more
When I recently reviewed the new biography of Cleopatra, I noted that at least half the book was comprised of endnotes and bibiographies because there just isn't a lot of information about women from ancient history, no matter how powerful they were. So it goes for Livia. The wife of emperor Octavian (Augustus), and related to future emperors Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, only appears in recorded history because of her famous male relatives. It's almost impossible to tell her story wit...more
Tara Calaby
An awful lot of things are "inevitable" in Barrett's vision of Ancient Rome. I'm not necessarily inclined to agree with his statements to this effect, but I will reluctantly say that this is a better book than his account of Agrippina the Younger.
A very thorough and interesting analysis of Livia's life which turns out to be very different from fictional portraits of her. Truth is way less exciting than fiction, but even so,this is a very interesting book.
I will read this again soon to get more detail.
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