Date Thesis Awarded
Honors Thesis -- Open Access
Bachelors of Arts (BA)
This thesis addresses the divine reception of Livia Drusilla (58 BCE – 29 CE), first empress of Rome, during and just after her lifetime throughout the Roman empire. Both an art historical and a literary approach reveal aspects of Livia’s divinity as understood by the people who lived under Julio-Claudian rule. The introduction to this thesis provides necessary historical context regarding the nascent imperial age and Livia’s position within it, especially as embodying what it meant to be a woman in the ruling family during a time that stressed traditional morality and dynasty. The first chapter serves as a reception study of Livia’s portraits, namely the statues, gemstones, monuments, and coins that portray her as divine through various attributes that evoke familiar images of Greek goddesses. The chapter is structured around shifts in Livia’s typography, from nodus-style portraits to the center-part Kiel/Salus type to the explicitly divine Diva Augusta type, which ultimately share features that suggest the divine implications in all of the types throughout her lifetime. The second chapter places selections of early imperial literature within the context of their genres--elegy and history--and political motivations, and it considers various authors’ treatments of Livia that demonstrate her preeminence and assumed divinity following her death. The authors analyzed include Ovid, Velleius Paterculus, Tacitus, and, more briefly, Suetonius and Cassius Dio. The evidence suggests that Livia was treated as more than mortal during her lifetime, that her divinity was expected after her death, and that her deification in 42 CE under Claudius’ reign was a formal legitimization of her long-accepted divine status.
Waddill, Lillian, "More Than Mortal: Divine Depictions of Livia in Early Imperial Portraiture and Literature" (2019). Undergraduate Honors Theses. William & Mary. Paper 1363.