Julia the Elder
Julia the Elder (30 October 39 BC – AD 14), known to her
contemporaries as Julia Caesaris filia or Julia Augusti filia
(Classical Latin: IVLIA•CAESARIS•FILIA or
IVLIA•AVGVSTI•FILIA), was the daughter and only biological
child of Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire. Augustus
subsequently adopted several male members of his close family as sons.
Julia resulted from Augustus' second marriage with Scribonia, her
birth occurring on the same day as Scribonia's divorce from Augustus,
who wished to marry Livia.
She was the daughter of the Emperor Augustus, stepsister and second
wife of the Emperor Tiberius, maternal grandmother of the Emperor
Caligula and the Empress Agrippina the Younger, grandmother-in-law of
the Emperor Claudius, and maternal great-grandmother of the Emperor
1.1 Early life
1.1.1 First marriage
1.1.2 Marriage to Agrippa
1.1.3 Marriage to Tiberius
2.1 After her death
4 Role in Anno Domini chronology
5 In popular culture
6 Marriages and births
8 See also
10 External links
At the time of Julia's birth, 39 BC,
Augustus had not yet received the
title "Augustus" and was known as "Gaius
Julius Caesar Divi Filius,"
though historians refer to him as "Octavian" until 27 BC, when Julia
was 11. Octavian divorced Julia's mother the day of her birth and took
Julia from her soon thereafter. Octavian, in accordance with Roman
custom, claimed complete parental control over her. She was sent to
live with her stepmother
Livia when she was old enough and learn how
to be an aristocrat. Her education appears to have been strict and
somewhat old-fashioned. Thus, in addition to her studies, Suetonius
informs us, she was taught spinning and weaving.
"her love of literature and considerable culture, a thing easy to come
by in that household".
Julia's social life was severely controlled, and she was allowed to
talk only to people whom her father had vetted. However, Octavian
had a great affection for his daughter and made sure she had the best
Macrobius preserves a remark of Augustus: "There
are two wayward daughters that I have to put up with: the Roman
commonwealth and Julia."
In 37 BC, during Julia's early childhood, Octavian's friends Gaius
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa concluded an agreement with
Octavian's great rival Mark Antony. It was sealed with an engagement:
Antony's ten-year-old son
Marcus Antonius Antyllus was to marry Julia,
then two years old.
The engagement never led to a marriage because civil war broke out. In
31 BC, at the Battle of Actium, Octavian and Agrippa defeated Antony
and his wife, Cleopatra. In Alexandria, they both committed suicide,
and Octavian became sole ruler of the Roman Empire.
As with most aristocratic Roman women of the period, expectations of
Julia focused on marriage and on the resulting family alliances. Her
family first married her off, like many Roman girls, in her early
teens. In 25 BC, at the age of fourteen, Julia married her cousin
Claudius Marcellus, who was some three years older than she.
There were rumors[by whom?] that Marcellus had been chosen as
Augustus' successor, but Julia's father was not present: he was
fighting a war in Spain and had fallen ill. Agrippa presided over the
ceremony. Marcellus died in September 23 BC when Julia was sixteen.
The union produced no children.
Marriage to Agrippa
Julia from Guillaume Rouillé's Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum
In 21 BC, having now reached the age of 18, Julia married Agrippa, a
man from a modest family who had risen to become Augustus' most
trusted general and friend. This step is said to have been taken
partly on the advice of Maecenas, who in counseling him remarked: "You
have made him so great that he must either become your son-in-law or
be slain." Since Agrippa was nearly 25 years her elder, it was a
typical arranged marriage, with Julia functioning as a pawn in her
father's dynastic plans. There is from this period the report of an
infidelity with one Sempronius Gracchus, with whom Julia allegedly had
a lasting liaison (
Tacitus describes him as "a persistent
paramour"). This was the first of a series of alleged adulteries.
According to Suetonius, Julia's marital status did not prevent her
from conceiving a passion for Augustus' stepson, and thus her
stepbrother, Tiberius, so it was widely rumoured.
The newlyweds lived in a villa in
Rome that has since been excavated
near the modern Farnesina in Trastevere. Agrippa and Julia's marriage
resulted in five children: Gaius Caesar, Julia the Younger, Lucius
Agrippina the Elder
Agrippina the Elder (mother of Caligula), and Agrippa Postumus
(a posthumous son). From June 20 BC to the spring of 18 BC, Agrippa
was governor of Gaul, and it is likely that Julia followed him across
the Alps. Shortly after their arrival, their first child Gaius was
born, and in 19 BC, Julia gave birth to Vipsania Julia. After their
return to Italy, a third child followed: a son named Lucius. In 17 BC,
Augustus adopted the newborn Lucius and the three-year-old Gaius.
He took care of their education personally. Although Agrippa died in
Augustus did not adopt the third brother, Marcus Vipsanius
Agrippa Posthumus, until AD 4, after the exile of Julia - and after
the deaths of both Gaius and Lucius.
Josephus mention that during Julia's marriage to Agrippa,
she was travelling to meet Agrippa where he was campaigning, was
caught up in a flash flood in Ilium (Troy), and almost drowned.
Agrippa was furious, and in his anger he fined the locals 100,000
drachmae. The fine was a heavy blow but no one would face Agrippa to
request an appeal. Only after Herod, king of Judaea, went to Agrippa
to request a pardon did he withdraw the fine. In the spring of 16 BC,
Agrippa and Julia started a tour through the eastern provinces, where
they visited Herod. In October 14 BC, the couple traveled to Athens,
where Julia gave birth to her fourth child, Agrippina.
After the winter, the family returned to Italy. Julia quickly became
pregnant again, but her husband died suddenly in March 12 BC in
Campania at the age of 51. He was buried in the Mausoleum of Augustus.
Julia named the posthumous son Marcus in his honor. He was to be known
as Agrippa Postumus. Immediately after the boy was born, and while
Julia was still in mourning,
Augustus had her betrothed and then
remarried to Tiberius, her stepbrother.
Marriage to Tiberius
After the death of Agrippa,
Augustus sought to promote his step-son
Tiberius, believing that this would best serve his own dynastic
Tiberius married Julia (11 BC), but first had to divorce
Vipsania Agrippina (daughter from a previous marriage of Agrippa), the
woman he dearly loved. The marriage was thus blighted almost from the
start, and the son that Julia bore him died in infancy. Suetonius
Tiberius had a low opinion of Julia's character,
Tacitus claims that she disdained
Tiberius as an unequal match
and even sent her father a letter, written by Sempronius Gracchus,
denouncing him. By 6 BC, when
Tiberius departed for Rhodes, if not
earlier, the couple had separated.
Augustus was her legitimate father, having married her mother
Patria Potestas over her. Patria Potestas
lasted until the paterfamilias, Augustus, either died or emancipated
his child. Marriage had no effect on Patria Potestas, unless it was
manus marriage which was rare at this point in time.
As the daughter of Augustus, mother (now legally the sister) of two of
his heirs, Lucius and Gaius, and wife of another, Tiberius, Julia's
future seemed assured to all. Yet in 2 BC she was arrested for
adultery and treason;
Augustus sent her a letter in Tiberius' name
declaring the marriage null and void (
Tiberius was at this time on the
Rhodes and unable to respond quickly). He also asserted in
public that she had been plotting against his own life. Though at
Augustus had been passing legislation to promote family
values, he likely knew of her intrigues with other men but hesitated
for some time to accuse her. Several of Julia's supposed lovers were
exiled, most notably Sempronius Gracchus, while
Iullus Antonius (son
Mark Antony and Fulvia) was forced to commit suicide. Others have
suggested that Julia's alleged paramours were members of her city
clique, who wished to remove
Tiberius from favour and replace him with
Antonius. This would explain the letter, written by Gracchus, asking
Augustus to allow Julia to divorce Tiberius.
Reluctant to execute her,
Augustus decided on Julia's exile, in harsh
conditions. She was confined on the island of Pandateria, with no men
in sight, forbidden even to drink wine. The island itself measures
less than 1.75 square kilometres (0.68 sq mi). She was
allowed no visitor unless her father had given permission and had been
informed of the stature, complexion, and even of any marks or scars
upon his body. Scribonia, Julia's biological mother, accompanied
her into exile. It is said that
Augustus would remark of them:
"If only I had never married, or had died childless", slightly
misquoting Hector, in the Iliad. Julia's exile cast a long shadow
over Augustus's remaining years.
Five years later, Julia was allowed to return to the mainland, though
Augustus never forgave her and ordered her to remain in Rhegium. He
explicitly gave instructions that she should not be buried in his
Mausoleum of Augustus.
Julia died from malnutrition some time after Augustus' death in 14,
but before 15. With her father dead and no sons to take the
throne, Julia was left completely at the mercy of the new emperor,
Tiberius, who was free to exact his vengeance. The circumstances of
her death are obscure. One theory is that Tiberius, who loathed her
for dishonouring their marriage, had her starved to death. Another
theory is that upon learning her last surviving son Agrippa Postumus
had been murdered, she succumbed to despair. Simultaneously, her
alleged paramour Sempronius Gracchus, who had endured 14 years of
exile on Cercina (Kerkenna) off the African coast, was executed at
Tiberius' instigation, or on the independent initiative of Nonius
Asprenas, proconsul of Africa. Julia's daughter
Julia the Younger
Julia the Younger was
also exiled in 8 AD on a charge of adultery on the same island as her
mother - but actually for involvement in the attempted revolt by her
husband Lucius Aemilius Paullus - and died in 29 AD
after 20 years of exile; she was also forbidden to be buried in
Augustus' tomb by his will.
After her death
Suetonius claims that Caligula, the son of Julia's daughter Agrippina
and Tiberius's nephew Germanicus, loathed the idea of being grandson
of Agrippa, who came from non-elite origins. Hence,
the idea that his mother Agrippina was the product of an incestuous
union between Julia and Augustus.
Among ancient writers Julia is almost universally remembered for her
flagrant and promiscuous conduct. Thus Marcus Velleius Paterculus
(2.100) describes her as "tainted by luxury or lust", listing among
her lovers Iullus Antonius, Quintius Crispinus, Appius Claudius,
Sempronius Gracchus, and Cornelius Scipio.
Seneca the Younger
Seneca the Younger refers
to "adulterers admitted in droves";
Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder calls her an
“exemplum licentiae” (NH 21.9).
Dio Cassius mentions "revels and
drinking parties by night in the Forum and even upon the Rostra"
(Roman History 55.10). Seneca (De Beneficiis 6.32) tells us that the
Rostra was the place where "her father had proposed a law against
adultery", and yet now she had chosen the place for her
"debaucheries". Seneca specifically mentions prostitution: "laying
aside the role of adulteress, she there [in the Forum] sold her
favours, and sought the right to every indulgence with even an unknown
paramour." Modern historians discredit these representations as
exaggerating Julia's behaviour.
Macrobius provides invaluable details of her personality. Julia
was well known for her gentle quick wit and sharp tongue. She was
deeply loved by her father who admired her wit. Once, when asked her
secret for having affairs while bearing children resembling her
husband, she stated that she took on new passengers only when the boat
was already full (meaning that she only took lovers when she knew she
was already pregnant by her husband). Julia was equally celebrated
for her beauty, intelligence and her shameless profligacy but mentions
that "she abused the indulgence of fortune no less than that of her
father." Despite Julia's reputation, the people who knew her
described her as a good-hearted and kind woman who was very popular
with the Roman people not least because of "her kindness and
gentleness and utter freedom from vindictiveness."
Role in Anno Domini chronology
In 1605, the Polish historian Laurentius Suslyga, published a tract
(later quoted by Kepler), which for the first time suggested that
Jesus Christ was born sometime during the years 6-4 BC, not on
December 25, 1 BC as
Dionysius Exiguus implied, but never stated.
According to Dionysius' dating scheme, the Christian era supposedly
began on January 1, AD 1 about one week after Jesus' birth at the end
of December. Julia's expulsion from
Rome in 2 BC was featured in
Suslyga's chronological argument which sought to establish Herod's
death in 4 BC. Suslyga's chronological ideas concerning the dating of
Herod's death based on Julia the Elder's exile have since been
challenged by archaeologists.
In popular culture
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Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (October 2017)
In I, Claudius, a novel by Robert Graves, the description of Julia's
life and personality is generally accurate. She is a sympathetic
person who never intended any harm to others. Julia is described as a
child who was instantly snatched away from her mother and taken by her
father's new wife, Livia. As a child, her stepmother enforced strict
discipline and an austere life of labor. She was not allowed to have
any friends, and if she was caught talking to people not approved by
Livia, she was punished. (Graves describes an occasion, which is
probably fiction, when a commoner introduces himself to Julia, and
Julia has her hair cut off by
Livia as punishment.) Livia's cruelty is
due to her desire for her line to rule (
Tiberius and his descendants),
not Julia's, as Julia was from Augustus's previous marriage. Julia's
behaviour resulted from Livia's and her son (Julia's 3rd husband)
Tiberius' mistreatment of her.
Tiberius not being sexually attracted
because of her womanly curves (preferring nymph-like women),
Julia take Spanish Fly to try and seduce Tiberius, which leads to her
sexual appetite. In the end,
Livia manages to turn even Augustus
against Julia and, as historical fact proves, she was sent into exile.
Augustus initially allows
Livia to select the island, and Julia was
sent to tiny Pandataria. He later relents and asks where she is; upon
discovering that she is stuck on that desolate, tiny isle, he selects
the pleasant town of Reggio off the strait of Messina instead.
In Caesar's Daughter, a novel by Edward Burton, Julia is a
three-dimensional character. Julia is described as a rebellious little
girl who is willful and passionate but with a gentleness and
compassion for the people of Rome. She is dearly beloved by nearly
everyone she meets except her stepmother, Livia. Loyal to her father,
but not afraid to criticize his decisions she is (after Livia) his
favourite consort. Julia grows up among intrigue and ultimately
becomes its victim. Despite her tragic fate, Julia remains very
cheerful and kind nonetheless.
Augustus a novel by Allan Massie, Julia is a beautiful, desirable
and happy-go-lucky character who is spoilt by her father. They still
both love each other deeply. She is jealous of her father's
relationship with her first husband Marcellus, disgusted with her
marriage to Agrippa (who is thrilled with his younger and beautiful
wife) and furious at her marriage to Tiberius. Her adulteries are
justified by Augustus' bad treatment of her and she decides finally to
rebel, which he denies as true though he is distraught by her
Julia is the heroine of I Loved
Tiberius by Elisabeth Dored.
Julia is portrayed in the novel Cleopatra's Daughter, by Michelle
Moran. In the novel she is a young teenager who befriends Queen
Cleopatra VII's daughter Selene and is in love with her soon-to-be
first husband Marcellus. It shown how her stepmother, Livia, did not
give her much freedom, and how she was surrounded by all of the plots
and people in
Rome while she was growing up. She is described as
beautiful, generous and kind-hearted, but also spoilt by privilege.
Julia appears in The Poetaster, a play by
Ben Jonson about the poet
The character of Corinna in Ovid's poems have widely been thought to
be Julia the Elder, daughter of Augustus.
William Auld wrote a short poem called Julia on Pandataria which takes
a brief look on Julia's tragedies.
Julia is mentioned in Antony and
Cleopatra by Colleen McCullough. She
is described as very pretty from a young age and intelligent. Augustus
is not discouraged by the fact she is a girl and demands that she be
educated in the manner of a man rather than a woman, describing her as
a queen in waiting.
Julia appears in Taylor Caldwell's novel Dear and Glorious Physician,
as the unhappy wife of
Tiberius and a seductress of Lucanus, the young
evangelist St. Luke.
Julia is one of the narrators in Augustus, by John Williams. There are
a number of contributions in her name, written as part of a diary she
wrote while in exile in Pandateria. She narrates events from her point
of view, including her feelings about her father, her marriages, the
restrictions on her as a prominent Roman matron, her relationships
with her lovers and members of her family.
In the 1976 BBC Television adaptation of I,
Claudius Julia was
Frances White as the overly optimistic, witty and beloved
daughter of Augustus. Julia is one of the few major female characters
who does not plot to kill or actually murder someone.
In the Italian mini series, Imperium: Augustus, Julia was portrayed by
Vittoria Belvedere as a very tragic character, a victim of domestic
abuse and rape. For a majority of the story, Julia and her father,
Augustus, are at the centre of the story as
Augustus recalls his life
to her just before she is about to marry Tiberius. The character in
question has lost her husband and both of her two boys (inaccurately)
to illness. She is at first innocent, loving, and beloved deeply by
her father, but she gets mixed up in an affair with her father's enemy
as the result of depression brought on by Tiberius' cruelty towards
her. The series took a more modern view of her affairs, that among her
lovers, she had only one true love: Iullus Antonius.
In the film, The Robe, she is played by Rosalind Ivan, making an
inaccurate appearance as Tiberius' wife.
Marriages and births
25 BC, Julia marries her cousin Marcus
Claudius Marcellus. Marcellus
died in September 23 BC. They have no children.
21 BC, Julia marries Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. They have the following
Gaius Caesar in 20 BC
Vipsania Julia Agrippina (also known as Julia the Younger) in 19 BC
Lucius Caesar in 17 BC
Vipsania Agrippina or Agrippina Major (mother of Emperor
Caligula) in 14 BC
Agrippa Postumus (born after Agrippa's death).
11 BC, Julia marries her stepbrother Tiberius. Their union produces
Infant son, not named in contemporary sources (by some later
historians dubbed Tiberillus), died almost immediately.
Ancestors of Julia the Elder
16. Gaius Octavian
8. Gaius Octavius
4. Gaius Octavius
Marcus Atius Balbus
10. Marcus Atius
5. Atia Balba Caesonia
11. Julia Minor
23. Aurelia Cotta
1. Julia the Elder
6. Lucius Scribonius Libo
Julio-Claudian family tree
Lex Papia Poppaea
^ E. Groag, A. Stein, L. Petersen - e.a. (edd.), Prosopographia
Imperii Romani saeculi I, II et III (PIR), Berlin, 1933, I 634
^ Dio Cassius, 48.34.3.
^ Suetonius, Vita Augusti 64
^ Macrobius, Saturnalia: Julia's Wit, 2.5.1-10
Suetonius Vita Augusti 64
^ Inter amicos [Augustus] dixit duas habere se filias delicatas, quas
necesse haberet ferre, rem publicam et Iuliam. Macrobius, Saturnalia
^ Dio Cassius, 54.6
^ Tacitus, Annals 1.53
^ "vulgo existimabatur", Suetonius, Vita Tiberii 7
^ Dio 54.18; Suet. Div. Aug. 64
^ Nicolaus of DamascusNicolaus, ([Fragmenta der Griechischein
Historiker] 2 A: 421-2; Josephus, Antiquities 16.2.2
Dio Cassius 54.31
^ Suetonius, Vita Tiberii 7.3
^ "Iuliae mores improbaret", loc.cit. Suetonius
^ a b Tacitus, Annals 1.53
^ Pliny NH 7.149 adulterium filiae et consilia parricidae
^ Levick, Barbara,
Tiberius the Politician, p26-29.
Dio Cassius 55.10, Suetonius, Vita Augusti 65
^ Suetonius. ibid.
^ Velleius Paterculus, 2.100
Dio Cassius 55.10
^ Suetonius, LXV, Life of Augustus
^ Tacitus, Annals 1.53, "That same year Julia ended her days..."; cf.
Ann.1.55, which commences the narration of events of 15
^ Suetonius, Vita Caligulae 23
^ Seneca, admissos gregatim adulteros, De Beneficiis 6.32
^ Fantham, Elaine. (2006) Julia Augusti. p. 82/157. "Routledge".
^ Macrobius, Saturnalia 2.5
^ Macrobius, Saturnalia, II, 5, 9-10: "Numquam enim nisi navi plena
^ Macrobius, Saturnalia: Julia's Wit 2.5.
^ Macrobius, Saturnalia 2.5: Mitis humanitas minimeque saevus animus.
^ Frederick M. Strickert, Philip’s City: From Bethsaida to Julias,
(Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2011), pp. 163-188.
^ Mistakes in The Robe (1953)
Julia's wit - Macrobius, Saturnalia 2.5.1-10
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