Livia: Rome's First “First Lady”
Activity using the Online Companion to The Worlds of Roman Women and VRoma



Part I. Textual Representations:

Using the Online Companion´s World of State, read/translate Livy AUC 1. 34, 39, 41: Tanaquil and Tacitus Annales 1. 3-6: Livia. Then answer the following questions on the attached sheets (see printable version of the worksheet in an Adobe Acrobat file):

  1. What similarities do you see between the character and actions of the legendary queen Tanaquil as described by Livy and the historical empress Livia as presented by Tacitus? Be specific in discussing their similar qualities, actions and effect on the Roman state.
  2. How does Tacitus in chapter 5. 5-6 draw upon Livy 41 to describe the actions of Livia after the death of Augustus? Why do you think he did this? What effect does the strong similarity between the actions of the two women have on your perception of the literal truth of Tacitus´ account of events?
  3. Compare and contrast the tone of the two authors. What is Livy´s attitude toward Tanaquil? Do you think that Tacitus´ attitude toward Livia is the same or different? Explain by referring to specific words and phrases chosen by each author to describe the women and their actions. When reading Tacitus, did you feel that the author was making judgments about Livia? Why or why not?

Part II. Visual and Material Representations:

Visit the Portico of Livia in Region III of VRoma´s virtual city of Rome. Connect as a guest by going to the Web Gateway and clicking the Login button (leave the password box blank). Proceed to the Portico of Livia by typing @go Portico of Livia in the Input window on the lower left of the screen and pressing Enter. You can also get there by clicking on the exit to Rome at the bottom of the Web window on the right of the screen, then clicking on Region III in the map, and then clicking on Porticus Liviae in the map of Region III.

  1. Explore the Portico, looking at its plan and reading about its history. What is significant about the location, function, and symbolism of this site? How do you think the people who frequented this portico would regard the woman who was its patron?
  2. Then visit the West Portico by clicking on the exit link. After looking around, visit the Exhibition by clicking on the sign. Read the brief life story of Livia and information about allusions to her on coins, then view her portrait statues and read their descriptions. What impression of Livia do these give you, and do you think they would have affected the Roman people in the same way?
  3. How do these visual representations of Livia differ from the verbal portrait painted by Tacitus? Do you think it is important to consider visual and material evidence alongside textual evidence when studying ancient women? Why or why not?

Submitted by Barbara F. McManus
October 2006
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