Some short ones this time!
19. Claudia Octavia
We know little about Octavia, daughter of the Emperor Claudius and his doomed wife Messalina, her except that she was used and abused quite outrageously in service to the imperial family.
As a teenager, she was married to her stepbrother/adopted brother Nero, in order to further promote his role as her father’s heir, ahead of her own brother Brittannicus. Mostly, Nero ignored her, which was the best outcome for everyone.
When her father died (cough, poison mushrooms, cough), Octavia found herself no better off than she had been before – except that now, the husband who was ignoring her was the emperor. It was Nero’s mother Agrippina, not his wife, who stood at his side as consort. Various exotic mistresses filled Nero’s bed, and his mother filled his heart. There was no room for anyone else. Then her brother Brittannicus was poisoned, and Octavia was left alone.
Nero wanted to divorce Octavia, but hadn’t realised just how popular she was with the ordinary people of Rome. There was an outcry, and Nero dropped the idea quickly. Instead, he framed her for adultery, and had her exiled, then executed.
Seneca, one of Nero’s chief advisors, wrote a tragedy, “Octavia,” which is particularly notable for the vicious caricature it makes of Agrippina’s character. In fact, Agrippina had fought for Nero to treat his wife more kindly, and to stay married to her. Though to be fair this was probably because she feared what might happen if Nero started choosing his own brides.
20. Claudia Antonia
Antonia was Octavia’s eldest sister, daughter of Claudius to one of his pre-Messalina wives. There is only one story told about Antonia. Towards the end of his life, having been divorced, widowed, etc. several times over, Nero had a bright idea to reclaim the popularity of his first marriage to Octavia by marrying her sister.
Antonia said no.
Nero killed her.
Continue reading →