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Mothers, Murderers and Mistresses: Empresses of Ancient Rome

Mothers, Murderers and Mistresses: Empresses of Ancient Rome

Wed May 29, 9-10pm, BBC4

By Danielle Goldstein
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Unless you have a keen interest in ancient Rome, two things will fog your mind as Catharine Edwards wanders around ruins, discussing the Julio-Claudian dynasty. One, when did the names Scribonia, Agrippa and Suetonius stop being fashionable? And two, how come nearly all the busts are missing noses?

Unsurprisingly, Edwards doesn’t cover these topics, but the Classics and Ancient History professor does detail the family lines of Augustus, founder of the Roman Empire, and Livia, his powerful third wife. To gain the public’s affection, Augustus cast Livia as a woman with core Roman values. In doing so, Livia became the first female of Rome to have a public profile – something that most men were unhappy about and, from this unrest, spun a web of conspiracy. If you can keep a clear head, you’ll witness Edwards unravelling the truth about Livia with the help of various historians and ancient artefacts.

The prof’s collection of evidence provides an impartial explanation of Livia’s rise to the top, despite a severe power struggle of the time faced by wives, sisters, mothers and lovers.
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