I read non-fiction much slower than fiction so I’m not surprised to find myself less than 100 pages into Livia, Empress of Rome two days later. While I’m enjoying the book, it can be at times slightly hard to follow. It’s not the author’s fault either since records of Roman women, even the ones that marry emperors, were not kept with any regularity. The story is told through the men in her life, which is interesting, but at times frustrating since a good deal of the time you’re left reading about a man whose role in Livia’s life was minimal but their meeting was the only way to mark the passage of time in her life.
Roman lifestyles, marriage in particular, are fascinating to read about and slightly disturbing. Women are used as pawns, not to say they didn’t have a say in who or when they married (most didn’t but in households where a marriage was based on love, some thought may have been given to the daughter’s wishes but it would have been unusual) but most of the time are traded easily as property which is how most if not all are thought of. For instance, Livia’s second marriage to Octavian (Emperor Augustus in later years) happens while she is pregnant with her second child from her first husband. Of course, out of courtesy, Octavian waits to marry her until after she gives birth. A few days after she has the baby, they marry and the child is returned to Livia’s first husband as was the custom when a man marries a woman pregnant with another’s child. Crazy.
What I’m enjoying most is not necessarily the information about Livia, she is an interesting person though, but the background on Roman life. Debauched is a good description this early on but not the only one that can be used. I’m sure I’ll have more when I get to the end of this one.