100 Greatest Women On Coins Series: Livia Drusilla (Julia Augusta)

Roman history is and has been influential on the modern world. From the rise and fall of empires, its people have cemented their reputation and made a name for themselves so much so that they are reflected upon and studied. With that being said, it is no surprise that some of the women from that time would make it on Whitman Publishing’s 100 Greatest Women on Coins as authored by Ron Guth. One of the most influential women from Roman history, this next woman carved her own path in a male dominant empire.

#83 – Livia Drusilla (Julia Augusta)

Born in either 58 or 59 BC, Livia was the daughter of Marcus Livius Drusus Claudinius and Aufidia. Around 49 BC she married her cousin, Tiberius Claudius Nero, who was a Roman patrician (aristocrat or nobleman). They would have a son together, Tiberius, in 42 BC.

After the assassination of Julius Caesar, the triumvirate of Octavian (Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Mark Antony) banished Livia and her husband from Rome. However, she would return in 39 BC after peace was restored and eventually meet Emperor Octavian. While he was already married, he was so infatuated with Livia that he would divorce his wife and force the dissolution of marriage between Livia and her husband so that he could marry her. They would marry in 37 BC and remain together until 14 AD---which is more than 50 years. After Octavian died, Livia’s relationship with her son, the new emperor, Tiberius, would crumble to the point where her titles were stripped. It was not until several years after her death in 29 AD (she was approximately 87) that her grandson, the emperor Claudius, would restore her reputation.

Livia can be found on Roman coins, appearing frequently on bronze dupondii (half sestertii) with a title such as Salus Augusta (Safety), Pietas (Compassion), and Justitia (Justice). Tiberius featured her on several of his coins, one of which they face each other on the front of a bronze provincial coin from around 30 AD. She also appears on the reverse some silver denarii and gold aureii of Octavian and Tiberius.

Author Ron Guth finds collecting difficulty of ancient Livia coins to be easy. Bronze sestertii and silver denarii in decent condition can be found reasonably priced. Gold aureii of Tiberius are rare and examples are expensive.