Scribonia (c.-68 - -16) MP

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Birthplace: Rome, Rome, Lazio, Italy
Death: Died in Rome, Rome, Lazio, Italy
Managed by: Jocelynn Elaine Oakes
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About Scribonia

Scribonia (68 BC - AD 16) was the second wife of the Roman Emperor Augustus and the mother of his only natural child, Julia the Elder. She was the mother-in-law of the Emperor Tiberius, great-grandmother of the Emperor Caligula and Empress Agrippina the Younger, grandmother-in-law of the Emperor Claudius, and great-great grandmother of the Emperor Nero.

Life

Scribonia was the daughter of a Lucius Scribonius Libo, probably the praetor of that name of 80 BC. Her brother of the same name was consul and died in 34 BC. The name of her mother was Sentia. According to Suetonius, Scribonia's first two marriages were to former consuls. Her first husband is unknown, although it had been suggested that he was Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus (consul 56 BC), as there is an inscription that refers to freedmen (post 39 BC) of Scribonia and her son Cornelius Marcellinus, indicating that she had a son from her previous marriage and that he was living with her after she divorced her third husband. He may have died young and ignored by historians. Her second husband perhaps was Publius Cornelius Scipio Salvito, a supporter of Pompey. They had a daughter Cornelia Scipio who married the censor Lucius Aemilius Paullus. Scribonia may have also been the mother to Publius Cornelius Scipio, consul in 16 BC.

In 40 BC Scribonia was forced to divorce her husband and marry Octavian, who was younger than she was by several years. Octavian in turn divorced his wife Clodia Pulchra, marrying Scribonia to cement a political alliance with her niece Scribonia's husband Sextus Pompey. Their daughter Julia the Elder was born in 39 BC, probably in October, and on that very same day Octavian divorced her. Their marriage had not been a happy one; Octavian felt she nagged him too much. She never remarried. Cassius Dio and Marcus Velleius Paterculus says that when her youngest child, Julia, was sent into exile for adultery and treason, she requested that she be allowed to accompany her.

When Emperor Tiberius came into power, he separated Scribonia from her daughter, and allegedly starved Julia to death. When Scribonia died is unknown. It is mainly placed two years after Julia and Augustus. In Seneca, she is mentioned as being alive and in full possession of her wits as late as the end of 16 when she tried to convince her nephew Marcus Scribonius Libo not to commit suicide and face his punishment.

Scribonia's image as a shrew is probably the product of propaganda to divert the potentially scandalous circumstances of her divorce from Augustus. Seneca describes her as a gravis femina; gravis meaning “dignified” and “severe”. Modern scholars are divided on her character; while some describe her as "tiresome" and "morose" most others view her as an ideal example of a Roman matron as she clearly had the "composure" and "calmness" to look after depressed and suicidal characters such as her daughter and nephew. Sextus Propertius praises her motherhood referring to her as "sweet mother Scribonia" in Cornelia Scipio's funeral elegy in 16 BC.

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