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On this page: Octavia Gens



dcr RomiscJien Altertliumer, vol. i. pp, 608— 612.)



3. The daughter of the emperor Claudius, by his third wife, the notorious Valeria Messalina, was born about A. d. 42 ; since Tacitus, speaking of her death in a. d. 62, says that she was then in the twentieth year of her age. (Tac. Ann. xiv. 64.) She was called Octavia after her great grand­mother, the sister of Augustus [No. 2], As early as the year 48, Octavia was betrothed by Claudius to L. Silanus, a youth of distinguished family and much beloved by the people ; but Agrippina, who had secured the affections of the weak-minded Claudius, resolved to prevent the

order that Octavia might marry her own son Domitius, afterwards the emperor Nero. She had no difficulty in rendering Silanus an object of suspicion to Claudius \ and as Silanus saw that he was doomed, he put an end to his life at the beginning of the following year (a. d. 49), on the very day on which Claudius was married to Agrippina. Octavia was now betrothed to the young Domitius, but the marriage did not take place till a. d. 53, the year before the death of Claudius, when Nero, as he was now called, having been adopted by Claudius, was only sixteen years of age, and Octavia but eleven. (Tac. Ann. xii. 58.) Suetonius, with less probability, places the marriage still earlier (Ner. 7). Nero from the first never liked his wife, and soon after his suc­cession ceased to pay her any attention. He was first captivated by a freedwoman of the name of Acte, who shortly after had to give way to Poppaea Sabina, the wife of Otho, who was afterwards emperor. Of the latter he was so enamoured that he resolved to recognize her as his legal wife ; and accordingly in a. d. 62 he divorced Octavia on the alleged ground of sterility, and in sixteen days after married Poppaea. But Poppaea, not satisfied with obtaining the place of Octavia, induced one of the servants of the latter to accuse her of adultery with a slave ; but most of her slaves when put to the torture persisted in maintaining the innocence of their mistress. Notwithstanding this she was ordered to leave the city and retire to Campania, where she was placed under the surveillance of soldiers ; but in consequence of-the complaints and murmurs of the people, Nero recalled her to Rome. The people celebrated her return with the most unbounded jojr, which, however, only sealed her ruin. Poppaea again worked upon the passions and the fears of her husband ; Anicetus Avas in­duced to confess that he had been the paramour of Octavia ; and the unhappy girl was thereupon removed to the little island of Pandataria, where she was shortly after put to death. The scene of her death is painted by the masterly hand of Tacitus. She feared to die ; and as her terror was so great that the blood would not flow from her veins after they were opened, she was carried into a bath and stifled by the vapour. It is even added that her head was cut off and sent to Rome to glut the vengeance of Poppaea. Her untimely end excited general commiseration. (Tac. Ann. xi. 32, xii. 2—9, 58, xiii. 12, xiv. 60—64 ; Suet. Claud. W9 Ner. 7, 35 ; Dion Cass. Ix. 31, 33, lxi.7, Ixii. 13.) Octavia is the heroine of a tragedy, found among the works of Seneca, but the author of which was more probably Curiatius Maternus. See Ociavia Praetexta. Curiatio Materno vindicat. sdidtt F. Riiter, Borinae, 1843.


OCTAVIA GENS, celebrated in history on account of the emperor Augustus belonging to it. It was a plebeian gens, and is not mentioned till the year b. c. 230, when Cn. Octavius Rufus ob­tained the quaestorship. This Cn. Octavius left two sons, Cneius and Caius. The descendants of Cneius held many of the higher magistracies, and his son obtained the consulship in b. c. 165 ; but the descendants of Cains, from whom the emperor Augustus sprang, did not rise to any importance, but continued simple equites, and the first of them, who was enrolled among the senators, was the father of Augustus. The gens originally came from the Volscian town of Velitrae, where there was a street in the most frequented part of the town, and likewise an altar, both bearing the name of Octavius (Suet. Aug. 1, 2 ; Veil. Pat. ii. 59 ; Dion Cass. xiv. 1). This is all that can be related with certainty respecting the history of this gens ; but as it became the fashion towards the end of the republic for the Roman nobles to trace their origin to the gods and to the heroes of olden time, it was natural that a family, which became connected with the Julia gens, and from which the emperor Augustus sprang, should have an ancient and noble origin assigned to it. Accord­ingly, we read in Suetonius (Aug. 2) that the members of this gens received the Roman franchise from Tarquinius Priscus, and were enrolled among the patricians by his successor Servius Tullius ; that they afterwards passed over to the plebeians, and that Julius Caesar a long while afterwards con­ferred the patrician rank upon them again. There is nothing improbable in this statement by itself; but since neither Livy nor Dionysius make any mention of the Octavii, when the}' speak of Velitrae, it is evident that they did not believe the tale ; and since, moreover, the Octavii are noAvhere mentioned in history till the latter half of the third century before the Christian aera, we may safely reject the early origin of the gens. The name of Oetavius, however, was widely spread in Lathmi, and is found at a very early time, of which we have an example in the case of Octavius Mamilius, to whom Tarquinius Superbus gave his daughter in marriage. The name was evidently derived from the praenomen Octavus, just as from Quintus, Sextus, and Sep­timus, came the gentile names of Quintius, Sex-tius, and Septimius. In the times of the republic none of the Octavii, who were descended from Cn. Octavius Rufus, bore any cognomen with the exception of Rufus, and even this surname is rarely mentioned. The stemma on page 7. exhibits all the descendants of Cn. Octavius Rufus. The descendants of the emperor Au­gustus by his daughter Julia are given in Vol. I. p. 430, and a list of the descendants of his sister Octavia is annexed here ; so that the two toge­ther present a complete view of the imperial

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