Scribonia (68 BC-16) was the daughter of Lucius Scribonius Libo and Cornelia Sulla (the daughter of Faustus Cornelius Sulla, the granddaughter of Pompey the Great and Lucius Cornelius Sulla). Her brother of the same name was consul and died in 34 BC. [Schied, J. "Scribonia Caesaris et les Julio-Claudiens: Problèmes de vocabulaire de parenté". Mémoires de l'École francaise de Rome et Athènes. 87: 349-71.] She was the second wife of Roman Emperor Augustus and the mother of his only natural child, Julia Caesaris. She was the grandmother of Gaius Caesar, Julia the Younger, Lucius Caesar, Agrippina the Elder and Agrippa Postumus, great-grandmother to Emperor Caligula and Empress Agrippina the Younger, who was the wife of the Emperor Claudius. She was the great-great-grandmother of Emperor Nero.


Little is known of Scribonia's early life. According to Suetonius, her first two marriages were to former consuls. Her first husband is unknown, though 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 [CIL 6.26033: "Libertorum et familiae Scribonae Caes. et Corneli Marcell. f. eius"] [Schied, J, "Scribonia Caesaris et les Cornelii Lentuli", Bulletin de Correspondence Helléenigue 100: 185-201.] , 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 was Publius Cornelius Scipio Salvito [Billows, R. American Journal of Ancient History.] . They had a daughter Cornelia Scipio who married Lucius Aemilius Paullus who served as a censor. Scribonia may have also been the mother to Publius Cornelius Scipio, cousul in 16 BC. Salvito was a supporter of Pompey.

In 40 BC Scribonia was forced to divorce her husband and marry Octavian, who was younger than her by several years. Octavian in turn divorced his wife Clodia, marrying Scribonia to cement a political alliance with her uncle Sextus Pompeius. Their daughter Julia the Elder was born in 39 BC, probably in October, and on that very same day Octavian divorced her [Cassius Dio 48.34.3] . 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. [Fantham, Elaine. (2006) "Julia Augusti". "Routledge". ISBN 0-415-33146-3.]

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.

No one knows what Scribonia was really like as her image as a shrew was likely to have been the end 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" [Syme, R. (1939) "The Roman Revolution". Oxford.] 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 [Fantham, Elaine. (2006) "Julia Augusti". "Routledge". ISBN 0-415-33146-3.] [Barrett, A.A. (2004) "Livia: First Lady of Imperial Rome". "Yale University Press". ISBN 0-300-10298-4 ] . Sextus Propertius praises her motherhood referring to her as "sweet mother Scribonia" in Cornelia Scipio's funeral elegy in 16 BC.

Marriages and issues

*Her first husband, Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus
**Cornelius Marcellinus
*Her second husband, Publius Cornelius Scipio Salvito
**Publius Cornelius Scipio (consul of 16 BC)
**Cornelia Scipio
*Her third husband, Augustus
**Julia the Elder (wife of Agrippa and Tiberius)

cribonia in popular culture

Little is known about Scribonia, but she is mentioned in various dramas and novels, each having a different opinion on what she was like.


*Scribonia is mentioned in Robert Graves's novel "I, Claudius" when he recalls Julia's birth and later when Julia is exiled. He describes her as a good, moderate and generally kind Roman matron. She is forbidden to see Julia and is only allowed to be with her once she is exiled. Livia convinces Augustus that Scribonia has been unfaithful to him causing him to divorce her faster than he cared to. Evidently Augustus believed she was innocent, as he kept Julia. Graves places Scribonia's death at least two years prior to when it is traditionally placed.

*Scribonia gets several mentions in the novel "Augustus" by Allan Massie. Allan Massie portrays her stereotypically, being ugly, gap-toothed and fat. The novel suggests that Julia got her personality from Scribonia rather than Augustus as historians tend to claim.

*Scribonia plays a major role in the novel "Caesar's Daughter" by Edward Burton, trying to aid Julia in her daily life. She is a very politically aware woman, with detailed information gathering and she plays patroness to many poets such as Horace and Ovid as well as being very popular with the people of Rome. Despite their differences, Augustus respects her.

*Scribonia is mentioned in "I Loved Tiberius" by Elisabeth Dored. Augustus' reign is portrayed as a dictatorship and Scribonia is portrayed as a pretty, gentle, sensitive, warm and steadfast woman made a victim of her husband's cruelty but eventually makes herself a martyr for her daughter, Julia.

*She also is shown in "Antony and Cleopatra" by Colleen McCullough. Scribonia is described a beautiful, kind and sensible. She remains friends with Octavia following her divorce and, contrary to historians accounts, is allowed to raise Julia herself. Augustus orders that Julia be educated in the manner of a man, rather than a woman.


*Scribonia in "" is only a few years older than Augustus, and he marries her for her money to pay his armies. Maecenas describes her as being "lovely" and "charming". Julia is loyal to Scribonia blaming Augustus for treating her badly and using her just to get a baby. However, Augustus claims he loved Scribonia in his own way because she gave him Julia.


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