Claudia Octavia
Claudia Octavia (late AD 39 or early AD 40 – 9 June AD 62) was an Empress of Rome. She was a great-niece of the Emperor Tiberius
Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

, paternal first cousin of the Emperor Caligula
Caligula , also known as Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 AD to 41 AD. Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caligula's father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome's most...

, daughter of the Emperor Claudius
Claudius , was Roman Emperor from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor. He was born at Lugdunum in Gaul and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy...

, and stepsister and first wife of the Emperor Nero
Nero , was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death....

. Asteroid
Asteroids are a class of small Solar System bodies in orbit around the Sun. They have also been called planetoids, especially the larger ones...

 598 Octavia
598 Octavia
-External links:*...

 is named after her.


Octavia was the only daughter of the Emperor Claudius
Claudius , was Roman Emperor from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor. He was born at Lugdunum in Gaul and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy...

 by his third marriage to his second cousin Valeria Messalina. She was named for her great-grandmother Octavia the Younger, the second eldest and full-blooded sister of the Emperor Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

. Her elder half-sister was Claudia Antonia
Claudia Antonia
Claudia Antonia was the daughter of the Roman Emperor Claudius and his second wife Aelia Paetina...

, Claudius's daughter through his second marriage to Aelia Paetina
Aelia Paetina
Aelia Paetina or Paetina was the second wife of the Roman Emperor Claudius. Her biological father was consul of 4, Sextus Aelius Catus while her mother is unknown. She was born into the family of the Aelii Tuberones, and thus apparently descended from the consul of 11 BC...

, and her full sibling was Britannicus
Tiberius Claudius Caesar Britannicus was the son of the Roman emperor Claudius and his third wife Valeria Messalina. He became the heir-designate of the empire at his birth, less than a month into his father's reign. He was still a young boy at the time of his mother's downfall and Claudius'...

, Claudius's son with Messalina.

Early life

She was born in Rome. As a young girl, her father betrothed her to future praetor
Praetor was a title granted by the government of Ancient Rome to men acting in one of two official capacities: the commander of an army, usually in the field, or the named commander before mustering the army; and an elected magistratus assigned varied duties...

 Lucius Junius Silanus Torquatus
Lucius Junius Silanus Torquatus
In the 1st century, lived two noblemen uncle and nephew, that shared the name Lucius Junius Silanus Torquatus who were two descendants of Roman Emperor Augustus....

, who was a descendant of Augustus.

Rise of Nero

Octavia's mother was executed in 48, for conspiring to murder her father. Claudius later remarried her paternal first cousin and his own niece Agrippina the Younger
Agrippina the Younger
Julia Agrippina, most commonly referred to as Agrippina Minor or Agrippina the Younger, and after 50 known as Julia Augusta Agrippina was a Roman Empress and one of the more prominent women in the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

. Agrippina the Younger had a son from her first marriage: Nero (at that time known as Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus)

Agrippina, through her plotting and manipulating, ended the engagement between Octavia and Lucius Silanus and persuaded Claudius to adopt Nero as his son and heir and arranged for Octavia and Nero to marry on 9 June 53.

Life as empress

Claudius died on 13 October 54 and Nero acceded to the throne, possibly poisoning Octavia's full brother Britannicus in early 55 in order to do so. Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

 states that from this moment Octavia became very unhappy, but learned to hide her affections and feelings around her husband and stepbrother. Octavia was caught up in the power struggles between Nero and his mother, which concluded when Nero murdered his mother in March 59.

Although she was admired as empress by the Roman citizen body, the marriage was unhappy. Octavia was an ‘aristocratic and virtuous wife' (in Tacitus's words), whereas Nero hated her and grew bored with her (according to both Tacitus and Suetonius
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius , was a Roman historian belonging to the equestrian order in the early Imperial era....

), trying on several occasions to strangle her (according to Suetonius) and having affairs with a freedwoman called Claudia Acte
Claudia Acte
Claudia Acte was a freedwoman of ancient Rome who became a mistress of the emperor Nero. She came from Asia Minor and might have become a slave of the Emperor Claudius, following his expansion of the Roman Empire into Lycia and Pamphylia; or she might have been purchased later, by Octavia,...

 and then with Poppaea Sabina
Poppaea Sabina
Poppaea Sabina and sometimes referred to as Poppaea Sabina the Younger to differentiate her from her mother of the same name, was a Roman Empress as the second wife of the Emperor Nero. Prior to this she was the wife of the future Emperor Otho...

. He excused this treatment of her when at one point his friends showed their concerns about it. When Poppaea became pregnant with Nero's child, Nero divorced Octavia, claiming she was barren, and married Poppaea twelve days after the divorce.

Banishment by Nero and Poppaea and death

Nero and Poppaea then banished Octavia to the island of Pandateria (modern Ventotene
Ventotene, in Roman times known as Pandataria or Pandateria from the Greek Pandoteira, is one of the Pontine Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the coast of Gaeta right at the border between Lazio and Campania, Italy...

) on a false charge of adultery. When Octavia complained about this treatment, her maids were tortured to death.

Octavia's banishment became so unpopular that the citizens of Rome protested loudly, openly parading through the streets with statues of Octavia decked with flowers and calling for her return. Nero (badly frightened) nearly agreed to remarry Octavia, but instead he signed her death warrant.

A few days later, Octavia was bound and her veins were opened in a traditional Roman suicide ritual. She was suffocated in an exceedingly hot vapor bath. Octavia’s head was cut off and sent to Poppaea. Her death brought much sorrow to Rome. According to Suetonius, years later Nero would have nightmares about his mother and Octavia.


In later fiction

The events of the divorce are dramatised in Octavia which is sometimes attributed to Seneca the Younger
Seneca the Younger
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero...

 and, more recently, in Handel's lost opera Nero, Octavia (opera, 1705) by Keiser
Keiser may refer to:*Keiser, Arkansas*Keiser, Oregon, part of the Salem-Keiser metroplex*Reinhard Keiser, a composer*Laurence B. Keiser, a U.S. Army Major General who commanded the 2nd Infantry Division in the Korean War...

, and Claudio Monteverdi
Claudio Monteverdi
Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi – 29 November 1643) was an Italian composer, gambist, and singer.Monteverdi's work, often regarded as revolutionary, marked the transition from the Renaissance style of music to that of the Baroque period. He developed two individual styles of composition – the...

 and Giovanni Francesco Busenello
Giovanni Francesco Busenello
Giovanni Francesco Busenello was an Italian lawyer, librettist and poet of the 17th century.Born to a high-class family of Venice, it is thought that he studied at the University of Padua, where according to himself he was taught by Paolo Sarpi and Cesare Cremonino...

's L'incoronazione di Poppea
L'incoronazione di Poppea
L'incoronazione di Poppea is an Italian baroque opera comprising a prologue and three acts, first performed in Venice during the 1642–43 carnival season. The music, attributed to Claudio Monteverdi, is a setting of a libretto by Giovanni Francesco Busenello...

. Octavia is a character in the novel and television series I Claudius and Claudius the God.


  • Suetonius - The Twelve Caesars - Claudius and Nero.
  • Tacitus - The Annals of Imperial Rome.
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