Chapter Twenty-Three -- D-I-V-O-R-C-E.
• Why is Sejanus being nice to Claudius? I'm very suspicious. And of course Tiberius would keep all of the winnings. Jerk. I'm just surprised there was no mention of Leek Green being hobbled.
"Caligula's a monster and Drusilla's a she-monster, and you're a blockhead, and I believe my eyes more than their oaths or your nonsense. I shall go to Tiberius first thing to-morrow."
That's the first sensible thing (minus the blockhead bit, of course) that's she's said in 265 pages. Of course, I still don't know what they did or if they did it. I am surprised Claudius is so ready to defend Caligula, especially, what with the whole arson-at-age-three thing. I love my Claudius, but he seems much too trustworthy, considering the events he's witnessed and the life he's led.
• Plautius on his reasons for divorcing Numantina:
But, to tell the truth, I've been rather a fix lately with some debts. I had bad luck some years ago as a junior magistrate. You know how much one is expected to spend out of one's own pockets on Games. Well, to begin with, I spent more than I could afford and had extremely bad luck besides, you may remember. Twice there was a mistake made in procedure halfway through the Games and I had to start all over again the next day. The first time it was my own fault: I used a form of prayer which had been altered by statue two years previously. The next time a trumpeter who was blowing a long call had not taken a deep enough breath: he broke off short and that was enough to end things a second time. So I had to pay the sword-fighters and charioteers three times over.
WHAT A RACKET! I wonder if the sword-fighters and charioteers ever paid the trumpeters to screw up. And then Urgulanilla throws the new wife out the window! Yow. "She groped for my throat in the dark." To check if he's asleep? To kill him? Was that a super-close call? Wow. So Urgulanilla brought about her brother's death. Did she just do it because she was angry on Numantina's account? Because she wanted his money? The first seems most likely -- she doesn't seem bright enough for much strategic planning. Then again, a lot of people think Claudius isn't all that bright, either.
• Wow. Sejanus took advantage of Urgulanilla's Numantina obsession and made it possible for Claudius to re-marry? WHAT is his angle? Ah. He wants Claudius to marry his adopted sister. Well, at least he didn't insult Claudius' intelligence by trying to flatter him into it.
• OH. MY. GOD. Not only did Sejanus bring about the divorce, but he manipulated Urgulanilla into murdering Apronia in the first place? This guy is a younger, male Livia. Watch out for him, Claudius!
• The bit about Urgulanilla's will was a bit of a heart-breaker:
"I don't care what people say, but Claudius is no fool." She left me a collection of Greek gems, some Persian embroideries, and her portrait of Numantina.
The portrait of Numantina was her (I'd assume) most prized possession, and she left it to her long-divorced husband. Sad that she didn't have anyone else. But I'm glad that Claudius was always decent to her.
Chapter Twenty-Four -- Tiberius vs. Livia.
• Tiberius and Livia aren't speaking. Please, please, please let that mean that she'll take him out soon.
• Tiberius is either very brave, very stupid, or he's got a whole lot more on Livia than I thought:
And the day before he had refused to appoint one of her nominees to a vacant judgeship, unless he were permitted to qualify the appointment with: "This person is the choice of my mother, Livia Augusta, to whose importunities in his interest I have been forced to give way, against my better knowledge of his character and capacities."
• "Perhaps, ladies, it would be best to say nothing to your husbands about these peculiar letters. I did not realize, in fact, when I began to read, how--how peculiar they were. I am not asking you this on my own account but for the sake of the Empire." HA! She had fifty-two years of Augustus' letters to choose from and she just happened to pick the ones that would be the most damaging to Tiberius? Eighty-three years old and she's still got it. Tiberius can't last much longer. Right?
• Well, gosh, Tiberius. Why ever would you think that Lentelus had something against you? What, because you drove his father to suicide and then he left his entire fortune to you out of fear? NONSENSE. Or because you raised ridiculous charges of treason against him? No man in his right mind would ever hold a grudge because of little things like that.
• "But this wonderful old woman was not defeated yet, as you shall read." I really love it that Claudius seems to feel the same awe about Livia that I do. He hates her, of course, but there's a good amount of respect there, too. His mood changes so much depending on what he's writing about, and it's so easy to pick up on it. I can't think of many other books that have felt like this.
• And I'm impressed that he's attempting to be fair:
Of six million Roman citizens, a mere two or three hundred suffered for Tiberius' jealous fears. And I do not know how many scores of millions of slaves and provincials, and allies who were subjects in all but name, benefited solidly by the Imperial system as perfected by Augustus and Livia and carried on in this tradition by Tiberius. But I was living in the apple's core, so to speak, and I can be pardoned if I write more about the central canker than about the still unblemished and fragrant outer part.
It's the historian in him, I'm sure, that drives him to be fair. Because he's in it, and he's been much more fair than I ever could be.
• Ah. But then he followed all of that up with a somewhat hilarious story about yet another Sejanus-engineered situation. The image of the drill sergeant bawling out horrible things about Tiberius in front of the entire Senate killed me. And then Claudius followed it up with Tiberius' awful treatment of Agrippina (not to mention all of her friends). So it went: See, Tiberius Wasn't That Bad -- But I'll Follow That Up By Telling You About The Lives He Ruined. It does seem like the era of Livia and Tiberius is coming to an end.
Chapter Twenty-Five -- My Dinner with Livia.
• This sums up the entire chapter: "This conversation was like the sort one has in dreams--mad but interesting." Caligula will be the next Emperor, Livia will die in three years, and Claudius has sworn not only to make Livia a Goddess after her death, but to avenge Caligula's murder after it happens. Phew. I don't even remotely doubt any of this. And I suspect I'll be back to re-read this chapter a couple of times. WHAT DID LIVIA DISCOVER IN CALIGULA'S ROOM? It was green. Has he been drugging his sister with those green sex flies?
Chapter Twenty-Six -- Tiberius is Emperor in Name Only; the Death of Livia.
• Wow. Sejanus really is going for it, isn't he? Power grab city. Tiberius is pretty much done being the Emperor -- out of Rome and just passing instructions on to Sejanus -- though he's going to live for another eleven years. Oh, and he's still a pervert.
• Oh, hell. Now I'm all worried about Gallus again. He's made it so far! Can't he an Agrippina have a happy ending? Please?
• The last interaction between Tiberius and Livia was rather wonderful.
• Of all the things Tiberius has done, somehow I found the lobster incident the most shocking.
• Claudius' new wife has "the loud persistent eloquence of an auctioneer in the slave-market". Poor guy.
• Uh oh. While I'm finding Gallus' harassment of Sejanus hilarious (of course), this was very worrisome: Tiberius is planning to "take steps to silence Gallus".
• Caligula shows his true colors at Livia's deathbed, laughing at her and telling her that he's not going to keep his word -- that she can "go to Hell and stew there forever". Livia finally dies, with Claudius by her side. Tiberius, of course, doesn't pay out any of her bequests, including the twenty thousand gold pieces she left to Claudius. (Man, she really turned around about him in her last few years, didn't she?) I'm strangely depressed that her part of the story is over.