Ruminations on the Sexual
and Romantic Vitae of Octavius Caesar
In Rome, Octavius’ refusal to be near the people does not lead them to question their own behavior, but rather that of Octavius. Offended, they vent their feelings in gossip and speculation as to the goings-on at Camp Capri. Some of them, Vandals avant la lettre, express themselves by defacing property with their graffiti: “Olive oil for Capri!” (meaning obscure), “Agrippa and Octavius make the beast with two of them!” (ditto), “Oh, Octavius, how many wives and husbands you have!” and other such wisdom and observations.
The accusation of homosexual leanings and indulgence in such leanings was a tired trope in Roman politics even before Julius Caesar adopted Octavius as his son in his will. But detractors of the triumvir need not look for bumfuckery as there is scandal enough in his history with females — which may surprise some who mistook his dry and practical ways, yet it is this excess of practicality in matters of the heart that affronts: Claudia, daughter of Publius Claudius, married and given up because she was barren; Scribonia, of proven fertility and also of great physical beauty, given up because of her undue attachment to fashion and to her own will (a horse-woman, if we follow Semonides of Amorgos);
and finally Livia Drusilla, daughter of Marcus Livius Drusus Claudianus, married and loved and not given up, but taken away from her then-husband Tiberius Nero when she was carrying his child. For purposes of research and intimidation, Octavius also makes it a point to commit adultery with the wives of political adversaries when there is an opportunity to do so. One may or may not approve of such a brisk handling of affairs; all the same, those who hesitate to grasp such nettles had better engage in other pursuits than that of power.