Emperors, aristocrats, and the grim reaper: towards a demographic profile of the Roman élite

Classical Quarterly 49 (01):254-281 (1999)
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The opening pages of the annals of the Roman monarchy tell of long-lived rulers and thriving families. Augustus lived to the ripe age of seventy-six, survived by his wife of fifty-one years, Livia, who died at eighty-six, while her son Tiberius bettered his predecessor's record by two more years. Augustus’ sister Octavia gave birth to five children, all of whom lived long enough to get married; Agrippa left at least half a dozen children, and perhaps more; Germanicus, despite his tender age at death, was survived by no fewer than three sons and three daughters. At the same time, longevity and abundant offspring went hand in hand with early death and misery. More than a few luminaries of Augustus’ court were less fortunate than their elders: Marcellus died at twenty-three, the elder Drusus at twenty-nine, Augustus’ heirs Gaius and Lucius Caesar at twenty-three and eighteen. Drusus had lost a number of children save three that survived; Germanicus buried three of his six sons as infants.



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