History's Deadliest Relatives

Antonia Minor. Flickr

38. Antonia Minor Starved Her Daughter to Death

Antonia Minor (36 BC – 37 AD) was the younger daughter of Mark Antony and Emperor Augustus’ sister Octavia Minor. In 16 BC, she married the future Emperor Tiberius’ brother, Drusus, and bore him several children, of whom three survived: Germanicus, father of Emperor Caligula and maternal Grandfather of Emperor Nero; the future Emperor Claudius; and a daughter, Livilla. Her husband died in 9 BC from injuries sustained after falling from a horse, and although her uncle Augustus and the rest of the family pressured Antonia to remarry, she never did. She developed a reputation as an old fashioned and straitlaced prude, who embodied the traditional virtues of Roman matrons. So it was unfortunate for all involved that her daughter Livilla became a chief participant in a scandal that rocked Rome to its foundations.

Livilla was married to another Drusus, her cousin and the son of the Emperor Tiberius, when she began an affair with Sejanus, commander of the Praetorian Guard. He and Livilla poisoned Drusus, then plotted to kill Tiberius so Sejanus could replace him on the throne. Antonia Minor, however, tipped off Tiberius that Sejanus planned to kill him, so the emperor beat him to the punch and had him executed. In the subsequent investigation, evidence emerged that Livilla had been involved in the plot, and that she had poisoned her husband Drusus. Tiberius spared Livilla’s life, and instead handed her over to her mother. To save face, Antonia Minor locked her daughter in a room, and starved her to death.