Intentionally Misheard Lyrics: Oblivion (Oh, Livia) – Bastille

The Classicist’s version of “Oblivion” — “O, Livia,” about the wife of Emperor Augustus.

When you’re emperor
And sudd’nly
Fall into sickness

When you give your ring
As you fall somewhere deeper

Are you favoring Agrippa?
Are you favoring Marcellus? Grandsons?
Are you favoring Agrippa?
Only to wake and claim your ring.

When, oh, Livia,
Is fav’ring her own son
She always takes it further
Than Octavian

But Tiberius
He tries to follow his ex-wife
It’s all about control
And he turns back when he’s forced to leave Rhodes

Are you favoring Agrippa?
Are you going to leave it to her son?

But, oh, Livia
Is fav’ring her own son
She always takes it further
Than Octavian

When, oh, Livia,
Is fav’ring her own son
She always takes it further
Than Octavian

Background–

When Octavian Caesar ended a century of Roman civil war and took on lots of awesome titles like Pater Patriae and Augustus, there was more than a little concern about succession.  On the one hand, he didn’t technically have a position to just pass down.  He also had no male heirs.  On the other hand, he was a sickly man and generally I read the Roman world as so tired of civil war, they were ready for his extra-constitutional powers to continue.  There are very people who seemed to have been marked for succession (his best friend and son-in-law Agrippa, Marcellus, his grandsons through his daughter Julia), but as history shows us, all those men died while Augustus still lived, even at those moments when he seemed very sick.  Eventually, the emperor’s second wife Livia had a son, Tiberius, who was forced to divorce his wife and be earmarked for taking over for Augustus, even though by all reports he was unhappy about the whole thing.  While I don’t personally interpret Livia as an evil mastermind killing off all other heirs to make sure her son becomes emperor, it sure makes for a good story.

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