Final Update: Portraiture of Livia

As I’ve finished my summer of working on my thesis in the classics department, I can reflect back on the waves of frustration and excitement I’ve encountered while researching.  Part of me feels as though I’ve barely chipped into the iceberg surface of this topic and that whatever research I’ve done will need to be followed by much more reading and writing.  However, considering that my honors thesis is a year-long project that I’ll finalize in the coming spring semester, I don’t feel as though I’m off schedule.  In fact, the research I’ve done this summer has given me a huge head start for the work I’ll do during the school year.  For that reason, I feel so grateful for having been given the chance to start my research this summer.  It’s been an incredibly valuable experience to feel as though I have the time to pursue different tangents relating to the topic, and it has made me much more comfortable in my thesis topic.

The timeline of my research truly started before the summer, when I was studying abroad in Europe this past spring semester.  While there, I traveled and visited countless museums with fantastic antiquities exhibits, many of which had statues of the woman I’m studying, Livia Drusilla.  Even if there wasn’t a statue of Livia in a specific museum’s collection, immersing myself in the world of classical sculpture made me much more comfortable with identifying portrait types, common modes of representation, and different imperial Roman images.  Once I returned to the U.S. and started my work on campus, I was able to sift through the pictures I had taken of the sculptures I saw, and this provided a useful visual database for me to consult in studying Livia’s divine representations.  My images were greatly supplemented by Elizabeth Bartman’s Portraits of Livia, which provides an entire catalog of every identified portrait of Livia.  This book has been my greatest resource while conducting my summer research, and it has pointed me to other important sources both modern and classical.  I have referred to various imperial Roman works, like Ovid’s Ars Amatoria and Tacitus’ Annals, that provide more-or-less contemporary views of Livia to help supplement my understanding of her reception by the imperial populace.  All of these sources have been interesting and informative, and with every vein of research I pursue, I find more and more sources to consider.  My task moving forward will be to reach a stopping point with my research and to start writing the bulk of my thesis, though I’ve already begun outlining my sections and crafting my introduction.  Overall, this summer has been invaluable in allowing me to wrap my head around the work I’ll continue throughout the school year.