Whoosh! Issue 52 - January 2001


By Deborah Jack
Content copyright ©2001 held by author
Whoosh! edition copyright ©2001 held by Whoosh!
2766 words

Works Cited
Episodes Cited

The Use of Livia at the End of Season Five:
Squeezing Historical Figures Into Ill-Fitting Characterizations

Why the Paper was Written

I'd make some pithy comment but my top is so tight against my lungs I can't say anything right now

Livia makes an impression on the locals.

[01] After watching Season Five of XENA WARRIOR PRINCESS, I decided that I had to say something about the use of Livia at the end of the season. I am by no means a scholar of Greek and Roman history, but I do know when things are glaringly incorrect. Over the years, I have had to tell myself repeatedly: "It's just a TV show, and they're just mythological characters. Renaissance Pictures and company can interpret them any way they want."

[02] Nevertheless, why should it be JUST a TV show? Why should we allow our standards to relax simply because the medium is television? When did the type of medium justify the amount of effort given to research methods and writing? I enjoy television. It is less expensive and less aggravating than trying to squeeze into a crowded movie theatre and ignore the noises of my fellow moviegoers!

[03] Unfortunately, the quality of my chosen programs is slowly slipping into STATUS QUO. The problem stems from two things.

[04] Number one: Lack of time. Hour-long dramas such as XENA must be written, cast, costumed, shot, edited, and scored in a terribly short length of time. When the time you have to produce a product (and that is what it is, a product) does not give you the time to look at what you have created, details are glossed over in the interest of getting the product to market.

[05] Number two: Lack of communication leading to continuity errors. The writers from episode to episode are not the same. Often, I am sure, some scripts are written before the episodes that are supposed to take place before them are written! There must be someone to step aside from the hectic frenzy of product preparation in order to read the scripts with an eye for detail and inaccuracies. Unfortunately, I have not seen evidence of this with XENA's Fifth Season. More often than not, the FANS are the ones to notice these details AFTER the show has been aired.

[06] The phenomenon of FANS noticing glaring continuity errors in plot and character should be a warning to the producers and writers of XENA. Unfortunately, viewer concern is misinterpreted as extreme fanaticism rather than constructive criticism that stem from wanting the best from their show of choice.

[07] In this light, I have chosen the one season that has affected me as an informed viewer more than any of the other seasons. Season Five began and ended with terrible mistakes by the writers. Were the writers wholly to blame? No. But it is up to the writer to produce a product that is well-researched, that makes sense within the established canon of the show, and that they would be as proud of as if it were their final dissertation for their degree.

My Background

[08] I have always been interested in Greek and Roman mythology. From the second grade, I was fascinated by the interplay of the Gods and Goddesses with the people who created them. In the third grade, my knowledge on the subject was put to the test when I won a trivia contest on the subject. The year after that, I was placed with a teacher whose emphasis was on the classics, and my interest grew even more.

[09] I was well versed in Bullfinch and Hamilton by the time I reached high school. My Latin teacher, Mr. Schexnayder, insisted that we learn about the people who spoke Latin, as well as the language. I got interested in the history, facts, and mythology of the people. One period that caught my obsessive attention was the period from 50 BCE to 54 CE. This hundred-year period was one of the most documented periods of history at that point. The early Caesars, Gaius Julius, Octavian (later titled "Augustus"), Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius, fascinated me. To me, their political machinations were infinitely more interesting than anything that a writer could dream up. The truth is often more surreal and engaging than fiction.

We may have to go back to bronze.  This new stuff rusts!

XENA's Livia preferred skewering to politics.

[10] My particular interest was of a shrewdly calculating woman, Livia Drusilla. As a woman who belonged to one of the most wealthy and politically powerful families in Rome, she was no petty female to be ignored. She had two political marriages, even denouncing the first as a traitor in order to gain sympathy for herself. She wanted power, and got it when she married Octavian. She manipulated people as if she played her own personal game of chess. Her son, Tiberius, succeeded Augustus as Emperor of Rome, as did her grandson, Claudius, later. To her way of thinking, the sword was a crude object. She wielded power more effectively and brutally than any warrior ever brandished a sword.

[11] For the writers of the last four episodes of XENA's Season Five to turn this political firebrand into a mere she-b*tch plaything of Ares is to do a MAJOR disservice to Livia as well as to those viewers who know her history.

[12] I do not think the writers did a good job of trying to weave Xena and her story into the lives of these historical figures. It would have been better to create new political situations than to incorrectly use those that are well known.

Historical Dates Verified by Several Resources

[13] Time spans of the major figures:

Gaius Julius Caesar
b. 100 BCE ("Before the Common Era", aka BC) 
d. 44 BCE
Mark Antony
b. 82 BCE
d. 30 BCE
Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro)
b. 70 BCE
d. 19 BCE
Augustus (Gaius Octavius)
b. 63 BCE
d. 14 CE
Cleopatra (Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator)
b. 63 BCE
d. 30 BCE
Livia (Livia Drusilla)
b. 58 BCE
d. 29 CE

No, really!  Wanting to do a hot chick and her mom is a normal guy thing!

Livia makes a point with the god of war.

[14] A brief timeline of the historical events dealt with in the Xenaverse, especially in episodes from IDES OF MARCH (89/421) to LIVIA (110/520):

44 BCE
Assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar on March 15. Posthumously (in will) he adopts grandnephew C. Octavius as son and chief heir. Octavius is then renamed C. Julius Caesar Octavianus (Octavian, for short).

43 BCE
Octavian forms Second Triumvirate with Mark Antony and Lepidus.

41 BCE
Antony begins political/sexual liaison with Cleopatra (of the Macedonian Ptolemy family and the only member of the family to learn to speak Egyptian!) in Alexandria while still married to Fulvia.

40 BCE
Antony marries Octavian's sister, Octavia, to avert civil war between his troops and Octavian's.

38 BCE
Octavian divorces Scribonia and marries Livia Drusilla after forcing her divorce from Tiberius Claudius Nero.

36 BCE
Antony formally repudiates Octavia and requests in his will that the State of Rome formally recognizes Cleopatra's three children by him as well as thirteen year-old Caesarion (by Julius Caesar).

31 BCE
September 2nd - Gulf of Ambracia (northwestern Greece)- Battle of Actium prompted by Antony's bill of divorce from Octavia. It is a public relations coup for Octavian, who reports it a full-scale battle rather than the tactical retreat it really was. Antony and Cleopatra head back to Egypt; Octavian follows.

30 BCE
August 30th - Antony and Cleopatra commit suicide soon after Octavian arrives in Alexandria.

27 BCE
Octavian is given title "Augustus" by SPQR.

According to the Xenaverse

[15] In IDES OF MARCH (89/421), Julius Caesar is assassinated, and Xena and Gabrielle are crucified. 44 BCE, Xena and Gabrielle are crucified, go through heaven/hell and are then resurrected by Eli in FALLEN ANGEL (91/501).

[16] Xena becomes pregnant with the Xena/Callisto baby, Eve. Eve is born a few months before the events of ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (108/518).

[17] The events detailed in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA are the Battle of Actium - thus changing the date of the Battle of Actium from 31 BCE to approximately 43, or at most 42, BCE.

[18] We could postulate that Xena and Gabrielle somehow stayed in "heaven/hell" longer in order to allow the Battle of Actium to take place at the correct time of 31 BCE. If so, then why did Joxer, Amarice, Eli, et al., not age the 13 years this would have taken, not to mention the decomposition of Xena and Gabrielle's corpses on the crosses?

[19] More problems occur after the events of LOOKING DEATH IN THE EYE (109/519). Xena and Gabrielle sacrifice themselves in order to save the baby Eve from the retribution of the Gods. Ares deep-freezes them for twenty-five years.

[20] If we take the notion that Eve was only a few months old before LOOKING DEATH IN THE EYE, that would make her birth in the year 31 BCE. Then the events of LIVIA (110/520) take place twenty-five years after the Battle of Actium, making the year Xena and Gabrielle re-appear 6 BCE.

[21] However, if we are to believe that Eve has been turned into Livia, the consort/successor/betrothed of "Augustus Caesar," we have a slight problem.

[22] Livia Drusilla, daughter of Marcus Livius Drusus Claudianus, was born in 58 BCE, and married Octavian in 38 BCE. She was 27 years old in 31 BCE when the battle of Actium [ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (108/518)] took place. She would have been 52 years old in 6 BCE. Augustus would have been 57!

[23] So, who is this woman in LIVIA (110/520)? She is a twenty-five year old woman betrothed to Augustus. If we are to believe that she is the Livia that was betrothed to Augustus, then she is NOT Xena's child Eve and everyone is LYING to Xena and Gabrielle. It has not been twenty-five years after the battle of Actium, it is actually 6 years BEFORE it. However, Octavian had not been named Augustus until 27 BCE!

What Year Are We In?

Either I get my way or I let him live!  Your choice!

Joxer survived 20+ years in the timeline to meet an untimely end.

[24] According to the Xenaverse, we have two choices.

[25] We are EITHER twenty-five years after the assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar (19 BCE), making Octavian 44 years old, bearing the title "Augustus" for 8 years, and married to Livia for 19 years. This would make Livia 39 years old and Eve only 12 years old.

[26] OR we are twenty-five years after the Battle of Actium (6 BCE). That would make Octavian 57 years old bearing the title "Augustus" for 21 years, and married to Livia for 32 years. That would make Livia 52 years old and Eve twenty-five. Again, how could Eve be Livia? The real Livia is either 39 or 52 depending on whichever year the writers picked. Eve is either 12 or 25.

[27] So, if we DO say, however, that Eve is Livia, her marriage to Octavian would have taken place in 38 BCE, SEVEN years before she is born (if you go by 31 BCE as the year Eve was born). Alternatively, Eve would have been six years old when she was betrothed to Octavian (if you go by Caesar's assassination date of 44 BCE being the year Eve was conceived.)

The Gods Must Be Crazy

[28] All of this could have been avoided through one simple avenue: RESEARCH. It took me a half-hour online and two minutes with THE TIMETABLES OF HISTORY to firmly establish the time problems with these episodes. A single telephone call to a reference or a research librarian would have sufficed!

[29] Conclusion One: The writers simply did not take the time to research their plot lines or double check the accuracy of their portrayals.


Conclusion Two: The writers and executive producers knew the logistical problems with this particular story arc and WENT AHEAD WITH IT ANYWAY.

[30] Perhaps I am the strange one, knowing the history and wanting to have accuracy in the shows I watch. However, I do not think I am the only one who noticed the problems with the last few episodes in Season Five. Maybe this should be a lesson for all of us, as well as those responsible for the episodes. You cannot randomly weave new threads into a tapestry. They must match the old ones so perfectly that no one can tell the difference between the old and the new.

[31] Bruce Campbell and Josh Becker have similar comments on their websites; Bruce referring to improvisational acting in a scene, Josh referring to innovative filmmaking. You must be well versed in a subject before you can change the way you work within it. You cannot improvise in a scene you do not know inside and out. You cannot be a radical filmmaker unless you have studied and mastered the form. I say that you cannot write what you do not know.

[32] I still love Xena. I watch it every week, sometimes more than once if that particular episode interests me. I do not plan to abandon the show because it upset the researcher in me. I will be interested to see how the next season goes. Will they continue to deal with Rome or has Xena finally shaken the dust of that Empire from her sandals?

Works Cited

Andrus-Walck, Kathryn. "Augustus and the Early Roman Empire." HARPY Web Site. Est. April 1996, updated March 2000. University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. June 30, 2000.

"Biographies - Mark Antony." The FORUM ROMANUM. ThinkQuest 2000 Web Site. June 30, 2000.

"Biographies - Augustus." The FORUM ROMANUM. ThinkQuest 2000 Web Site. June 30, 2000.

"Biographies - Cleopatra." The FORUM ROMANUM. ThinkQuest 2000 Web Site. June 30, 2000.

"Biographies - Livia Drusilla." The FORUM ROMANUM. ThinkQuest 2000 Web Site. June 30, 2000.

"Biographies - Virgil." The FORUM ROMANUM. ThinkQuest 2000 Web Site. June 30, 2000.

Grun, Bernard. THE TIMETABLES OF HISTORY. 1975. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1978.

King, Jay. "Women in the Roman World - Livia." JAY'S ROMAN HISTORY, COINS, AND TECHNOLOGY SITE. Est. December 1, 1999. San Jose State University. June 30, 2000.

Porter, John. "CLASS 111: Octavian and Antony: The Rise of Augustus." HISTORY IN FILM Web Site. Updated April 22, 2000. June 30, 2000.

Smith, Amy C. "The Early Empire; Augustus and his successors." THE PERSEUS PROJECT. Est. July 1987, updated Fall 1998. Tufts University. June 30, 2000.

Suetonius. THE TWELVE CAESARS. Trans. Robert Graves. England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1978.

Episodes Cited

Season Four, episode 21. "Ides of March," Written by R.J. Stewart, Directed by Ken Girotti.

Season Five, episode 01. "Fallen Angel," Story by Robert Tapert and R.J. Stewart, Teleplay by R.J. Stewart, Directed by John Fawcett.

Season Five, episode 12. "God Fearing Child," Story by Chris Manheim, Teleplay by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman, Directed by Phil Sgriccia.

Season Five, episode 18. "Antony & Cleopatra," Written by Carl Ellsworth, Revised by R.J. Stewart, Directed by Michael Hurst.

Season Five, episode 19. "Looking Death In The Eye," Written by Carl Ellsworth, Teleplay by R.J. Stewart, Directed by Garth Maxwell.

Season Five, episode 20. "Livia," Written by Chris Manheim, Directed by Rick Jacobson.

Season Five, episode 21. "Eve," Written by George Strayton and Tom O'Neill, Teleplay by Chris Manheim, Directed by Mark Beesley.

Season Five, episode 22. "Motherhood (Formerly: "Twilight Of The Gods")," Written by Robert Tapert, Teleplay by R.J. Stewart, Directed by Rick Jacobson.


deborah jack Deborah Jack

Deborah Jack is a card-carrying Thespian who holds a B.A. in Theatre with a minor in Literature, and is an author and mad poet who scribes while she waits for her number to be announced at cattle calls. She also loves to research things, often picking a topic at random and discovering the heck out of it. Her ultimate goal in life (besides earning a living as an actor... oh, stop laughing...) is to be able to complete a New York Times Sunday Crossword...in pen.

Favorite episode: FORGET ME NOT (17/66), FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216), A COMEDY OF EROS (46/222), THE PLAY'S THE THING (85/417), and LYRE, LYRE, HEARTS ON FIRE (100/510)
Favorite line: Gabrielle to Xena: "If I didn't have the painful memories, then I wouldn't know what the good ones were like, right?" FORGET ME NOT (17/66)
First episode seen: (Besides initial appearances in HTLJ) SINS OF THE PAST (01/101)
Least favorite episode: THE DIRTY HALF-DOZEN (49/303)

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