Antonia was the daughter of the emperor’s sister Octavia and of Mark Antony, the famous triumvir whose name remains forever linked in story with that of Cleopatra. This daughter of Antony was certainly the noblest and the gentlest of all the women who appear in the lugubrious and tragic history of the family of the Caesars. Serious, modest, and even-tempered, she was likewise endowed with beauty and virtue, and she brought into the family and into its struggles a spirit of concord, serenity of mind, and sweet reasonableness, though they could not always prevail against the violent passions and clashing interests of those about her. As long as Drusus lived, Drusus and Antonia had been for the Romans the model of the devoted pair of lovers, and their tender affection had become proverbial; yet the Roman multitude, always given to admiring the descendants of the great families, was even more deeply impressed by the beauty, the virtue, the sweetness, the modesty, and the reserve of Antonia. After the death of Drusus, she did not wish to marry again, even though the Lex de maritandis ordinibus made it a duty. “Young and beautiful,” wrote Valerius Maximus, “she withdrew to a life of retirement in the company of Livia, and the same bed which had seen the death of the youthful husband saw his faithful spouse grow old in an austere widowhood.” Augustus and the people were so touched by this supreme proof of fidelity to the memory of the ever-cherished husband that by the common consent of public opinion she was relieved of the necessity of remarrying; and Augustus himself, who had always carefully watched over the observance of the marital law in his own family, did not dare insist. Whether living at her villa of Bauli, where she spent the larger part of her year, or at Rome, the beautiful widow gave her attention to the bringing up of her three children, Germanicus, Livilla, and Claudius. Ever since the death of Octavia, she had worshiped Livia as a mother and lived in the closest intimacy with her, and, withdrawn from public life, she attempted now to bring a spirit of peace into the torn and tragic family.
Antonia was very friendly with Tiberius, who, on his side, felt the deepest sympathy and respect for his beautiful and virtuous sister-in-law. It cannot be doubted, therefore, that in this crisis Antonia, who was bound to Livia by many ties, must have taken sides for Livia’s son Tiberius. But Antonia was too gentle and mild to lead a faction in the struggle which during these years began between the friends and the enemies of Tiberius, and that role was assumed by Livia, who possessed more strength and more authority.