"I once saw a strange painting"

Given that Claudius now claims to have seen an inscription marked "Poison is Queen" alongside a supposed portrait of Livia, executed a century before her birth, one may question whether, even in the context of the novel, Livia is actually portrayed as a poisoner, or whether this characterisation of her derives from Claudius's imagination. Suetonius describes the historical Claudius as being "cowardly and suspicious," and "terrified by ill-founded reports of conspiracies": unwilling even to attend dinner parties unless "guardsmen armed with lances were stationed around, and soldiers took the place of servants." It is, perhaps, this strand in Claudius's character that Graves is drawing on here.