Claudia Marcella

Claudia Marcella was the name of the two daughters of Octavia Minor, the sister of Roman emperor Augustus, by her first husband, the consul Gaius Claudius Marcellus.[1] According to the Roman Historian Suetonius, they were known as the The Marcellae sisters, and they are also known as the two Marcellae.[2] The sisters were born in Rome. Between 40 BC-36 BC, they lived with their mother and their stepfather Triumvir Mark Antony in Athens, Greece. After 36 BC they accompanied their mother when she returned to Rome with their siblings. They were raised and educated by their mother, their maternal uncle, Roman emperor Augustus, and their maternal aunt-in-marriage Roman Empress Livia Drusilla.[1] These two daughters of Octavia Minor and Gaius Claudius Marcellus with their siblings, provide a critical link between the past of the Roman Republic and the new Roman Empire.[3] The marriages of the sisters and the children born to their unions assured republican family lines into the next generation.[4]

Claudia Marcella Major

Claudia Marcella Major[5] (PIR2 C 1102; Major Latin for the elder, born 41 BC) also known as Claudia Marcella Maior;[6] Marcella Maior;[7] Claudia Marcella the Elder[4] and Marcella the Elder.[8]

Marcella belonged to the generation whose childhood was marred by the violence of the civil wars of the Roman Republic.[4] Her first marriage took place to Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa in 28 BC. She was his second wife.[4] Augustus held Agrippa in the highest place of honor.[9] Agrippa was a military man loyal to Octavian throughout the civil war.[4] The marriage of Marcella and Agrippa probably occurred because of the strong bond between the two men.[10] Marcella brought Agrippa a tie to an elite republican family and to Augustus himself, for she was Augustus's niece.[4] Although Agrippa was older than Marcella but austere, he appeared to be a good husband to Marcella.[4]

Marcella and Agrippa had children,[11] however it is uncertain whether any of them survived to adulthood. A daughter was born to them,[4] retrospectively called Vipsania Marcella Agrippina, in order to differentiate her from her half-sisters. This daughter Vipsania Marcella apparently married Q. Haterius (cos. suf. 5), by whom she had a son, D. Haterius Agrippa (cos. AD 22), born no earlier than 11 BC. A surviving fragment of a papyrus of the oration Augustus delivered at the funeral of Agrippa early in 12 BC.[12] reveals that the general Publius Quinctilius Varus was a son-in-law of Agrippa because he married one of the Vipsania sisters, but probably the daughter mentioned in Cornelius Nepos's Atticus.[12] In 23 BC the brother of Marcella, Marcus Claudius Marcellus, died and thus widowed Marcella’s paternal cousin Julia the Elder.[9] In 21 BC, Agrippa divorced Marcella to marry Julia the daughter of Augustus.[9]

After Marcella divorced Agrippa, Octavia Minor received Marcella back in her house.[9] Octavia Minor married Marcella to the future consul Iullus Antonius, the second son of Mark Antony from his third wife Fulvia who was held in high regard by Augustus.[9] Marcella bore Iullus Antonius one son.[13] The son Lucius Antonius was sent to study in Marseilles (not an official exile) sometime after the disgrace of his father. In 2 BC, Iullus Antonius was forced to commit suicide after being found guilty of adultery with Julia the Elder.

Prior to 1939, scholars believed that Marcella married a third husband after the death of Iullus Antonius, namely the Roman Senator and her distant maternal relative, Sextus Appuleius, the grandson of Octavia Major—the older half-sister of her mother.[14] This is clearly wrong, because Marcella was the aunt of Appuleius, and aunt-nephew marriage was considered incest and therefore illegal. Sir Ronald Syme rightly doubted this marriage, although Michael Grant put it in his genealogical tables in his translation of Tacitus.[14] The daughter of Appuleius, Appuleia Varilla was by his unknown wife. Therefore, after the death of Iullus, nothing more is known on Marcella.

Claudia Marcella Minor

Claudia Marcella Minor[5] (PIR2 C 1103, Minor Latin for the younger, born late 40 BC probably.) Octavia was pregnant when she married Antony in 40, and it is likely that the child was Marcella Minor - but this is not a certainty. If so, Marcella was born after the death of her father and she grew up part of the first post-Actium generation.[3] She was also known as Marcella Minor,[15] Claudia Marcella the Younger[3] and Marcella the Younger.

Marcella first married close to the age of 15 (as did her three sisters). Her first husband was the future consul of 12 BC, Marcus Valerius Messalla Appianus.[3] Marcella bore Appianus a daughter named Claudia Pulchra and a son, named Marcus Valerius Messalla Barbatus.[16] Appianus died while consul in 12 BC.

Marcella later married the former consul and censor Lucius Aemilius Lepidus Paullus, also known as Paullus Aemilius Lepidus.[17][3] Paullus was previously widowed. From the earlier marriage he had three children.[18] The marriage of Marcella and Paullus linked two honored republican houses and tied them closely to the imperial circle.[3] Marcella bore him a son called Paullus Aemilius Regulus.[3] Regulus served as a quaestor during the rule of the Roman emperor Tiberius who reigned from 14 until 37.[19]

Some scholars have tried to reverse the order of her husbands, but find difficulty if they delay Marcella's first marriage (as alleged) until 15 BC when she was 25. If so, she would be very old for a first marriage, and then have to remarry and immediately have two children before her second husband died in office in 12 BC. Instead, marriage 10 years earlier seems much more likely, given that Marcella's two younger half-sisters had already married by 15, and the younger Antonia gave birth to Germanicus on 24 May 15 BC.

According to the French Historian Christian Settipani, after the death of her second husband, Marcella married the Roman Senator Marcus Valerius Messalla Messallinus.[20] Marcella bore Messallinus a daughter called Valeria Messalla born ca. 10 BC, who later married the praetor of 17, Lucius Vipstanus Gallus.[20] However, Messallinus (son of Corvinus) was younger than Marcella. That fact does not prevent the marriage, but makes it very unlikely, given Roman tradition.

In a tomb near Rome, numerous inscriptions have survived of slaves and freedmen of Marcella.[21] A columbarium located between the Via Appia and Via Latina in Rome belonged to the family of Marcella.[15] According to epigraphical evidence, the work on it was completed in 10, when the urns were divided among the shareholders of the company which had built the place.[15]


  1. 1 2 Lightman, A to Z of Ancient Greek and Roman Women, pp. 204-5
  2. Kleiner, Cleopatra and Rome, p.32
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Lightman, A to Z of Ancient Greek and Roman Women, p. 205
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Lightman, A to Z of Ancient Greek and Roman Women, p. 204
  5. 1 2 Minto, The Heliopolis Scrolls, p. 159
  6. Freisenbruch, Caesars' Wives: Sex, Power, and Politics in the Roman Empire, p. 277
  7. Stern, Women, Children, and Senators on the Ara Pacis Augustae: A Study of Augustus' Vision of a New World Order in 13 BC, p.381
  8. Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa article at Encyclopaedia Britannica
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 Plutarch, Mark Antony, 87
  10. Kleiner, Cleopatra and Rome, p. 53
  11. Suetonius, Augustus, 63
  12. 1 2 Syme, The Augustan Aristocracy, p. 146
  13. Tacitus Annals 4.44. No other ancient source mentions additional children, although some novels create a second son for dramatic purposes. The link at Ptolemaic Genealogy: Cleopatra VII – Footnote 42 follows a work of fiction to add a second son and fails to provide any ancient source (because there is none). Furthermore, the epigraphic evidence for a daughter is ruled out by the experts. See also Stern, Women, Children, and Senators on the Ara Pacis Augustae: A Study of Augustus' Vision of a New World Order in 13 BC, p. 381.
  14. 1 2 Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome: Genealogical Tables - Table 1: Family of Tiberius, p. 431.
  15. 1 2 3 Kokkinos, Antonia Augusta: Portrait of a Great Roman Lady, p. 67
  16. Lightman, A to Z of Ancient Greek and Roman Women, p.205; Gaius Stern, Women, Children and Senators on the Ara Pacis Augustae, Berk. diss. 2006, chapter 6.
  17. article of Octavia Minor at
  18. Syme, The Augustan Aristocracy, pp. 150-1
  19. ILS 949
  20. 1 2 Settipani, Continuité gentilice et continuité sénatoriale dans les familles sénatoriales romaines à l'époque impériale
  21. CIL VI 4418-4880


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