Born: 64 BC
Nationality: Ancient Roman
Died At Age: 52
Born Country: Roman Empire
Born in: Arpino, Istria or Asisium
Famous as: Roman Consul
Ancient Roman Men
Spouse/Ex-: Claudia Marcella, Julia the Elder, Pomponia Caecilia Attica
father: Lucius Vipsanius Agrippa
children: Agrippa Postumus, Agrippina the Elder, Gaius Caesar, Julia the Younger, Lucius Caesar, Vipsania Agrippina, Vipsania Marcella
Died on: 12 BC
Who was Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa?
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa was a Roman commander and consul. He was an adept statesman, loyal friend and confidant to Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, better known as Augustus. He has been credited with the construction of several iconic buildings in Rome. He was a prominent figure in helping Augustus attain power and ushering in the era of the Roman Empire. He led several successful battles for Augustus. His most notable triumph was in the 'Battle of Actium' against the armies of Mark Antony and Cleopatra. Consequently, Octavianus was crowned as the first Emperor of Rome and assumed the imperial name, Augustus. Agrippa played a key role in making Rome “a city of marble.” He took it upon himself to renovate and reconstruct the landscape of Rome, issuing the construction of public baths, gardens, and porches that contributed in making the city an aesthetic delight. He wanted to provide proper facilities to people from every social class and thus commissioned the expansion of aqueducts and pipelines throughout the city. He is also believed to have built the original Roman Pantheon. Agrippa fashioned himself as a writer on geographical subjects. He supervised a survey across Rome in order to realize Julius Caesar’s dream.
Childhood & Early Life
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa was born sometime between 64 and 62 BC. Some historians believe that he was born either in Arpino, Istria, or Asisium.
His father’s name was Lucius Vipsanius Agrippa. He had two siblings; an older brother who was his namesake and a sister called Vipsania Polla.
The origins of his family are unclear, but it is assumed that they were a modest family that lived in Italian countryside. Scholars like Victor Gardthausen, David Ridgway and R. E. A. Palmer suggest that Agrippa's family hailed from Pisa in Etruria.
Although he belonged to a modest household, his family may not have been very poor as he was educated in Rome, which was not typical for a provincial family.
It was in Rome where Agrippa met Augustus; they studied together and became close friends. Augustus had close ties with Julius Caesar, who in 45 BC, sent both Augustus and Agrippa to the Illyrian coast in Apollonia.
Before Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC, he had named Augustus as his heir and successor who was still in Apollonia.
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Rise to Power
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa was tasked with punishing the perpetrators who plotted to murder Caesar, specifically Gaius Cassius Longinus.
In 43 BC, he was appointed to the 'Tribune of the Plebs,' which paved his way into the Roman Senate.
He fought several battles for Augustus. He was instrumental in defeating Mark Antony's brother Lucius Antonius and capturing Perusia in 40 BC.
Agrippa was appointed the 'urban praetor' by Augustus and was instructed to protect Italy against Sextus Pompeius, who was an emerging threat to the nation.
In July 40 BC, Sextus advanced further and began raiding southern Italy. However, Agrippa took charge and launched an attack on Sextus’s troops, forcing him to withdraw.
In August 40 BC, both Sextus and Antony attacked Italy. But Agrippa successfully took back Sipontum from Antony, ending the conflict and ensuring peace between them.
He acted as an intermediary between Antony and Augustus, helping them to settle their differences. It was only then it was discovered that Salvidienus, Augustus's general, had betrayed him. Salvidienus was removed from his position and Agrippa was made the new general.
Around 39 or 38 BC, he was appointed the governor of Transalpine Gaul. He faced the Germanic tribes in a battle and became the only Roman general to cross the Rhine River after Julius Caesar.
He was made the consul in 37 BC when he was around 30 years old. He then fought against Sextus Pompeius at sea, winning significant victories. He was honored with a golden naval crown, adorned with small structures like ships.
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Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa took it upon himself to beautify Rome. He instructed to carry out construction and repairs in Rome. He renovated the aqueducts and extended the pipes to cover the entire city.
In 33 BC, he was chosen as an "aedile" and was in charge of Rome's buildings and celebration of festivals.
On Augustus’s advice, he started several building projects. He often used his private funds for construction and restoration of buildings.
During his tenure, he oversaw the expansion and cleaning of 'Cloaca Maxima,' the most extensive underground sewer system in Rome. He constructed bathhouses and manicured gardens. He also encouraged art and its exhibition in public.
Mark Antony & Cleopatra
Mark Antony and Cleopatra had become a threat to the Roman Senate. After occupying Greece, they now wanted to invade Rome. Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa was the head of Augustus's naval fleet.
On September 2, 31 BC, the 'Battle of Actium' was fought. This battle was the final blow that forced Mark Antony and his fleet to surrender and accept defeat.
The victory at Actium was primarily due to the military brilliance and intelligence provided by Agrippa.
He also served a second and third consulship with Augustus. In 27 BC, Augustus was conferred the title of Augustus by the Senate.
Agrippa erected a building, which served as the Roman Pantheon to commemorate the Battle of Actium. He was later sent to Gaul where he spent his time reforming the provincial administration.
Family & Personal Life
Agrippa was married three times in his lifetime and fathered several children.
He married Caecilia Pomponia Attica, who was the daughter of an aristocrat called Titus Pomponius Atticus. It is assumed that he had two daughters; Vipsania Agrippina Maior (the Elder), who was married to Publius Quinctilius Varus, and Vipsania Agrippina Minor, who was the wife of Tiberius, who later became an emperor.
There are no existing records of his older daughter. However, the Cologne papyrus mentions Publius Quinctilius Varus as Agrippa's son-in-law.
The second source is the biographer, Cornelius Nepos, who says that Varus possibly married the older sister and Tiberius married the younger one.
His second wife was Claudia Marcella Major, who was Augustus's niece. They reportedly had a daughter, known as Vipsania Marcella Agrippina. However, there are discrepancies about her birth. Cornelius Nepos mentions that she could have been one of the three daughters he had from his first marriage.
He eventually married Julia, the Elder, who was the daughter of Augustus. Together they had five children, namely Gaius Caesar, Julia the Younger, Lucius Caesar, Agrippina the Elder, and Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa Postumus, who was born after his death.
Agrippa began his final conquest of Pannonia but fell sick during that. He retired to his estate in Campania where he died in 12 BC at the age of 51.
Augustus held an extravagant funeral service for him, and his remains were interred in 'Mausoleum of Augustus.'