Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa

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Bust of Agrippa, Louvre, Paris
Statue of Agrippa, Archaeological Museum, Venice
Bust of Agrippa (Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, 1807)
Agrippa's inscription on the Pantheon (Rome)
Bust of Agrippa found in Nicopolis (Epirus), the city founded after the victory at Actium (Museum of Nicopolis)
Agrippa on the Ara Pacis frieze ; the woman behind him on the right is his sister Vipsania Polla.

Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (* 64 BC or 63 BC in Arpinum or in Dalmatia ; † 12 BC in Campania ) was a Roman general and politician, friend and son-in-law of Augustus and ancestor of the emperors Caligula and Nero .


Origin and youth

Agrippa (the name derived from the ancient view of aegre partus , “born under difficulty”, refers to the fact that he was born foot first) came from a completely insignificant family at the time of the Roman Republic; He always left his gentile name Vipsanius away. His father Lucius Vipsanius was a knight . Two siblings, an older brother Lucius Vipsanius and a sister Vipsania Polla, are known.

As a young man, Agrippa met Gaius Octavius, who was about the same age and later Octavian / Augustus, at the rhetoric school in Rome . 46 to 45 BC Agrippa served under Caesar in the fight against the Pompeians. However, his brother was on the side of the opponents and went 46 BC. With Cato Uticensis to Africa . After his capture, Octavius ​​asked Caesar for a pardon. This was granted to him; however, what subsequently became of Lucius Vipsanius is unknown. 45 BC Caesar sent Agrippa with Octavius ​​to Apollonia to the Macedonian legions, where they should use the time until the beginning of Caesar's planned war against the Parthians to study.

Civil wars

After Caesar's murder, the two returned to Rome from Apollonia. Agrippa helped Octavius, who was adopted by Caesar in his will and is therefore called "Octavian" in research from this point on, to raise troops in Campania . After a first successful fight against Mark Antony , Octavian allied himself with this and Mark Aemilius Lepidus to the Second Triumvirate with the purpose of persecuting the Caesar murderers . Agrippa was entrusted with the indictment of Cassius . It is possible that the Senate gave him the office of tribune for this purpose . Maybe he didn't have it until later.

In the civil wars that followed , Agrippa played a decisive role at the side of his friend Octavian as his most important general, especially after the betrayal of Quintus Salvidienus Rufus Salvius , who had been her most important comrade since Apollonia. After the successful end of the Peruvian war against Fulvia and Lucius Antonius in 40 BC. Agrippa succeeded in mediating between Octavian and Marcus Antonius. Octavian appointed Agrippa praetor urbanus , connected with the task of defending Italy against Sextus Pompey . Sextus Pompey actually attacked while Agrippa was busy directing the Ludi Apollinares . Although Pompey received support from Mark Antony after a first defeat, he was repulsed by Agrippa.

Since the year 39 BC Like Octavian, Agrippa belonged to the priesthood of the Quindecimviri sacris faciundis .

Twice governor in Gaul

39/38 BC Agrippa was the first governor of the other side of Gaul , where he put down an uprising of the Aquitaine and fought the Suebi , for which he crossed the Rhine for the first time after Caesar . He moved the Ubier to the left bank of the Rhine. As their capital, he founded Oppidum Ubiorum , which later named Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium ( Cologne ) after his granddaughter Agrippina minor . He also began to set up an administration, a work that he carried on with his later governorships.

During his second Gaulish governorship in the years 20 to 18 BC. He had a road network built starting at Lugdunum ( Lyon ) without which rapid troop movements would not have been possible. The western trunk road led to the Atlantic, the northern road section split on the plateau of Langres into a road arriving in a north-westerly direction on the Channel coast near Gesoriacum ( Boulogne ) and another road leading to the Rhine via Metz , Trier and Cologne. These new highways, especially the one leading to the Rhine, became the logistical backbone of the troop contingents still stationed in the interior of Gaul at that time.

Building the fleet

Octavian called Agrippa back to represent him for the year 37 BC. To be appointed consul at the age of 26 . In the meantime he had suffered a severe defeat against Sextus Pompeius and urgently needed a capable ally at the highest level. As consul, Agrippa first established a safe harbor for the fleet , the Portus Iulius in the Bay of Misenum , and had new ships built that were larger and stronger than those of the enemy and were equipped with new types of boarding equipment.

With this fleet Agrippa won 36 BC. In the naval battle of Naulochoi over Sextus Pompeius, as well as 31 BC. At Actium over the fleets of Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra . Agrippa was honored for both victories: he received a ship's crown ( Corona navalis ) and a sea-blue banner ( vexillum caeruleum) . The fleet was also successful in fighting pirates.

In the public sector

Around 37 BC Agrippa married Caecilia Pomponia Attica (* 51 BC), the daughter of Titus Pomponius Atticus . The marriage with the wealthy heiress was mediated by Mark Antony. According to Cornelius Nepos , Atticus' friend, this marriage was based on the mutual sympathy of father-in-law and son-in-law. With Caecilia he had the daughter Vipsania Agrippina , who was betrothed to Augustus' stepson Tiberius soon after her birth . Caecilia probably died before 28 BC. BC, because it is not mentioned in connection with Agrippa's second marriage. When her father 32 BC Chr. Became seriously ill, Agrippa tried to prevent him from suicide.

After several minor military campaigns, Agrippa returned in 34 BC. Back to Rome. With his own money he financed the restoration of the Aqua Marcia . In the following year, although he had already been consul, he was elected aedile . Cassius Dio praises his commitment to the good of the city and its citizens. So he drove the astrologers and charlatans out of the city and had the dolphins bought, with which the rounds were counted in the Circus Maximus . According to Frontinus , the Roman water supply and distribution, including the establishment of a troop of slaves to maintain the facilities, goes back to Agrippa to a large extent. The quinaria for the flow rate (~ 0.48 liters per second), which has been used for a long time, is said to go back to him.

32 to 31 BC In BC Agrippa commanded the fleet again in the fight against Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra and helped Octavian to rule. As a token of his thanks, Octavian gave him in 28 BC. His niece Claudia Marcella to wife and awarded him for the second and the following year for the third time the office of consul, which he held together with him. During those years, as censors , they carried out a census . As Octavian acquired more and more offices and power, he declared that he wanted to restore the traditional republic. Since 27 BC Was called Octavian Augustus . Agrippa was also granted various privileges, including a. he became a member of the Arval Brothers .

During August from 27 to 24 BC Was at war in Spain, Agrippa administered Rome and devoted himself to an ambitious construction and beautification program. He drained the swampy field of Mars and turned it into a park landscape with magnificent public buildings. In his responsibility, the Saepta Iulia, the great assembly hall, was created there. In their immediate vicinity he had 25 BC. As a reminder of the victory at Actium, build the forerunner of today's Pantheon . Aqueducts such as the Aqua Virgo , which supplied the thermal baths he built on the Marsfeld and still carries the water for the Trevi Fountain , can also be traced back to Agrippa. He thus contributed to the fact that Augustus, at the end of his reign, could boast of leaving behind a city that he had found made of bricks as a marble city.

Agrippa as the successor candidate

Agrippa remained Augustus' closest confidante, although, as Velleius Paterculus reports, he was afraid of being set back against his nephew Marcellus .

In 24 BC Augustus fell seriously ill so that Agrippa took over part of his duties. By transmitting various privilegia , including an open-ended Empire for the entire realm 23 v. And the tribunicia potestas for five years 18 BC. BC, he was exposed as a representative of Augustus and his presumed successor. After Marcellus' death he settled in 21 BC. At Augustus' urging they divorced his niece Marcella, from whom he had several children, including Vipsania Marcella, who later became the wife of Publius Quinctilius Varus , and married Augustus' daughter, Marcellus' widow Iulia , in their third marriage . This established the closest possible relationship to Augustus. The marriage resulted in five children: Gaius Caesar , Iulia , Lucius Caesar , Agrippina and Agrippa Postumus , who was only born after Agrippa's death. Augustus adopted the two older sons soon after their birth, declaring them his successors.

Agrippa was on behalf of Augustus from 23 to 21 BC. Active in the east of the empire. After his return he helped Augustus in Rome, where there had been riots because Augustus did not want to officiate as second consul next to Marcus Lollius .

From 20 to 18 BC Agrippa was again governor of Gaul, where he continued the work that had begun twenty years earlier, setting up a provincial administration and building aqueducts. In Nemausus he had a temple, the Maison Carrée , built and dedicated to his sons. In the Spanish Emerita Augusta ( Mérida ) he had an amphitheater built. In addition, he took over the supreme command in the Cantabrian War , which he 19 BC. BC ended victorious. Agrippa demonstratively rejected the triumph that the Senate therefore awarded him, thereby signaling that from now on this honor should in fact only go to the emperor and his designated successor.

From 17 to 13 BC Agrippa took over the supervision of the eastern provinces again. In Jerusalem he visited Herod , with whom he had been friends since the civil wars, and sacrificed a hundred bulls at the temple in Jerusalem . As a token of this friendship, Herod's grandson Agrippa , born shortly after Agrippa's death, was named.

In the year 13 BC When his sons-in-law Tiberius and Varus were consuls, he returned to Rome, as his command and the tribunicia potestas expired, but they were immediately extended by five years. During his stay in Rome, Agrippa oversaw the progress of his ambitious building projects, including the construction of the Porticus Vipsania near the Ara Pacis . There he had a world map engraved in marble attached, which Pliny gives in his Naturalis historia as the basis of his geography. After his death, his sister Vipsania Polla and Augustus had the building completed.

The following year, 12 BC BC, Agrippa fought against rebel tribes in Illyria . There he fell ill and returned to Italy, where he died surprisingly, two and a half decades before the often sick Augustus. He bequeathed his property to Augustus. In addition, he left a fund to ensure that the visit to the thermal baths he had built would remain free. In order to continue Agrippa's efforts to supply the city of Rome with water, Augustus officially established the office of curator aquarum , Rome's water commissioner, after his death . Agrippa was buried in the mausoleum of Augustus .



  • Werner Eck : Marcus Agrippa - the self-confident partisan of Augustus . In: Karl-Joachim Hölkeskamp , Elke Stein-Hölkeskamp (ed.): From Romulus to Augustus. Great figures of the Roman Republic . Beck, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-406-46697-4 , pp. 352-364.
  • Meyer Reinhold: Marcus Agrippa. A biography . The WF Humphrey Press, Geneva / New York 1933 ( online with limited access).
  • Jean Michel Roddaz: Marcus Agrippa . École française, Rome 1984, ISBN 2-7283-0069-0 , e.g. T. under ISBN 2-7283-0000-0 .

Web links

Commons : Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Pliny the Elder 7:45 : In pedes procidere nascentem contra naturam est, quo argumento eos appellavere Agrippas ut aegri partus, qualiter et M. Agrippam ferunt genitum, unico prope felicitatis exemplo in omnibus ad hunc modum genitis . “It is not natural for a child to be born feet first. That is why someone born with such difficulties is called 'Agrippa'. This is how M. Agrippa is said to have been born, practically the only example of a happy life for all those who were born in this way. "
  2. ^ Nikolaos of Damascus , Life of Augustus 7 ( English translation ).
  3. Plutarch, Brutus 27.4 ; Velleius Paterculus, Historiae Romanae 2,69,5 .
  4. ^ Thomas Robert Shannon Broughton , The magistrates of the Roman republic , Vol. 3 (1986), p. 221.
  5. Cassius Dio 48.20 .
  6. Jörg Rüpke , Bernd Nüsslein, Helmut Pannke: Fasti sacerdotum: the members of the priesthoods and the sacred functional staff of Roman, Greek, Oriental and Judeo-Christian cults in the city of Rome from 300 BC. To 499 AD , Franz Steiner Verlag, 2005, 1st volume, p. 138; Augustus, Res Gestae Divi Augusti 1.21.
  7. ^ Appian, Civil Wars 5,91 .
  8. ^ Velleius Paterculus, Historiae Romanae 2,79,1.
  9. Appian, Civil Wars 5,106 f .; 118-120.
  10. According to Velleius Paterculus, Historiae Romanae 2,81,3, no Roman had ever been awarded this crown before, but Pliny mentions ( Naturalis Historia 16,3,7) that Marcus Terentius Varro had received this award thirty years earlier.
  11. Cornelius Nepos, Atticus , 12.1.
  12. Cornelius Nepos, Atticus , 22.2.
  13. Cassius Dio 49: 42-43.
  14. ^ Frontin, de aquis 9-12. 98. 116
  15. Quinaria
  16. ^ Augustus, Res Gestae 1,8.
  17. Saepta Iulia .
  18. The inscription M. Agrippa Lf cos tertium fecit ( Marcus Agrippa Lucii filius consulatum tertium fecit , German: "Marcus Agrippa, the son of Lucius, built it in his third consulate") can also be found on the current building .
  19. ^ Suetonius, August 28.
  20. Velleius Paterculus, Historiae Romanae 2,93,1.
  21. See David Wardle: Agrippa's Refusal of a Triumph in 19 BC. In: Antichthon 28, 1994, pp. 58-64.
  22. ^ Porticus Vipsania . In: Samuel Ball Platner, Thomas Ashby: A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome . Oxford University Press, London 1929, p. 430 ( online ).
  23. Pliny, Naturalis Historia 3.17.
  24. Cassius Dio 55: 8,3-4.
  25. ^ The establishment of the province of Pannonia succeeded only in the following years by Tiberius and Drusus .
  26. ^ Frontin, de aquis 99.