Claudia Marcella Major
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Daughter of Gaius Claudius Marcellus Minor, Consul 50 BCE and Octavia Minor
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About Claudia Marcella Major
Claudia Marcella Major
Claudia Marcella Major (PIR2 C 1102; Major Latin for the elder, born 41 BC) also known as Claudia Marcella Maior; Marcella Maior; Claudia Marcella the Elder and Marcella the Elder.
Marcella belonged to the generation whose childhood was marred by the violence of the civil wars of the Roman Republic. Her first marriage took place to Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa in 28 BC, as he married her as his second wife. Augustus held Agrippa in first place of honor of his estimation. Agrippa was a military man loyal to Octavian throughout the civil war. The marriage of Marcella and Agrippa probably occurred because of the strong bond between the two men. Marcella brought Agrippa a tie to an elite republican family. Although Agrippa was older than Marcella but austere, he appeared to be a good husband to Marcella.
In the marriage of Marcella and Agrippa, they had children, however it is uncertain whether any of them survived to adulthood. A daughter may have been born to them, retrospectively called Vipsania Marcella Agrippina, in order to differentiate her from her half-sisters. The existence of Vipsania Marcella can be confirmed from a surviving fragment of papyrus of the oration Augustus delivered at the funeral of Agrippa early in 12 BC. The papyrus reveals that the general Publius Quinctilius Varus was a son-in-law of Agrippa and mentions the marriage of Vipsania Marcella to Publius Quinctilius Varus. In 23 BC the brother of Marcella, Marcus Claudius Marcellus died and Marcella’s paternal cousin Julia the Elder had become widowed from Marcellus’ death. In 21 BC, Agrippa divorced Marcella to marry Julia the daughter of Augustus.
After Marcella divorced Agrippa, Octavia Minor received Marcella back in her house. 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. Marcella bore Iullus Antonius one son. 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. 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. The daughter of Appuleius, Appuleia Varilla was by his unknown wife. Therefore, after the death of Iullus, nothing more is known on Marcella.