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Agrippa, M. Vipsa'nius

was born in B. C. 63. He was the son of Lucius, and was de scended from a very obscure family. At the age of twenty he studied at Apollonia in Illyria, together with young Octavius, afterwards Octavianus and Augustus. After the murder of J. Caesar in B. C. 44, Agrippa was one of those intimate friends of Octavius, who advised him to proceed immediately to Rome. Octavius took Agrippa with him, and charged him to receive the oath of fidelity from several legions which had declared in his favour. Having been chosen consul in B. C. 43, Octavius gave to his friend Agrippa the delicate commission of prosecuting C. Cassius, one of the murderers of J. Caesar. At the outbreak of the Perusinian war between Octavius, now Octavianus, and L. Antonius, in B. C. 41, Agrippa, who was then praetor, commanded part of the forces of Octavianus, and after distinguishing himself by skilful manoeuvres, besieged L. Antonius in Perusia. He took the town in B. C. 40, and towards the end of the same year retook Sipontum, which had fallen into the hands of M. Antonius. In B. C. 38, Agrippa obtained fresh success in Gaul, where he quelled a revolt of the native chiefs; he also penetrated into Germany as far as the country of the Catti, and transplanted the Ubii to the left bank of the Rhine; whereupon he turned his arms against the revolted Aquitani, whom he soon brought to obedience. His victories, especially those in Aquitania, contributed much to securing the power of Octavianus, and he was recalled by him to undertake the command of the war against Sex. Pompeius, which was on the point of breaking out, B. C. 37. Octavianus offered him a triumph, which Agrippa declined, but accepted the consulship, to which he was promoted by Octavianus in B. C. 37. Dio Cassius (48.49) seems to say that he was consul when he went to Gaul, but the words ὑπάτευε δὲ μετὰ Λουκίου Γάλλου seem to be suspicious, unless they are to be inserted a little higher, after the passage, τῷ δ᾽ Ἀγρίππᾳ τὴν τοῦ ναυτικοῦ παρασκευὴν ἐγχειρίσας, which refer to an event which took place during the consulship of Agrippa. For, immediately after his promotion to this dignity, he was charged by Octavianus with the construction of a fleet, which was the more necessary, as Sextus Pompey was master of the sea.

Agrippa, in whom thoughts and deeds were never separated (Vell. 2.79), executed this order with prompt energy. The Lucrine lake near Baiae was transformed by him into a safe harbour, which he called the Julian port in honour of Octavianus, and where he exercised his sailors and mariners till they were able to encounter the experienced sailors of Pompey. In B. C. 36, Agrippa defeated Sex. Pompey first at Mylae, and afterwards at Naulochus on the coast of Sicily, and the latter of these victories broke the naval supremacy of Pompey. He received in consequence the honour of a naval crown, which was first conferred upon him; though, according to other authorities, M. Varro was the first who obtained it from Pompey the Great. (Vell. 2.81; Liv. Epit. 129; D. C. 49.14; Plin. Nat. 16.3. s. 4; Verg. A. 8.684.)

In B. C. 35, Agrippa had the command of the war in Illyria, and afterwards served under Octavianus, when the latter had proceeded to that country. On his return, he voluntarily accepted the aedileship in B. C. 33, although he had been consul, and expended immense sums of money upon great public works. He restored the Appian, Marcian, and Anienian aqueducts, constructed a new one, fifteen miles in length, from the Tepula to Rome, to which he gave the name of the Julian, in honour of Octavianus, and had an immense number of smaller water-works made, to distribute the water within the town. He also had the large cloaca of Tarquinius Priscus entirely cleansed. His various works were adorned with statues by the first artists of Rome. These splendid buildings he augmented in B. C. 27, during his third consulship, by several others, and among these was the Pantheon, on which we still read the inscription: " M. Agrippa: L. F. Cos. Tertium fecit." (D. C. 49.43, 53.27; Plin. Nat. 36.15, s. 24 § 3; Strab. v. p.235; Frontin. De Aquaed. 9.)

When the war broke out between Octavianus and M. Antonius, Agrippa was appointed comnander-in-chief of the fleet, B. C. 32. He took Methone in the Peloponnesus, Leucas, Patrae, and Corinth; and in the battle of Actium (B. C. 31) where he commanded, the victory was mainly owing to his skill. On his return to Rome in B. C. 30, Octavianus, now Augustus, rewarded him with a " vexillum caeruleum," or sea-green flag.

In B. C. 28, Agrippa became consul for the second time with Augustus, and about this time married Marcella, the niece of Augustus, and the daughter of his sister Octavia. His former wife, Pomponia, the daughter of T. Pomponins Atticus, was either dead or divorced. In the following year, B. C. 27, he was again consul the third time with Augustus.

In B. C. 25, Agrippa accompanied Augustus to the war against the Cantabrians. About this time jealousy arose between him and his brother-in-law Marcellus, the nephew of Augustus, and who seemed to be destined as his successor. Augustus, anxious to prevent differences that might have had serious consequences for him, sent Agrippa as proconsul to Syria. Agrippa of course left Rome, but he stopped at Mitylene in the island of Lesbos, leaving the government of Syria to his legate. The apprehensions of Augustus were removed by the death of Marcellus in B. C. 23, and Agrippa immediately returned to Rome, where he was the more anxiously expected, as troubles had broken out during the election of the consuls in B. C. 21. Augustus resolved to receive his faithful friend into his own family, and accordingly induced him to divorce his wife Marcella, and marry Julia, the widow of Marcellus and the daughter of Augustus by his third wife, Scribonia. (B. C. 21.)

In B. C. 19, Agrippa went into Gaul. He pacified the turbulent natives, and constructed four great public roads and a splendid aqueduct at Nemausus (Nîmes). From thence he proceeded to Spain and subdued the Cantabrians after a short but bloody and obstinate struggle; but, in accordance with his usual prudence, he neither announced his victories in pompous letters to the senate, nor did he accept a triumph which Augustus offered him. In B. C. 18, he was invested with the tribunician power for five years together with Augustus; and in the following year (B. C. 17), his two sons, Caius and Lucius, were adopted by Augustus. At the close of the year, he accepted an invitation of Herod the Great, and went to Jerusalem. He founded the military colony of Berytus (Beyrut), thence he proceeded in B. C. 16 to the Pontus Euxinus, and compelled the Bosporani to accept Polemo for their king and to restore the Roman eagles which had been taken by Mithridates. On his return he stayed some time in Ionia, where he granted privileges to the Jews whose cause was pleaded by Herod (J. AJ 16.2), and then proceeded to Rome, where he arrived in B. C. 13. After his tribunician power had been prolonged for five years, he went to Pannonia to restore tranquillity to that province. He returned in B. C. 12, after having been successful as usual, and retired to Campania. There he died unexpectedly, in the month of March, B. C. 12, in his 51st year. His body was carried to Rome, and was buried in the mausoleum of Augustus, who himself pronounced a funeral oration over it.

Dio Cassius tells us (52.1, &c.), that in the year B. C. 29 Augustus assembled his friends and counsellors Agrippa and Maecenas, demanding opinion as to whether it would be advisable for him to usurp monarchical power, or to restore to the nation its former republican government. This is corroborated by Suetonius (Octav. 28), who says that Augustus twice deliberated upon that subject. The speeches which Agrippa and Maecenas delivered on this occasion are given by Dio Cassius; but the artificial character of them makes them suspicious. However it does not seem likely from the general character of Dio Cassius as a historian that these speeches are invented by him; and it is not improbable, and such a supposition suits entirely the character of Augustus, that those speeches were really pronounced, though preconcerted between Augustus and his counsellors to make the Roman nation believe that the fate of the republic was still a matter of discussion, and that Augustus would not assume monarchical power till he had been convinced that it was necessary for the welfare of the nation. Besides, Agrippa, who according to Dio Cassius, advised Augustus to restore the republic, was a man whose political opinions had evidently a monarchical tendency.

Agrippa was one of the most distinguished and important men of the age of Augustus. He must be considered as a chief support of the rising monarchical constitution, and without Agrippa Augustus could scarcely have succeeded in making himself the absolute master of the Roman empire. Dio Cassius (54.29, &c.), Velleius Paterculus (2.79), Seneca (Ep. 94), and Horace (Od. 1.6), speak with equal admiration of his merits.

Pliny constantly refers to the Commentarii of Agrippa as an authority (Elenchus, iii. iv. v. vi, comp. 3.2), which may indicate certain official lists drawn up by him in the measurement of the Roman world under Augustus [AETHICUS HISTER], in which he may have taken part.

Agrippa left several children. By his first wife Pomponia, he had Vipsania, who was married to Tiberius Caesar, the successor of Augustus. By his second wife, Marcella, he had several children who are not mentioned; and by his third wife, Julia, he had two daughters, Julia, married to L. Aemilius Paullus, and Agrippina married to Germanicus, and three sons, Caius [C. CAESAR], Lucius [L. CAESAR], and AGRIPPA POSTUMUS. (Dio Cass. lib. 45-54; Liv. Epit. 117-136 ; Appian, Bell. Civ. lib. 5; Suet. Octav.; Frandsen, M. Vipsanius Agrippa, eine historische Untersuchung über dessen Leben und Wirken, Altona, 1836.)

There are several medals of Agrippa: in the one figured below, he is represented with a naval crown; on the reverse is Neptune indicating his success by sea.


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hide References (5 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (5):
    • Homer, Odyssey, 1.6
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 16.2
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 8.684
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 16.3
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 36.15
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