Antonia Major (39 BCE–?)

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Antonia Major (39 bce–?)

Roman imperial and grandmother of Emperor Nero. Name variations: Antonia Maior, Antonia the Elder. Born 39 bce; death date unknown; daughter of Marc Antony (80–30 bce) and Octavia (c. 69 bce–11 bce); at age two, was betrothed to L. Domitius Ahenobarbus, 37 bce (they were married much later); children: Domitia Lepida (c. 19 bce–?); Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus.

Antonia Major's powerful lineage—her mother was Octavia , sister to the first Roman emperor Augustus, her father Marc Antony, colleague of Julius Caesar and last rival to Augustus for political supremacy—seems not to have touched her in the same degree as it did her younger sister Antonia Minor . Under the emperors Tiberius, Gaius (Caligula) and Claudius, the younger Antonia became the mother figure for the imperial family and a powerful political patron in her own right. But the Roman historians took notice of the older sister only as wife and mother of relatively insignificant men in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. The Roman biographer Suetonius calls her husband cruel and arrogant, although apparently he was close to Augustus. In addition, Suetonius notes the sadism and dishonesty of her son Domitius, who was also accused of incest with his sister Domitia Lepida . This Domitius was the father of the emperor Nero. The Greco-Roman historian Cassius Dio supplies us with the slim fact that Augustus returned to her (and her sister) property that had been seized from her father. Otherwise, the life, personality and accomplishments of Antonia Major are unknown, as is often the case with Roman women; even the date of her death is a mystery.


Cassius Dio. Roman History.

Suetonius. Nero.

Alexander Ingle , Research Assistant, Institute for the Classical Tradition, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts

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Antonia Major (39 BCE–?)

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