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Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa
White bust
Bust of Agrippa in the Louvre, Paris
Born c. 63 BC
Uncertain location, possibly Arpino, Istria or Asisium, Roman Republic
Died 12 BC (aged 50–51)
Resting place Mausoleum of Augustus
Nationality Roman
Occupation Military commander and politician
Notable work
Pantheon (original)
Office Consul (37, 28–27 BC)
Spouse(s) Caecilia Attica
Claudia Marcella Maior
Julia the Elder
Family gens Vipsania
Military service
Allegiance Augustus
Years of service 45–12 BC
Battles/wars Battle of Munda (45 BC)
Battle of Mutina (43 BC)
Battle of Philippi (42 BC)
Battle of Mylae (36 BC)
Battle of Naulochus (36 BC)
Battle of Actium (31 BC)

Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (/əˈɡrɪpə/; c. 63 BC – 12 BC) was a Roman general, statesman, and architect who was a close friend, son-in-law, and lieutenant to the Roman emperor Augustus. He was responsible for the construction of some of the most notable buildings in history, including the original Pantheon, and is well known for his important military victories, notably the Battle of Actium in 31 BC against the forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra.

Early life and family

Agrippa was born around 63 BC, in an uncertain location. His father was called Lucius Vipsanius. His mother's name is not known and Pliny the Elder claimed that his cognomen "Agrippa" derived from him having been born breech so it is possible that she died in childbirth. Pliny also stated that he suffered from lameness as a child. He had an elder brother whose name was also Lucius Vipsanius, and a sister named Vipsania Polla. His family originated in the Italian countryside, and was of humble and plebeian origins. They had not been prominent in Roman public life. According to some scholars, including Victor Gardthausen, R. E. A. Palmer, and David Ridgway, Agrippa's family was originally from Pisa in Etruria.


He met the future emperor Augustus, then known as Octavian, at Apollonia, in Illyria. Following the assassination of Octavian's great-uncle Julius Caesar in 44 BC, Octavian returned to Italy. Around this time, Agrippa was elected tribune of the plebs. He served as a military commander, fighting alongside Octavian and Caesar's former general and right-hand man Mark Antony in the Battle of Philippi.

In 40 BC, he was praetor urbanus and played a major role in the Perusine war against Lucius Antonius and Fulvia, respectively the brother and wife of Mark Antony. In 39 or 38 BC, Agrippa was appointed governor of Transalpine Gaul. In 38 BC, he put down a rising of the Aquitanians and fought the Germanic tribes. He was consul for 37 BC, well below the usual minimum age of 43, to oversee the preparations for warfare against Sextus Pompey, who had cut off grain shipments to Rome.

Agrippa defeated Pompey in the battles of Mylae and Naulochus in 36 BC. In 33 BC, he served as curule aedile. Agrippa commanded the victorious Octavian's fleet at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. Following the victory at Actium, Octavian became emperor and took the title of Princeps, while Agrippa remained as his close friend and lieutenant. Agrippa assisted Augustus in making Rome "a city of marble". Agrippa renovated aqueducts to provide Roman citizens from every social class access to the highest quality public services, and was responsible for the creation of many baths, porticoes, and gardens. He was also awarded powers almost as great as those of Augustus. He had veto power over the acts of the Senate and the power to present laws for approval by the People.

Agrippa was also known as a writer, especially on geography. Under his supervision, Julius Caesar's design of having a complete survey of the empire made was accomplished. From the materials at hand he constructed a circular chart, which was engraved on marble by Augustus and afterwards placed in the colonnade built by his sister Vipsania Polla. Agrippa was also husband to Julia the Elder (who had later married the second Emperor Tiberius), and was the maternal grandfather of Caligula and the maternal great-grandfather of the Emperor Nero.


Agrippa's last public service was his beginning of the conquest of the upper Danube River region, which would become the Roman province of Pannonia in 13 BC. He died at Campania in 12 BC at the age of 50–51. His posthumous son, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa Postumus, was named in his honor. Augustus honoured his memory by a magnificent funeral and spent over a month in mourning. Augustus personally oversaw all of Agrippa's children's educations. Although Agrippa had built a tomb for himself, Augustus had Agrippa's remains placed in his own mausoleum.


La Maison carrée
The Maison Carrée at Nîmes, modern France, built in 19 BC; Agrippa was its patron.

Agrippa was not only Augustus' most skilled subordinate commander but also his closest companion, serving him faithfully for over three decades.

Agrippa was also a writer, especially on the subject of geography. Under his supervision, Julius Caesar's dream of having a complete survey of the Empire made was carried out. Agrippa constructed a circular chart, which was later engraved on marble by Augustus, and afterwards placed in the colonnade built by his sister Polla. Amongst his writings, an autobiography, now lost, is referenced.

Agrippa established a standard for the Roman foot (Agrippa's own) in 29 BC, and thus a definition of a pace as 5 feet. An imperial Roman mile denotes 5,000 Roman feet. The term Via Agrippa is used for any part of the network of roadways in Gaul built by Agrippa. Some of these still exist as paths or even as highways.

The Roman tribe Agrippia was named in his honor.

Marriages and issue

Agrippa married three times:

  • Cecilia Pomponia Attica. By her he had one or two daughters:
  • Claudia Marcella Maior. By her he had one or two daughters:
    • Vipsania Marcella
    • Vipsania Marcellina (disputed)
  • Giulia Maior. By her he had three sons and two daughters:

Through his numerous children, Agrippa would become ancestor to many subsequent members of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, whose position he helped to attain, as well as many other distinguished Romans.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Marco Vipsanio Agripa para niños

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