Antonia Minor[a] (31 January 36 BC – 1 May 37 AD) was the younger of two surviving daughters of Mark Antony and Octavia Minor. She was a niece of the Emperor Augustus, sister-in-law of the Emperor Tiberius, paternal grandmother of the Emperor Caligula and Empress Agrippina the Younger, mother of the Emperor Claudius, and maternal great-grandmother of the Emperor Nero. She outlived her husband Drusus, her oldest son, her daughter, and several of her grandchildren.

Antonia Minor
The Juno Ludovisi, said to represent a youthful Antonia Minor
Born31 January 36 BC
Athens, Greece
Died1 May 37 AD (aged 72)
Rome, Italy
SpouseNero Claudius Drusus
Claudius, Roman Emperor
FatherMark Antony
MotherOctavia Minor

Biography edit

Birth and early life edit

She was born in Athens, and after 36 BC was taken to Rome by her mother with her siblings. She was the youngest of five. Her mother had three children, named Claudia Marcella Major, Claudia Marcella Minor, and Marcus Claudius Marcellus, from her first marriage and another daughter, named Antonia Major, by the same father (Mark Antony). Antonia never knew her father; Mark Antony divorced her mother in 32 BC and committed suicide in 30 BC.

She was raised by her mother, her uncle, and her aunt, Livia Drusilla. Having inherited properties in Italy, Greece, and Egypt, she was a wealthy and influential woman, who often received visitors to Rome. She had many male friends, including Lucius Vitellius, a consul and the father of Aulus Vitellius, a future emperor.

Marriage and family edit

In 16 BC, she married the Roman general and future consul (9 BC) Nero Claudius Drusus. Drusus was the stepson of her uncle Augustus, second son of Livia Drusilla, and brother of future Emperor Tiberius. They had many children, but only three survived: the famous general Germanicus, Livilla, and the Roman Emperor Claudius.[1]

A poem by Crinagoras of Mytilene mentions Antonia's first pregnancy, which may be of a child before Germanicus who must have died in infancy or early childhood.[1][2][3]

Drusus died in June 9 BC in Germany, due to complications from injuries he sustained after falling from a horse. After his death, although pressured by her uncle to remarry, she never did.

Antonia raised her children in Rome. Tiberius adopted Germanicus in 4 AD.[4] Germanicus died in 19 AD, allegedly poisoned through the handiwork of Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso and Munatia Plancina. Tacitus suggests but does not outright say in Annals 3.3 that, on the orders of Tiberius and Livia Drusilla, Antonia was forbidden to go to his funeral. When Livia Drusilla died in June of 29 AD, Antonia took care of her younger grandchildren Caligula, Agrippina the Younger, Julia Drusilla, Julia Livilla, and later Claudia Antonia.[citation needed]

Conflict with Livilla edit

In 31 AD, a plot by her daughter Livilla and Tiberius’ notorious Praetorian prefect, Sejanus, to murder the Emperor Tiberius and Caligula and to seize the throne for themselves, was exposed by Apicata, the estranged ex-wife of Sejanus. Livilla allegedly poisoned her husband, Tiberius' son, Drusus Julius Caesar (nicknamed "Castor"), in 23 AD to remove him as a rival.

Sejanus was executed before Livilla was implicated in the crime. After Apicata's accusation, which came in the form of a letter to the emperor, several co-conspirators were executed while Livilla was handed over to her formidable mother for punishment. Cassius Dio states that Antonia imprisoned Livilla in her room until she starved to death.[5]

Succession of Caligula and death edit

When Tiberius died, Caligula became emperor in March 37 AD. Caligula awarded her a senatorial decree, granting her all the honors that Livia Drusilla had received in her lifetime. She was also offered the title of Augusta, previously only given to Augustus's wife Livia, but rejected it.

Antonia died on 1 May 37. Suetonius and Cassius Dio claim she was driven to suicide by Caligula. According to Barrett, [6]

But since he had not reached Rome until 28 March, and was absent from the city for much of April, collecting the remains of his mother and brother, there would hardly have been much time to drive Antonia to her death by insulting behaviour. It is also difficult to imagine that he would have paid her no honours on her death, as Suetonius implies. She died at a time when the euphoria of the beginning of his reign was still rampant, and quite apart from any question of personal affection, a public slight at this time to the most respected woman in Rome, whose death was marked in local Fasti, would have been politically unimaginable.

When Claudius became emperor after his nephew's assassination in 41 AD, he gave his mother the title of Augusta. Her birthday became a public holiday, which had yearly games and public sacrifices held. An image of her was paraded in a carriage.

Cultural depictions edit

Likeness after a bust of Antonia on an engraved gem found at Stanwix, near Carlisle.

She is remembered in De Mulieribus Claris, a collection of biographies of historical and mythological women by the Florentine author Giovanni Boccaccio, composed in 1361–62. It is notable as the first collection devoted exclusively to biographies of women in Western literature.[7] Antonia is one of the main characters in the novel I, Claudius. In the television adaptation of the book she is portrayed by Margaret Tyzack. She is a loyal wife deeply in love with her husband Nero Claudius Drusus. However, she is unloving towards her son Claudius, whom she regards as a fool. Furthermore, after finding evidence that Livilla murdered her husband Drusus Julius Caesar and rightfully believing she was also poisoning her daughter for the same reason, she kills Livilla by locking her in her room until she starves to death. During the reign of Caligula she is so disgusted by the state of Rome that she commits suicide.

She is a leading character in the novel by Lindsey Davis, The Course of Honour (1997), where she guides and advises Claudius and his supporters.

In the 1968 ITV historical drama The Caesars, Antonia was indirectly mentioned by Tiberius (played by André Morell), who noted that Germanicus was a blood relative of Augustus on his mother's [Antonia] side.

Colleen Dewhurst portrayed Antonia opposite Susan Sarandon as Livilla in the 1985 miniseries A.D.

Isabelle Connolly (adult) and Beau Gadsdon (child) portrayed Antonia in British-Italian historical drama television series Domina (2021).

Notes edit

  1. ^ Also known as Antonia the Younger or simply Antonia.

References edit

  1. ^ a b Kokkinos, Nikos (1992). Antonia Augusta: Portrait of a Great Roman Lady. Psychology Press. p. 11. ISBN 9780415080293.
  2. ^ Hemelrijk, Emily Ann (2004). Matrona Docta: Educated Women in the Roman Élite from Cornelia to Julia Domna. Psychology Press. p. 109. ISBN 9780415341271.
  3. ^ Ypsilanti, Maria (2003). An Edition with Commentary of the Selected Epigrams of Crinagoras (PDF) (Thesis). University College London.
  4. ^ (Suetonius Tiberius 15, Gai. 1., Div. Claudius 2)
  5. ^ Cassius Dio Histories 58.11.7
  6. ^ Barrett, A. A., 1989, Caligula. The Corruption of Power, 62. The date is derived from the Fasti Ostienses which states that Antonia died on the Kalends of May, 'K. Mais Antonia diem suum obit', supplied by Smallwood, E., 1967, Documents Illustrating The Principates of Gaius, Claudius and Nero, Cambridge University Press, no. 31, p. 28.
  7. ^ Boccaccio, Giovanni (2003). Famous Women. I Tatti Renaissance Library. Vol. 1. Translated by Virginia Brown. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. p. xi. ISBN 0-674-01130-9.

Sources edit

Ancient edit

Secondary edit

  • E. Groag, A. Stein, L. Petersen - e.a. (edd.), Prosopographia Imperii Romani saeculi I, II et III, Berlin, 1933 - . (PIR2)