Domitia Lepida the Elder

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Domitia from "Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum "

Domitia (PIR² D 171), more commonly referred to as Domitia Lepida the Elder (c. 19 BC-June 59) was the oldest child of Antonia Major and Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (consul 16 BC), and the oldest granddaughter to Triumvir Mark Antony and Octavia Minor, a great-niece of the Roman Emperor Augustus, second cousin and sister-in-law to the Emperor Caligula, first cousin to the Emperor Claudius, maternal aunt to the Empress Valeria Messalina, and paternal aunt to Emperor Nero.

She married the consul Decimus Haterius Agrippa, who died in 32 as a victim of Tiberius' reign of terror. Domitia bore Agrippa a son, Quintus Haterius Antoninus, who became consul in 53. In 33 Domitia married the witty, wealthy, and influential Gaius Sallustius Crispus Passienus. Crispus was the adopted grandson and biological great-great nephew of the historian Sallust.

After January 41, the new Emperor Claudius asked Domitia and Crispus to divorce, so Crispus could marry Domitia's former sister-in-law Agrippina the Younger, who had recently returned from exile and had her son Lucius Domitius (Nero) to care for. Crispus thus became Nero's stepfather.

During the reigns of Caligula, Claudius and Nero, Domitia was an influential rival to Agrippina. In June 59 her nephew Nero poisoned her while she was confined to a bed with severe constipation. Nero visited his aunt while she was sick and she commented that when he shaved his beard (a Roman symbolic act, usually performed during a ceremony at the age of twenty-one), she would gladly die peacefully. Nero turned to those with him and joked, "I'll take it off at once." He then ordered the doctors to administer a fatal dose of laxative to his aunt and seized her property while she was dying.

The Ara Pacis, an altar from the Augustan Era, displays Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and Domitia. The woman behind Domitia and Domitius is their mother Antonia Major and the man next to Antonia Major is her husband Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus. This can be seen at [1].


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