Antonia the Elder
|Roman imperial dynasties|
|Augustus||27 BC – 14 AD|
Julio-Claudian family tree
Year of the Four Emperors
Antonia Major also known as Julia Antonia Major (Latin: Antonia Maior, PIR2 A 884) (born August/September 39 BC), also known as Antonia the Elder, was a daughter of Triumvir Mark Antony and Octavia the Younger and a relative of the first Roman emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. She was a niece of the first emperor Augustus, step cousin of the emperor Tiberius, paternal great-aunt of the emperor Caligula, maternal aunt and great-aunt-in law of the emperor Claudius, and paternal grandmother and maternal great-great aunt of the emperor Nero.
Antonia was born in Athens, Greece and after 36 BC her mother, along with her siblings and herself were brought to Rome. She was raised by her mother, her uncle and her aunt Livia Drusilla. According to Cassius Dio after her father died, Augustus allowed her and her younger sister Antonia Minor to benefit from their father's estate in Rome. Although little is known of her, Antonia was held in high regard like her sister Antonia Minor, the mother of the emperor Claudius, who was celebrated for her beauty and virtue.
Around 22 BC Antonia married the consul, Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus. Antonia bore Lucius three children:
- Domitia Lepida the Elder - ancient sources refer to her as Domitia. She married the consul Decimus Haterius Agrippa and bore him a son Quintus Haterius Antoninus. Domitia later married Gaius Sallustius Crispus Passienus, consul suffect in 27, proconsul of Asia and consul in 44.
- Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus (PIR2 D 127) - consul in 32, he married his cousin Germanicus' daughter Agrippina the Younger in 28. Agrippina and Domitius were the parents of the emperor Nero. He was accused by Tiberius, but saved by that emperor's death (Suet. Nero 5) and lived a few years longer under Caligula's reign until he died in 40.
- Domitia Lepida the Younger (PIR2 D 180) - she first married her cousin, the consul Marcus Valerius Messalla Barbatus to whom she bore a daughter, the empress Valeria Messalina, third wife of the emperor Claudius. After the death of her first husband, she married Faustus Cornelius Sulla, cos. suff. in 31 and gave him a son, Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix (who would become consul in 52). At the beginning of Claudius' reign, she married Appius Junius Silanus, cos. in 28, who was put to death in 42. She outlived her daughter, Messalina.
Many scholars think the Ara Pacis (an altar from the Augustan Era), displays Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and his elder sister Domitia. The woman behind Domitia and Domitius is allegedly their mother Antonia Major and the man next to Antonia Major is her husband Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus.
Gaius Stern and Sir Ronald Syme both dispute this claim, whose chief argument in its favor is that "it was written in German 100 years ago". First of all, the young Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus was born after the monument was completed. He cannot possibly be on the Ara Pacis. His father was governor of Africa in 13 and was not in Rome for the Ara Pacis ceremony. Additional arguments against can be found in Stern, "Nero's Father and Other Romantic Figures on the Ara Pacis Augustae, CAMWS 2003; Syme, "Neglected Children on the Ara Pacis," AJA 88 (1984), The Augustan Aristocracy (1985) 142, 155, 166-67. An image can be seen at .
There is a possibility that Antonia may have died before 25. From observations of Syme (Sen. Rh. Controv. 9.4.18) indicates that Antonia was alive after 33.
|Ancestors of Antonia the Elder|
- Minto, The Heliopolis Scrolls, p. 159
- Stern, "Nero's Father and Other Romantic Figures on the Ara Pacis Augustae, CAMWS 2003
- E. Groag, A. Stein, L. Petersen - e.a. (edd.), Prosopographia Imperii Romani saeculi I, II et III, Berlin, 1933 - . (PIR2)
- J. Minto, The Heliopolis Scrolls, ShieldCrest, 2009