Lucius Caesar

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For other people with similar names, see Lucius Julius Caesar.
Lucius Caesar 8091 - Roma - Ara Pacis - Lucio Cesare - Foto Giovanni Dall'Orto - 28-Mar-2008.jpg
Born 17 BC
Died 20 August 2 AD
Massalia, Gaul
Burial Mausoleum of Augustus, Rome
Full name
Birth to adoption: Lucius Vipsanius Agrippa
After adoption: Lucius Julius Caesar
Mother Julia the Elder

Lucius Caesar (17 BC – 20 August AD 2), formally Lucius Julius Caesar, was the adopted son and heir of Augustus along with his brother Gaius. It was intended that they should rule the Roman Empire together.

Lucius was born the second son of Augustus' trusted friend and general, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. His name at birth was Lucius Vipsanius Agrippa, but it later changed to Lucius Julius Caesar following his adoption out of the Vipsanii and into the Julii by Augustus. Lucius was adopted with his brother following his birth in 17 BC.

As he and Gaius were the heirs to Augustus, they had promising legal and military careers. Lucius died of a sudden illness on 20 August 2 AD, in Massilia, Gaul (modern day Marseilles, France), while traveling to meet the armies in Spain. His death was followed 18 months later by the death of his brother Gaius on 21 February, 4 AD. This forced Augustus to redraw the line of succession for the Empire again. Consequently, Lucius' younger brother Agrippa Postumus was adopted with Tiberius by Augustus on 26 June AD 4.

Early life and family[edit]

Lucius was born in Rome in 17 BC to Marcus Vipsanius Agripp and Julia the Elder. He was part of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, and was related to all the Julio-Claudian emperors. On his mother's side, he was the oldest grandson of emperor Augustus. He was the brother-in-law of Tiberius by his half-sister Vipsania Agrippina, and Claudius by his sister Agrippina the Elder's marriage to Germanicus. Lucius' nephew was the emperor Caligula, who was Germanicus' son.[1] An annual sacrifice on his birthday was granted in pursuance of a decree.[2]

Immediately after his birth, the emperor Augustus adopted him and his brother Gaius from their father by a symbolic sale, and named the two boys his heirs.[3] Their adoptive father initiated them into administrative life when they were still young, and sent them to the provinces as consul elects. Augustus taught Gaius and Lucius how to read, swim, and the other elements of education, taking special pains to train them to imitate his own handwriting, mostly by himself.[4] Shortly after their adoption in the summer, Augustus held the fifth ever Ludi Saeculares ("Secular Games"). The adoption of the boys coupled with the games served to introduce a new era of peace - the Pax Augusta.[5]

That year his family left for the province of Syria, because his father was given command of the eastern provinces with proconsular imperium maius.[6] Four years later, in 13 BC, Lucius took part with his brothers Gaius and Agrippa in the Trojan games with the other patrician youths at the dedication of the Theatre of Marcellus.[7]

Also in 13 BC, his father returned to Rome and was promptly sent to Pannonia to suppress a rebellion. Agrippa arrived there that winter (in 12 BC), but the Pannonians gave up their plans. Agrippa returned to Campania in Italy, where he fell ill and died soon after.[8] The death of Lucius' father made succession a pressing issue. The aurei and denarii issued in 13-12 BC made clear the Emperor's dynastic plans for Lucius and Gaius. Their father was no longer available to assume the reigns of power if the Emperor were to die, and Augustus had to make it clear who his intended heirs were in case anything should happen.[9]


The Maison Carrée (French: "square house") was dedicated in Nemausus to Gaius and Lucius.

In 2 BC, Augustus brought Lucius to the Forum Romanum to enroll him as a citizen. The event was made into a ceremony the same as Gaius' enrollment had been three years prior. Lucius assumed the toga virilis and he too was made princeps iuventutis ("leader of the youth"). Like Gaius, he was elected consul designatus, with the intent that he assume the consulship at the age of nineteen. There was only one difference in his titles from those of Gaius: that he was made a member of the college of augurs whereas Gaius was made a pontifex. Augustus distributed 60 denarii to each Roman citizen to mark the occasion.[10]

That same year, before his brother Gaius left for the east, Lucius and Gaius were given the authority to consecrate buildings, and they did, with their management of the games held to celebrate the dedication of the Temple of Mars Ultor (1 August 2 BC). His younger brother, Postumius, participated in the Trojan games with the rest of the equestrian youth. 260 lions were slaughtered in the Circus Maximus, there was gladiatorial combat, a naval battle between the "Persians" and the "Athenians", and 36 crocodiles were slaughtered in the Circus Flaminius.[11]

While Gaius was in Armenia, Lucius had been sent by Augustus to complete his military training in Hispania. While on the way to his post, he fell ill and died on 20 August AD 2 in Massalia, Gaul.[12] His death was followed by that of Gaius on 21 February AD 4. In the span of 18 months, the planned future of Rome was shook.[13] The death of both Gaius and Lucius, the Emperor's two most favored heirs, led Augustus to adopt his stepson, Tiberius, and his sole remaining grandson, Postumus Agrippa as his new heirs on 26 June AD 4.[14]

Post mortem[edit]

The two heirs received many honours by citizens and city officials of the Empire, including Colonia Obsequens Iulia Pisana (Pisa), where it was decreed that proper rites must be observed by matrons to lament their passing. Temples, public baths, and shops shut their doors as women wept inconsolably. Posthumously the Senate voted honours for the young Caesars, and arranged for the golden spears and shields the boys had received on achieving the age of military service to be hung in the Senate House.[15] The caskets containing their ashes were stored in the Mausoleum of Augustus alongside those of their father Agrippa and other members of the imperial family.[15]

Tacitus and Cassius Dio both suggested that there may have been foul play involved in the death of Gaius and Lucius and that Lucius's step-grandmother Livia may have had a hand in their deaths. Livia's presumed motive may have been to orchestrate the accession of her own son Tiberius as heir to Augustus. Indeed, Tiberius was named the heir of Augustus in AD 4.[16][17]

In popular culture[edit]

He was played by Simon MacCorkindale in the 1976 TV series I, Claudius.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wood 1999, p. 321
  2. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History, LIV.8.5
  3. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History, LIV.18.1
  4. ^ Suetonius, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Life of Augustus, 64
  5. ^ Powell 2015, pp. 159-160
  6. ^ Powell 2015, p. 161
  7. ^ Smith 1873, p. 555
  8. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History, LIV.28.1-2
  9. ^ Wood 1999, p. 65
  10. ^ Richardson 2012, p. 153
  11. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History, LV.10
  12. ^ Mommsen 1996, p. 107
  13. ^ Suetonius, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Life of Augustus, 65
  14. ^ Pettinger 2012, p. 235
  15. ^ a b Powell 2015, p. 192
  16. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History, LV.10a
  17. ^ Tacitus, The Annals, I.3


Ancient sources[edit]

Modern sources[edit]

External links[edit]