Plautia Urgulanilla

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Plautia Urgulanilla from Guillaume Rouillé's Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum

Plautia Urgulanilla (fl. 1st century) was the first wife of the future Roman Emperor Claudius. They married sometime around the year 9 AD when Claudius was 18 years old. According to Suetonius, Claudius divorced her in 24 on grounds of adultery by Plautia and his suspicions of her involvement in the murder of her sister-in-law Apronia.


Her father was Marcus Plautius Silvanus, a general who was consul for the year 2 BC. He had been honored with a triumph.[1]

Urgulanilla was named for her grandmother, Urgulania, a close friend of the Empress Livia Drusilla.

She gave birth to a son, Claudius Drusus, whose betrothal to a daughter of Sejanus instilled great expectations in the prefect,[2] which were left unfulfilled when Drusus died in early childhood.

Urgulanilla had a daughter, Claudia, who was born five months after her divorce from Claudius. As Claudia was widely known to be the illegitimate daughter of the freedman Boter, Claudius repudiated the child and he had her laid at Urgulanilla's doorstep.[3] Her adopted nephew was Tiberius Plautius Silvanus Aelianus.

Urgulanilla was Etruscan.[4] A brother of Urgulanilla was made a patrician by Claudius. Tiberius Plautius Silvanus Aelianus, the adopted son of another of her brothers, became consul in 45.[2]

In fiction[edit]

Urgulanilla appears as a significant character in Robert Graves I, Claudius. Urgulanilla is a tremendous and bulky woman with a resemblance to Tiberius (who may possibly be her father). She utterly despises Claudius but is relatively ignorant and benign to her husband. She also bears a strong affection (implied, through the use of the stereotypes of the time, to be lesbian in nature) for her sister-in-law Numantina, which causes her to kill her brother's second wife. Claudius apathetically divorces Urgulanilla following this suspicion of murder and the revelation that his wife has a child with her slave. While ordered to execute the child Claudius spares it by substituting the baby with a stillborn child to display for repudiation. Urgulanilla later gives Claudius several gifts in her will (before his rise to Emperor) and insists that Claudius is not an idiot. Comparatively Urgulanilla proves to be Claudius' best wife as she leaves Claudius on his own and is not openly cruel or manipulative to him.


  1. ^ Lives of the Caesars, Suetonius, Barnes & Noble Press, 2004, pg. 208.
  2. ^ a b Nero: The End of a Dynasty, Miriam Tamara Griffin, Psychology Press, 2000, Pg. 194.
  3. ^ Suetonius. Claud. 27.
  4. ^ Suetonius, Life of Claudius, Section 6.1