Saturday, May 2, 2009

Roman General: Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa

Roman General: Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa

Agrippa, Marcus Vipsanius (63-12 BC), Roman statesman, supporter, friend, and most able general of Augustus. He came from a well-to-do but not a noble family, and was a fellow-student of Octavian at Apollonia when Julius Caesar was murdered.

He went to Rome with Octavian, and helped him to raise an army from Caesar's veterans and supporters. He did not play a prominent part in the campaign against Brutus and Cassius, but was thereafter the architect of Octavian's decisive victories at sea, first over Sextus Pompeius (36), then over Mark Antony (31).

His political advancement was irregular but rapid. He was praetor in 40, consul in 37, aedile for 33, then consul again in 28 and again in 27—violating the rule which specified ten years between consulships. In 29 he also helped Augustus to carry out a reform of the Senate, expelling some members and co-opting new ones.

Agrippa remained loyal to Augustus throughout his life; however he was an ambitious man, and his aims are uncertain. When Augustus thought he was dying in 23, it was to Agrippa that he gave his signet-ring, presumably intending thereby to make him his successor. On his recovery, however, Augustus began to groom Marcellus for the succession. This seems to have offended Agrippa, for in the same year, as compensation, Augustus sent him to govern the eastern half of the Empire.

The possibility of a rift between them, however, was averted by the death of Marcellus at the end of 23. Augustus finally solved the problem by marrying his daughter Julia to Agrippa, and making it clear that Agrippa's sons, Caius and Lucius Caesar, would be his heirs. Meanwhile, Agrippa became virtually joint-ruler with Augustus in 18, when he was given the power of a tribune in addition to his proconsular command. He died in 12 BC and was buried in the Mausoleum of Augustus.

By his first marriage, to Attica (daughter of Atticus), Agrippa became a very rich man, using his wealth to the advantage of the Roman people and Augustus' regime. He built the Pantheon, a new bridge over the Tiber, and the first public baths, rebuilt the sewers, and greatly improved the water supply of Rome with aqueducts and a new distribution network. He left the remainder of his fortune, which included the entire Gallipoli peninsula, to Augustus.

Agrippa also wrote an autobiography, and assembled the materials (later used by Strabo) from which the first map of the Empire was drawn. His great ability seems to have descended through the female, rather than the male, line, to his daughter, and grand-daughter, Agrippina, rather than to his grandson Caius and great-grandson Nero.

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