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Antonia the Elder

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Antonia the Elder
Bust believed to be Antonia Major
BornAugust/September 39 BC
Athens, Greece
SpouseLucius Domitius Ahenobarbus
Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus
Domitia Lepida Major
Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus
Domitia Lepida Minor
HouseJulio-Claudian dynasty
FatherMark Antony
MotherOctavia the Younger
Antonia from Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum; the inscription means: "Antonia Major, Emperor Nero's grandmother"

Antonia the Elder[a] (born August/September 39 BC) was a niece of the first Roman emperor, Augustus, being the eldest daughter of Octavia the Younger and her second husband, the Triumvir Mark Antony. She married Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus and became the paternal grandmother of the emperor Nero.



Antonia was born in Athens, Greece, and after 36 BC she, her siblings, and her mother 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 23 BC Antonia married the consul Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus. Three of their children are known for certain:

It is also likely that they had another son named Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (born between 20 and 17 BC), and possibly also a third daughter (born around 23 BC).[2][3] Syme thinks its possible that the daughter may have lived to marry and produce children, but probably died before the reign of Caligula.[4]

Cultural depictions


Many scholars think the Ara Pacis (an altar from the Augustan Era), displays Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and his elder sister. The woman behind Domitia and Domitius is allegedly their mother Antonia Major and the man next to Antonia Major is allegedly her husband Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, so identified in 1903 by Alfred von Domaszewski.[5] However, the only son of Antonia and Ahenobarbus was born in 1 BC, which is after the Ara Pacis was completed and inaugurated. This means the boy on the frieze cannot be the infamous Gnaeus (father of Nero). Sir Ronald Syme has argued the two children are actually a lost elder son Lucius and another unknown sister.[6][7] In reality, the entire family seems to be another family, probably the family of one of Augustus's other three nieces. We know a lot about the children born and the children that did not survive in the imperial family. Gnaeus was born in 1 BC and had two older sisters. No surviving source mentions older siblings who died in childhood, whereas there are other branches of the imperial family that had exactly one son and one daughter between 21-15 BC.


  1. ^ Also known as Antonia Major or Latin: Antonia Maior.[1]


  1. ^ PIR2 A 884.
  2. ^ Syme, Ronald (1989). The Augustan Aristocracy (illustrated and revised ed.). Clarendon Press. pp. 155–156. ISBN 9780198147312.
  3. ^ Syme, Ronald (1989). The Augustan Aristocracy (illustrated and revised ed.). Clarendon Press. p. 167. ISBN 9780198147312.
  4. ^ Syme, Ronald (1989). The Augustan Aristocracy (illustrated and revised ed.). Clarendon Press. p. 164. ISBN 9780198147312.
  5. ^ Alfred von Domaszewski, "Die Familie des Augustus auf der Ara Pacis," JÖAI 6 = Jahreshefte des Österreichischen Archäologischen Institutes in Wien (1903), 57-66.
  6. ^ Syme, Ronald (1989). The Augustan Aristocracy (illustrated and revised ed.). Clarendon Press. p. 166. ISBN 9780198147312.
  7. ^ Pollini, John (1987). The Portraiture of Gaius and Lucius Caesar. Fordham University Press. p. 26. ISBN 9780823211272.


  • Henry Gardiner Adams, ed. (1857). "Antonia Major". A Cyclopaedia of Female Biography: 55. Wikidata Q115751903.
  • E. Groag, A. Stein, L. Petersen - e.a. (edd.), Prosopographia Imperii Romani saeculi I, II et III, Berlin, 1933 - . (PIR2)