Fulvia remains an important figure in ancient Roman history due to her perseverance as a woman heavily involved in politics, as well as her role in the Perusine War against Octavian (future emperor Augustus). She played an important political role behind the scenes of her three marriages. Though she is most famous for her involvement in Antony's career, there are many scholarly debates taking place over whether or not Fulvia was already involved in politics before her husbands or as a result of marrying them. However, one thing is for sure: she was highly interested in politics and developed an increasingly strong public voice over time. She is most famous for her activities during her third marriage and her involvement in the Perusine War of 41–40 BC. She was the first Roman non-mythological woman to appear on Roman coins.
Birth and early life
Fulvia was born and raised either in
Marriage to Clodius Pulcher
Her first marriage was to Publius Clodius Pulcher, circa 62 BC. Fulvia and Clodius had two children together, a son also named Publius Clodius Pulcher and a daughter, Claudia. As a couple they went everywhere together. Claudia later married the future Emperor Augustus.
In 52 BC, Clodius ran for praetor and political competition with a consular candidate and rival, Titus Annius Milo, escalated to violence. Milo and his gang killed Clodius on January 18 on the Appian Way, the road built by Clodius's ancestors. Fulvia first appears in the record after his death. Fulvia and her mother Sempronia were present at the trial of Milo, and Fulvia's was the last testimony given by the prosecution. Milo was exiled for his crime.
While alive, Clodius had control of many gangs, and Fulvia retained the power and status that came with their loyalty. There is some evidence that she may have been involved in organizing the
Marriage to Scribonius Curio
With Pompey's seizure of power in Rome, he militarily forced out any remaining supporters of the late Clodius (including captains and tribunes), which prompted Fulvia to continue on her late husband's legacy alone within the city, taking advantage of every opportunity that allowed her to extend her influence and political prestige.
Her widowhood did not last long, as the customary period of mourning for Romans was ten months. Fulvia most likely married her second husband,
Curio died in 49 BC. He was killed during the Battle of the Bagradas in North Africa, fighting for Julius Caesar against King Juba I of Numidia. During the civil war, Fulvia was most likely in Rome or nearby, due to Caesar's troops taking over Italy. At the time, she would have had her two children by Clodius and was either pregnant with Curio's son or had delivered him.
Marriage to Mark Antony
After Curio's death in Africa, Fulvia was still an important widow in elite circles and her political interests were well known. She provided an important tie to Clodius and his clientela, and could offer a husband money and political organization. Also, her husband would become the stepfather of Clodius' children, further linking him to Clodian politics.
Fulvia's third and final marriage was to Mark Antony in 47 or 46 BC, a few years after Curio's death, although Cicero suggested that Fulvia and Antony had had a relationship since 58 BC. Cicero wrote about their relationship in his Philippicae as a way of attacking Antony. According to him, while Fulvia and Clodius were married, Antony once left a military post to sneak back into Rome during the night and personally deliver a love letter to Fulvia describing his love for her and how he had stopped seeing the famous actress Cytheris. Cicero also suggested that Antony married Fulvia for her money. At the time of their marriage, Antony was an established politician. He had already been tribune in 49 BC, commanded armies under Caesar and was the Master of the Horse in 47 BC. Fulvia's marriage to Antony was not one of subordination, rather, they had become a "formidable political force" within the crucial city of Rome. They had two sons together, Marcus Antonius Antyllus and Iullus Antonius.
Fulvia played a very influential role in Mark Antony's political career. She was the brains behind many of his policies (such as the decision to give Sicilians Roman citizenship, as well as to confirm Deiotarus in his kingdom), as well as a very persuasive campaigner for her husband. It is also possible that former Clodian policies were continued through him. Throughout their marriage, Fulvia defended Antony from Cicero's attacks, sustained his popularity with his soldiers and hindered Octavian's ascension to power. In fact, Fulvia still retained the support of gangs formerly ruled by her first husband, Clodius. Antony was able to gather that support by publicly associating himself with Clodius' children. Antony was able to use what was left of Clodius' gangs through Fulvia's influence in his own gang wars against Dolabella and his supporters.
Through the political connections of his wife and his close friendship with Caesar, Antony was found to be the most powerful man in Rome after Caesar's assassination. Therefore, it was only fitting that Fulvia was to be heavily involved in the political aftermath. After Caesar's death, the senate realized his popularity and declared that it would pass all of Caesar's planned laws. Antony had attained possession of Caesar's papers, and with the ability to produce papers in support of any law, Fulvia and Antony made a fortune and gained immense power. She allegedly accompanied Antony to his military camp at
Antony formed the
Perusine War (41 BC to 40 BC) and Fulvia's death
In 42 BC, Antony and Octavian left Rome to pursue Julius Caesar's assassins,
Shortly afterwards, the
These actions caused political and social unrest. In 41 BC, tensions between Octavian and Fulvia escalated to war in Italy. According to Appian, Fulvia was a central cause of the war, due to her jealousy of Antony and Cleopatra's affair in Egypt; she may have escalated the tensions between Octavian and Lucius in order to draw back Antony's attention to Italy. However, Appian also wrote that the other main causes were the selfish ambitions of the commanders and their inability to control their own soldiers.
- Spiteful censor of the Latin Language, read
- six insolent verses of Caesar Augustus:
- "Because Antony fucks Glaphyra, Fulvia has arranged
- this punishment for me: that I fuck her too.
- That I fuck Fulvia? What if Manius begged me
- to bugger him? Would I? I don't think so, if I were sane
- "Either fuck or fight", she says. Doesn't she know
- my prick is dearer to me than life itself? Let the trumpets blare!"
- Augustus, you certainly grant my clever little books pardon,
- since you are the expert at speaking with Roman frankness
The siege at Perusia lasted two months before Octavian starved Lucius into surrender in February 40 BC. After Lucius' surrender, Fulvia fled to Greece with her children. Appian writes that she met Antony in Athens, and he was upset with her involvement in the war. Antony then sailed back to Rome to deal with Octavian, and Fulvia died of an unknown illness in exile in
Once Antony and Octavia were married, she took in and reared all of Fulvia's children. The fate of Fulvia's daughter, Clodia Pulchra, after her divorce from Octavian is unknown. Her son Marcus Antonius Antyllus was executed by Octavian in Alexandria, Egypt in 30 BC. Her youngest child, Iullus Antonius, was spared by Octavian and raised from 40 BC by Octavia Minor. Iullus married Octavia's daughter and Octavian's niece Claudia Marcella Major and they had a son Lucius Antonius and possibly a daughter Iulla Antonia.
- Women in Rome
- List of Roman women
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