Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa is an outstanding general on his own, however, he is almost exclusively known as the ever-trusty sidekick of Emperor Augustus Caesar (who was born with the name Octavian.) Despite being a footnote to the Roman ruler, Agrippa has established himself as an exceptional military officer and city administrator. Here are more historical facts about the life and times of Marcus Agrippa:
Marcus Agrippa Facts
1. He was a great military leader.
Agrippa is not Augustus’ right-hand man for nothing – he had proven himself worthy on the battlefield several times, an interesting fact about Marcus Agrippa.
He took over the losing battle of Octavian against Sextus Pompeius and eventually succeeded. He won the skirmish by constructing a defensive harbor at Puteoli; this helped him defeat Pompeius’ fleet at Naulochus and Mylae.
He also helped improve the state of the Roman navy by developing larger ships and inventing the current grappling hook that they were using. For his efforts, Agrippa was given a golden naval crown decorated with ship beaks. Dio described this honor as “a decoration given to nobody before or since.”
2. Marcus Agrippa helped Emperor Augustus win against Mark Antony and Cleopatra.
Mark Antony and Cleopatra may be known as star-crossed lovers, but they were bent on world domination. Their efforts were eventually foiled by Agrippa during the Battle of Actium in 31 BC.
Agrippa helped score the win by defeating Gaius Sosius, Mark Antony’s lieutenant, as he was about to make a surprise attack on Lucius Tarrius, a supporter of Octavian. His advice to fight the duo instead of letting them get away helped Octavian win the battle, for which he earned mastery of the vast Roman empire.
3. The original Pantheon was Agrippa’s brainchild.
The Pantheon’s construction started in 27 BC, many thanks to the efforts of Agrippa. It was built primarily as a classic yet ordinary temple – a rectangular edifice with a colonnade and a gabled roof. It was dedicated to the Roman win in the Battle of Actium, however, the original building was destroyed in 80 AD.
The Pantheon was rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian between 112 to 128 AD, with additional alterations carried out by Septimius Severus and Caracalla in the 3rd century. The Pantheon’s dome, at a diameter of 43 meters, was the largest up until the modern times.
A true architectural masterpiece, the Pantheon stands today as the Church of Santa Maria Rotonda or the Santa Maria ad martyres – the dedication it received in the year 609 AD.
4. He was an efficient city administrator.
An interesting fact about Agrippa is that he also excelled in overseeing administrative problems in Rome. At around 33 BC he was named as curule aedile, or magistrate of public buildings and works. This year also saw his installation as the first water commission of Rome.
His projects included building baths, cleaning sewers and improving the water supply. From 29-28 BC, Agrippa, alongside Octavian, conducted the census – and purged the senate as well.
5. He was almost as powerful as Emperor Augustus.
In 18 BC, Agrippa was given the tribuncia potestas, or the powers of a tribune of the plebians. It gave him veto power over magistrate or Senate acts, as well as the ability to present the laws to be approved by the Roman citizens. His tribunal power is considered sacred enough to warrant the death penalty to those who opposed his political actions, an interesting Marcus Agrippa fact.
6. He helped transform Rome into a “City of Marble.”
As was mentioned, Agrippa functioned excellently as the administrator of Rome. He also led street repairs, laid out gardens, and encouraged public exhibitions of artworks. Augustus boasted about transforming Rome into a city of marble from being a city of brick – and this would not have been possible without the efforts of Marcus Agrippa.
7. Marcus Agrippa was Emperor Augustus’ trusty friend and confidante.
The friendship of the two started when they were two young students – and it has been unbreakable ever since. Agrippa was a loyal general to Augustus, helping him win many wars and secure more Roman territories.
The duo held a bond that was almost broken due to the jealousy of the people surrounding the emperor. Agrippa was said to be exiled to the east, although historians believe that it was just tactical military positioning. Agrippa even became closer to the Emperor when he married Julia the Elder, the latter’s daughter.
The Emperor deeply mourned Agrippa’s passing at age 51. He honored him with a beautiful monument – and placed his remains in his royal mausoleum. He even covered the education of Agrippa’s bereaved children.
8. Agrippa is related to two notorious Roman Emperors.
Agrippa might not have become an emperor, but from his seed came two infamous Roman emperors. Agrippa’s daughter, Agrippina the Elder, was the mother of Caligula – and the grandmother of Nero.
Caligula’s reign is marred with issues of perversion, sadism, cruelty, and extravagance. Nero, on the other hand, became the last emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Like Caligula, his reign was described as extravagant and tyrannical.
9. The Via Agrippa roads are named after him.
Agrippa helped organize cities under the Roman rule – and that included creating 21,000 kilometers of roads in the historical region of Gaul. These roads, the Via Agrippa, were expectedly named after him, an interesting fact about Marcus Agrippa.
The Via Agrippa had four routes: one towards the Atlantic, another towards the North Sea, another one towards the Rhine, and the last one towards Marseille.
Though much were erased as contemporary roads and buildings were constructed, traces of the Via Agrippa continue to be followed by some modern roads. A foremost example is Route Nationale 7 that follows the ancient tracks of the Via Agrippa.
There are also 22 milestones, which indicate the distance from the starting point, that continue to stand until today. They are said to be constructed from the third to the fourth century; with one being reused in the choir of the Cathedral of Valence.
Marcus Agrippa was more than just a military general, he was a respected city administrator as well. He was also a good friend to the Emperor, whom he showed loyalty and utmost support. For his efforts, the Roman empire enjoyed countless victories and a truly prosperous reign.
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