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9. Marcus Agrippa

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About this Lecture


In this lecture we think about the figure of Marcus Agrippa, Augustus’ right-hand man for much of his career, focusing in particular on: (i) Agrippa’s military achievements, most notably his victory at the Battle of Actium (31 BC); (ii) his incorporation into the imperial family with his marriage to Augustus’ daughter, Julia, and the selection of his sons, Gaius and Lucius as potential successors; (iii) Agrippa’s relatively humble background; (iv) his character, according to the historian Velleius Paterculus (2.79.1, T3); (v) the slipping away of opportunities for grand military command in the years following 31 BC; (vi) his role as aedile, including his supervision of various building projects (e.g. the pantheon, the first public bath-house in Rome, the Aqua Virgo, etc.), and the importance of these building projects for the popularity of the regime; and (vii) his (successful) attempt to persuade Augustus to display artwork in public, rather than keeping in the country houses of the aristocracy (Pliny, NH 35.26, T5).


In this course, Professor Matthew Nicholls (University of Oxford) explores the reign of the first Roman emperor, Augustus. Across twenty-one lectures, we consider a range of issues including: (i) the historical sources for reign of Augustus and their reliability; (ii) the events that led to the creation of the principate, particularly the Battle of Actium; (iii) the various constitutional settlements that formalised Augustus’ powers; (iv) his military achievements; (v) the importance of contemporary poetry (Virgil, Horace, Propertius, Ovid) and coinage for understanding his reign; (vi) the significance of key figures around Augustus, such as Livia, Marcus Agrippa, Tiberius and Germanicus; (vii) the extent to which Augustus really ‘restored the republic’ as he claimed he did; (viii) Augustus’ involvement in religious life at Rome and in the provinces; (ix) his administrative changes in Rome and in the provinces; (x) his management of various different sections of Roman society – the senatorial elite, the equestrian order, the army, the people of Rome and the provincial elites; (xi) challenges to his rule; (xii) his management of the succession; and (xiii) the importance of his own record of his achievements, the Res Gestae.


Matthew Nicholls is a visiting professor of classics at the University of Reading and Senior Tutor at St John's College, Oxford, specialising in the political and social history of the Romans, and the way the built environments of Rome and cities around the empire expressed their values and priorities. In 2014, Matthew was presented with a Guardian Teaching Award for his 'Virtual Rome' project, a digital model of the city of Rome, showing the city as it appeared in c. AD 315.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Nicholls, M. (2023, May 23). Augustus - Marcus Agrippa [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Nicholls, M. "Augustus – Marcus Agrippa." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 May 2023,