Fulvia (77 BC-40 BC) was a Roman woman who lived in the 1st century BC. According to Plutarch, Fulvia had no interest in spinning nor managing a household nor ruling a husband with no ambition for public life; Fulvia wanted to govern or to command and be a commander-in-chief. Fulvia will be remembered in the history of the late Roman Republic for her political ambition and activity. The historian states, that Greek Ptolemaic Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt, was indebted to Fulvia for teaching Mark Antony to obey the authority of a wife.

Early life

Fulvia was born Fulvia Flacca Bambula and is also known as Fulvia Bambaliae. She was born and raised either in Rome or Tusculum, Italy. Fulvia was a member of the Flacci branch of the Fulvius gens which hailed from Tusculum. The family was plebian; various members of the family achieved consulship and became senators. Fulvia was the only child of Marcus Fulvius Flaccus Bambalio and Sempronia Gracchae. Her father Marcus Fulvius Flaccus, received the nickname Bambalio because of his hesitancy in speech. Her paternal grandfather was Marcus Fulvius Flaccus (consul 125 BC), who had been an ally to the Roman politicians Tiberius Gracchus and Gaius Gracchus. Her maternal grandparents were Gaius Gracchus and Licinia Crassa. Through her maternal grandfather, she was a great-niece to Tiberius Gracchus, a descendant of Roman General Scipio Africanus and Roman General Lucius Aemilius Paulus Macedonicus. Through her maternal grandmother, she was a descendant of the Licinius (gens) and Claudius (gens).

When her mother died in 63 BC Fulvia, as the heiress to the Gracchi estate, became very wealthy. Her father was still alive when she married Publius Clodius Pulcher.

First marriage

Her first husband was Publius Clodius Pulcher, a demagogue politician famous for causing instability in Rome's internal affairs, often involved in conspiracies and known to resort to violence. It is said that Fulvia financially supported her husband's career and inspired most of his actions. Fulvia bore him a daughter called Clodia Pulchra. Clodius was killed by slave bodyguards of Titus Annius Milo in a battle that erupted between these sworn enemies and their retainers in a chance encounter at Bovillae outside Rome in 52 BC, leaving Fulvia a widow.

Second marriage

Her widowhood did not last long. Afterwards, she married Gaius Scribonius Curio, an influential and talented tribune whose defection to Caesar in exchange for an enormous bribe swung the balance in Julius Caesar's favor in his struggle with the Senate in 50 BC. At the outbreak of the Civil War Caesar entrusted Curio with an expedition to conquer Africa, but through overconfidence he allowed himself to be outmaneuvered by King Juba I of Numidia and he and his troops were annihilated the only serious defeat suffered by Caesar's forces during the Civil War. Curio was killed in 49 BC.

Third marriage

Fulvia's own political career started with her third marriage, to future Roman Triumvir Mark Antony. Plutarch said that she needed husbands with an active political profile and the ambitious Antony was highly qualified. As Clodius had done previously, Antony was happy to accept her money to boost his career. Antony changed the name of the Ancient Greek city of Eunemia or Eumeneia to Fulvia, in honor of her.

Fulvia bore Antony two sons: Marcus Antonius Antyllus (47 BC- August 1 30 BC) and Iullus Antonius (45 BC-2 BC). Antyllus has her father’s first name or praenomen.

Following Julius Caesar's assassination in March 15 44 BC, Antony formed the second triumvirate with Octavian (future emperor Augustus) and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and embarked on a savage proscription. To solidify the political alliance, Fulvia offered her daughter, Clodia, to young Octavian as wife. Antony pursued his political enemies, chief among them being Marcus Tullius Cicero, who had criticized him openly for abusing his powers as consul after Caesar's assassination. In the proscription, Antony dispatched search parties to Cicero's country homes to track him down. He was found and beheaded by a Roman centurion, Herennius, whom Cicero had previously defended successfully in a murder trial, after his whereabouts were revealed by a young slave to whom Cicero had shown special favor. Antony exhibited Cicero's head and hands at the "rostra" in the Forum.

Fulvia was happy to take revenge against Cicero for Antony's sake, but also in revenge for Publius Clodius Pulcher, her first husband, also an earlier victim of Cicero's sharp rhetoric. Cassius Dio describes the joy with which she pierced the tongue of the dead Cicero with her golden hairpins, as a final revenge against Cicero's power of speech.

Social unrest and Fulvia's death

Shortly afterwards, triumvirs then distributed the provinces among them. Lepidus took the west and Antony went to Egypt, where he met Cleopatra VII. Octavian remained in Italy, where he was busy taking lands from Italians and giving them to the triumvirate veterans.

These actions caused political and social unrest. After Octavian and Clodia divorced, Fulvia saw this as an insult to her family and she decided to take action. Together with Lucius Antonius, Mark Antony's brother, she raised eight legions in Italy to fight for Antony's rights against Octavian. The army occupied Rome for a short time, but eventually retreated to Perusia (modern Perugia). Octavian besieged Fulvia and Lucius Antonius in the winter of 41 BC-40 BC, starving them into surrender. Fulvia was exiled to Sicyon, where she died of a sudden illness while Antony was en route to meet her.

Her death opened a space for Octavian and Antony to reconcile. Now a widower, Antony married Octavian's second elder sister Octavia Minor. The fate of Fulvia’s daughter after her divorce is unknown. Her son Antyllus was beheaded by Octavian in Alexandria, Egypt in 30 BC. Her youngest child, Iullus, was raised from 40 BC by Octavia Minor. Iullus married Octavia’s daughter and Octavian's niece Claudia Marcella Major and they had three children: two sons Lucius Antonius, Gaius Antonius and a daughter Iulla Antonia.

ee also

*Iullus Antonius, Women in Rome, Scipio-Paullus-Gracchus family tree

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