Fulvia

Fulvia (died 40 BC) was a Roman matrona remembered by her ambition and political activity, in a time when women were expected to stay home and live with virtue and modesty, according to Roman morals. She was the first non mythological woman represented in Roman coins.

Fulvia was born in the 1st century BC in an uncertain date. She was daughter of Fulvius Flaccus Bambulus and Sempronia, daughter of Gaius Gracchus. Her maternal great-grandmother was Cornelia Africana, who lived her life according to all the traditions that Fulvia was about to break. As heiress to the Gracchi estate, after the death of her grandfather and Tiberius Gracchus, Fulvia was a very wealthy woman. Her family was not patrician but highly respected by Roman elite.

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. Clodius was murdered in unclear circumstances in 52 BC, leaving Fulvia a widow. Not for a long time. Afterwards, she married Scribonius Curio, another political agitator who would also be assassinated in 49 BC.

Fulvia's own political career started with her third marriage, to Marcus Antonius. Plutarch said that she needed husbands with an active political profile and the ambitious Antonius was highly qualified. As Clodius had done previously, Antonius was happy to accept her money to boost his career.

Following Julius Caesar's assassination in March 15 44 BC, Antonius formed the second triumvirate with Octavian and Lepidus. To solidify the political alliance, Fulvia offered her daughter, Clodia, to young Octavian as wife. Antonius pursued his political enemies, namely Marcus Tullius Cicero, who had criticized him openly for trying to make Julius Caesar king of Rome. After Cicero was driven to suicide, Antonius exhibited his head and hands at the rostra in the Forum.

Fulvia was happy to take revenge against Cicero for Antonius' sake, but also in revenge for Publius Clodius Pulcher, her first husband, also an earlier victim of Cicero's sharp rhetoric. Plutarch and other sources describe the joy with which she pierced the tongue of the dead Cicero with her golden hairpins.

Shortly afterwards, triumvirs then distributed the provinces among them. Lepidus took the west and Antonius went to the province of Egypt, where he met Cleopatra. 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, but when Octavian asked for a divorce from Clodia, Fulvia herself decided to take action. Together with Lucius Antonius, her brother-in-law, she raised eight legions in Italy to fight for Antonius' 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 - 40 BC, starving them into surrender. Fulvia was exiled to Sicyon, where she died of a sudden illness, while Antonius was en route to meet her.

Her death opened a space for Octavian and Antonius to make a reconciliation. Now a widower, Antonius married Octavian's sister Octavia. Later it woould be Octavia who took care of Fulvia's children.

Fulvia's marriages and descendants

See also: Women in Rome - Scipio-Paullus-Gracchus family tree

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