Sister of Octavian
Second wife of Mark Antony
died 11 BC
Octavia was the sister of Octavian (Augustus), born the daughter of Gaius Octavius and Atia, daughter of Caesar’s sister, Julia. Octavia was married to Consul Gaius Marcellus at a rather young age in 50 BC. Octavia bore three children in this marriage – two daughters and a son named Marcellus, who was eventually married to Octavian’s daughter Julia.
Julius Caesar considered having Octavia divorce and remarry Pompey the Great, but eventually, that political marriage occurred with Caesar’s daughter Julia. Octavia’s husband died sometime around 40 BC.
Octavia was once again considered for a political marriage, but this time by her brother Octavian (Augustus) to his partner in the Second Triumvirate – Mark Antony. Octavia became the second wife of Mark Antony in 40 BC following the death of Julius Caesar. Her marriage to Mark Antony was purely based on politics. Octavia bore Marc Antony two daughters, the two Antonias. The younger Antonia married Nero Claudius Drusus, brother of Tiberius, and gave birth to the future Emperor Claudius. The elder Antonia, although overshadowed by her younger sister, married L. Domitius Ahenobarbus, which resulted in the birth of C. Domitius Ahenobarbus, who, in turn, was the father of the future Emperor Nero.
Antony & Cleopatra
Of course, the story of Mark Antony falling madly in love with Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt, was obviously the break of this political bond. Octavia was eventually repudiated by Mark Antony in 32 BC. Nonetheless, Octavia remained greatly respected and loved by the people of Rome, who felt that Antony’s affair with Cleopatra had wronged her.
Following Antony’s defeat and eventual death, Octavia did remain loyal to his memory. She also continued to care for all of his children, including those from his previous wife Fulvia and Cleopatra. Octavia lived as a Roman matron. She was very much aggrieved by the premature death of her son Marcellus in 23 BC. Eventually, Octavia died in 11 BC. There is a unique surviving Roman denarius of Octavia which has survived. Perhaps it was struck following the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra.
Antony had also been loved for being the right hand of Julius Caesar. When Augustus defeated Antony and Cleopatra, he issued a coin saying Egypt had been captured. It was not seen as proper to boast that he had defeated Antony. Therefore, his coinage addressed Egypt. It may have been at this time that we also see this exceptionally rare denarius of Octavia without a legend, more or less to show that she was honorable.
Cistophorus of Mark Antony & Octavia
AU Aureus – with Mark Antony (6.54 grams)
AR Cistophorus – with Mark Antony
AR Denarius (without legend)
Æ Sestertius – with Mark Antony