Domitia Lepida the Younger

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Roman imperial dynasties
Julio-Claudian dynasty
Augustus 27 BC – AD 14
Tiberius AD 14–37
Caligula AD 37–41
Claudius AD 41–54
Nero AD 54–68
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Category:Julio-Claudian dynasty
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Year of the Four Emperors

Domitia Lepida,[1] also known as Domitia Lepida the Younger, or Domitia Lepida Minora, (c. 5 BC - 54 AD); was the younger daughter of consul, Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus and Antonia Major. Her elder sister was Domitia Lepida the Elder and her younger brother was Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, father of the Emperor Nero. She was the great niece of Emperor Augustus, granddaughter of Octavia the Younger and Triumvir Mark Antony, second cousin to the Emperor Caligula, first cousin and mother-in-law to the Emperor Claudius and paternal aunt of the Emperor Nero. Lepida was a beautiful and influential figure.[2] Like her sister, she was also very wealthy. She had holdings in Calabria and owned the praedia Lepidiana.[3]

Lepida was married three times. Her first husband was her cousin, Marcus Valerius Messalla Barbatus.[4][5] Lepida married Barbatus probably around 15 AD, suggesting that she was born in approximately 4 BC. It was standard for princesses in the imperial family to marry before their 18th birthday.[6] They had a daughter, Valeria Messalina (c. 17/20-48 AD), who became Empress and third wife to the Emperor Claudius. Barbatus most likely died around 20 or 21 AD, shortly after Messalina was born. It is extremely unlikely that Marcus Valerius Messala Corvinus was their son, since Lepida's son by her second husband reached the consulship earlier than Messala. Lepida's second husband was Faustus Cornelius Sulla Lucullus,[7] consul suffectus in 31 AD, a descendant of the dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla. Their son, Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix was born c. 22 AD and married Claudia Antonia, the daughter of Claudius through his second marriage to Aelia Paetina.[8][9] Faustus Cornelius Sulla died in 62.

At the beginning of the reign of her son-in-law, Claudius, Lepida, now a widow, married Appius Junius Silanus, (cos. AD 28). In the following year (42 AD), Silanus was put to death by Claudius, allegedly because he had plotted to assassinate Claudius, but the rumor circulated that Messalina had framed him after he resisted her advances.

Lepida was the maternal grandmother to Messalina's children Claudia Octavia (step-sister and first wife of Nero) and Britannicus. In 48 AD, Messalina was executed on the orders of Claudius, due to Messalina's mock marriage with her lover Gaius Silius which swiftly evolved into a failed coup d'état. During Messalina's heyday, Lepida argued with Messalina and they became estranged (this likely followed Appius Silanus' execution). In Messalina's last hour in the Gardens of Lucullus, Lepida was at her side and encouraged her to end her own life.[10] After Messalina was stabbed with a dagger by an officer, her body was given up to Lepida.

Lepida's former sister-in-law, Agrippina the Younger, became Claudius' new wife in 49 AD. Out of jealousy, Agrippina arranged the execution of Lepida sometime before the poisoning of Claudius, after which Nero became the new emperor. Agrippina charged Lepida with attempting to take her life by magic, disturbing Roman peace, and failing to control her Calabrian slave-gangs. Agrippina thought that Lepida would use her 'kind' influence on Nero to turn him against his mother.

She was played by Moira Redmond in the 1976 BBC TV series I, Claudius.


a.^ Minor being Latin for "the younger"


  1. ^ E. Groag, A. Stein, L. Petersen - e.a. (edd.), Prosopographia Imperii Romani saeculi I, II et III, Berlin, 1933 -. (PIR2) D 180
  2. ^ Tacitus, Annals, 12.64
  3. ^ Raepsaet-Charlier M.-Th., Prosopographie des femmes de l'ordre sénatorial (Ier-IIe siècles), 2 vol., Louvain, 1987, 285 ff; p.286
  4. ^ E. Klebs, H. Dessau, P. Von Rohden (ed.), Prosopographia Imperii Romani, 3 vol., Berlin, 1897-1898. (PIR1) V 88
  5. ^ Suetonius, Vita Claudii, 26.29
  6. ^ Barrett, Anthony A., Agrippina: Sex, Power and Politics in the Early Roman Empire. Yale University Press, New Haven, 1996; p. 287 n. 154. See also Gaius Stern, "Women, Children, and Senators on the Ara Pacis Augustae, Chapter 6 (Berk. Diss. 2006).
  7. ^ PIR2 C 1459
  8. ^ PIR2 C 1464
  9. ^ Dio 60.30.6a
  10. ^ Tacitus, Annals 11.37
  • Levick, Barbara, Claudius. Yale University Press, New Haven, 1990
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