Fulvia: The Roman Woman Who Would Be King

Without political power of her own in ancient Rome, Fulvia wielded that of her husbands. 

Fulvia stabs the tongue of Cicero's severed head with a needle, by Bartolomeo Pinelli, 1819. Rijksmuseum. Public Domain.

Fulvia is most familiar as the wife of Mark Antony, but that label does not do her justice. Antony was her third husband and, by the time they married in 44 BC, she was already a well-known figure in Roman public life. In fact, her political clout may have been almost as much of an attraction to Antony as her money. The wealth she inherited as the last surviving member of two ancient families; the clout came largely from her previous marriage to Publius Clodius Pulcher – and from Fulvia’s shrewdness in exploiting that connection.

This was during the Roman civil wars, a dangerous time to be in politics. Clodius was a ruthless and successful politician who, despite coming from the upper class, courted the support of the common people. His feud with Titus Annius Milo, who belonged to the more pro-aristocratic faction, was played out in the law courts and in the streets with gangs of hired thugs. A clash between the two ended with Clodius dead and Milo on trial for his murder.

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