What Julius Caesar and 14 Other Famous Romans Looked Like

What did Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, Brutus, Pompey, and other famous Romans look like? We do not have to guess. The statues and coins of many of them have made it to our days. And for those whose statues did not make it, we have their physical descriptions. For example, the ancient authors say that Cato was a redhead and Octavian a blond. And they even dish that both Scipio and Julius Caesar were trendy dressers, while Antony liked to dress up like a servant for laughs.

Here are the statues, coins, and descriptions of 15 famous Romans from republican times.

1. Scipio Africanus

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Physical characteristics: Longish hair, had natural majesty. Liked dressing in Greek clothes. He introduced several trends in Rome, such as the clean-shaven face and the Gallic cloak.

Birthplace: Rome, Latium, Italy

Ethnicity: Roman/Latin

Full name: Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus
Family: Cornelii
Rank: Patrician (a descendant of the founders of the city of Rome)

Born: 236 or 235 BC

Scipio was the Roman general who beat Hannibal. Hannibal of Carthage invaded Italy in 218 BC. For 16 years, Hannibal roamed the country with his elephants and defeated the terrified Romans in every battle. Finally, young Scipio lured him to Hannibal’s natal Africa and beat him there. Since Scipio won in Africa, he received the nickname of ‘Africanus.’
Scipio was considered a national hero in Rome. His statue was kept in Rome’s main temple.

“From what he had heard of his achievements, the Numidian had pictured him [Scipio] in imagination as a man of grand and imposing presence. But when he saw him, he felt a deeper veneration for him. The majesty, natural to Scipio, was heightened by his flowing hair and the simplicity of his general appearance, which was devoid of all adornment and decoration, and in the highest degree manly and soldierly. He was at the most vigorous time of life, and his recovery from his recent illness had given him a freshness and clearness of complexion which renewed the bloom of youth.” Livy 28

“The Roman commander [Scipio] was even taunted with his style of dress as being un-Roman and even unsoldierly. It was asserted that he walked about the gymnasium in a Greek mantle and Greek slippers.” Livy 29

“P. Scipio… was at the same time accustomed to the gymnasium and wore a pallium, or long mantle, and those finer sort of shoes called crepidae.” Valerius Maximus 6,1. Scipio’s love of Greek culture was not well-seen by conservative Romans.

“He [Scipio] introduced the wearing of the Gallic cloak, and himself used to wear a black one.” Polyaenus, Stratagems 8,16

“Scipio the Elder used to spend on literature all the leisure he could win from his military and political duties, and he used to say that he was busiest whenever he had nothing to do.” Plutarch, Moralia

“And yet Scipio so far excelled all other men in greatness of mind…”  Polybius, Roman History 10,40


2. Cato the Elder

Hair color: Red 1

Eye color: Light blue 2

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Physical characteristics: Strong, healthy, fierce countenance in battle. Dressed simply, in the traditional Roman manner. Did not wear any adornments.

Birthplace: Tusculum, a city in Latium, Italy

Ethnicity: Latin

Full name: Marcus Porcius Cato. Known as Cato the Censor, Cato the Elder.
Family: Porcii
Rank: Plebeian. Cato’s family was not from Rome but from a city nearby. Cato was the first Porcii to move to the city of Rome and become a consul there. He was what the Romans called a ‘New Man.’

Born: 234 BC

Cato was a historian, soldier, senator, and censor (the most prestigious public office in Rome). He was famous for his eloquence and for upholding the traditional Roman values. He lived simply.
To inspire others, his statue was kept inside the senate.

“He had reddish hair and keen blue eyes.” Plutarch, Cato the Elder 1

“In battle, he showed himself effective of hand, sure and steadfast of foot, and of a fierce countenance.” Plutarch, Cato the Elder 1

“His bodily habit -since he was addicted from the very first to labour with his own hands, a temperate mode of life, and military duties- was very serviceable, and disposed alike to vigour and health.” Plutarch, Cato the Elder 1

“Cato in the eighty-sixth year of his age, while he persisted with a youthful vigour in defending the Commonwealth… no man ever observed so large a memory, a greater strength of body, or less hesitation of speech.” Valerius Maximus 8,7

“Yet all this did the Elder Cato patiently endure, confining himself with an extraordinary delight to a pleasing custom of frugality.” Valerius Maximus 4,3

“He got the surname of Cato for his great abilities. The Romans call a man who is wise and prudent, catus.” Plutarch, Cato the Elder 1

3. Marius


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Physical characteristics: Virile, fierce-looking, corpulent, heavy

Birthplace: Cereatae, a village in Latium, Italy

Ethnicity: Latin

Full name: Gaius Marius
Family: Marii
Rank: Plebeian. Marius did not have Roman blood. He was a ‘New Man.’

Born: 157 BC

Marius was a great general and was consul 7 times.
As a general, he saved Rome from several perils. But then, he was the first person to use the support of the army to usurp power. Once in power, he broke laws, weakened the Republic’s institutions, and murdered the Romans that opposed him. From then on, the city would be plagued with strongmen and civil wars.

“As for the personal appearance of Marius, we have seen a marble statue of him at Ravenna in Gaul [now part of Italy], and it very well portrays the harshness and bitterness of character which were ascribed to him. For since he was naturally virile and fond of war, and since he received a training in military rather than in civil life, his temper was fierce when he came to exercise authority.” Plutarch, Marius 2

“His bulk was not well set up in his old age, but ran to corpulence and weight.” Plutarch, Marius 34

“Marius himself, who was heavy and unwieldy.” Plutarch, Marius 37

“Marius… in mean attire, his hair uncut since the day of his flight, being now over seventy years of age, came with slow steps to meet the consul. For he wished that men should pity him; but with his appeal for compassion there was mingled the look that was natural to him and now more terrifying than ever, and through his downcast mien there flashed a spirit which had been, not humbled, but made savage by his reverses.” Plutarch, Marius 41

“Marius… out of his rigorous manner of life.” Valerius Maximus 8,2,3

Marius, standing by the consul’s chair without speaking a word, made it clear all the while, by the heaviness of his countenance and the gloominess of his look, that he would at once fill the city [Rome] with slaughter.” Plutarch, Marius 43

“Gaius Marius… a man of rustic birth, rough and uncouth, and austere in his life, as excellent a general as he was an evil influence in time of peace, a man of unbounded ambition, insatiable, without self-control, and always an element of unrest.” Velleius Paterculus, Roman History 1,11

“He [Marius] became more criminal at home, than praise-worthy for his victories abroad.” Valerius Maximus 9,2

4. Sulla

Hair color: Blond/golden 3

Eye color: Light blue 4

Skin tone: White 5. His face was reddish 6, either because he was ruddy, because he blushed easily, or because he had a skin condition such as rosacea.

Physical characteristics: Striking appearance, handsome, powerful gaze, austere countenance

Birthplace: Rome, Latium, Italy

Ethnicity: Roman/Latin

Full name: Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix
Family: Cornelii (same family as Scipio)
Rank: Patrician

Born: 138 BC

Sulla was a great general. He was brilliant, well-read, eloquent, and could be charming and friendly. He fought in the civil war against Marius’ supporters. Once he won, he became a dictator and murdered the people he considered to be enemies of the Republic. With his laws, he re-strengthened the battered republic. After a year, he voluntarily stepped down and reinstated democracy.
Sulla called himself lucky, so he added ‘Felix’ (Fortunate) to his name.
He was an ancestor of emperors Caligula, Nero, and Agrippina the Younger.

His general personal appearance is given by his statues; but the glare of his blue eyes, which was terribly sharp and powerful, was rendered all the more fearful by the complexion of his face, in which white was mixed with rough blotches of fiery red… And it was in allusion to this, that a scurrilous jester at Athens made the verse: ‘Sulla is a mulberry sprinkled o’er with meal.’” Plutarch, Sulla 2. When Plutarch writes (c. 115 AD), there were many statues of Sulla still standing. About the verse, Sulla had spent time in Athens.

“I know that the blush, too, is a habit of this sort, spreading suddenly over the faces of the most dignified men… Some are most dangerous when they redden… Sulla, when the blood mantled his cheeks, was in his fiercest mood.” Seneca, Moral letters to Lucilius, letter 11

“Whereupon the soothsayers declared that a brave man, of rare courage and surpassing appearance… should take the government in hand and quiet the present troubles of the city. And Sulla says that he himself was this man, for his golden head of hair made him an extraordinary-looking man…” Plutarch, Sulla 6

“It is also recorded that a certain man in the retinue of Orobazus, a Chaldaean, after looking at Sulla intently in the face, and studying carefully the movements of his mind and body, and investigating his nature according to the principles of his peculiar art, declared that this man must of necessity become the greatest in the world, and that even now the wonder was that he consented not to be first of all men.” Plutarch, Sulla 5

“There came to him [to Sulla] ambassadors of the Parthians… and among them some wise men who, from the marks on his body, foretold that his life and his fame would be worthy of a god.” Valleius Paterculus, Roman History 2,24

“At other times he [Sulla] was a man of business and austere of countenance” Plutarch, Sulla 3

Lucius Cornelius Sulla also, when he was emperor, thought it no disgrace to walk the streets of Naples mantled in a short cloak and embroidered shoes upon his feet.” Valerius Maximus 6,3. A traditionalist would have shunned these garments as foreign and luxurious (bad all over).

“He [Sulla] was eloquent, clever, and quick to make friends.” Sallust, Jugurtha’s War 95

“Of so eminent a man… I think it proper to give a brief account of the character and manners… He was skilled, equally and profoundly, in Greek and Roman literature. He was a man of large mind, fond of pleasure, but fonder of glory… He was eloquent and subtle and lived on the easiest terms with his friends… he was liberal of most things, but especially of money…” Sallustius, Jugartha’s War 95

“He [Sulla] was besides affable to the soldiers; he conferred favors on many at their request, and on others of his own accord…” Sallust, Jugurtha’s War 96

5. Crassus

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Physical characteristics: Good-looking, dignified

Birthplace: Rome, Latium, Italy

Ethnicity: Roman/Latin

Full name: Marcus Licinius Crassus
Family: Licinii
Rank: Plebeian noble

Born: c. 115 BC

When Crassus was young, his family was murdered by Marius, so Crassus joined Sulla’s army. Eventually, he became the wealthiest man in Rome and one of the most powerful.
Crassus formed the first triumvirate with Pompey and Julius Caesar.

“So far as dignity of appearance, persuasiveness of language, and attractiveness of face are concerned, there was, so it is said, nothing to choose between them.” Plutarch, Crassus 7. Plutarch is comparing Crassus with Pompey. Since Plutarch describes Pompey as being handsome and having a dignified demeanor, the same goes for Crassus.

“Certainly the Romans say that in the case of Crassus many virtues were obscured by one vice, namely avarice.” Plutarch, Crassus 2

“It must be admitted, however, that Crassus was eager to show kindness and hospitality… Another thing which made him popular was the courteous unaffected way in which he greeted people and spoke to them. However humble and obscure a man might be, Crassus, on meeting him, would invariably return his greeting and address him by name.” Plutarch, Crassus 3


6. Pompey the Great

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Physical characteristics: Beautiful, attractive. Wore his hair away from the forehead. He had a powerful, majestic presence. Cheerful face. He blushed easily.

Birthplace: Picenum, Abruzzo, Italy

Ethnicity: Roman through his mother, Piceni through his father. As a Piceni, he was likely Sabine. But he could have also descended from other groups that inhabited Picenum, like the Gauls.

Full name: Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus
Family: Pompeii
Rank: Plebeian. Pompey’s father was a ‘New Man’ in Rome. But in their hometown, their family was part of the nobility.

Born: 29 September 106 BC

Pompey was well-liked. He was a great general. Through his military victories, he became popular in Rome. But then, he began clashing with powerful Crassus. To even things out, the duo formed a triumvirate with Caesar.
When triumvir Crassus died, Caesar was away in Gaul while Pompey was in Rome. Fearing he would lose his power, Caesar marched on Rome. Civil war broke out. Pompey fought on the side of the Republic and the Senate, but Caesar won.
Emperors Caligula, Nero, and Agrippina the Younger descended from Pompey.

“At the beginning of his career, too, he had an appearance which seemed to plead for him before he opened his mouth, and this was a great help to him in winning people’s affections. He was attractive certainly, but part of his attractiveness lay in a kind of dignity and sweetness of disposition; and at the height and flower of his youthful beauty, there was apparent at the same time the majesty and the kingliness of his nature. His hair swept back in a kind of wave from the forehead and the configuration of his face around the eyes gave him a melting look.” Plutarch, Pompey 2

“Pompeius himself, his noble countenance, with the hair thrown back from the forehead, delighting the eye. Yes, I say, those frank features, so venerated throughout all nations.” Pliny, 37

“On the side of his mother Lucilia, he was of senatorial stock. He [Pompey] was distinguished by a personal beauty, not of the sort which gives the bloom of youth its charm, but stately and unchanging… and this beauty attended him to the last day of his life.” Velleius Paterculus, Roman History Book 2,29

“That ingenuous countenance of his [of Pompey’s], and that fine forehead, which so strongly bespoke his noble descent.” Pliny, 7,10

“Pompey leading the way with a bright and cheerful face.” Plutarch, Crassus 16

Pompey had the most sensitive cast of countenance; he always blushed in the presence of a gathering, and especially at a public assembly.” Seneca, Moral letters to Lucilius, letter 11

“No Roman ever enjoyed a heartier goodwill on the part of his countrymen… There were many reasons for the love bestowed on Pompey; his modest and temperate way of living, his training in the arts of war, his persuasive speech, his trustworthy character, and his tact in meeting people…” Plutarch, Pompey 1

7. Julius Caesar

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Eye color: Very dark 7

Skin tone: Snow-white 8

Physical characteristics: Tall, slender body; soft skin. He looked delicate. Wide mouth, carefully arranged hair, well-groomed. When he was older, he started losing his hair. Trendy dresser.

Birthplace: Rome, Latium, Italy

Ethnicity: Roman/Latin with a bit of Sabine

Full name: Gaius Julius Caesar
Family: Julii
Rank: Patrician

Born: 13 July 100 BC

Ceasar was one of the best military commanders and strategists the world has seen. He was brilliant, charismatic, a gifted orator, writer, and statesman.
Caesar formed the first triumvirate with Crassus and Pompey. When Crassus died, Caesar and Pompey fell out. Caesar marched on Rome igniting civil war. Caesar won the war and declared himself a short-term dictator. With that, he concentrated all the powers of the state onto himself (legislative, executive, judicial, military, and religious).
In 44 BC, he declared himself dictator for life. He was murdered a month after that declaration.

Caesar is said to have been tall of stature, with a white-snow skin, slender limbs, with a rather broad mouth and keen, dark eyes.” Seutonius, Caesar 45

“But that he should undergo toils beyond his body’s apparent powers of endurance amazed them, because he was a slightly built man, had a soft and white skin, suffered from headaches, and was subject to epileptic fits.” Plutarch, Caesar 17

His health was sound, apart from sudden fainting spells and a tendency to nightmares…, but he twice had epileptic fits while on campaign.” Seutonius, Caesar 45

“He was something of a dandy, so that he not only kept himself carefully trimmed and shaved but also, as some people have charged, depilated with tweezers. His baldness was a disfigurement which his enemies harped upon, much to his exasperation, but he used to comb the thin strands of hair forward from the crown of his head…” Seutonius, Caesar 45

“When I look at Caesar’s hair, which is arranged with such nicety…” Cicero speaking about his contemporary, Caesar. Plutarch, Caesar 4.

‘‘Men of Rome, lock up your wives; we are bringing home the bald adulterer.’’ Seutonius, Caesar 51. Caesar’s troops chanted this.

“They say, too, that he was remarkable in his dress; that he wore a senator’s tunic with fringed sleeves reaching to the wrist, which he wore not only belted but loosely belted at that – hence Sulla’s warning to the optimates: ‘Beware of that badly belted boy!‘” Suetonius, Caesar 45. Also in Dio 43.43. Caesar’s adaptations were trendy. But to a traditionalist, it looked like he was wearing a woman’s dress.

“‘And Cicero… in the moment of defeat said: “I should never have expected one so ill-girt [Caesar] to have conquered Pompey.’” Dio, 43.43

“He [Caesar]… was adorned with the laurel crown always and everywhere alike. The excuse that he gave for it was that his forehead was bald… He used to show among all men his pride in rather loose clothing, and the footwear which he used later on was sometimes high and of a reddish colour, after the style of the kings who had once reigned in Alba [a Latin city near Rome], for he claimed that he was related to them through Iulus.” Dio 43.43

“On receiving intelligence that some troops had been butchered in Gaul, Caesar made a vow not to shave his face, till he had taken satisfaction on their murderers. This reaction won him universal esteem.” Polyaenus, Stratagems 8,23

“He had an ability to make himself liked which was remarkable in one of his [young] age, and he was very much in the good graces of the ordinary citizen because of his easy manners and the friendly way in which he mixed with people.” Plutarch, Caesar 4


8. Cato the Younger

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Physical characteristics: Humble appearance and stern-looking. Rarely smiled. Walked around barefoot. Wore the toga like the Romans of old: short and without a tunic underneath. His appearance was purposely rough and old-fashioned.

Birthplace: Rome? Latium, Italy

Ethnicity: Latin

Full name: Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis. Known as Cato the Younger.
Family: Porcii
Rank: Plebeian noble

Born: 95 BC

Cato followed in the footsteps of his great-grandfather Cato the Elder. This Cato, too, had integrity, was incorruptible, inflexible, and a moralist. And he, too, was an extraordinary orator. He upheld the traditional Roman values and shunned luxuries. He was popular with the people.
Cato defended the Republic fiercely against those who tried to overthrow it. When civil war broke out between Caesar and the Republic, Cato fought on the Republic’s side. His side lost, so he killed himself. He was remembered as the ideal, virtuous Roman.

“The sight of Cato himself would then make people even more dismissive: as he sat quietly on his piled-up baggage, he would give the impression of someone who was altogether humble and timid.” Plutarch, Cato the Younger 12

“Admiring the very features that had previously led them to be so dismissive [of Cato], and to reflect admiringly on his unoppressive and magnanimous behaviour.” Plutarch, Cato the Younger 13

“For he would often go forth to his tribunal without shoes or tunic.” Plutarch, Cato the Younger 44

“If any savage, by a stern countenance and bare feet, and the texture of a scanty gown, should imitate Cato; will he represent the virtue and morals of Cato?” Horace Ep. 1.19.13

“And, in general, Cato thought he ought to take a course directly opposed to the life and practices of the time, feeling that these were bad and in need of great change. For instance, when he saw that a purple which was excessively red and vivid was much in vogue, he himself would wear out the dark shade.” Plutarch, Cato the Younger 6

“But from that day, as we are told, Cato neither cut his hair nor trimmed his beard nor put on a garland, but maintained the same mien of sorrow, dejection, and heaviness of spirit in view of the calamities of his country, alike in victory and in defeat, until the end.” Plutarch, Cato the Younger 53

“For no man of that day took part in public life from pure motives and free from any desire of personal gain except Cato.” Dio, Roman History 37,57

9. Mark Antony

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Physical characteristics: Broad forehead, aquiline nose, powerful jaw. Longish hair, sometimes wore a beard. Very masculine. Corpulent, physically strong. Cicero said he was built like a gladiator, while Caesar called him fat. He liked dressing up, sometimes in garb of other cultures, others as a servant, slave, or as a god.

Birthplace: Rome, Latium, Italy

Ethnicity: Roman/Latin

Full name: Marcus Antonius
Family: Antonii
Rank: Plebeian noble

Born: 14 January 83 BC

Antony was a military commander and Caesar’s right hand.
After Caesar’s death, Antony and Caesar’s heir, Octavian, quarreled for power. Then, they became allies and split the empire between them. Antony got the east. So he went to Egypt and stayed with Cleopatra. After several years, civil war broke out between Octavian and Antony. Antony lost and killed himself.
Among Antony’s descendants were: Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Agrippina the Younger, Messalina, and several royal houses of Asia Minor and North Africa.

“He [Antony] had also a noble dignity of form; and a shapely beard, a broad forehead, and an aquiline nose, and these features combined to give him a masculine look that resembled the statues and portraits of Hercules.” Plutarch, Antony 4

“It is not these fat, long-haired fellows [Antony and Dolabella] I am afraid of…” Caesar’s answer when told Antony might be plotting against him. Plutarch, Brutus 8 and Antony 11

“His hair [Antony’s] was long and uncombed, his beard had been left to grow long after his defeat.” Plutarch, Antony 18

“But they were afraid of Antony’s physical strength.” Plutarch, Antony 13

“Now Antony, who was a true friend of Caesar’s and also a strong man physically.” Plutarch, Caesar 66

“You [Antony], with those jaws of yours, and those sides of yours, and that strength of body suited to a gladiator.” Cicero, second speech against Antony 2,25

“When Antony was fattening himself every day at decadent banquets [in Egypt].” Pliny 9,119,21

“The countenances of the Antonii. Mark their gait, their look, their face, their arrogance; mark those friends of theirs who walk by their side…. What breath reeking of wine, what insolence, what threatening language do you not think there will be there?” Cicero, second speech against Antony 2,13. Needless to say, Cicero was Antony’s enemy.

“For Antony also would dress himself like a servant. Therefore he always reaped a harvest of abuse, and often of blows…” Plutarch, Antony 29

“There were times when he [Antony] carried a Persian dagger in his belt; he wore foreign clothing; he was seen even in public on a gilded couch or chair.” Dio 50,4

“…He [Antony] degenerated completely into that monster in mind as well as clothing and appearance. He had a gold scepter in his hand, a short saber at his side, and purple garments adorned with huge gems: only a crown was missing, or they would have been king and queen [Cleopatra] enjoying themselves.” Florus 2,14,4

“He [Antony] had entered Alexandria wearing a crown of ivy, a robe of gold, and Greek boots, carrying a thyrsus, and riding in a chariot just like Father Liber [a god].” Velleius Paterculus, Histories 2,82,4

“He [Antony] also had portraits painted and statues sculpted of him with Cleopatra: he appeared as Osiris or Dionysius and she as Selene or Isis.” Dio 50,4


10. Brutus

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Physical characteristics: Pale, thin, well-groomed

Birthplace: Rome, Latium, Italy

Ethnicity: Roman/Latin and Etruscan (Latins and Etruscans lived in central Italy)

Full name: Marcus Junius Brutus
Family: Junii
Rank: Plebeian noble

Born: 85 BC

Brutus was an intellectual. He had integrity, was quite serious, incorruptible, and firmly believed in the Republic. When Julius Caesar overthrew the Republic, Brutus and other eminent men killed Caesar. But the move backfired. Two ambitious warlords sprung up wanting to take Caesar’s place: Antony and Octavian. Civil war broke out, again. Brutus led the Republican army against Antony and Octavian. Brutus lost in 42 BC and killed himself. Antony and Octavian divided Rome between them.

“It is not these fat, long-haired fellows [Antony and Dolabella] I am afraid of, but the pale, thin ones –and here he pointed to Brutus and Cassius.” Caesar’s words. Plutarch, Brutus 8 and Antony 11

“This Brutus, of whom I now write, modified his disposition by means of the training and culture which philosophy gives, and stimulated a nature which was sedate and mild by active enterprises, and thus seems to have been most harmoniously attempered for the practice of virtue.” Plutarch, Brutus 1

“Brutus was expected to choose the side of Caesar, since his father had been put to death a while before at the instigation of Pompey; but thinking it his duty to put the public good above his own…, he attached himself to Pompey.” Plutarch, Brutus 4

“To the people of his province Brutus meant relief and consolation even for their former misfortunes…” Plutarch, Brutus 6. When Brutus was in charge of Cisalpine Gaul, he administered it efficiently and fairly.

11. Fulvia


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Birthplace: Tusculum, a city in Latium, Italy

Ethnicity: Latin

Full name: Fulvia Flacca Bambula
Family: Fulvii
Rank: Plebeian, very wealthy

Born: c. 80 BC

Fulvia was one of the most ambitious and powerful women of the Late Republic. She married three powerful men and governed through them -or tried to. Mark Antony was her third and last husband.
Antony and Octavian became allies and went to fight in Asia. Fulvia stayed in Rome, according to the sources, governing. As Antony’s wife and Octavian’s mother-in-law, no one could stop her. After the war, Antony went to his provinces in the East and Octavian returned to Rome. In Rome, Fulvia thought Octavian was undermining Antony’s power. So she raised eight legions and civil war broke out.
Things started to go south for Fulvia in 40 BC, so she fled to meet Antony and died abroad of an illness. Antony arrived in Italy and made peace with Octavian. The duo blamed Fulvia for the war.

“Your wife [Fulvia], -a good woman, at all events a rich one…” Cicero, third speech against Antony 3.6

“A woman [Fulvia] who took no thought for spinning or housekeeping, nor would she deign to bear sway over a man of private station, but [who] wished to rule a ruler and command a commander,” Plutarch, Antony 10

“The following year Publius Servilius and Lucius Antonius [Mark’s brother] nominally became consuls, but in reality it was Antonius and Fulvia. She, the mother-in‑law of Caesar and wife of Antony… managed affairs herself, so that neither the senate nor the people transacted any business contrary to her pleasure…” Dio 48.4

“In another quarter Fulvia, the wife of Antony, who had nothing of the woman in her except her sex, was creating general confusion by armed violence. She had taken Praeneste as her base of operations.” Velleius Paterculus, Roman History, 2,74

12. Octavia

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Physical characteristics: Very beautiful, youthful appearance

Birthplace: Nola, Campania, Italy

Ethnicity: Volsci, Sabine, Roman/Latin (three Italian groups)

Full name: Octavia Minor (Octavia the Younger)
Family: Octavii
Rank: Plebeian. Octavia’s father was new to Rome.

Born: c. 69 BC

People in Rome spoke highly of Octavia. She was intelligent, wise, prudent, virtuous, dutiful, selfless; an all around great human being.
When her brother Octavian and Antony joined forces, they strengthened their alliance with a marriage: Octavia married Antony. During the following years, Octavia excelled as a diplomat. She ironed the many conflicts that sprung between these two ambitious men. But Antony finally divorced Octavia for Cleopatra.
Octavia could no longer keep civil war from breaking out. Octavian and Antony faced each other. Octavian won.
Octavia’s descendants include emperors Caligula, Claudius, Agrippina the Younger, Nero, and the infamous Messalina.

“For they [everyone] hoped that Octavia -who, besides her great beauty, had intelligence and dignity- could become united to Antony and win his love, as such a woman could hardly fail to do, would restore harmony and be their complete salvation.” Plutarch, Antony 31

“But the Romans felt pity for Antony [when he divorced Octavia]… especially those who had seen Cleopatra and knew that neither in youthfulness nor beauty was she superior to Octavia.” Plutarch, Antony 57

“Octavian was deeply attached to his sister who was, as the saying is, a wonder of a woman…” Plutarch, Antony 31

“They [Octavian and Antony] became reconciled in a way, chiefly through the instrumentality of Octavia.” Dio 48,54

13. Marcus Agrippa

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Skin tone:

Physical characteristics: –

Birthplace: Somewhere in the Italian countryside

Ethnicity: Different birthplaces have been suggested within Italy. In turn, they would make him Etruscan, Umbrian, Volsci, or Veneti. Many scholars believe his family hailed from Pisa, in Etruria (modern Tuscany).

Full name: Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa
Family: Vipsanii
Rank: Plebeian. Agrippa was a ‘New Man.’

Born: November? between 64 and 62 BC

Agrippa was a good general, statesman, and an enthusiastic builder. He was Octavian’s loyal childhood friend and right hand. Octavian was not a military man; it was Agrippa who won the wars for Octavian. And he was behind most of the great buildings erected during his friend’s reign.
Agrippa married Julia, Octavian’s only daughter. He was the ancestor of emperors Caligula, Agrippina the Younger, and Nero.

“… Agrippa, who had in every way clearly shown himself the noblest of the men of his day and had used the friendship of Augustus with a view to the greatest advantage both of the emperor himself and of the commonwealth. For the more he surpassed others in excellence, the more inferior he kept himself of his own free will to the emperor; and while he devoted all the wisdom and valour he himself possessed to the highest interests of Augustus, he lavished all the honour and influence he received from him upon benefactions to others… Even at his death he left them [the people] gardens and the baths named after him, so that they might bathe free of cost.” Dio, Roman History 54,29

He [Agrippa] raised so many vast buildings in Rome, which not only surpassed all former grandeur, but have been surpassed by none since.” Seneca, On benefits 3,32


14. Octavian aka Augustus

Hair color: Blondish 9

Eye color: Blue 10

Skin tone: Average European

Physical characteristics: Handsome, bright eyes, his eyebrows met, slightly aquiline nose, small teeth, wavy hair. Calm expression. Carried himself with natural elegance. Short stature, well-proportioned body. Weak constitution, prone to illnesses. Always wore a hat. In winter, he wore several layers of clothing.

Birthplace: Either Rome or Nola in Campania, Italy

Ethnicity: Volsci, Sabine, Roman/Latin (three Italian groups)

Full name: Gaius Octavius Thurinus. Later known as Caesar Augustus.
Family: Octavii by birth, Julii by adoption
Rank: Plebeian at birth. His paternal family was new to Rome. When Octavian was 18, his great-uncle Julius Caesar adopted him, so Octavian became a patrician.

Born: 23 September 63 BC

Octavian was a clever statesman. He overthrew the Roman Republic and established the Roman Empire, a hereditary absolute monarchy that lasted 400 years.
Octavian was the sole ruler of Rome for 44 years. He left the empire to his step-son Tiberius.
Octavian’s descendants include emperors Caligula, Agrippina the Younger, and Nero.

“The late Emperor Augustus had azure eyes… the white [part of the eye] being larger than with other men.” Pliny 11.54. Pliny was born 10 years after Octavian’s death.

“He [Octavian] entered the Forum, aged about fourteen… Then… all the citizens looked upon him, because of his comeliness and very evidently noble descent…
On account of his youthful charm, seeing that he attracted many women…
And there came many people on legal business and many on no business at all except for a sight of the boy [Octavian]; for he was well worth beholding, especially when he assumed the dignity and honorable aspect of office.”
 Nicolaus of Damascus, Life of Augustus 4 and 5. Nicolaus was Octavian’s contemporary.

“He [Octavian] was unusually handsome and exceedingly graceful at all periods of his life, though he cared nothing for personal adornment… His expression, whether in conversation or when he was silent, was so calm and mild, that one of the leading men of the Gallic provinces admitted to his countrymen that it had softened his heart and kept him from carrying out his design of pushing the emperor over a cliff, when he had been allowed to approach him under the pretence of a conference, as he was crossing the Alps. He had clear, bright eyes…; but in his old age he could not see very well with his left eye. His teeth were wide apart, small, and ill-kept; his hair was slightly curly and inclining to golden; his eyebrows met. His ears were of moderate size, and his nose projected a little at the top and then bent slightly inward. His complexion was between dark and fair. He was short of stature (although Julius Marathus, his freedman and keeper of his records, says that he was five feet and nine inches in height), but this was concealed by the fine proportion and symmetry of his figure, and was noticeable only by comparison with some taller person standing beside him.” Suetonius, Augustus 79. Suetonius was born 55 years after Octavian died and had access to the Imperial Library.

It is said that his body [Octavian’s] was covered with spots and that he had birthmarks scattered over his breast and belly…; also numerous callous places resembling ringworm, caused by a constant itching of his body and a vigorous use of the strigil. He was not very strong in his left hip, thigh, and leg, and even limped slightly at times… He sometimes found the forefinger of his right hand so weak, when it was numb and shrunken with the cold, that he could hardly use it for writing even with the aid of a finger-stall of horn. He complained of his bladder too, and was relieved of the pain only after passing stones in his urine.” Suetonius, Augustus 80

“In the course of his life he suffered from several severe and dangerous illnesses…” Suetonius, Augustus 81

“He experienced also some disorders which recurred every year at definite times; for he was commonly ailing just before his birthday; and at the beginning of spring he was troubled with an enlargement of the diaphragm, and when the wind was in the south, with catarrh. Hence his constitution was so weakened that he could not readily endure either cold or heat.” Suetonius, Augustus 81

“In winter, he protected himself with four tunics and a heavy toga, besides an undershirt, a woollen chest-protector and wraps for his thighs and shins, while in summer he slept with the doors of his bed-room open, oftentimes in the open court near a fountain, besides having someone to fan him. Yet he could not endure the sun even in winter, and never walked in the open air without wearing a broad-brimmed hat, even at home. He travelled in a litter, usually at night… Yet in spite of all he made good his weakness by great care…” Suetonius, Augustus 82

We know you are curious about the looks of the other Roman emperors. So here they are.

15. Livia

Hair color: Reddish? (based on the traces of paint on one of her marble busts)

Eye color: Dark brown? (based on the inlaid eyes of one of her bronze statues)

Skin tone:

Physical characteristics: Beautiful

Birthplace: Rome? Latium, Italy

Ethnicity: Roman/Latin and Sabine

Full name: Livia Drusilla (Augusta)
Family: Her father was born a Claudii and was adopted by the Livii
Rank: The Claudii were patrician, the Livii were plebeian nobles

Born: 30 January 59 or 58 BC

As Octavian’s wife, Livia was empress for more than five decades. Octavian showered her with honors.
Yet, many believed she poisoned Octavian’s heirs to clear the path for her son Tiberius. Poison or no poison, she did succeed in making Tiberius the next emperor.
Livia raised three emperors: her son Tiberius, her grandson Claudius, and her great-grandson Caligula. Nero also descended from her.

“Livia… most eminent of Roman women in birth, in sincerity and in beauty…” Velleius Paterculus. Roman History. 2,75. Paterculus was Livia’s contemporary.

After this, Caesar, enamoured of her beauty [Livia’s], took her away from her husband. Her regrets are doubtful, and so impatient was he, that he brought her to his house actually pregnant…” Tacitus, Annals 5,1

“He [Octavian] divorced her also… and at once took Livia Drusilla from her husband Tiberius Nero, although she was with child at the time; and he loved and esteemed her to the end without a rival.” Suetonius, Augustus 62

“When someone asked her [Livia] how and by what course of action she had obtained such a commanding influence over Augustus…” Dio 58,2,5

“[Tiberius] Vexed at his mother Livia, alleging that she claimed an equal share in the rule…” Suetonius, Tiberius 50

Which one was your favorite?

For extra points: Whose illustration nailed his/her looks?



1 Pyrrós and ypópyrros (πυρρός, ὑπόπυρρος) = red

2 Glaukómatos and glaukós (γλαυκόμματος, γλαυκός) = light blue

3 Chrysopós (χρυσωπός) = golden

4 Glaukótis (γλαυκότης) = light blue

5 Leukótis (λευκότης) = white

6 Erýthima (ἐρύθημα) = redness/rash/blushing

7 Nigris = black

8 Candido and leukós (λευκός) = snow-white

9 Subflavum = blondish (flavum is blond/yellow; sub is ish)

10 Glauci = blue

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