Marcus Claudius Marcellus (42-23 BCE) was a nephew of Augustus and his first chosen heir. He was the son of Augustus’ sister Octavia from her first marriage with Marcus Claudius Marcellus Senior.
Being one of the closest blood relatives of Octavian, he soon became a part of politics and power struggles. Already at the age of three he was engaged to a daugther of Sextus Pompeius with whom Octavian needed to make peace, but the engagement was forgotten when Sextus Pompeius was defeated.
Sometimes between 30 and 25 BCE Augustus appears to have chose Marcellus as his designated heir. It was a gradual process, not just a public announcement, as the powers of Augustus were not formally hereditary. Instead, Marcellus was slowly introduced to the public in a still more preferential way, thus signalling Augustus’ preference. The first indication was in 29 BCE, when Marcellus participated in Augustus’ triple triumph, just as Octavian had participated in the triumph of Julius Caesar in 46 BCE.
On return to Rome Augustus arranged an accelerated official career for Marcellus, that would allow him to reach the consulship ten years early, just as Octavian had held the consulship ten years before he reached the minimum age allowed. In 23 BCE Marcellus held his first public office as aedile, i.e., responsible for public buildings, roads and games. The aediles were expected to arrange grandiose shows to please the people, often at their own expence as an investment in their future political career, and Marcellus organised some spectacular games.
That year Augustus fell seriously ill and expected to die. Judging Marcellus still too young to be princeps, Augustus gave his signet-ring to Agrippa, indicating his preference for Agrippa as immediate heir. Augustus recovered, but Marcellus was less fortunate. He too fell ill and died towards the end of 23 BCE at Baiae near Naples.
Marcellus was the first to be buried in the Mausoleum of Augustus.
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