This work presents the first quantitative composite model atmosphere analysis of Capella, the brightest near-equal-mass spectroscopic binary and principal star of the constellation Auriga. Its high-resolution spectrum leads to a slightly metal-rich object at [Fe/H] = +0.05±0.08 dex. In line with its young age and its kinematics, this consistently associates Capella with the Hyades moving group. The measured projected rotational velocities, vsin iAa= 3.5±0.8 km/s and vsin iAb= 35.4±3.2 km/s, both agree with rotational and orbital coplanarity and synchronous orbital rotation for the Aa component. At an orbital period P = 104 d the primary's bound rotation together with the almost zero orbital eccentricity are both key characteristics of this binary and clearly imply that the Aa component must have passed the tip of the giant branch. Whether in that phase Capella also became a mass transfer system remains inconclusive at present, though the high rotational velocity of the less evolved Hertzsprung gap secondary and the very diverse lithium abundances of both its components render this a plausible case.
binaries: spectroscopic - stars: fundamental parameters - stars: individual: α Aurigae A (Capella) - stars: solar-type