Agrippina the Younger - almost a Roman Emperor
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Agrippina the Younger

Agrippina the Younger
Agrippina the Younger

Agrippina the Younger was Caligula's oldest sister, so like him she was the daughter of Germanicus and Agrippina the Elder, and she was a great-granddaughter of Augustus. Agrippina was born at Colonia Agrippinae (modern Cologne) in 15 AD, so she was three years younger than Caligula. Her father died when she was four (maybe poisoned by Tiberius). When she was twelve, Tiberius sent her with her brother and sisters to live with her great-grandmother Livia. She may have gotten to know her cousin Claudius at this time.

ahenobarbus
Agrippina's husband Ahenobarbus

Agrippina escaped this situation the next year, when she was thirteen, by marrying her second cousin, Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus (who was 45 years old). The next year, Tiberius arrested and killed her mother and older brothers. After Tiberius died in 37 AD, and Agrippina's brother Caligula became emperor, Agrippina joined him at court, where she went to his parties. She was now 22 years old, and she had a little baby, the future emperor Nero.

Agrippina's husband Ahenobarbus died (at age 57) in 40, when Agrippina was 25 years old, and Caligula was killed the next year. Agrippina's uncle Claudius became emperor. After Claudius killed his wife Messalina, he decided to marry his niece Agrippina. They were married in 49 AD, when she was 34 years old. Agrippina was old enough now to want political power, and she did get a lot of power. She commanded part of the Roman army, and she was the first woman to be called "Augusta". To get more power, she convinced Claudius to adopt her son Nero, and got Nero engaged to marry Claudius' daughter Octavia.

More about Agrippina
Nero
More about the Julio-Claudian emperors

Bibliography and further reading about the Julio-Claudians:

Classical Rome, by John Clare (1993). For kids, the whole political history from beginning to end.

Oxford First Ancient History, by Roy Burrell (reissued 1997). Easy reading. It skips around a lot, not trying to tell everything, just highlights.

The Romans: From Village to Empire, by Mary Boatwright, Daniel Gargola, and Richard Talbert (2004). Okay, it's a little dry, but it is up to date and has all the facts you could want.

The Roman Revolution, by Ronald Syme (1960). Still a classic.

From the Gracchi to Nero: A History of Rome from 133 B.C. to A.D. 68
by H. H. Scullard (1959, 5th edition 1990). Another classic.

More about the Julio-Claudians
Year of the Four Emperors
Roman History
Ancient Rome
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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