Agrippina the Younger Biography

Agrippina the Younger, also known as Agrippina Minor, was a prominent figure in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. As the niece and fourth wife of Roman emperor Claudius, she held significant influence and power. Agrippina was the mother of Nero, the last Roman emperor of this dynasty. Known for her ambition and dominance, she was the daughter of Germanicus, a renowned general of the Roman Empire. Agrippina faced exile for conspiring against her brother, Caligula, and experienced the deaths of her husbands under suspicious circumstances. Upon Claudius’s death, Nero succeeded the throne, leading to a power struggle between mother and son. Ultimately, Agrippina was executed on Nero’s orders.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Julia Agrippina
  • Died At Age: 43
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: 28 AD – Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, 41 AD – Gaius Sallustius Crispus Passienus, 49 AD–54 AD – Claudius
    • Father: Germanicus
    • Mother: Agrippina the Elder
    • Children: Nero
  • Died on: March 23, 59
  • Place of Death: Miseno, Italy
  • Cause of Death: Killed

Childhood & Early Life

Agrippina the Younger was born on November 6, 15 or 14 in a Roman outpost on the Rhine River called Oppidum Ubiorum, presently situated in Cologne, Germany. She was the first daughter of an eminent general of the Roman Empire Germanicus and his wife Agrippina the Elder, a great-granddaughter of the first Roman Emperor Augustus. Agrippina had three elder brothers – Nero Caesar, Drusus Caesar, and Caligula – and two younger sisters – Julia Livilla and Julia Drusilla. Her father died in AD 19 and her mother, along with her brothers, fell to the scheming of Praetorian Prefect Lucius Aelius Sejanus. Agrippina grew up under the influence of her mother, her paternal grandmother, and her great-grandmother, while her great-uncle Tiberius ruled the Roman Empire.

First Marriage & Exile

At the age of 13, Agrippina was married off to Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, a close relative of the five Roman Emperors from the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Gnaeus was her paternal first cousin and the only son of Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus and Antonia Major, niece of Augustus. Gnaeus had a reputation for being detestable, and the couple chose to live between Rome and Antium. They had a son named Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, who later became Emperor Nero. After the death of Caligula, Agrippina and her sister were exiled to the Pontine Islands. Gnaeus died in AD 41, and Nero’s inheritance was taken away by Caligula. It was later restored after Claudius became Roman Emperor.

Reign of Claudius, Agrippina’s Second Marriage

After the assassination of Caligula, Claudius became the Roman Emperor and recalled Agrippina and her sister from exile. Claudius asked Gaius Sallustius Crispus Passienus to divorce his wife and marry Agrippina. Gaius was possibly killed by Agrippina in AD 47, and his fortune went to Nero. Agrippina then married Claudius, her uncle, on New Year’s Day, AD 49. This marriage was widely disapproved as it was considered incestuous and unethical. Agrippina became an Empress and the most powerful lady in the Roman Empire. She executed many people she saw as threats to her and Nero’s position. Agrippina was bestowed with the Roman imperial honorific title Augusta in AD 50, and a Roman colony was founded in her name.

Reign of Nero, Agrippina’s Power Struggle & Death

Nero succeeded Claudius as the new Roman Emperor in AD 54. While Agrippina initially dominated her son and the empire, Nero later took control and a power struggle ensued between them. Nero removed Agrippina’s ally from the treasury and poisoned Britannicus to death when Agrippina attempted to enthrone him. Nero eventually expelled Agrippina from the palace and deprived her of her honors and powers. She was executed in AD 59 at the order of Nero and the circumstances surrounding her death are still debated.

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