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Agrippina the elder

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Agrippina Major (Latin for "the elder"), daughter of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa by his third wife Julia, was the grand-daughter of Augustus, the wife of Germanicus, and the mother of Agrippina Minor and Caligula.

She accompanied her husband to Germany when the legions on the Rhine revolted after the death of Augustus (A.D. 14). Three years later she was in the East with Germanicus, who died at Antioch in 19, poisoned, it was said, by order of Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, governor of Syria. Eager to avenge his death, she returned to Rome and boldly accused Piso of the murder of Germanicus.

To avoid public infamy, Piso committed suicide. Tiberius and his favorite Sejanus feared that her ambition might lead her to attempt to secure the throne for her children, and she was banished to the island of Pandataria off the coast of Campania (now called Ventotene[?]), where she died of starvation on October 18, 33, either at her own hand or, according to some, by order of Tiberius. Two of her sons, Nero and Drusus, had already fallen victims to the machinations of Sejanus.

Agrippina had a large family by Germanicus, several of whom died young, and only two are of historical importance -- Agrippina Minor and Gaius Caesar, who succeeded Tiberius under the name of Caligula. It is remarkable that, although Tiberius had ordered the execution of Calligula's elder brothers, by his will he left Caligula one of the heirs of the empire.

Agrippina was a woman of the highest character and exemplary morality. There is a portrait of her in the Capitoline Museum[?] at Rome and a bronze medal in the British Museum showing her ashes being brought back to Rome by order of Caligula.


Tacitus, Annales i.-vi.
Julio-Claudian Family Tree

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