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Agrippina the elder

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

Agrippina was a favourite with her grandfather Augustus, who loved her for her virtuous qualities of Roman wife. Moreover, she was married to Germanicus, his step-grandson, who he always considered as a hypothesis for succession. Despite the costume that require wives to stay in Rome, Agrippina accompanied Germanicus during his campaigns as Roman general. She bore him two daughters in Gaul, a boy and Agrippina Minor in the Rhine frontier.

Agrippina was in the East with Germanicus, when died at Antioch in 19, poisoned by Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, governor of Syria, it was said by order of Tiberius. 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. This cost her status and the trust of the emperor. Tiberius and his favorite Sejanus feared that her ambition might lead her to attempt to secure the throne for her children and tried to poison her. Failing the plan she was banished to the island of Pandataria off the coast of Campania (now called Ventotene), where a centurion flogged her almost to death. Humiliated, she decided to starve herself to death, despite several attempts of forcible feeding. She died of starvation on October 18, 33, either at her own hand or, according to some, by order of Tiberius. After that, Tiberius convinced the senate to revoke all her former privileges and declared her birthday as ill-omen.

Agrippina had nine children by Germanicus, several of whom died young. Drusus and Nero Caesar were victims to the machinations of Sejanus and Tiberius. Only two of her children 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 Caligula'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 Roman morals. 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.

See also

Tacitus, Annales i.-vi.
Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars
Julio-Claudian Family Tree\n