Agrippina during Claudius’ reign

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Agrippina’s role during the reign of Claudius began when she was brought back from exile in 39AD, following the death of Gaius. After the downfall of Claudius’ previous wife, Messalina, she capitalized on her influential family lineage as a means to secure a marriage. Throughout her marriage, Agrippina held great sway, enjoying numerous privileges and ensuring the succession by persuading Claudius to adopt Nero. With Messalina out of the picture, Agrippina saw a golden opportunity to fulfill her lifelong ambition of witnessing her son, Nero, assume the throne. To achieve this, she enlisted the help of Lucius Vitellius to persuade the Senate to change their laws regarding incest since Claudius was her uncle. According to ancient accounts from Tacitus and Suetonius, Agrippina employed seductive tactics to win over Claudius’ affections.

Claudius was motivated to marry Agrippina because he wanted to unite their families, as he had not been adopted into the Julian family like his predecessors Gaius and Tiberius. Agrippina exerted a significant influence on Claudius by possessing power and dominance. According to Cassius Dio, she had more power than Claudius himself and dominated him completely. Agrippina’s role during Claudius’ reign was unconventional for a woman as she acted as a co-ruler and interfered in political decisions, such as removing leaders of the Praetorian Guard who supported Britannicus, Claudius’ son. When Caratacus, the leader of the Britons, was captured, Agrippina closely observed the proceedings, receiving the same homage and gratitude that would have been given to the emperor, as described by Tacitus.

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Agrippina was closely associated with the ruling empire, according to ancient sources that attempt to discredit Claudius. However, modern sources suggest that Claudius ruled with more effectiveness than his predecessors. Anthony Barrett also suggests Agrippina’s important role, stating that her presence seemed to transform her husband’s regime. During Claudius’ reign, Agrippina enjoyed numerous privileges. For instance, a colony was established at her birthplace, Ara Uborium, outside of Rome. The colony was named Colonia Claudia Ara Augusta Agrippinesium in recognition of both Agrippina and Claudius. Agrippina also had the privilege of being driven to the capitol in a carpentum, a right typically reserved for priests and holy objects. Additionally, she had her own Praetorian guard and was awarded the title of Augusta in 50 AD.

Agrippina exhibited her authority and influence by having her name and face appear on inscriptions and coins alongside her husband. She further showcased her power when she successfully persuaded Claudius to adopt her son Nero as his successor in 51 AD. In 53 AD, when Claudius fell ill, Agrippina urged him to inform the senate that Nero would assume power in case of his sudden death. She also arranged for Nero’s betrothal to Claudius’ daughter, Octavia, but later had Octavia adopted out to avoid the taboo of incestuous marriage. In 54 AD, Claudius passed away, and ancient sources attribute his death to Agrippina, who had strong motives for wanting him dead to secure Nero’s position as the next Princeps. Throughout her marriage, Agrippina utilized her prestigious lineage to secure advantageous alliances and exert influence over Claudius. She enjoyed numerous privileges and played a vital role in convincing Claudius to adopt Nero as his successor.

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Agrippina during Claudius’ reign. (2016, Jun 16). Retrieved from

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