Agrippina during Claudius’ reign

Agrippina’s role during the reign Claudius began when she was recalled from exile in 39AD, after the death of Gaius. After the fall of Claudius’ previous wife Messalina, she used her powerful family bloodline as an incentive for marriage. During her years of marriage she was greatly influential, received many privileges and secure the succession by convincing Claudius to adopt Nero. The death of Messalina opened a new window of opportunity for Agrippina to achieve her life’s ambition of watching her son, Nero, ascend the throne. To do this, she had Lucius Vitellius, convince the senate to change their laws on incest, as Claudius was her uncle. According to the ancient sources, Tacitus and Suetonius, she used seductive methods to gain Claudius’ affections.

Claudius was also intent on the marriage, because unlike his predecessors, Gaius and Tiberius, he had not been adopted into the Julian family. Marrying Agrippina would unite the families. Agrippina was a significant influence on her husband. This was devious through her possession of power and dominance. Cassius Dio describes her as “she had more power than Claudius himself…” and “she possessed all power, since she dominated Claudius”. According to the ancient sources, Agrippina’s role during the reign of Claudius was as a dominating co-ruler, who was different to the accepted role of women. An example of this is when she used her power to interfere with political decisions, and removed the leaders of the Praetorian Guard who showed sympathies towards Britannicus, Claudius’ son. When Caratacus, leader of the Britons, was captured and faced Roman justice, Agrippina sat closely by. Tacitus accounts for this event, describing the British king paid “the same homage and gratitude as they would have given the emperor”.

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This indicates her close association with the ruling the empire. Although the ancient sources attempt to discredit Claudius, modern sources suggest he ruled with more effectiveness than his predecessors. Anthony Barrett, also hints at Agrippina’s important role, which is discussed in “Agrippina’s presence seems to have transformed the regime of her husband.” During Claudius’ years of reigning, Agrippina received many privileges. An example of her recognition outside of Rome was when she had a colony instated at her birthplace, Ara Uborium. The name of the colony, Colonia Claudia Ara Augusta Agrippinesium, was titled as recognition of both her and Claudius. She was also granted the privilege of being driven to the capitol in a carpentum, which is a right usually reserved for priests and holy objects. She was given her own Praetorian guard, and in 50 AD was awarded the title of Augusta.

After that her name appeared on many inscriptions and her face appeared on the obverse side of coins with her husband, which indicates her power and authority. Agrippina’s final display of power during Claudius’ reign is shown when she successfully convinces him to adopt her son, Nero, as his successor in 51 AD. Claudius fell ill in 53 AD. Agrippina convinced Claudius to inform the senate that if he were to suddenly die, Nero would take over. She was also able to strive for the betrothal of Nero to Claudius’ daughter, Octavia, and then have her adopted out so their marriage would not be considered incest. In 54 AD, Claudius died. The ancient sources hold Agrippina responsible for his death, as she had a strong motive for wanting him killed. This was done to make sure Nero was the next Princeps. After the fall of Messalina, she used her powerful family bloodline as an incentive for marriage. During her years of marriage she was greatly influential, received many privileges and succession in convincing Claudius to adopt Nero.

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