Sister of Caligula
Agrippina Jr. was born in 16 AD, the eldest daughter of Germanicus and Agrippina Senior. She was first married to Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, a member of the noble Republican family of Ahenobarbus, and together they had a son, the futureEmperor Nero. Her husband died when Nero was only three years old. In 39 AD, Agrippina was banished by her brother, the Emperor Caligula, for plotting against him along with her sister Livilla.
Silver Cistoporus of Ephesus Claudius & Agrippina
Following the assassination of Caligula and the rise of her uncle Claudius to the thrown, Agrippina Jr. was recalled from exile in 49 AD. Claudius, in the aftermath of the disastrous affair with his wife Messalina, married one last time at the prompting of Pallas, an influential member of his staff. This time the candidate was Agrippina Jr. who was rumored to be the lover of Pallas. Agrippina Jr. and Claudius were married in 49 AD, when Claudius was 58 years old. The marriage required a special dispensation from the Senate due to the fact that Agrippina Jr. was Claudius’ niece.
Agrippina’s main goal was to clear the way for her son Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (Nero) to succeed Claudius ahead of his own son Britannicus. Nero was officially adopted by Claudius in 50 AD, and that is when he took the family name of Nero. In 51 AD, Nero was raised ahead of Britannicus to the rank of Princeps Iuventutis (Leader of Youth). This elevation of Nero clearly marked him as the heir to the throne, and his portrait began to appear on both the silver denarius as well as the gold aureus coinage along with issues of Agrippina. As such, this was a political maneuver to promote Nero while Britannicus’ portrait was noticeably absent from the coinage issues in Rome. Why Claudius allowed Nero to be elevated above Britannicus is still a mystery. Perhaps to some extent Claudius may not have believed Britannicus to be his son given the behavior of Messalina.
Agrippina began to prepare for the future by replacing the leadership of the Praetorian Guard with Afranius Burrus. The path to power and the fate of Nero was now sealed by his marriage to Claudius’ daughter Octavia. All that remained was the death of Claudius.
Why Claudius allowed Agrippina such a free reign is a mystery. He was reported to be heard saying ‘that it was his destiny first to suffer and finally to punish the infamy of his wives.’ Perhaps he pushed Britannicus aside because he could not forgive him for his mother’s betrayal. Whatever the reason, Claudius seemed to know that he was going to be poisoned by Agrippina.
With the death of Claudius, Nero became Emperor, and Agrippina ruled both Nero and the state. Agrippina seduced her own son in order to strengthen her control over him. However, Nero soon grew tired of his mother and by the year 55 AD, he expelled her from the imperial palace.
Four years later, Nero decided he could no longer tolerate his mother’s existence and plotted to have her killed. Clever and cunning, Nero knew that poison would never succeed. Instead, he set up an elaborate hoax in which Agrippina was enticed to meet with her son at sea, and a special ship had been prepared to make her death appear to be an accident. Nonetheless, Agrippina managed to escape and swim her way back to shore. The failed plot resulted in Nero ordering Agrippina’s death at the hands of his soldiers.
Silver Cistoporus Claudius & Agrippina
Mints: Rome, Ephesus, Caesarea
AGRIPPINA AVGVSTA MATER AVGVSTI
AGRIPPINA AVG GERMANICI F CAESARIS AVG
Æ Dupondius (extremely rare – 4 known)
AU Aureus (6.54 grams)
AU Aureus (6.54 grams)
AR Didrachm of Caesarea
Æ Dupondius (3 known)
Æ Sesterius (7 known)