Agrippina: Sex, Power, and Politics in the Early Empire by Anthony A. Barrett

By Anthony A. Barrett

Agrippina the more youthful attained a degree of energy in first-century Rome unheard of for a lady. in accordance with old resources, she completed her luck through plotting opposed to her brother, the emperor Caligula, murdering her husband, the emperor Claudius, and controlling her son, the emperor Nero, by means of slumbering with him. sleek students are likely to settle for this verdict. yet in his dynamic biography-the first on Agrippina in English-Anthony Barrett paints a startling new photo of this influential lady. Drawing at the most recent archaeological, numismatic, and historic facts, Barrett argues that Agrippina has been misjudged. even though she used to be bold, says Barrett, she made her approach via skill and resolution instead of via sexual attract, and her political contributions to her time appear to have been confident. After Agrippina's marriage to Claudius there has been a marked decline within the variety of judicial executions and there has been shut cooperation among the Senate and the emperor; the cost of Cologne, based lower than her aegis, used to be a version of social concord; and the 1st 5 years of Nero's reign, whereas she was once nonetheless alive, have been the main enlightened of his rule. in accordance with Barrett, Agrippina's one genuine failing was once her courting along with her son, the monster of her personal making who had her murdered in bad and violent conditions. Agrippina's influence used to be so lasting, despite the fact that, that for a few one hundred fifty years after her dying no lady within the imperial kin dared think an assertive political function.

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The details of both cases are murky. The sources place great emphasis on the moral aspect of Julia’s conduct and Tacitus comments on the excessive punishment meted out to her, observing that Augustus overstepped the mild penalties of earlier times and even the penalties prescribed by his own laws in classing sexual misconduct as sacrilege and treason. Thus he almost warns us against inferring from the excessive penalties that the charges concealed political misconduct. 30 But many scholars insist that the claims of sexual misconduct by members of the Julio-Claudian family were largely specious devices to conceal serious political threats, and that charges of adultery or moral depravity could be used to eliminate dangerous claimants or their supporters.

Tacitus is obliged by the extant record of events to criticize him on specific points of detail, whether a blunder in military strategy in Germany or an absence of judgement in pandering to the demands of the Rhine mutineers following the death of Augustus. 5 In the minds of the general public Germanicus could do no wrong (even when he clearly did) and this spiritual quality was supposedly passed on to his family, to his son Caligula, who was thought to have inherited his father’s sterling character, to his brother Claudius, said to have been the choice of the praetorians as emperor precisely because of his kinship with Germanicus, and to his daughter Agrippina, who was able to combine this kinship with her blood link, through her mother, to Augustus.

At the same time, the Claudians gained a reputation for disdainful arrogance, a reputation not enjoyed exclusively by the men. One early Claudia, for instance, was the daughter of the famous Appius Claudius Caecus, censor in 312 BC, and sister of a naval commander who managed to lose an entire fleet in action. She caused an outrage on one occasion when her carriage was blocked by a throng of people and she wished out loud that the crowd could be forced into the fleet, and her brother brought back to command it.

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