Agrippina the Elder

Agrippina the Elder
Agripina Maior (M.A.N. Madrid) 01.jpg
Agrippina the Elder
Bornca. 14 BC
DiedAD 33 (aged 46)
AD 33
relocated in March AD 37 to the
Mausoleum of Augustus
IssueNero Julius Caesar
Drusus Julius Caesar
Agrippina the Younger
Julia Drusilla
Julia Livilla
FatherMarcus Vipsanius Agrippa
MotherJulia the Elder

Agrippina the Elder (Latin:Vipsania Agrippina; Classical Latin: AGRIPPINA•GERMANICI,[1] c. 14 BC – AD 33), commonly referred to as "Agrippina the Elder" (Latin: Agrippina Maior), was a prominent member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. She was born in c. 14 BC the daughter of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, a close supporter of Rome's first emperor Augustus, and Augustus' daughter Julia the Elder. At the time of her birth, her brothers Lucius and Gaius were the adoptive sons of Augustus and were his heirs until their deaths in AD 2 and 4, respectively. Following their deaths, her cousin Germanicus was made the adoptive son of Tiberius as part of Augustus' succession scheme in the adoptions of AD 4 in which Tiberius was adopted by Augustus. As a corollary to the adoption, Agrippina was wed to Germanicus in order to bring him closer to the Julian family.

She is known to have traveled with him throughout his career, taking her children everywhere they went. In AD 14, Germanicus was deployed in Gaul as governor and general. While there, the late Augustus sent her son Gaius to her unspecified location. She liked to dress him in a little soldiers' outfit complete with boots for which Gaius earned the nickname "Caligula" ("little boots"). After three years in Gaul they returned to Rome and her husband was awarded a triumph on 26 May AD 17 to commemorate his victories. The following year, Germanicus was sent to govern over the eastern provinces. While Germanicus was active in his administration, the governor of Syria Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso began feuding with him. During the feud, her husband died of illness on 10 October AD 19.

Germanicus was cremated in Antioch and she transported his ashes to Rome where they were interred at the Mausoleum of Augustus. Agrippina was vocal in claiming her husband was murdered to promote Tiberius' son Drusus Julius Caesar ("Drusus the Younger") as heir. Following the model of her grandmother Livia, she spent the time following Germanicus' death supporting the cause of her sons Nero and Drusus Caesar. This put her and her sons at odds with the powerful Praetorian prefect Lucius Aelius Sejanus who would begin eliminating their supporters with accusations of treason and sexual misconduct in AD 26. Her family's rivalry with Sejanus would culminate with her and Nero's exile in AD 29. Nero was exiled to Pontia and she was exiled to the island of Pandateria, where she would remain until her death by starvation in AD 33.


Following the Roman custom of parents and children sharing the same nomen and cognomen, women in the same family would often share the same name. Accordingly, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa had many relatives who shared the name "Vipsania Agrippina". To distinguish Marcus Agrippa's daughter from his granddaughter, historians refer to his daughter as Latin "Agrippina Maior", literally "Agrippina the Elder". Likewise, Agrippina's daughter is referred to as "Agrippina Minor", literally "Agrippina the Younger".[2] Like her father, Agrippina the Elder avoided her cognomen and was never called "Vipsania".[3]

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