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Agrippina the younger
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Agrippina the younger

Agrippina Minor (Latin for "the younger") ( 16-59 AD), often called "Agripinilla" to distinguish her from her mother, was the daughter of Germanicus and Agrippina Major. She was sister of Caligula, sister-in-law of Tiberius, niece and wife of Claudius, and the mother of Nero. She was born at Oppidum Ubiorum on the Rhine, afterwards named in her honour Colonia Agrippinae (modern Cologne, Germany).

Her first husband was Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus. From this marriage she gave birth to Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, who became emperor Nero. As a widow, she wooed her uncle, Emperor Claudius and became his favourite councillor. They were married on New Years day of 49 AD, after the death of Messalina. She then proceeded to persuade Claudius to adopt her son, thereby placing him in the line of succession to the Imperial throne. Later in his life, Claudius is reported to often repent these decisions in public. Her star was beginning to fade. But Agrippina was a true Imperial politician that did not reject murder as a way to win her battles. She is believed to have poisoned Claudius in 54 AD, and thus making Nero emperor.

For some time, Agrippina influenced Nero, her son, as she had controlled her deceased husband. But soon Nero was fed up with her constant criticizing. He deprived her of her honours and exiled her from the palace, but that wasn't enough. Three times he tried to poison her, but she had been raised in the Imperial family and was accustomed to take antidotes. Then he built a machine attached to the roof of her bedroom, destined to make the ceiling collapse – the plot failed. According to the historians Tacitus and Suetonius, Nero then plotted her death by sending for her in a boat designed to collapse, drowning her. However, only some of the crew were in on the plot and their efforts were hampered by the rest of the crew trying to save the ship. As it went down one of her handmaidens thought to save herself by crying that she was Agrippina, thinking they would take special care of her. Instead the maid was instantly beaten to death with oars and chains. The real Agrippina realised then what was happening and in the confusion managed to swim away where a passing fisherman picked her up. Terrified that his cover had been blown, Nero instantly sent men to charge her with treason and summarily execute her. Legend states that when the Emperor's soldiers came to kill her, Agrippina pulled back her clothes and ordered them to stab her in the belly that had housed such a monstrous son.

See also: Julio-Claudian Family Tree