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Agrippina the Younger: Unofficial First Empress of the Roman Empire

Agrippina the Younger was the first empress of the Roman Empire, but almost no modern sources remember her as such. In fact, she is not often remembered at all. Unlike her predecessor, Augustus’s wife Livia, she has slipped out of history. Where she has left a mark it has been only as Claudius’s last wife and the mother of Nero. But Agrippina was so much more than simply the consort and mother of men. She was a powerful, public woman in her own right, as is abundantly clear in the ancient sources that record her life, who express boundless horror at her refusal to stay in her appropriate feminine place. Agrippina the Younger’s life is characterised by her arrogant refusal to adhere to these accepted standards of femininity and to take for herself the overt power that she thought she deserved.

Cast of Agrippina the Younger in reflection. Pushkin Museum. Image © Shakko; CC-A-3.0.
Cast of Agrippina the Younger in reflection. Pushkin Museum. Image © Shakko; CC-A-3.0.