Describe Agrippinas Role During Claudius' Reign

Research Essay
Personalities and their Times: Agrippina the Younger

Explain Agrippina the Younger’s role during the reign of Claudius

From 41AD through to 54AD, Agrippina the Younger came to dominate the politics of her time as no imperial woman had done before. Her marriage to the third Julio-Claudian emperor, Claudius, her uncle, in 49 AD, put her at the forefront of Roman politics which consequently, according to the stock scenario, brought about a   “rigorous, almost masculine despotism” (Tacitus) . She amassed political power, influenced matters of the state and promoted her son, Nero, as Claudius’ successor . Thus, during the reign of Claudius, Agrippina came to play a central role in the unfolding of important events as a result of the power she gained and the actions she undertook.

During the early years of Claudius’ reign, Agrippina submitted to a minimal role in public arena.   After being recalled from the Pontian Islands , she stayed away from Rome, owing to the prominence of Messalina, Claudius’ third wife, who according to Tacitus, had always been infesta towards her . In fact, apart from her arrangement of Gaius’ memorial and the inheritance of her second husband’s estate, little is known from the primary sources of her activities until 48 AD, when Messalina’s bigamous marriage to Silius in an attempt to take precedence over Claudius’ sovereignty, opened the door to Agrippina .

The coup attempt, among other consequences, made Claudius realise the weakness of his position as a member of the Claudian but not the Julian gens. This ‘weakness’ was compounded by the fact that he did not have a clear adult successor. Crucially, after Messalina’s execution, Agrippina became one of the few remaining descendants of Augustus and her son became one of the last legitimate males of the imperial family. Thus, the Messalina affair invited Agrippina’s role to-be in providing bloodline legitimacy to Claudius’ reign and in providing a potential successor...