By Anthony A. Barrett
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Additional info for Agrippina: Sister of Caligula, Wife of Claudius, Mother of Nero (Roman Imperial Biographies)
The similarities should alert us to the likelihood that accounts of Agrippina’s life and career have been moulded by a standardized preconception of the politically ambitious woman. 2 Family Agrippina, great-granddaughter of the revered Augustus, would make much of her Julian descent, a descent that came through the bloodline and was not conferred merely through adoption. This dynastic connection was in itself powerful enough, but she could boast another family distinction since she belonged to the second great house to give its name to the first generation of Roman emperors, the proud and haughty Claudians.
It enabled her to cast her own definition of her political role, which gave her an influence over affairs of state to a degree unprecedented for a woman. Generally, she appears to have conducted herself with great skill, as a discreet background adviser, with a good sense of how to tread the careful midcourse between docile passivity and unwelcome intrusion into spheres where women by law, custom or social climate would not be welcomed. Livia, like Agrippina, is treated harshly by the literary sources, especially Tacitus.
She BACKGROUND 9 coolly took the reins from the dis-traught driver and drove over the corpse. She was thus the prototype of the ruthlessly ambitious woman, assumed to be willing to stoop to anything, including murder of her kin, to achieve her goal. The reality that such tales belong to the realm of legend rather than history does not affect their potency. 16 By the second century BC the record of historical events becomes more secure and the element of fantasy recedes. A theme that prevails from now on is that of the corroding effect of female emancipation.
Agrippina: Sister of Caligula, Wife of Claudius, Mother of Nero (Roman Imperial Biographies) by Anthony A. Barrett