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Representing Agrippina: Constructions of Female Power in the Early Roman Empire



Representing Agrippina

AMERICAN PHILOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION american classical studies volume 50 Series Editor Donald J. Mastronarde

Studies in Classical History and Society

Meyer Reinhold

Sextus Empiricus The Transmission and Recovery of Pyrrhonism

Luciano Floridi

The Augustan Succession An Historical Commentary on Cassius Dios Roman History Books 5556 (9 b.c.a.d. 14)
Peter Michael Swan

Greek Mythography in the Roman World

Alan Cameron

Virgil Recomposed The Mythological and Secular Centos in Antiquity

Scott McGill

Representing Agrippina Constructions of Female Power in the Early Roman Empire

Judith Ginsburg

Representing Agrippina
Constructions of Female Power in the Early Roman Empire

judith ginsburg


Oxford University Press, Inc., publishes works that further Oxford Universitys objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education. Oxford New York Auckland Cape Town Dar es Salaam Hong Kong Karachi Kuala Lumpur Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Nairobi New Delhi Shanghai Taipei Toronto With offices in Argentina Austria Brazil Chile Czech Republic France Greece Guatemala Hungary Italy Japan Poland Portugal Singapore South Korea Switzerland Thailand Turkey Ukraine Vietnam

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Published by Oxford University Press, Inc. 198 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016 Oxford is a registered trademark of Oxford University Press All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of Oxford University Press. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Ginsburg, Judith. Representing Agrippina: constructions of female power in the early Roman Empire / Judith Ginsburg. p. cm.(American classical studies; v. 50) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN-13 9780195181418 ISBN 0195181417 1. Agrippina, Minor, 1559. 2. RomeHistoryThe five Julii, 30 BC68 AD. 3. Agrippina, Minor, 1559In literature. 4. Agrippina, Minor, 1559Portraits. 5. EmpressesRomeBiography. I. Title. II. American classical studies; no. 50. DG282.6.G56 2005 937'.07'092dc22 2005040653 [B]

1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2 Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper


When Judith Ginsburg died in December 2002, she left a nearly complete manuscript on Agrippina. This is the publication of her manuscript, together with some clearly marked additions. During her illness, Judith reviewed her entire manuscript and outlined a plan for its completion. She was unable to finish the book as she had intended. This publication preserves the text that she wrote, together with the overall organization of her argument. Some additions have been made to fill in gaps, but everything that is not in Judiths own words has been marked off in square brackets. Numerous friends contributed to the publication of Judiths manuscript. Their eagerness to help is testimony to the love and respect that Judith inspired in others to an exceptional degree. Above all, the book owes its publication to Miri Amihai, whose boundless devotion and support gave Judith the strength to work on her manuscript during her illness and made it possible for others to take over where Judith left off. Erich Gruen (EG), Natalie Kampen (NK), Elizabeth Keitel (EK), and Beth Severy-Hoven (BS-H) read part or all of the manuscript and added footnotes or conclusions. Conclusions have been added to all three chapters of the book. All substantive additions are identified by square brackets together with the initials of the writer. All translations are by Judith unless attributed to another or placed in square brackets. Elizabeth Bartman, Jacquelyn Collins Clinton (JCC), Carolyn Dewald, and Donald Mastronarde read part or the whole of the manuscript and made valuable editorial suggestions. Donald Mastronarde also gave unstinting help with electronic problems. Andrew Ellis, Jacqui Hogans, Kristine Miranda, Matthew Perry, and Herica Valladares checked the references and reviewed the text. Matthew Perry prepared the chart of the Julio-Claudians and the index. The two readers for Oxford University Press, Harriet Flower and Ron Mellor, made many helpful suggestions. Throughout the preparation of the manuscript, the Classics Department of Cornell University contributed unstinting help and funding. Jeffrey Rusten provided invaluable practical advice and guidance for having the manuscript published. Elizabeth Asmis and Erich Gruen coordinated the preparation of the manuscript for publication.

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Introduction Erich S. Gruen Chapter 1: Agrippina in the Literary Tradition

I. Agrippina: The Early Years II. The Marriage to Claudius III. Agrippina and Claudius IV. Agrippina and Nero V. The Murder of Agrippina [VI. Conclusion]

3 9
10 17 22 35 46 53

Chapter 2: Visualizing Agrippina

I. Agrippina on the Imperial and Provincial Coinage II. Agrippina in Sculpture III. Agrippina on Cameos IV. Agrippinas Assimilation to Demeter [V. Conclusion]

56 79 91 97 104

Chapter 3: Agrippina and the Power of Rhetorical Stereotypes

I. Saeva Noverca II. Dux Femina III. Sexual Transgressor [IV. Conclusion]

107 112 116 130

Chart of the Julio-Claudians Bibliography Index Photo gallery appears after page 56

133 135 143

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Representing Agrippina

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Erich S. Gruen

udith r. ginsburg died well before her time on december 28, 2002. At her death she left behind an unfinished manuscript of monograph length on the younger Agrippina. She had been working on this study intermittently for several years, making trips to Rome to conduct research, and writing in the interstices amid teaching obligations, extensive engagement with her university and her profession, and commitments to social justice. She strove mightily in the last months of her life to bring the monograph to completion. But the ravages of a dread illness dictated that she fall short of that goal. Ginsburgs important book Tradition and Theme in the Annals of Tacitus (1981) holds its place among the finest studies of that subtle and devious historian. She offered a tightly reasoned, nuanced, and original interpretation of Tacitean techniques that shed new light not only on the historians practice but also on the devices with which he shaped (and distorted) our understanding of Rome in the early Empire. She demonstrated convincingly that Tacitus used the annalistic form of composition to his own ends, remaining within its framework to give the illusion of conventionality, while manipulating it so as to provide a vehicle for his idiosyncratic reconstruction. The second major study, on Agrippina the Younger, which would encompass analysis not only of Tacituss portrait but that of the other literary sources, as well as the artistic representations, has been long awaited. Ginsburgs many personal, political, and academic commitmentsand her own drive for perfectiondelayed publication. When illness struck in the spring of 2002, Ginsburg had finished Chapter 1 except for a conclusion, she had completed most of Chapter 2, and she had written Chapter 3 except for a fourth section on the domineering mother. There was no introduction or conclusion to the work. Ginsburg was determined to finish the nearly completed book. In the intervals left by painful, debilitating treatments, she reread the whole manuscript and devised a plan to finish it. She intended to write the missing section on the domineering mother, together with conclusions to parts of the manuscript, as well as an overall introduction and conclusion. She also decided to rearrange the manuscript by adding a section on Agrippina as Demeter, which she had written but not yet integrated into the book as a whole, as the final section of Chapter 2. She was unable to carry out this plan. What


remained, however, was a polished, subtly elaborated text, from which Ginsburgs voice spoke clearly and authoritatively. A number of Ginsburgs colleagues and friends have collaborated in preparing the manuscript for publication. We faced some difficult decisions at the outset. The manuscript, as it stood, contained a number of loose ends. The absence of conclusions for each of the chapters was a serious drawback. And the third chapter, considerably shorter than the others, was manifestly incomplete. Yet the prospect of adding substantial portions to the text dismayed those of us who knew her well. We rejected the idea of tampering with Ginsburgs tight, economical, and effective prose, which could not easily be improved upon. And we chose not to fill out the missing pages of the third chapter. We took a fundamental decision to preserve Judith Ginsburgs voice throughout the text. Editorial additions would be minimal. Very little editing was required. And no new segments would be imposed that might or might not have corresponded to her ideas and intentions. Editorial insertions are few and clearly marked in square brackets with the individual editors initials as identification. Many citations have been brought up to date, occasional remarks or supplements appear in the text, and summations have been attached to the chapters. A somewhat unfinished quality remains. But we determined not to compromise the integrity of Judith Ginsburgs own contribution. Her achievement deserved nothing less. Agrippina the Younger exerted a fascination for ancient writers, and the enthusiasm to tell her story did not wane among modern scholars. She wielded considerable authority in the tradition, depicted as a woman of political ascendancy, virtually in control of public affairs as wife of one emperor and mother of another. The term empress, often tossed about in works that treat Agrippina, has a misleading connotation. No such term existed in Latin, and no woman technically governed the affairs of state. But the forceful personality and extensive influence that she possessed captured the imagination of historians from the time of Tacitus to the present. The literary portrait in antiquity was uniformly hostile. Women, in the Roman system, ought not to have attained or exercised such power. Its acquisition must have come through plots, intrigue, devious machinations, sexual allure and seduction, and even murder. The sources in varying degrees ascribe all these activities to Agrippina. She is represented as the consummate schemer, lusting after power, manipulating men and women to her ends, and, when thwarted, retaliating with calculated ruthlessness. Modern treatments, on the whole, follow that lead. The classic work of Ronald Syme asserts that Agrippina . . . avows a more robust criminality. All for power, yet all for her son, Agrippina deserves her reputation, worthy of the answer she gave to the astrologers who revealed Neros destiny and her ownoccidat dum imperet. 1 For D. R. Dudley, this Clytemnestra of a woman pursued three ob-

1. Syme 1958, 437.


jectives with relentless vigor to gather political power in her own hands, to strike down her enemies, and to advance her own son Nero.2 A similar statement appears in R. H. Martins assessment: Agrippina employed a steely resolve, worthy of a man; there was no sexual loosenessunless it helped to advance her political control.3 M. Griffin gives a comparable evaluation: Agrippina was a formidable adversary. She had political allies at all levels, acquired during Claudius reign, and she knew how to exploit her Augustan lineage and descent from Germanicus to the full. . . . She intended to follow up the success of these efforts by eliminating any new rivals to herself or her son.4 More recent evaluations largely reiterate the judgments. R. Mellor maintains that the younger Agrippina . . . slept her way to the pinnacle of power and refers to the deranged malice of an Agrippina.5 And R. Holland infers that Neros mother was driven almost exclusively by the will to power, a path attested by her record as a ruthless murderer.6 The thorough and careful study of Anthony Barrett takes a more positive line. Although he holds no brief for Agrippina as a woman of virtue or moral uprightness, he finds her political achievements admirable. She was, to be sure, calculating, ambitious for power, and determined to be respected and feared. But she deserves credit for wise financial policies and the generally effective administration that prevailed in the latter part of Claudiuss reign and the first part of Neros. In Barretts conception, Agrippina inverted the normal progression of a monarchical regime, changing it from a repressive dictatorship marked by continuous judicial executions to a relatively benign partnership between the ruler and the ruled. Also, the ascendancy she enjoyed after her son Neros accession coincided with the finest period of his administration.7 He throws doubt on some of the more vicious rumors that circulated about Agrippina, but he finds her willing to exploit those rumors insofar as they made her appear all the more formidable and thus permit her to intimidate rivals and opponents.8 Powerful women on the Roman scene always engendered hostile reports and fierce animosity. Agrippina, for Barrett, countered those obstacles by shrewd calculation, resolve, and a network of alliances that allowed her to reshape the boundaries of womens political roles.9 Judith Ginsburgs book has a different objective. She seeks neither to excoriate nor to rehabilitate Agrippina. The book refrains from historical reconstructions that have occupied most researchers over the decades. Instead, Ginsburg focuses on the sources themselves, both literary and material, to examine how
2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. Dudley 1968, 95. Martin 1981, 152. Griffin 1984, 73. Mellor 1993, 44, 53. Holland 2000, 45, 63. Barrett 1996, xiii; cf. 130131, 136, 146, 159. Barrett 1996, xivxv, 154155. Barrett 1996, 195.


the portraitor rather portraitsof Agrippina took shape in all their ambiguity and complexity. She explores the rhetorical tropes, the historiographical underpinnings, and the calculated visual representations that created the imagery of Agrippina. In turn, that imagery reflects the presuppositions and the motivations of writers and artists who served or subverted the regime of the Julio-Claudians. Ginsburg offers what she calls a resisting rather than assenting reading. This does not mean that she reverses the Tendenz of the evidence to provide a counterimage. Her objective is to expose the patterns of representation and misrepresentation in both the literary and artistic spheres. She thus alerts the reader/viewer to the modes by which our own understanding is shaped by the agendas of our sources. The literary image plainly bristles with bias. But, as Ginsburg shows, the visual image, while fundamentally different, even contradictory, does not so much supply a corrective as disclose its own tendentiousness. The manufacture of indictments has as its counterpart the construct of flattering portraiture on coins, statuary, and cameos. Ginsburgs resistance is generally subtle, understated or even unstated, but repeatedly reminding the reader that little can be taken at face value in either the literary or the material record. She relentlessly (though rarely overtly) questions the tradition. So, for example, the notorious report of Caligulas incest with his sisters is pitted against Tacituss omission of that story where it would be most appropriate: his catalogue of Agrippinas sexual offenses. In reverse fashion she raises a faint hint of doubt about Tacituss memorable narrative of the debate by imperial freedmen about Claudiuss choice of wife: no comparable scene appears in other texts, and Tacitus had his own reasons for invention here. Ginsburg regularly juxtaposes the accounts of Suetonius or Dio (or both) to that of Tacitus to call into question (without directly denying) the latters construct that is too often unblinkingly accepted. Tacituss narrative can also be used against itself, as in Agrippinas supposed maneuvering against a purported female rival, Lollia: in fact, Claudius proceeded against her, and for his own reasons. Similarly, Agrippinas alleged move against Silanus for fear of his vengeance is undercut by Tacituss portrayal of Silanus as an unthreatening character. As a comparable example, allusion to Agrippinas fall from power contrasts starkly with her effective authority in refuting the charges leveled against her. Further, the Tacitean narrative first ascribes the initiative for Agrippinas murder to Poppaea Sabina, only to abandon that line silently with a different and inconsistent explanation of the motive. Again and again Ginsburg uncovers dissonance and incongruity, never in heavy-handed fashion but in restrainedand all the more effectiveexposition. Ginsburgs approach allows her to ask new and important questions, without becoming mired in a fruitless search for the elusive historical truth. So, she declines to make a case for or against a conspiracy by Agrippina and her sisters against Caligula but raises the more basic question of why it was important for Caligula to represent his sisters as guilty of plotting and to take action against them. Elsewhere, she points to a more critical problem largely ignored by scholars: why were imperial women rather than imperial men assimilated to


divinities in provincial coinage, and what implications did this remarkable imagery have for the policy of the realm? Ginsburgs identification of rhetorical stereotypes does not stop there. She inquires as to the cultural assumptions and historical circumstances that gave them voice. Most particularly, she ponders the significance of Agrippinas depiction as sexual transgressor not as a mere piece of slander but as disclosure of the motives and interests of the literary tradition on the imperial family. The persistent questioning of the evidence lays down lines for new interpretations. Agrippinas image on the coinage, for instance, whether or not it accurately corresponds to the power she exercised, served the interests of three emperors with whom she was associated. The celebrated coin that presents Caligula with his three sisters has nothing to do with scotching rumors about incest but effectively assimilates the women to a triad of personified deities that underscore the unity of the imperial household. Indeed, Tacituss linkage of two episodes in which Agrippina took on ostensibly male roles may reflect deliberate staging by the court to control opportunities for public display. More strikingly, Agrippinas apparent encroachment on the masculine sphere evokes not only the behavior of her imperious mother but also that of a more sinister male figure, Sejanus. On these and many other matters the book gives stimulus to reexamine the evidence afresh. Ginsburg is unusually sensitive to the language of our texts, discerning significance or design in the presentation. As she observes, Tacitus applies terms like ferox and atrox to Agrippina as deliberate allusion to inappropriate usurpation of masculine roles. He can use praesidere in reference to Agrippinas sitting on a raised platform in order to insert military imagery into a ceremonial function. Coincidence of the words servitium, dominatio, and regnum to characterize her authority was hardly innocent. Nor is the fact that the verb regere appears but once in the Annales with reference to a womanand it designates Agrippina. Tacitus can also play with words to alert his readers to mutual hypocrisy, as when he uses blandimentum to characterize both Agrippinas approach to Nero and his to her. Nor is Suetonius above this. He has Neros father, whose whole life is described as detestabilis, employ the identical term to characterize his offspring. Ginsburgs responsiveness to calculated vocabulary sheds much light on the constructs conveyed by our testimony. Ginsburg shows equal assiduousness in interrogating the visual material. The adaptation of Brian Roses concepts of prospective and retrospective visual language proves fruitful. The first calls attention to continuation of the dynasty, with its benefactions to the realm; the second reminds Romans of the heritage of the line reembodied in the current ruler. The portrayals of Agrippina, the titles ascribed to her, and the figures with which she is associated, therefore, carry wider meaning than a display of personal authority. Ginsburg finds them to be purposeful emblems to suggest the continuity and stability of the regime. Agrippinas portrayal served to legitimize the present ruler by linking him to the past, not only as widow and mother but also as priestess of the deified predecessor. She


possessed in her person the blend of Julian and Claudian lines, and the carefully devised depictions expressed a promise that family harmony would endure. Agrippinas assimilation to the goddess Ceres, no random choice, reinforced the message. Ceres as emblematic of human fecundity called to mind the prosperity of the Augustan peace, the bounty of the imperial family, and the model of morality that the regime sought to project. This book probes for deeper and broader significance to the stereotypes. Hostile characterization of Agrippina goes well beyond that of stepmother-mother, schemer, and strumpet. The rhetorical constructs form part of a larger critique of the Julio-Claudian system. The purported dominatio of Agrippina serves to diminish an emperor who could not control his women. Failure to order the household properly meant failure to order the empire. The dysfunctional family mirrored a dysfunctional state. An empresss consorting with freedmen undermined the entire social hierarchy. And allegations of incest masked a wider challenge to the Julio-Claudian policy of endogamy. In the end, the contrived representations, whatever their relation to reality, reveal the face presented by the regime and the means designed to discredit it.

Chapter 1
Agrippina in the Literary Tradition

[Tacitus] may fall short of the detachment and objectivity to which he aspires and which modern critics have demanded, but he presents a history of the first century AD so vivid and compelling, of such gripping actuality that it has largely determined the way in which we too see that period. Hard though we may try, it is all but impossible to break away from his spell. Such is the continuing power of his inimitable style.

[ HE LITERARY RECORD ON AGRIPPINA THE YOUNGER IS SHAPED WITH CALCULATION to produce a portraitor portraits. The product may intersect or overlap with history, but it is not to be confused with history. This entangled relationship between report and design arises most conspicuously and powerfully in Tacitus. But it clings also to the accounts of Suetonius and Dio Cassius, and to the interlocking narratives generated by those authors, our principal literary sources. EG] We will go a long way toward dispelling the power that the Tacitean account of Agrippina has over us by recognizing that a number of literary and rhetorical features of the historians narrative make it extremely problematic to take the picture of Agrippina that emerges as an accurate reflection of the historical woman. We need to acknowledge, in other words, that Tacituss Agrippina is largely a literary construct that serves the larger ends of the narrative of the principates of Claudius and Nero. This chapter offers a reading of the literary tradition on Agrippina that makes manifest the literary roles of the character Agrippina in the larger narrative design and shows how a resisting rather than an assenting reading of the texts opens up a possibility of other interpretation of the events being narrated. At the same time, this resisting reading will allow us to identify the various motifs or recurrent elements that shape the literary representation of Agrippina. We can then go on [in Chapter 3] to analyze what cultural assumptions about the role of women, female sexuality, and political power underlie and make these such powerful constructs.

F. R. D. Goodyear, Tacitus, 44



I. AGRIPPINA: THE EARLY YEARS Agrippina first comes to prominence in the literary accounts of her marriage to the emperor Claudius in 49 CE. Before her emergence as the wife of the emperor, we hear little of her. Her absence owes much to the loss of the Caligulan books of the Annals: the extant Tacitean narrative makes no mention of Agrippina between the notice of her marriage to Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus in 28 CE (Ann. 4.75) and the comment, under the year 47, that Messalina exhibited extreme cruelty toward her (11.12.1). Nonetheless, the few, brief references that the literary sources make to Agrippina before her marriage to Claudius are suggestive in alluding to some of the same themes that are more fully developed in the Tacitean representation of her under Claudius and Nero. Agrippina had been married twice before the marriage to Claudius. Both marriages are attested in the literary tradition. The Tacitean notice of Agrippinas first marriage, to Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus in 28 CE, is notable both for its emphatic position as the final item of Book 4 of the Annals and for its brevity:
Tiberius, meanwhile, although he had personally bestowed (coram . . . tradidisset) his granddaughter Agrippina, daughter of Germanicus, on Gnaeus Domitius, directed that the wedding take place in Rome. In Domitius, besides his ancient lineage, he had chosen a blood connection with the Caesars: for Domitius could claim Octavia as his grandmother and through her, Augustus as his great uncle. (4.75) By contrast, the betrothal and marriage of Agrippinas sisters Julia Livilla and Drusilla will open the account of 33 CE (6.15.1); there the historian will elaborate on both the family and the character of the prospective grooms. Sober and ostensibly innocuous, the notice of Agrippinas marriage serves the Tacitean narrative as an ominous foreshadowing of the reign of Nero, the last of the descendants of Augustus.1 It is worth pointing out that the Agrippina of this passage, passed as she is from the hand of the emperor to that of her husband,2 has neither agency nor apparently any intrinsic interest for the historian: she was, after all, only thirteen years old at the time of her marriage to Domitius.3 We can suppose that, like Augustuss daughter Julia, she had little say in the initial marital arrangements made for her by the emperor. Aside from the fact that the union with Agrippina resulted in Domitiuss holding the ordinary consulship of 32 CE for the entire yeara signal honor (Dio 58.20.1)the sources tell us nothing further about the marriage, which lasted until Domitiuss death in late 40 or early 41.4 An anecdote recorded by Suetonius (Nero 6.1) purports to give the words of Domitius in response to con1. Syme 1958, 267. See also Martin and Woodman 1989, 262263. 2. Barrett 1996, 43, is incorrect to suggest that Tiberius attended the ceremony; coram refers to the betrothal, not the celebration of the wedding which took place in Rome. 3. On Domitius as a marriage prospect for Agrippina, see Barrett 1996, 4245. 4. Bradley 1978, 48.



gratulations offered him on the birth of Nero: nothing could be born from him and Agrippina that was not hateful (detestabile) and a public ill. If genuine, the story would suggest that the marriage was not a happy one, but it looks to me like an ex post facto creation of the Neronian or a later period. It follows upon a brief history of the Domitii Ahenobarbi, designed to show that Nero inherited the vices of his ancestors (Nero 1.2). Is Suetonius having us on when he has Neros father, whom he terms a man hateful in every part of his life (omni parte vitae detestabilem, Nero 5.1) characterize his offspring as detestabile?5 Agrippina enjoys a greater role in the accounts of her brother Caligulas shortlived possession of the imperial power. In the now lost portion of the Annals that covered the reign of Caligula, Tacitus no doubt made reference to the extraordinary honors and public visibility conferred on his sisters by the young emperor, as well as to the subsequent banishment of Agrippina and her sister Julia Livilla to the Pontian islands in late 39 or 40 CE. Perhaps the vicissitudes of Caligulas sisters during his brief rule were invoked in the Tacitean narrative, as they are in Dios (59.3.36), as an example of the emperors inconsistent and deteriorating behavior. The extant literary tradition, as just noted, records the several honors Caligula conferred on his sisters. Agrippina, Drusilla, and Julia Livilla were granted the privileges of the Vestal Virgins, the right to view games in the Circus from the imperial seats, and inclusion in the annual prayers for the emperors safety, in the formula used for consular relationes and in the oaths of allegiance to the emperor (Dio 59.3.4; cf. 59.9.2). Most of these honors were not unprecedented for female members of the imperial house, but the inclusion of Agrippina and her sisters in the oath of loyalty to the emperor was an extraordinary practice that for Anthony Barrett represents a symbolic recognition that they shared in the mystique and majesty of the principate.6 In the extant literary sources this remarkable innovation of including Caligulas sisters in the oath of allegiance to the emperor becomes a basis of criticism of the princeps, but not on the grounds we might have expectedthat, as the Tacitean Tiberius puts it, restraint should be shown in paying honors to women (Ann. 1.14.2). Rather, for Dio these honors are a mark of the emperors dutiful behavior toward his sisters in contrast with his subsequent impious treatment of them (59.3.3, 6), while in Suetoniuss Life, the privileges to Caligulas sisters, like the other honors which the emperor paid to the deceased and living members of his family, are represented not as sincere expressions of his pietas but actions designed to gain the emperor popularity (Caligula 15.13).7
5. Barretts suggestion 1996, 50, which is based on Tacituss inclusion of Domitius as one of the conscii et adulterii of Albucilla, a woman charged with impietas in principem (Ann. 6.47.2), that Agrippina might have attempted to goad him into some sort of political action is not persuasive. 6. Barrett 1996, 53. 7. Suetonius comes close here to describing what we will see in Chapter 2 as a concerted dynastic policy of rehabilitation and advertisement of the Julian gensa program in which Agrippina and her sisters played an important part.



A more malicious tradition about the relationship between Caligula and his sisters is found in several of the literary sources which allege that Caligula habitually committed incest with all three of his sisters, but especially with Drusilla, whom he was believed to have violated while he was still a minor (Suetonius Caligula 24.1, 24.3; cf. 36.1; Josephus AJ 19.204; Dio 59.3.6, 59.11.1, 59.26.5). A variation on this theme is the story that Drusillas husband Lepidus, who was also the emperors favorite and lover, had, like Caligula himself, improper relations with the latters sisters, Agrippina and Livilla (Dio 59.22.6). Allegations of incest are, of course, part of the arsenal of political invective which employs sexual impropriety as a mark of character.8 Whether the allegations have any foundation in the case of Caligula and his sisters is far from certain. Neither Philo nor Seneca the Younger, both sources hostile to Caligula, allude to improper sexual relations between the emperor and his sisters. The silence of these contemporary sources might be explained on the grounds that it would have been politically inadvisable, even after the death of Caligula, to mention allegations of incest between him and his sisters.9 Tacituss omission of the incest story at Annals 14.2, where Agrippinas previous sexual crimes are enumerated, however, cannot be so easily explained. The unusual public visibility of Agrippina and her sisters and the unprecedented honors conferred on them may well have given rise to rumors of an unnatural relationship, as some scholars suppose; perhaps such rumors were deliberately encouraged by the political opposition to the regime. The sexual theme reappears in the extant literary accounts of the strange events leading to the banishment of Agrippina and her sister Julia Livilla to the Pontian islands in late 39 or 40 CE. Modern scholars almost without exception regard as the cause of the sisters banishment their involvement in a conspiracy against Caligula,10 but attempts to reconstruct the nature and composition of the conspiracy, much less the motives and aims of its members, are often not persuasive.11 Without the relevant Tacitean narrative, in fact, the ancient testi8. [Corbeill 1996, 117118. EK] 9. Wardle 1994, 224225. 10. For a conspiracy against Caligula in 39 CE, see, most recently, Barrett 1996, 60 70; Barrett 1990, 100113; and Faur 1973, 1350. The earlier literature is cited in Meise 1969, 91 n. 2. Simpson 1980, 347366, draws attention to the paucity of evidence for Lepiduss involvement in a plot against Caligula; he argues that the reason for Lepiduss execution was adultery with the emperors sisters. Simpsons suggestion that Caligula may have invented the conspiracy deserves serious consideration. 11. The subject of the conspiracy has raised more issues than it has resolved. A good deal of attention, for example, has been given to the question of whether Gaetulicus and Lepidus were associated in the same plot against Caligula. The one piece of evidence for such an associationSuetoniuss reference at Claudius 9.1 to a Lepidi et Gaetulici coniuratiois curiously not substantiated in the biographers life of Caligula. Belief in the existence of a conspiracy of Lepidus and Gaetulicus, at any rate, still demands a convincing explanation for how an association with Lepidus and the emperors sisters would have served the interests of Gaetulicus. Even more problematic is the presence of both



monybrief passages from Suetonius and Dio and a few scattered references is not much on which to build a hypothesis.12 The fullest extant account of the events leading to the banishment of Agrippina and her sister, in Book 59 of Dios Roman History, begins as follows: Another of his victims was Lepidus, that lover and favourite of his, the husband of Drusilla, the man who had together with Gaius maintained improper relations with the emperors other sisters, Agrippina and Julia, the man whom he had allowed to stand for office five years earlier than was permitted by law and whom he kept declaring he would leave as his successor to the throne. To celebrate this mans death he gave the soldiers money, as though he had defeated some enemies, and sent three daggers to Mars Ultor in Rome. He deported his sisters to the Pontian Islands because of their relations with Lepidus, having first accused them in a communication to the senate of many impious and immoral actions. Agrippina was given Lepidus bones in an urn and bidden to carry it back to Rome, keeping it in her bosom during the whole journey. (59.22.68, Loeb translation). The deportation of Agrippina and Julia Livilla to the Pontian islands is linked in Dios narrative to the fate of their brother-in-law Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (husband of the late Drusilla). But if we look to Dios account for a clear explanation of the cause of Lepiduss downfall and the punishment of Caligulas sisters, we will be disappointed. We are given to understand, for example, that the emperors sisters were formally charged under the lex Iulia de adulteriis in the senate before punishment was imposed. Lepidus, in contrast, seems to have been summarily executed without a trial. Was the reason for his removal his adulterous relationship with the female members of the imperial family most closely related to the emperorbehavior that could be construed as treasonous in its own rightor had he been involved, as many scholars suppose, in a plot against the life of the emperor? Caligulas donative to the troops and his dispatch of three swords to the temple of Mars Ultor suggestor were meant to suggesthis escape from such a plot; and that, according to Dio, is how the emperor represented the circumstances to the senate. The historian, however, immediately calls into question this representation of events with the comment that the emperor was always pretending to be in great danger (59.23.1). To add to the confusion, Dio later refers to people, some with the status of aedile or praetor, who were put on
Agrippina and Julia Livilla in Lepiduss enterprise. If we assume, as many have suggested, that Lepiduss dynastic ambitions, following the death of Drusilla, required a direct link to the imperial house and that for Agrippina, marriage to Lepidus would strengthen both her own and her sons position, what had Julia Livilla to gain from a risky association of this sort? 12. Suet. Gaius 24.3 and Dio 59.22.68, 23.1, 23.89 are discussed below. The remaining references are: Sen. Ep. 4.7; Jos. AJ 19.20, 19.49; Tac. Ann. 14.2.3; Suet. Gaius 29.1; Claudius 9.1; Vespasian 2.3.



trial on account of their friendship with the emperors sisters and those who had been murdered (59.23.8). Should this statement be taken as evidence for the sisters involvement, together with that of Lepidus and others, in a conspiracy against the emperor? Or is it simply that any kind of previous personal or political connection with the now disgraced Agrippina and Julia Livilla rendered one suspect? Even more problematic is the matter of Ofonius Tigellinus, the later praetorian prefect under Nero, whom Dio says (59.23.9) was banished in 39 on account of adultery with Agrippina. A reference in the scholiast to Juvenal suggests that Tigellinus had adulterous affairs not only with Agrippina and her sister Julia Livilla, but also with the latters husbands. Barrett rightly observes: This persistent theme of the double adulterous affair casts some doubt on the supposedly similar conduct of Lepidus.13 While Suetoniuss briefer version of these eventsrecorded as part of an account of Caligulas disrespectful treatment of his familytells much the same story (Gaius 24.3), the ambiguity in Dio between adultery and conspiracy as the cause of both Lepiduss and the sisters demise is rationalized into a more coherent account. Alluding to the same complex set of sexual relationships between the emperor and his lover Lepidus, on the one hand, and between both of them and Agrippina and Julia Livilla, on the other, that we find in Dio, the biographer records that Caligulas habit of prostituting his sisters to his male lovers made it easier for him to condemn Agrippina and Julia Livilla at the trial of Lepidus on the grounds that they were guilty of adultery and privy to plots against him.14 Like Dio, Suetonius also relates that Caligula deposited in the temple of Mars Ultor the three swords (in Dio they are daggers) with which, he alleged in an accompanying inscription, they had intended to kill him. Instead of sending a letter to the senate retailing his escape from a great plot, as in Dio, Suetonius has Caligula make public (at the trial of Lepidus?) letters of Lepidus and his sisters written in their own hands; the biographer adds the tantalizing, but hardly credible, detail that the emperor obtained these chirographa through deceit and illicit sexual relations (fraude ac stupro). Perhaps most telling of all, the Suetonian account, like that of Dio, hints at skepticism about the allegations against Agrippina and Julia Livilla.15 While it is not my purpose here to make a case for or against the existence of a conspiracy against Caligula in 39 CE in which Agrippina was complicit, I would simply point out that the authors of the accounts we have been examining do not lend their authority to the allegations of conspiracy against the three principals: Lepidus, Agrippina, and Julia Livilla. The latter are instead represented to us as
13. Barrett 1996, 67. 14. Dio 24.3: quo facilius eas in causa Aemili Lepidi condemnavit quasi adulteras et insidiarum adversus se conscias ei. 15. On this skepticism, see Hurley 1993, 101. Cf. Wardle 1994, 229: Caligula skillfully used the rumours which his honorific treatment of his sisters had caused to secure credence of his allegations of their adultery with Lepidus.



the victims, both sexual and political, of the emperor. What our authors choose to highlight is a series of highly theatrical and heavily symbolic events staged by Caligula to justify the summary removal of Lepidus and the banishment of the sisters. First, there are the three swords (or daggers) dispatched by the emperor to the Temple of Mars Ultor in Rome, where they were put on display with an accompanying inscription identifying them as weapons intended to encompass his death. The weapons symbolized Caligulas escape from an assassination plot at the hands of Lepidus, Agrippina, and Julia Livilla. Their dedication to Mars Ultor, the avenger of Julius Caesar, was tantamount to a claim of divine sanction for the vengeance exacted from the would-be assassins. Dio does not suggest, however, that these weapons were actually captured from the assassins after the latter had been overcome by the emperors troops, but he tells us that Caligula gave a donative to the troops as though he had defeated some enemies (59.22.7). An even more theatrical display is said to have followed. Agrippina was compelled to return to Rome carrying an urn containing the cremated remains of her lover Lepidusa bizarre parody of her mothers earlier journey to Rome with the ashes of the dead Germanicus. Such an event would have held Agrippina up to public ridicule by emphasizing the degree of her degeneration from the noble example of her mother: the former had braved wintry seas to carry out this final act of loyalty to her husband, while her daughter would be on display as imitating her mothers actions on behalf of her adulterous lover rather than her lawful spouse.16 Caligulas actions as described in our sources, moreover, seem designed not only to recall the positive model of the elder Agrippina. A negative model, too, would be discernible just beneath the surface of these events. The summary execution of a highly placed adulterer with intimate connections to the imperial house, on the one hand, and the banishment of the emperors closest female relatives following a communication to the senate in which the emperor laid out the latters sexual transgressions, on the other, might well bring to mind the fate of Agrippinas grandmother Julia, the daughter of Augustus. Indeed, Caligulas sisters were banished to the very islands, Pandateria and Pontia, where their mother and brother endured banishment and death under Tiberius; Pandateria, moreover, had been the original site of Julia the Elders banishment as well. While Agrippina, Julia Livilla, and Lepidus, then, are presented to us as the victims of the emperor, the latter emerges from our accounts as a master manipulator of the public perception. We might well want to ask why, on this version of events, it was so important for Caligula to represent Lepidus and his sisters as guilty of adultery and conspiracy and to justify his treatment of them on these grounds. The Agrippina presented to us in the literary tradition does not remain a victim for long. Soon to be recalled from exile by her uncle Claudius at the beginning of his reign, she was left a widow at the age of twenty-five by the death of Domitius in late 40 or 41. She was, we are told, immediately in the market for a new marriage. A far cry from the inexperienced girl of thirteen who had little or
16. See Barrett 1996, 3031, on how Agrippina the Elder constructed this scene.



no say in the choice of a husband, Agrippina first set her sights on Servius Sulpicius Galba, the future emperor. Suetonius relates (Galba 5.1) that Galba remained a widower after the death of his wife Lepida and could not be tempted by any offer of marriage, even to Agrippina. As soon as she was widowed by Domitius, so the story goes, she had attempted by every means to induce Galba to become her husband even while he was still married to Lepida. Her behavior so outraged Lepidas mother that the latter, in the presence of a group of Roman matrons, roundly rebuked Agrippina and slapped her face. As Barrett has suggested, there are good reasons for doubting that this episode, if it ever occurred, happened as Suetonius presents it.17 Suetoniuss anecdote, historical or not, offers up a theme repeatedly found in the literary construction of Agrippina: transgressive sexual behavior. The initial presentation of the two principals here as a widower (amissa uxore, in caelibatu) and a widow (viduata morte Domitii) plays upon our expectation that two people who have recently lost their spouses will consider remarriage, to each other, but this expectation is quickly subverted when we learn that Galba is not yet a widower when Agrippina turns her attention to him. Agrippinas inappropriate solicitation of a still-married man is, as we shall see, very much of a piece with the Tacitean portrayal of her as seducer of her uncle and as adulteress several times over. Her failure to live up to the ideal of the proper behavior for a woman of her class and status is especially marked by her public rebuke at the hands (literally!) of an upper-class Roman woman, Lepidas mother, in the presence of a group (perhaps with religious associations) of Roman matronae. With Galba impervious to her wiles, Agrippina nonetheless soon found a husband in Gaius Sallustius Passienus Crispus. The marriage, which probably occurred soon after her return from exile in 41 CE, offered advantages on both sides. Agrippinas second husband had been adopted by the wealthy Sallustius Crispus, Augustuss and Tiberiuss adviser. In addition to considerable wealth, Passienus had wit, eloquence, and imperial favor to recommend him. It is quite likely that marriage to Agrippina brought an advancement of Passienuss political career, perhaps revealed in his second consulship in 44 CE.18 Before his marriage to Agrippina, Passienus had been married to her sister-in-law Domitia, the sister of Agrippinas husband Domitius Ahenobarbus. If Passienus divorced Domitia in order to marry Agrippina, this fact might explain the enmity between the two

17. According to Suetonius, Agrippina approached Galba as soon as she was widowed by Domitius. Barrett 1996, 8384, however, has made evident how improbable this chronology is: at the time of Domitiuss death in late 40 or the first few days of 41 CE (Geer 1931, 5961; Bradley 1978, 48), Agrippina was still living in banishment on the island of Pontia, and Galba was serving as governor of Upper Germany. Placement of the incident later (i.e., after Galbas tenure as governor), as Barrett suggests, is also problematic since it is quite likely that by that time Agrippina was already married to Passienus Crispus. 18. For discussion of the date of the marriage to Agrippina and of Passienuss career, see Barrett 1996, 8486.



women that we hear so much about in the literary tradition.19 All that we know of the marriage of Agrippina and Passienus itself comes from the scholiast on Juvenal: periit per fraudem Agrippinae, quam heredem reliquerat, et funere publico elatus est (Passienus died by the treachery of Agrippina, whom he had made his heir, and was honored with a public funeral). As Barrett suggests, per fraudem implies the use of poison.20 The formulation here records almost matter-of-factly a charge not infrequently alleged against powerful women, reminding us of the betterknown story that Agrippina encompassed her husband Claudiuss death through the agency of poison. Neither Tacitus nor any of the other sources that relate Agrippinas role in Claudiuss death, however, alludes to the existence of a tradition that she had already murdered a husband.

II. THE MARRIAGE TO CLAUDIUS In the Tacitean version, the emperors choice of a wife comes to us in the form of a parody of a meeting of the imperial consilium, an advisory body made up of distinguished senators and equestrians and representatives of the imperial secretariat.21 The scene (Ann. 12.1) is a contest among the imperial freedmen Callistus, Narcissus, and Pallas as to which one of them is to choose a wife for Claudius, who is described as unable to endure unmarried life and subservient to the commands of wives (caelibis vitae intoleranti et coniugum imperiis obnoxio, 12.1.1). The matrimonial candidates themselves, we are told, burn with no less rivalry: each advances her own birth, beauty, and wealth as deserving of such a distinguished match. As each of the freedmen puts forth the claims of one of the three main contenders (Aelia Paetina, Lollia Paulina, and Julia Agrippina), the emperor inclines now this way, now that, and finally summons the freedmen to a meeting of the imperial consilium and bids them to express their opinions, supported by reasoned argument. In relating the arguments advanced by the three freedmen, the historian does briefly allude to some of the same circumstances surrounding the emperors choice of Agrippina found in modern accounts. While Narcissus and Callistus emphasize the circumstances that will ensure their candidates ability to be good stepmothers to Claudiuss children, the case made by Pallas on behalf of Agrippina rests on the realities of dynastic politics:
Pallas, however, in his eulogy of Agrippina, emphasized the point that she brought with her the grandson of Germanicus, [a young man] fully deserving of imperial rank: let22 the emperor unite to himself a noble race and the
19. Barrett 1996, 85. It is also possible that the uneasy relations between Agrippina and her sister-in-law started while Agrippina was still married to Domitius and Domitia to Passienus. Quintilian (6.1.50) preserves the information that Passienus once pleaded in a suit over money brought by Domitia against her brother Ahenobarbus. 20. Barrett 1996, 86. 21. Crook 1955, 42; Syme 1958, 539; and Vessey 1971, 401. 22. [Furneaux reads coniungeret; Heubner reads coniungere. EK]



posterity of the Julian and Claudian families and not allow a woman of proven fertility, still young, to transfer the illustrious name of the Caesars to another house. (Ann. 12.2.3) But the overall thrust of the Tacitean narrative is quite different. In Tacitus, Claudiuss motives for the marriage are personal rather than political, and he has only a minor role in arranging it. Tacituss Claudius is very much in character here as the ruler who does not rule but is subservient to his wives and freedmena prominent theme of the Claudian books.23 If Claudius, the emperor who is acted upon and manipulated by others, fades into the background in these opening chapters of Book 12, their focus is a woman who is anything but passive. From the first sentence of the book in which the emperor is subservient to the orders of his wives (coniugum imperiis obnoxio), through the marriage itself and the realization of Agrippinas plan for a marital alliance between her son Domitius and Claudiuss daughter Octavia in chapter 9, Tacituss theme is the rise of Agrippina to power.24 While the historian only briefly and indirectly alludes to the political considerations that led Claudius to contract a marriage alliance with his niece, he leaves no doubt about Agrippinas motivation for this marriage: her ambition for power. For Tacituss Agrippina, marriage to the emperor is the first step in her pursuit of the goal of having and exercising political power, and she is prepared to use any and every means at her disposal. According to Tacitus (Ann. 12.3.1), Pallass arguments in favor of Agrippina did not alone convince Claudius. They were supplemented by the allurements of Agrippina (Agrippinae inlecebris), who seduced her uncle by frequently going to him on the pretext of their familial relationship with the result that, preferred to the others and not yet a wife, she already enjoyed the power of a wife (nondum uxor potentia uxoria iam uteretur, 12.3.1). For Agrippina already had a plan: the marriage of her son to the emperors daughter. Tacitus here invokes for the first time a motif that will inform the rest of the Agrippina narrativeher use of sexuality in the service of political ends. Only a few chapters later, we read of Agrippina: there was nothing unchaste at home unless it served the ends of monarchical power (nihil domi impudicum, nisi dominationi expediret, 12.7.3). Later, in the narrative that tells of her death (14.2.1), Tacitus reports a tradition that in her desire to retain power (ardore retinendae potentiae) Agrippina went so far as to commit incest with her son, and he explains popular acceptance of the story as follows:

23. [For Tacituss portrayal of Claudius, see Vessey 1971, Dickison 1977, Keitel 1977, Mehl 1974, and Seif 1973. Tacitus and Dio are thought to have used the same source, probably Pliny the Elder, for the reign of Claudius. See also Syme 1958, 287289, and Martin 1981, 199213. For the sources for Suetoniuss life of Claudius, see most recently Hurley 2001, 1617. EK] 24. Mehl 1974, 96181.



Either it was because Agrippina really did intend such a monstrous wickedness or because the contemplation of a new sexual depravity seemed quite believable in a woman who, in her earliest years had committed adultery with Lepidus in the hope of gaining power (spe dominationis), who, through the same ambition, had lowered herself to serve Pallas desires, and who had been trained for every kind of disgrace by marriage to her uncle. (Ann. 14.2.2) To emphasize her political ambitions, the opening chapters of Book 12 are replete in associations of Agrippina with words that denote illegitimate power. Not, of course, that Agrippina is the first or only woman in the Annals to whom the desire or possession of extralegal power is attributed. But references to the desire for absolute power attach themselves to no one as much as Agrippina, beginning with the passage quoted above in which we are told that Agrippinas seduction of Claudius was so successful that she was able to make use of potentia uxoria while not yet his wife. Not only is potentia attributed to Agrippina, but also a word even more pejorative: dominatio. At first the connection is by implication (12.4.1). When L. Vitellius involves himself in Agrippinas plan to remove L. Silanus, the only obstacle to a marriage between Domitius and Octavia, he does so, we are told, in order to win the favor of Agrippina. This comment is preceded by the remark that Vitellius had an eye for future despots (ingruentium dominationum provisor). The connection between marriage to Claudius and Agrippinas aspiration for domination is explicit and emphatic in chapter 7, which describes the change that took place in the Roman state, once senatorial approval for the marriage had been secured: From that moment on, the Roman state was transformed. Everything was under the control of a woman (cuncta feminae oboediebant) but not a woman who, like Messalina, toys with public affairs for the sake of her appetites. It was a strict and almost masculine despotism (adductum et quasi virile servitium); in public she was austere and often arrogant; her private life was chaste unless it eased the way to absolute power. Her unbounded passion for money had the apparent excuse of gathering resources for the throne. (12.7.3) This passage gains much of its force from the fact that the historians language resonates with earlier episodes in the Annals. The opening phrase, versa ex eo civitas, recalls the words at 1.4 (verso civitatis statu) used to describe the new state of affairs after Augustuss victory at Actium. It thus marks out Agrippinas ascendancy as akin to that of the first princeps. Next, the words cuncta feminae oboediebant: this is the counterpart of a similar phrase, omnia liberto oboediebant (11.35), which occurs near the end of Book 11 in the context of the emperors having just learned of the marriage of Messalina and Silius. There the words describe the fact that the imperial freedman Narcissus took complete charge of dealing with the crisis. In the Roman cultural context, of course, neither a freed



slave nor a woman was a legitimate recipient of universal obedience. Finally, to emphasize the nature of Agrippinas sole authority from this point on in the Claudian narrative, there is the coincidence of three words connoting abuse of power: servitium, dominatio, and regnum. The Tacitean narrative makes great play with notions of gender both here in chapter 7 and elsewhere. As we have just seen, the description of Agrippina in 12.7 sees her as both feminine and masculine, and in both roles she is portrayed as overstepping her bounds or failing to observe the proper limits. As a femina, Tacituss Agrippina is in complete control of everyone and everything around her (cuncta feminae oboediebant) rather than, as the ideal construction would have it, under the control of her husband. Although generally chaste in her private life the characteristic of the good wifeshe is prepared to use sexual intrigue as a means to the end of achieving complete political control, for the exercise of which there was no official or legitimate avenue for a woman in Roman society. Thus, the regime which Agrippina is said to have established both is oppressive and exerts the kind of control normally exercised by the male head of household over his slaves: quasi virile servitium. It is no accident that the words uxor and coniunx do not occur in this passage. The real Agrippina, it is suggested, in no way fulfills the wifely role Vitellius had invoked to convince the senators to sanction this marriage for the emperor (12.5.3): What more respectable comfort could there be for our censor than to marry a wife, who would be his companion in good times and bad, to whom he could entrust his innermost thoughts and his little children? The portrait of Agrippina in 12.7 and the events that follow in the Tacitean narrative clarify any initial ambiguity we may have felt in the phrase potentia uxoria employed in chapter 3. Are we to understand the words as referring to the influence a wife exerts over her husband or as something more? It could be argued, after all, that although it was legally the prerogative of the paterfamilias to arrange the marriages of his children, it was not unusual for an uxor to participate in these decisions. Of course, the words struere maiora (aim at greater things), in reference to Agrippinas plan for a dynastic marriage between her son and Octavia, and the fact that we are told the plan could not be realized sine scelere, already add an ominous tone. By chapters 79, no ambiguity about the phrase potentia uxoria remains. It can no longer carry the simple meaning of the power or influence enjoyed by a wife over her husband. By Tacituss use of these words within the narrative context he creates, we must understand the political power and control that Agrippina exercises by virtue of her role as the wife of the emperor. The dangerous nature of that power is made clear by the words servitium, dominatio, and regnum in chapter 7 and further elaborated in the next two chapters. First (12.8.1), we have, on the very day of the imperial wedding, the suicide of Silanusan event set in motion in the previous year by the joint machinations of Agrippina and Vitellius. Next (12.8.2), Agrippina secures the recall of Seneca from exile and his appointment to the praetorship, the purpose of which, the historian tendentiously explains, was to remove from Agrippina the stigma of a reputation for evil deeds alone. Even more self-serving motives follow: Seneca would be a distinguished tutor for her



son and a consultant for both of them (mother and son) in their plans for supremacy (ad spem dominationis). This is the first hint we have that Agrippina envisions the possibility of her dominatio extending beyond the reign of her husband. Finally, in 12.9.2, comes the betrothal of Octavia to Domitius, with the ominous words, who in addition to his earlier ties to the emperor was now the latters future sonin-law and Britannicus equal, thanks to the efforts of his mother and the intrigues of the imperial freedmen. At this point we have to remind ourselves that we are only one chapter beyond the notice of the wedding of Claudius and Agrippinaso quickly have we moved from Agrippina as the wife of the reigning emperor to Agrippina as the mother of his successor. The motherhood of Agrippina, however, is not an entirely new theme in the narrative we have been examining. Back in chapter 2, Pallas had invoked it as the most important point in his case on Agrippinas behalf: Pallas . . . emphasized the point that she brought with her the grandson of Germanicus, [a young man] fully deserving of imperial rank. Nor is that all. Earlier in the debate, Narcissus and Callistus had emphasized the need to avoid imposing an evil stepmother on Britannicus. Pallass arguments, however, as Patricia Watson notes, point to the very situation that could produce a wicked stepmothernamely, the fact that Agrippina had a son (Domitius) by a previous marriage whose interests she would promote over those of her stepson, Britannicus.25 Tacituss construction of the debate, and of the narrative that follows, presents us with an Agrippina whose aim from the very first was to secure her own power by putting her son on the throne. The story that Tacitus tells has little or nothing about the serious political liabilities that faced Claudius in the wake of Messalinas disgrace or about the real advantages marriage with Agrippina would bringfactors that in all probability led Claudius to undertake a match for which he would need legal release from the ban on uncle-niece marriages. As we have seen, the Claudius of the Tacitean narrative is himself passive and easily manipulated by those around him. It is not his political concerns that occupy us, but the political ambitions of Agrippina, supported by those who hope to gain her favor. It is quite possible that it was Tacituss own creation to cast the marriage of Claudius and Agrippina as the result of a debate among the imperial freedmen in a meeting of the imperial consilium. Although Suetonius (Claudius 25.5) at one point presents Claudiuss actions as dictated by his wives and freedmen, the latter are not mentioned in his account of the marriage, which does, however, list Aelia Paetina and Lollia Paulina as possible rivals to Agrippina. It is Agrippina herself, in Suetonius, who shares the stage with the emperor, whose affections, while he was in the process of planning another match (de condicionibus continuo tractaret), were ensnared by the wiles of Agrippina (in language similar to Tacituss: inlecebris Agrippinae, Germanici fratris sui filiae, per ius osculi et blanditiarum occasiones pellectus in amorem). In the Suetonian account, it is the emperor who,
25. Watson 1995, 192194.



at the next meeting of the senate, suborned senators to propose that he be compelled to marry Agrippina quasi rei publicae maxime interesset and to allow others to contract similar marriages (which up to that time had been considered incestuous). One passage of Dio (60.31.6) mentions Agrippinas beauty and her rather too-familiar conduct as influential in the marriage to Claudius. In another passage (60.31.8), Dio recounts the role of the freedmen in bringing about the marriage, but the freedmen work in concert and their motive is given as the desire to bring Domitius up as Claudiuss successor, out of fear of reprisal from Britannicus for their role in Messalinas death.26 The consilium scene in Tacituss account has been artfully exploited to showcase the dynamics within the imperial house (principis domus). We have, on the one hand, a weak-willed and passive emperor, incapable of making his own decision even about what seems at first a private and personal matterthe choice of a new wife. The active role in the household belongs instead to the imperial freedmen, who have arrogated to themselves the job of determining what is best for the princeps, and to the rivals for the emperors hand, here stand-ins for the wife whose commands the emperor will obey. In fact, what happens here will not be simply private and personal but a matter of great import to the state. Later Tacitus will state that as a result of the choice of Agrippina as wife, the state was transformed: versa ex eo civitas (12.7.3) The political significance of what goes on in the imperial house is anticipated in this passage by the use of expressions that can carry a political coloring. The contest (certamen) among the imperial freedmen is a struggle over who will exercise political influence over the princeps;27 the matrimonial candidates vie with each other as if campaigning for office (nec minore ambitu28 exarserant, contendere); the freedmen are their political supporters (fautores29). Status and gender will not be bars to participation in the political process (especially when its site is the imperial domus).

III. AGRIPPINA AND CLAUDIUS The Agrippina of the Claudian books is, as several Tacitean scholars have argued, part of a larger critique of Claudiuss regime and of the imperial system itself. As Sheila Dickison argues, for example, it was Tacituss aim to persuade the reader that an emperor like Claudius, seemingly harmless and insignificant, was as dan-

26. [Hurley 2001, 17, following Momigliano 1961, 78, argues that Suetonius suddenly shifts responsibility for Claudiuss actions to his wives and freedmen, as did Dio, but with an important difference. Up until Claudius 25.5, Suetonius tells Claudiuss story as if he were responsible for all that he did. Suetonius must have reached the conclusion that if the wives and freedmen were behind Claudiuss cruel acts, they must have been behind the sound ones as well. EK] 27. Certamen can have a political connotation; cf. Ann. 4.32.1. 28. Ambitus is a particularly pregnant word to use in connection with Agrippina since it raises the specter of her political ambition. 29. Cf. Ann. 4.60.2 (qui Seiano fautores aderant).



gerous as the cunning tyrant because he allowed his power to fall into the hands of others.30 The Tacitean narrative employs not only the familiar rhetorical stereotypes of the saeva noverca (the wicked stepmother) and the dux femina (the woman who appropriates authority to which she has no legitimate claim), but several techniques borrowed from Roman comedy, foremost among them that of inversion. All the characters of the imperial courtthe emperor, his wives, and the imperial freedmenare portrayed acting out an elaborate set of role reversals in which societal norms concerning gender and status are transgressed. The technique is further enhanced by the assimilation of the main characters to stock comic figures such as the servus fallax (Pallas), the matrona imperiosa (Agrippina), and the senex stultus (Claudius). The Agrippina presented to us in this text is the dux femina par excellence, her every action, here and in the larger Tacitean narrative, motivated by an unscrupulous desire to secure power for herself through her husband and her son, a woman prepared to use any and every means to obtain dominatio. Whatever the aims and motivations of the historical woman, the Agrippina figured here is a literary and rhetorical construct, one designed to suggest the weakness of an emperor and a political system that could not control its women. When Agrippina next appears in Tacituss account (Ann. 12.22), she is the instigator of proceedings against two of her female rivals: Lollia Paulina, who had been one of the contenders for Claudiuss hand in marriage, and an otherwise unknown Calpurnia, whose beauty the princeps had praised in a chance remark. The scope granted to the actions against Lollia and Calpurnia, when compared to the bare notice of Cadius Rufuss condemnation for extortion which concludes the passage, highlights how the historian has exploited the opportunity to further develop Agrippinas characterization.31 Once again, both Agrippinas masculine and her feminine qualities emerge: on the one hand, she is moved by a ferocity and an anger that are more often associated with men; on the other, it is female jealousy that motivates her behavior. Verbal parallels with earlier passages in the Annals underline the characteristics and methods Agrippina has inherited or borrowed from her predecessors. The most marked is Agrippinas epithet, atrox odii (unrelenting in her hatred), a phrase that recalls the earlier description of her mother as semper atrox (4.52.2). As M. Kaplan has demonstrated, the word atrox implies masculine qualities and is only applied to females who aspire to a masculine role; its use here suggests that the daughters unconventional behavior derived from that of her mother.32
30. Dickison 1977. 31. [Cf. Syme 1958, 314, on Tacituss indirect characterization of the two Agrippinas: No portrait of either, though Poppaea has one: Poppaea is not so dynamic a character. Pride, anger, energy, ferocity, and ambition are manifested in all these women say and all they do. A powerful epithet renders them, or a sharp phrase for comment in passing. EK] 32. Kaplan 1979, 411414.



The attribution to Agrippina of personal motives for prosecutions that may have had a political component is typical of Tacituss characterization of her and other imperial women as acting out of jealousy of a female rival. We have already seen female rivalry in operation with Livia and Agrippina the Elder (Ann. 1.33, 2.43, 4.12), Agrippina the Elder and Livilla (4.40), and, ironically, Messalina and Agrippina herself (11.12). Against Lollia, Agrippina is said to have fabricated accusations and suborned an accuser to make them (molitur crimina et accusatorem, 12.22.1). Earlier, similar language was used of Messalina, who was only prevented by a new and mad love from devising charges and accusers against Agrippina (quo minus strueret crimina et accusatores, 11.12.1). Note also that Messalina was said to be infesta to Agrippina, just as the latter is Lolliae infesta here. Another characteristic Agrippina shares with both her mother and Messalina is her ira (4.53, 11.37.2), but in her the emotion may portend ruinous consequences for others. The fact that Claudiuss admiration of Calpurnias beauty was not a matter of sexual desire but only a passing remark meant that this time Agrippinas wrath stopped short of extreme action.33 As the commentators have observed, the language here (ira Agrippinae citra ultima stetit, 12.22.3) is reminiscent of a passage in Ovids Tristia 2.127 (citraque necem tua constitit ira) describing the emperors power to impose death on his subjects.34 Lollia was not so fortunate: a tribune was sent to compel her to commit suicide. Tacitus does not tell us who gave the order, but this notice, following upon the remark about Agrippinas ira, implies that she was the agent. That the prosecution of Lollia was more than a matter of female jealousy, however, is suggested by the fact that even in Tacituss account, it is Claudius himself who, without granting the defendant a hearing, presented the case against her in the senate: she had entertained designs against the state, and it was necessary that she be deprived of any opportunity for criminal activity by relegation and confiscation of her property (12.22). Tacituss remark that Lollia was left with a paltry five million sesterces out of her vast fortune can be taken as further evidence of the serious threat someone with her resources might be believed to pose. Note that Calpurnia was not recalled from exile until 59 (14.12.3); this suggests that Calpurnia, too, was seen as a more serious threat than the Tacitean narrative admits. Tacituss narrative of 50 CE opens with Claudiuss adoption of Domitius (on February 25), thus continuing the theme of Agrippinas promotion of herself and her son. The adoption of Domitius, which may in fact have served Claudiuss own ends of securing the succession, is here presented as something which Pallas, acting on behalf of Agrippina, needed to goad (stimulabat, 12.25.1) the emperor into doing. Because the event is described as hastened (festinatur), it is also suggested that Claudius was pressured into taking this step without adequate
33. Dio (60.33.2b) notes that according to one report, Agrippina put Calpurnia to death. 34. Koestermann III 143144 and Furneaux II 8586.



thought or that the intriguers, Agrippina and Pallas, felt the necessity of pushing the adoption through before the emperor could change his mind. The emperors lack of personal initiative is emphasized in the detail that in presenting the case for the adoption in the senate, Claudius used the same arguments Pallas had employed to persuade himas if Claudius was unfamiliar with the historical precedents for the role played by adoption into the imperial family in dynastic policy. The Agrippina we see here operates in a manner already familiar to us, through men whose cooperation she has elicited because of their recognition of her power to distribute favors or through sexual intrigue. Just as earlier the narrative had presented her as using Vitellius to remove Silanus and to smooth the way for her marriage to Claudius in the senate, so now she operates through Pallas, attached to her as the agent of her marriage and further bound to her by adultery (obstrictus Agrippinae ut conciliator nuptiarum et mox stupro eius inligatus). The use of a noun in<#>-or, conciliator here and provisor in 12.4.1 (cf. also propugnator, 12.42.3) establishes a verbal parallel between Vitellius and Pallas. Here, too, we have an Agrippina who uses sexual intrigue (adultery with Pallas) for political ends. With the adoption of her son (henceforth called Nero) into the Claudian family and the conferral of the title Augusta on Agrippina herself (augetur et Agrippina cognomento Augustae, 12.26.1)an honor whose significance Tacitus does not discuss35the Tacitean narrative explicitly takes up an aspect of the characterization of Agrippina that it had only indirectly alluded to earlier, her role as the stepmother (noverca) of Britannicus. Already in chapter 25 Tacitus had anticipated this theme by characterizing Claudiuss decision to adopt Agrippinas son as a decision to place Domitius before his own son. The historian can make this claim because once Nero was adopted, his status as Claudiuss son would legally be no different than Britannicuss, the emperors natural son; although there was no constitutional mechanism that guaranteed succession to the oldest son, in practice, preference would go to Nero as the elder and more experienced. As Barrett has suggested, Claudius may have preferred to pass his power on to his natural son, but he was willing to place blood ties second to providing for a secure succession.36 The Tacitean narrative, however, goes much further in suggesting that Agrippina was not about to leave Neros succession to chance but, rather, actively sought to weaken Britannicuss position at the imperial court. Although her efforts to promote the position and public image of Nero at the expense of her stepson are not taken up for some chapters, we are prepared for the idea here in the statement that once both mother and son had gained their ends (quibus patratis), there was no one who did not feel sorrow at Britannicuss lot: Little by little abandoned even by his servants, the boy mocked the ill-timed attentions of his stepmother, perceiving them as phoney (12.26.2). In the same year, a veteran colony was founded at Oppidum Ubiorum, Agrippinas birthplace, and named after the Augusta. The Tacitean account credits Agrippina
35. Nor does Dio (60.33.2a). 36. Barrett 1996, 111112.



with securing this honor for her birthplace but depicts the event as another example not only of her political pretensions but of her desire to display her power: quo vim suam sociis quoque nationibus ostentaret (12.27.1). The quoque here implies that Agrippina had already accomplished her aim of making a public display of her power at Rome through securing the adoption of her son into the Claudian gens. For a woman to display her ability to exercise patronage to a foreign nation was yet a further transgression of what Tacitus earlier referred to as decora feminis (2.55.6). All of these themesAgrippinas political ambition, her desire to put her claim to power on public display, and to do so not only before foreigners but also before Roman troopscome together in Tacituss account of the dedication in 51 CE of a triumphal arch celebrating Claudiuss British victory (Ann. 12.37). In a quasitriumphal procession, the defeated British chieftain Caratacus, his wife, and his brothers were led in chains through Rome to the tribunal on which Claudius sat. The prisoners appealed to Claudius for clemency, a request which he granted. Then, released from their chains, they paid their homage to Agrippinaa conspicuous figure on another tribunal not far awayin the same terms of praise and gratitude that they had employed to the emperor. Tacitus comments (12.37.4): It was an innovation certainly and one without precedent in ancient custom (novum sane et moribus veterum insolitum)that a woman should sit in state before Roman standards; it was an advertisement of her claim to a partnership in the empire which her ancestors had created. In fact, however, Agrippinas behavior here is neither new nor without precedent in the Annals, and Tacitus is well aware of it. The phrase feminam signis Romanis praesidere (for a woman to sit in state before Roman standards) recalls similar language (praesedisse nuper feminam, 3.33.3) employed by one of the speakers in a debate in 21 CE on the question of whether the wives of provincial governors should be allowed to accompany their husbands to the provinces (3.3334). The speaker in this case, Aulus Caecina, cites, as an example of the dangers of letting women come into contact with the provincials, the behavior of Plancina, the wife of the governor of Syria. In 18 CE, Plancina had presided at the exercises of cohorts and the maneuvers of legions in an effort to undermine the troops loyalty to Germanicus (Ann. 2.55.6)behavior that the Tacitean narrative itself characterizes as transgressing decora feminis. Nor is Plancina the only example in the Tiberian books of a woman who might be said to have overstepped the bounds of proper female behavior by interacting with Roman troops. Three years earlier in Tacituss account, as already noted, Agrippinas own mother had stood at the head of the bridge over the Rhine at Vetera and prevented it and a Roman army trapped on the other side from being destroyed (1.69.1 2). Although the elder Agrippinas action saved the day, it was not without criticism from Tiberius, who suspected that some sinister plan lay behind it and, according to Tacitus, thought Agrippina was playing the part of a Roman general (1.69.4 5). In evoking the activities of Plancina and Agrippina the Elder, the historian casts our Agrippinas action in a sinister light, suggesting, as it does, tampering with the loyalty of the army rather than viewing the parade of a captured foreign



prince in Rome. But that is not all. For Tacitus states explicitly that Agrippina, in sitting in state before Roman standards, was making a claim to be an imperii socia (12.37.4), a phrase reminiscent of a figure much more dangerous than either Plancina or Agrippina the Elderthat is, Sejanus.37 A few chapters later, we again find Agrippina figured as the wicked stepmother, who in order to promote her own son at Britannicuss expense is not above using some of the methods of Sejanus. In 51, Claudius held his fifth consulship, probably to mark the tenth year of his rule, but also Neros early assumption of the toga virilis at the age of thirteen. The senate honored Neros entrance into public life by granting him the right to hold the consulship at the age of twenty; in the meantime he was to hold proconsular imperium outside the city and to have the title princeps iuventutis. Tacitus terms these honors a form of adulatio and states that Claudius willingly allowed them; in fact, we may believe that supporters of the regime in the senate initiated the proposal at the emperors suggestion: precisely these honors were granted to Augustuss grandsons, Gaius and Lucius Caesar, marking them out as the emperors successors in power. The occasion was further recognized by a donative to the troops and a congiarium to the plebs in Neros name and at games held in the Circus to win him popular favor (12.41.12). Nero appeared in triumphal dress, while Britannicus wore the toga praetexta of childhood. At this point the Tacitean account offers us access to someones thoughts: the people would see the one in imperatorial attire and the other in a boys outfit and would accordingly judge the future rank of each (12.41.2). The content as well as her appearance later in the chapter identify these as the thoughts of Agrippina, who by implication is also understood as the agent in what comes next: the removal of the centurions and tribunes who were sympathetic to Britannicus, some on trumpedup charges (fictis causis), others on the pretext of promotion (per speciem honoris). Is it significant that Tacitus does not explain how Agrippina achieved this? Moreover, a seemingly trifling incidentthat of Britannicuss having addressed Nero as Domitius rather than by his adoptive namefurnished the occasion for also eliminating any freedmen loyal to Britannicus: Agrippina, with much complaint, reported the incident to her husband as the beginning of discordia : indeed (she argued), the adoption was being rejected, what the senate had decreed and the people had willed was being nullified within the imperial house (intra penates); unless the wickedness of those who taught such hostility was removed, it would break out into a public disaster (12.41.3). Again, Agrippina is depicted in a manner that will make a connection between her and Sejanus; she here appeals to the same kind of fear of civil disruption, caused by strife between the two branches of the imperial house, as Sejanus had exploited earlier to great effect (4.17). So upset was Claudius, in this instance, that he exiled or executed the best of his sons tutors. The use of the phrase his quasi criminibus together with the severity of the punishments reported to have been meted out by Claudius is perhaps meant to reinforce the picture of an Agrippina who has exaggerated Britannicuss social
37. [Tiberius calls Sejanus the partner of his labors (socius laborum) at 4.2.3. EK]



faux pas into a suggestion of subversion and an emperor who is gullible enough to act on it. Or has the Tacitean narrative hidden a more serious threat in this story of a personal affront? When we are next told that Claudius replaced Britannicuss tutors with others chosen by his stepmother Agrippina, the historians account plays on preconceived notions about stepmothers by using the ominous word custodia, which suggests that Britannicus was placed under some kind of house arrest (12.41.3).38 Before Agrippina was daring enough summa moliri [make the supreme attempt, 12.42.1] (words all the more ominous because they are unexplained), she must first secure the removal of the praetorian prefects, Lusius Geta and Rufrius Crispinus, who were believed to be loyal to the memory of Messalina and to her children.39 Again, we are privy to the argument employed by Agrippina: discipline would be tighter if the praetorian cohorts were under the command of a single prefect. The grammatical postponement of the ablative absolute which governs the indirect statement, adseverante uxore [by the assertion of the wife] and its juxtaposition to the main clause, transfertur regimen cohortium [the command of the cohorts was transferred], ironically emphasizes the transgression of gender roles. The description of the new prefect, Afranius Burrus, as a man of outstanding military reputation, but one who knew well at whose initiative he had been put in charge, places him in the same category as Vitellius, Pallas, and others recipients of Agrippinas political and sexual favors and eager to do her bidding. Agrippinas advancement of Burruss career is soon followed in Tacituss account by another example of her capacity to promote and protect the political careers of her supporters. Vitellius, not only Agrippinas particular defender (praecipuus propugnator) but also a man of exceptional influence (validissima gratia), was nevertheless being prosecuted by the senator Iunius Lupus on a charge of maiestas and a desire for power (cupido imperii), and Claudius was well on the way to being convinced (praebuissetque aures Caesar [Caesar would have lent his ears] ironically recalls 12.4.2, where it is Vitellius whom Claudius was heeding). Agrippina, however, changed the emperors mind minis magis quam precibus [by threats rather than by pleas], with the result that the accuser was banished. Agrippinas enjoyment of a privilege that had been granted, as a mark of honor, to Livia and Messalina40 before herthat of riding in a carpentum, a vehicle traditionally reserved for the use of priests and sacred objectsis in Tacituss account attributed to her desire to vastly increase her own status: in other words, to her political ambition. Tacituss use of fastigium here (12.42.2) may be meant to
38. Dio (60.32.6) is more explicit: She would allow him neither to be with his father nor to appear in public, but kept him in a kind of imprisonment, though without bonds (Loeb translation). 39. Dio (60.32.6a), typically, makes it a matter of power: because they would not yield to her in everything, she dismissed them from office. 40. Note that Dio (60.33.21), without the subtlety of Tacituss distinct characterization of the two (12.7), calls Agrippina a second Messalina on the basis of this honor.



evoke Annals 3.56.2, where we are informed that Augustus invented the term tribunicia potestas as a designation for the highest power (id summi fastigii vocabulum) in order to avoid using the title of king or dictator and nevertheless to have some term to set himself above the other holders of power. Agrippina appears again at the end of the brief account of 52 CE (the only year in Book 12 that does not open with the activities of Agrippina or Nero), where Tacitus has joined together two episodes related to the completion of a tunnel between the Fucine Lake and the Liris River, even though these events occurred in different years. Tacituss description of the setting, participants, and audience for a naval battle on the Fucine Lake to celebrate the opening of the tunnel captures the theatricality of the event. Not only do the throngs from nearby towns and Rome itself crowd the banks of the river and the heights overlooking it as if in a theater, but also the emperor and his wife, splendidly attired, preside over the spectacle: ipse insigni paludamento neque procul Agrippina chlamyde aurata praesedere [he himself presided in a splendid military cloak, not far from Agrippina in a golden chlamys, 12.56.3]. This last evokes once again Agrippinas presence at the surrender of Caratacus in the previous year (12.37.4) and her inappropriate assumption of a male role.41 The two episodes, however, may be interpreted quite differently, as evidence for the care with which the imperial house created and controlled opportunities for public display. In this case, even though the spectacle may have been a success, the shoddiness of the tunnels construction became apparent once it was opened. After an interval for further excavation of the channel, a crowd was invited to witness another spectaclethis time an infantry battle fought by gladiators on pontoons. The failure of the construction a second time forms the background to what will be a recurring theme in the narrative: a struggle between Agrippina and Narcissus. On this occasion, we are told, Agrippina exploited Claudiuss alarm to accuse Narcissus, who was in charge of the project, of graft and corruption (incusat cupidinis ac praedarum). The latter rejoined by denouncing her impotentia muliebris and nimiae spes (12.57.2), phrases that conjure up for the reader images of Livia and Sejanus.42 Tacitus, ever the master of the suggestive juxtaposition of material within the annalistic framework, uses the technique to good effect here in placing an
41. [The chlamys was a cloak or cape originally worn for riding and often used by the military. EK] Cf. Kaplan 1979, 413414: The fact that Agrippina wears it (and the fact that it was really ornamented with gold) shows her intentions: she desires actually to be an imperator, and thus she over-steps the traditional limitations to which she was subject. Santoro LHoir (1994, 22) cites Dido wearing the chlamys (Aen. 4.136137) not for its evocation of female usurpation of male power but for that of foreignness. Dio (60.33.3) and Pliny (NH 33.63) also describe Agrippinas costume and proximity to Claudius. 42. [For muliebris impotentia of Livia, cf. 1.4.5 and 4.57.3 (among the reasons Tiberius retired to Capri) and her obituary at 5.1.3, where Tacitus calls her a mater impotens. See Keitel 1977, 200. Impotentia connotes lack of self-control and immoderate behavior; see also Rutland 1987, 1516. EK]



association of Agrippina and Sejanus, implied in the phrase nimiasque spes, at the end of the narrative year 52, immediately before the marriage of Nero and Octavia, the opening event of 53. We do not need an explicit statement to this effect to understand the imperial marriage (and Neros speeches on behalf of the inhabitants of Troy and Bononia) as the work of Agrippina, whose goal, from the very beginning, has been this dynastic marriage. There is the further suggestion that just as Sejanus had hoped to exalt himself by a dynastic link with the imperial family (Ann. 3.29), so the marriage of Nero and Octavia is essential to Agrippinas realizing her own ambitions for power.43 The narrative is silent about Claudius, for whom the marriage of Nero and Octavia was as important as it was for Agrippina, until the following chapter, where the emperors cruel actions are put down to eiusdem Agrippinae artibus (12.59.1). The hyperbolic saevissima quaeque turn out to be the trial of the wealthy senator Statilius Taurus, whom Agrippina is said to have ruined (pervertitthe same word used earlier for her action against Calpurnia) because she coveted his gardens (hortis eius inhians), precisely the phrase earlier employed in reference to Messalinas attack on Valerius Asiaticus (11.1). We seem to be looking at a rhetorical topos.44 The trivial personal motive attributed to Agrippina contrasts with the serious charges brought against Taurus. Like Messalina, Agrippina has a delator at her disposal, Tarquitius Priscus. The latter had served as legate under Taurus in Africa and upon their return accused his superior of extortion and magical practices. Taurus anticipated conviction by committing suicide; rather than reaping a reward from the prosecution, his accuser was expelled from the senate. Tacitus presents the expulsion as a victory of the senate, which was indignant at the prosecution of a commander by his subordinate, over Agrippina, who canvassed on Priscuss behalf (12.59.2). The Tacitean narrative of the year 54 opens with the notice that frequent prodigies portended a change for the worsea dramatic anticipation of the death of Claudius soon to follow. The historians account makes it clear from the outset that Agrippina was responsible for the emperors demise: she is said to have been thrown into a particular panic by a remark Claudius had tossed off when drunk, to the effect that he was fated to suffer, then punish, the disgraces of his wives (fatale sibi ut coniugum flagitia ferret, dein puniret, 12.64.2). Agrippina determined to act and hasten the emperors end. But first she encompassed the destruction of Domitia Lepida. The removal of Lepida, muliebribus causis, is, if anything, a rather overdetermined episode in Book 12, the motivations for which are not very convincing. The Tacitean version exploits an opportunity to further characterize Agrippina (and Nero), to develop a
43. Dio (60.33.22) adds the detail that Claudius first had his daughter adopted into another family to avoid the appearance of a marriage between a brother and sister. 44. [On greed as a topos of the tyrant, see Dunkle 1971, 15. See also Walker 1952, 204214, on the topoi of the tyrant in the Annals. On the Messalina-Agrippina parallels, see Seif 1973, 228, and Keitel 1977, 202203. EK]



picture of the growing struggle between Agrippina and Narcissus, and to anticipate the relationship between mother and son once the latter comes to power. The first reason supplied for the rivalry between the two women is Lepidas belief that her family distinction was the equal of Agrippinas. As the daughter of Antonia the Elder (Tacitus mistakenly says Antonia Minor), Lepida was the grand-niece of Augustus and Agrippinas first cousin, once removed; she was also the sister of Agrippinas first husband, Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus. The mention of a similarity in family distinction offers the opportunity to elaborate the characterization of the two women in a synkrisis: they vied with each other in vices (each was impudica, infamis, and violenta), as well as in the gifts of fortune (forma, aetas, and opes). The most significant factor in Agrippinas determination to remove Lepida, according to Tacitus, was the extremely fierce struggle between them as to whether the aunt or the mother was to have greater influence with Nero. In elaborating, the narrative employs language that seems to point forward to the difficulty Agrippina herself and Neros advisers will have in controlling the young emperor (12.64.3): For Lepida tried to win over his youthful heart by flattery and gifts (blandimentis ac largitionibus iuvenilem animum devinciebat) while Agrippina, who was able to give her son power but couldnt bear that he should use it, was grim and full of threats (truci contra ac minaci Agrippina, quae filio dare imperium, tolerare imperitantem nequibat). The trial of Lepidathe charges were that she sought the death of the emperors wife by witchcraft and that her slave gangs in Calabria were disturbing the peace of Italyis the occasion of further strife between Narcissus and Agrippina. Narcissus, feeling more and more suspicious of Agrippina, is said to have opposed the death penalty inflicted on Lepida. We are then privy to conversations he had with his closest friends in which he declared himself ready to give his life for the emperor and attacked Agrippina for tearing apart the imperial house by the intrigues of a stepmother (12.65.3). The intrigues of a stepmother (novercae insidiae)such a forceful theme throughout Book 12culminate, at the books end, in what is presented as the final step in securing power for Nero: the murder of Claudius. While Suetonius (Claudius 44.12) knows of several conflicting versions of the event and Josephus (AJ 20.148) speaks of a belief that Agrippina was responsible for the emperors death, the Tacitean account knows no such doubts. It is all the work of Agrippina and her ministri. Long resolved on murder (sceleris olim certa, 12.66.1), Agrippina is revealed in this Tacitean episode as a woman who has carefully considered the alternatives, has no trouble finding the expertise she needs, and even when plans seem to go awry is capable of changing course. Narcissuss illness and departure from Rome offer Agrippina the opportunity to set things in motion by seeking advice about the proper kind of poison, for (again, we have access to her thoughts) she feared that a fast-acting one would betray her crime, but that a slower one, if detected by Claudius, would lead to a return of affection for his son. To find something slow-acting but which would at the same time cause Claudiuss mind to be confused so that he would not realize what was going on, she chose a certain



Locusta, artifex talium [an expert in such things, 12.66.2], who had recently been condemned on a charge of poisoning and was long retained as one of the tools of despotism (diu inter instrumenta regni habita).45 The latter concocted a potion administered to the emperor on a choice mushroom by his taster, the eunuch Halotus. But when the drug did not seem to be effective, Agrippina became terrified (exterrita); the serious consequences of failure caused her to brush aside short-term disrepute and to engage the help of the emperors doctor Xenophon, whose complicity she had already secured. He succeeded in dispatching Claudius, so it was believed, by pushing a feather smeared with quick-acting poison down the emperors throat. Meanwhile, in a reprise of Livias activities at Augustuss death, Agrippina kept Claudiuss demise concealed while the senate was summoned and the consuls and priests continued to offer prayers for the emperors safety. Until all the arrangements could be made to ensure Neros assumption of power, the deception even went so far that the emperors lifeless body was covered with blankets and poultices, as if to keep it warm. Hypocrisy is a strong theme here. First among the arrangements to ensure Neros succession was Agrippinas successful effort to keep Britannicus out of sight: As if overcome with grief and seeking solace, she embraced Britannicus, called him the true likeness of his father and prevented him by various artifices from leaving his bedroom (12.68.2). She held back his sisters Antonia and Octavia, had closed off all means of approach with guards (cunctos aditus custodiis clauserat), and frequently issued reports that the emperors health was improving in order to keep up the morale of the troops and to await the arrival of the propitious moment foretold by the astrologers.46 When Nero emerges from the palace at midday on October 13 to be proclaimed emperor by the praetorian guard, he is accompanied by Burrus, the praetorian prefect. Agrippina is not out of our sight for long, however. Book 12 concludes with the notice that divine honors were decreed to Claudius and that a funeral as lavish as that for Augustus was celebrated (aemulante Agrippina proaviae Liviae magnificentiam, 12.69.3). Claudiuss will was not read aloud lest the preference of a stepson over a son give the impression of injustice and ill will to the populace. We have come full circle: the stepmother has prevailed.

45. Furneaux II 145. 46. [Scholars have long noted in Tacitus a suspicious similarity between the behavior of Livia and Agrippina after the deaths of Augustus and Claudius. Each conceals news of the death until the heir whom she supports, her son, is firmly in control. Both post pickets around the house and issue optimistic bulletins about the health of the emperor (1.5.4 and 12.68.3). Charlesworth 1927, 5557, argues that Tacitus drew on rumors of Agrippinas role in the death of Claudius when depicting Livia. See Syme contra 1958, 483. Earlier Charlesworth 1923, 154, argued that the younger Agrippina may have repeated malicious gossip about Livias role in Tiberiuss accession in order to bolster Neros claim to power as a direct descendant of Augustus. See also Goodyear 1981 1:125 128. EK]



The representation of Agrippina in the account of Cassius Dio (which has unfortunately come down to us in epitomes only and is not a connected narrative) features several of the themes found in the Tacitean narrative.47 For Dio, too, the advancement of Nero is seen in personal terms as the goal of Agrippina from the very beginning rather than as part of an imperial policy aimed not just at securing the succession but at providing legitimacy for the current ruler. According to Dio (60.32.1), as soon as Agrippina came to live in the palace, she assumed total mastery over Claudiusliterally: She appropriated Claudius for her own purposes. She was able to take advantage of every opportunity of winning over those closest to the emperor, either by inspiring fear or by doing favors. Without providing many details, Dios epitomaters report in quick succession the undermining of Britannicus (she caused him to be brought up as a nobody) and the promotion of Nero as son-in-law and (soon to be) adopted son, all at the instigation of Agrippina. The latter was training her son for power (eis to kratos); she entrusted his education to Seneca and was amassing incredible wealth for him, overlooking no possible source of revenue. But, as in Tacitus, Agrippinas ambition, which might be acceptable if viewed as a means for a mothers promotion of her son, is constructed as her own desire for power and often takes the form of ascendancy over others; for example, she possessed all power, since she dominated Claudius and had won over Narcissus and Pallas (60.33.3a, Loeb translation). Agrippinas public activities and visibility (whose unusualness is stressed) are read as evidence of both her position of dominance and her desire for yet greater power: She had more power than Claudius himself and used to greet in public all who desired it, a fact that was entered in the records (60.33.1, Loeb translation). Later, we learn that Agrippina often attended Claudius in public when he was transacting ordinary business or when he was giving an audience to ambassadors, though she sat upon a separate tribunal; this, too, was one of the most remarkable sights of the time (60.33.7, Loeb translation). Yet again (60.33.12), although Agrippina had all the privileges held by Livia and more, we are told, she was not satisfied. She exercised the same power as Claudius but desired to have his title outright; as evidence, she accompanied him once as he lent his assistance at a great fire in the city. Female rivalry is another theme in Dios account. Agrippina is said to have put to death illustrious women because of jealousy. The one example given is that of Lollia Paulina, whose destruction Agrippina encompassed because Lollia had been the wife of Caligula and had had some hope of becoming Claudiuss wife (60.32.4).
47. [Dios account of the Julio-Claudian emperors survives only in much later epitomes. The eleventh-century Xiphilinus provides less an epitome and more an erratic selection from Dio, often in the original order and often very close to Dios wording. The later epitomator Zonaras follows Dio and combines with him large amounts of material from Plutarch and others. Zonaras had also read Xiphilinuss epitome of Dio. Thus several similar but different episodes in the epitomes may represent the same passage in Dio. See Millar 1964, 14. EK]



The means are not described; we hear nothing of Lollias wealth or the charges brought against her. The brief account appends a macabre detail that Tacitus forbore to include, to the effect that when Lollias head was brought back to Agrippina and she did not recognize it, she opened the mouth and examined the teeth, which reportedly had certain peculiarities.48 Jealousy is the motivation also for the banishment of Calpurnia, reported in a later passage: Claudius had praised her beauty (60.33.2). The noverca theme, though not as marked in Dio as in Tacitus, is also present. Agrippina is never referred to in Dio as a stepmother, but each stage of her promotion of Neros interests is accompanied by a diminution of those of Britannicus. Having won over Claudiuss supporters, she caused his son Britannicus to be brought up as if he were a mere nobody (60.32.1, Loeb translation); this is followed by the statement that she made her son Domitius Claudiuss son-in-law (presumably a reference to the betrothal of Domitius and Octavia). Later the relationship is made explicit: While Nero was being advanced, Britannicus received neither honour nor care. On the contrary, Agrippina removed or even put to death those who were devoted to him; Sosibius, who had been entrusted with his rearing and education, she slew on the pretext that he was plotting against Nero. After that she handed Britannicus over to those who suited her purpose and did him all the harm she could. She would allow him neither to be with his father nor to appear in public, but kept him in a kind of imprisonment, though without bonds. (60.32.5, Loeb translation) Dios Agrippina is quite cognizant of the necessity of increasing Neros popularity with the masses at the expense of Britannicus. In fact, she is adept at constructing both Nero and Britannicus in the popular conception so that Nero would be viewed as the only successor to the imperial power. So, for example, she stagemanages Neros vow of a horse race for the emperors recovery during Claudiuss serious illness in 52 or 53, choosing an equestrian contest because it was very popular with the Romans. Dio also has her persuading Claudius, during a riot over the price of bread that she herself instigated (!), to make known to the populace and the senate that if he should die, Nero was capable of administering the business of the state. As a result, Neros name was on everybodys lips, but as for Britannicus, many did not know whether he was alive and others believed the report that Agrippina put out, namely that he was insane and epileptic. The emphasis in Dios narrative, as far as this can be discerned from the way the evidence has come down to us, seems to be on Agrippinas cleverness at manipulating both those around the emperor and the circumstances necessary for Neros advancement. She is described as most clever (deinotate) at mak48. [For this topos of tyrannical saevitia, see also Tacitus Ann. 14.57.4, 14.59.3, and 14.63.2. See also Plutarch Antony 20.4, where Antony gloats over the head and hands of Cicero. Additional references in Pelling 1988, 167168. EK]



ing use of opportunities to win over (oikeiosato; see also 60.33.3a) those who have Claudiuss goodwill, either through instilling fear or through doing favors (60.32.1). Further, in amassing wealth for Nero, she overlooked no source of revenue but paid court to anyone in the least degree well off and murdered many for their wealth (60.32.3). In Dios account, the spotlight is always on Agrippina herself as agent. For example, whereas Tacitus has Vitellius and Pallas play key roles in the betrothal of Domitius and his adoption, Dio places Agrippina on center stage: She accomplished these ends partly by getting the freedmen to persuade Claudius and partly by arranging beforehand that the senate, the populace, and the soldiers should join together in shouting their approval of her demands on every occasion (60.32.2, Loeb translation). The Agrippina of Dio is figured as a person who prepares the way to her goal in advance (60.32.2 and 60.33.10) and who achieves her ends not only through clever manipulation (60.32.12, 60.33.910, and 60.34.4), flattery (60.32.1 and 3 and 60.33.3a), and persuasion (60.32.2 and 60.33.10) but also through force (60.32.3, 4, 5, 6; 60.33.2; and 60.34.23). She is very much in character in Dios account of the murder of Claudius. Although this account shares several features with the Tacitean one, it places the responsibility for the poisoning squarely on Agrippina by making her not only plan the murder but also concoct the poison (with Lucusta), put it on mushroom, and feed it to her husband (60.34.23) . Suetoniuss account, focusing as it does almost exclusively on Claudius himself, adds little to the literary characterization of Agrippina under Claudius. Although Suetonius does twice advert to Claudiuss subservience to his wives and freedmen (25.5 and 29.1), in fact, Agrippina is given a role in only two incidents the marriage to Claudius (Claudius 26.3, in which the emperor is seduced by her, as in Tacitus; note the similarities of language)49 and the latters death (4344.2), which is said to have been brought about by Agrippina in order to forestall the emperors plan to confer the toga virilis on Britannicus.50 We have nothing about Agrippinas ambitions either for herself or her son; even when we are told, for example, that the announcement of Claudiuss death was delayed until arrangements could be made for the succession (45.1), the fact is not attributed to Agrippina.

IV. AGRIPPINA AND NERO Agrippina as murderess takes center stage again at the beginning of Book 13 of the Annals as Neros reign opens on an ominous note with the murder of Junius Silanus, ignaro Nerone per dolum Agrippinae [without the knowledge of Nero, through the treachery of Agrippina]. As the commentators have noted, the
49. See Mehl 1974, 96121, on similarities in the accounts of Tacitus, Suetonius, and Dio. 50. Cf. Mottershead 1986, 139140, on the tradition of Claudiuss poisoning; the only ancient source to express doubt was Josephus (AJ 20.151). Suetonius indicates that there were several versions, especially with regard to who administered the poison. Note that Suetonius says nothing about making Britannicus successor.



narrative opening (prima novo principatu mors [the first death in the new principate]) evokes a similar event and similar language at the beginning of Tiberiuss principate (primum facinus novi principatus fuit Postumi Agrippae caedes [the first crime of the new principate was the execution of Postumus Agrippa], 1.6.1). The victim in the earlier case was the grandson of Augustus; Silanus was a great-great grandson of the first princeps.51 But the differences, as Martin has argued, are important as well: In the case of Tiberius the act is the first act of the principate; responsibility firmly attached to the princeps himself. In the case of Nero, Tacitus speaks of the first death in the new reign, and goes on to say that the murder was engineered without Neros knowledge (ignaro Nerone) by his mother Agrippina.52 Since a senatorial decree authorizing a public funeral for Claudius is reported both at the conclusion of Book 12 (69.3) and at 13.2.3, it appears that there has been some temporal displacement at the beginning of Book 13 in order to achieve the evocation of the beginning of Tiberiuss reign and the death of Agrippa Postumus. Before we even get to the funeral of Claudius, we are confronted with the role of Agrippina in dynastic murder and the conflict between her and Neros advisers Seneca and Burrus at the outset of her sons reign. Having highlighted the murder of Silanus by placing it as the first event of the new reign, the Tacitean account provides a complex explanation of the event that foregrounds the violence of Agrippina and her personal motivation. We are first told that the cause of Silanuss destruction was not the violence of his character (in fact, he was inactive and disdained by previous regimes) but, rather, Agrippinas fear of him as an avenger because she had plotted the death of his brother Lucius Silanus. There is already something problematic about this explanation in the lack of concinnity between the description of Silanuss unthreatening character and Agrippinas fear of vengeance at his hands. The explanation is further complicated by an ablative absolute appended to the sentence; here it is reported that there was popular talk to the effect that a man of mature years, blameless character, noble family and a descendant of the Caesars was to be preferred to Nero, who was barely out of boyhood and had attained imperial power through a crime (13.1.1). Silanus, it is noted, was also a great-great-grandson of Augustus. Whether this last reason for getting rid of Silanusnamely, his suitability for the imperial power by virtue of age, character, and relation to the imperial familybears some relation to the previous statement of Agrippinas fear of vengeance at Silanuss hands is not clear. Nor is it entirely clear to which of the proposed reasons the words haec causa necis [This was the cause of death, 13.1.2] refer. The structure of this sentence would suggest that the most important factor in the demise of Silanus was the threat he posed as a rival to Nero, and, indeed, later in the narrative Nero will recognize the service rendered to him by one of Silanuss murderers, Publius Celer (13.33.1).
51. See Martin 1981, 162, and Martin 1990, 15511552. 52. Martin 1981, 162. On the opening chapters of Book 13, see also Klingner 1955, 188194.



In fact, although the Tacitean account attributes sole responsibility for Silanuss murder to Agrippina and claims Nero was unaware of it, a contemporary source, the elder Pliny, asserts that Nero gave the order (Natural History 7.58). Whether it was Agrippina alone who ordered Silanuss executionor, indeed, whether Silanus was murdered at all53 the Agrippina of our narrative takes up where she left off at the conclusion of Book 12, with another dynastic murder: the detail that Silanus was poisoned at a banquet reminds us of the poisoned mushroom served up to Claudius. In both cases, fearan unusual emotion for the Agrippina of the Tacitean narrativeleads to extreme action. Moreover, the explanation for Silanuss murder in evoking Agrippinas role in the death of Silanuss brother reminds us of Agrippinas propensity for murder even before she had officially become the wife of Claudius. Agrippina is immediately implicated in another death by the Tacitean narrative: With no less speed (nec minus properato), Narcissus, the freedman of Claudius, whose invective against Agrippina I have already related, was driven to suicide by a harsh imprisonment and the threat of executionagainst the will of the princeps (invito principe), for Narcissus greed and prodigality coincided with Neros still hidden vices (13.1.3). Agrippinas responsibility for Narcissuss demise is more than hinted at both by the relative clause inserted between the subject and the main verb of the sentence and, as in the case of Silanus, by the implied contrast between mother and son (invito principe here is the counterpart to ignaro Nerone above). The narrative here does not at all spell out the most compelling reason, from the point of view of Neros supporters, for removing Narcissus from the scenethe fact that he had openly proclaimed his loyalty to Britannicus. Instead, the Tacitean account leaves us with the impression that the death of Narcissus was motivated by Agrippinas personal enmity toward him rather than by any political considerations. Nor, the narrative tendentiously continues, would Agrippinas violence have stopped there had not Burrus and Seneca intervened. The impersonal passive construction of ibaturque in caedes (and it would have proceeded to a bloodbath, 13.2.1) does not, of course, name Agrippina, but no other candidates are available. Nero is excluded as having been either ignorant or unwilling to be a participant in the demise of Silanus and Narcissus and presently interested only in his pleasures. Burrus and Seneca not only prevented a reign of terror (no details or potential victims given!) but are said to be united in their struggle against Agrippinas ferocia (savagery). Ferox, like atrox, is another of those qualities applied by the Tacitean account only to women who aspire to masculine roles, and the next words leave us in no doubt that Agrippina fits the bill.54 Her desire
53. Cf. Barrett 1996, 153155. 54. [Tacitus uses ferocia of Agrippina the Elder (Ann. 2.72.2, where the dying Germanicus urges her: ferociam exueret); of Triaria, wife of Lucius Vitellius, who in actively aiding the Vitellian cause in the civil war of 69 is ultra feminam ferox (Hist. 2.63.2); of the younger Agrippina also at Ann. 13.21.2; and of Vipsania at Ann. 1.12.4. Scholars are divided as to which uses of the words are pejorative. See Traub 1953 and Goodyear



to exercise dominatio in her own right, so often invoked in the previous narrative, now stands revealed. (Is this why mala dominatio?) The marriage to Claudius and the adoption of Nero are but a means to that end (13.2.2): [She] burning with all the passions of/for wicked power, had Pallas on her side, at whose instigation Claudius had destroyed himself by an incestuous marriage and a fatal adoption. Against the power struggle taking place behind the scenes, the Tacitean narrative sets the public honors heaped on Agrippina. By saying that all honors were heaped on Agrippina (13.2.3) the text presumably means all the usual honors granted to an imperial woman, such as those given to Livia. More specifically, we learn that the watchword given to the tribune of the praetorian cohort by Nero was Optima Mater; the senate also is said to have decreed two lictors to Agrippina, an honor that Tiberius had refused to Livia (Ann. 1.14). Later (13.2.3), Agrippina was appointed flamen Divi Claudi just as Livia was the priestess of Augustus. In what capacity Agrippina participated in the funeral rites for Claudius, which follow next in the narrative (13.3), we are not told. Nor does the historian report, here or elsewhere, Agrippinas role, presumably as flamen Claudialis, in financing a temple to the newly deified emperor.55 The reason may have been that aside from the title and position of Augusta, the priesthood of deified emperors was the only official position imperial women held in this period.56 What the narrative chooses to highlight instead are incidents involving Agrippina, constructed so as to suggest once again her illicit political ambitions. At a senate meeting after the funeral of Claudius,57 according to the Tacitean account, Nero delivered a speech in which he outlined the principles that would characterize his rule (Ann. 13.4). The young emperor especially alluded to and rejected features of the Claudian principate that the senate might have regarded as infringements of its authority, promising to keep the affairs of the palace and the state separate (discretam domum et rem publicam, 13.4.2) and to return its old prerogatives to the patres. And, in fact, says our narrator (13.5.1), this promise was kept. Many items of business were entrusted to the jurisdiction of the senate; indeed, despite the opposition of Agrippina, the senate passed two decrees that overturned policies of Claudius: quod quidem adversante Agrippina, tamquam acta Claudii subverterentur, obtinuere patres, qui in Palatium ob id vocabantur, ut adstaret additis a tergo foribus velo discreta, quod visum arceret, auditus non adimeret.
1972, 105106. On the use of ferox/ferocia for the two Agrippinas, Goodyear observes: It is mistaken to find only a pejorative tone; the word fixes and describes a conspicuous trait of character without passing judgment on it. Traub 1953, 259260, notes that Tacitus shows ferocia, an outspoken defiance, running in aristocratic families, including the two Agrippinas. Cf. also Suetonius on Agrippina at Nero 28.2. EK] 55. Cf. Suetonius Vespasian 9.1 56. See Chapter 2. 57. See Barrett 1996, 146150, for the chronology of the funeral, consecration, and speech in the senate.



Despite the opposition of Agrippina to these decrees on the ground that they undermined the acts of Claudius, they were carried by the patres, whose meetings were held in the palace so that she could stand at a newly added door at the rear, separated by a curtain that allowed her to hear without being seen. The use of the adjective discreta here for Agrippina separated from the senate by a curtained door recalls the phrase discretam domum et rem publicam above and emphasizes just how impossible it was to keep the palace and the state separate when the senate met in the palace! Although the topic of the sentence is ostensibly the independence of the senate, its rhetorical center is Agrippina and her encroachment on public affairs: she is the center of our attention at the beginning and end of the sentence.58 Moreover, if, as Barrett suggests, it was a mark of honor for Agrippina to be allowed to hear the proceedings from behind a curtained door at the rear of the room, that is not the impression left with the reader by the Tacitean presentation.59 Rather, the implication is that Agrippina herself engineered this arrangement so that she could keep tabs on what was going on in the senate. This impression is furthered by the questions raised by the ablative absolute adversante Agrippina: to whom, where, and when did Agrippina express her opposition to the senatorial decrees?60 The Tacitean account of this meeting of the senate stops short of claiming that Agrippina interfered directly in senatorial business. The event related next, however, is presented to us as an elaboration of the incident in the senate and in this way retrospectively creates an interpretation of Agrippinas earlier behavior. On another occasion (quin et), recounts the historian, while Nero was hearing a delegation of Armenian legates, Agrippina attempted to ascend the emperors tribunal (suggestum imperatoris) and to preside along with him. While everyone else was paralyzed with fear, Seneca had the presence of mind to advise Nero to go to meet his mother as she was approaching. In this way, through the appearance of filial piety (specie pietatis), a disgrace was avoided. Like the previous incident, this event, too, took place in the palace (whether or not in the presence of the senate is not clear), and again it is Agrippinas location in this space that is at issue. This time, however, Agrippinas intention to arrogate public authority to herself is not left in doubt: escendere suggestum imperatoris et praesidere simul parabat (13.5.2). The words suggestus and praesidere here evoke not only the earlier incident in which Agrippina received the homage of Caratacus while sitting on a separate tribunal from that of the emperor (12.37) but also the interpretation placed on Agrippinas earlier behaviornamely, that she was laying claim to a share in the empire won by her ancestors (12.37.4). All the more sinister motives are to be imputed to her here as she attempts to preside over the proceedings from the same tribunal on

58. Morris 1969, 49. 59. Barrett 1996, 150. 60. Cf. Morris 1969, 50.



which the emperor sat! It would have been tantamount to a woman being seen to exercise political power in public.61 Agrippina is mentioned in passing, but in a telling manner, in only one other passage under the narrative year 54 CE. The historian reports the gossip in Rome about the ability of Nero, barely seventeen years old and under the thumb of a woman (qui a femina regeretur), to deal with the Parthian invasion of Armenia. Of course, it was the ultimate sign of male weakness for a man to be under the control of a woman. The insult may be heightened by the fact that this is the only time in the Annals that the verb rego is used of a woman. Agrippinas loss of power furnishes the main theme of the narrative year 55 CE; indeed, she disappears altogether from the narrative of years 5658 and only reemerges in time to be murdered in 59. As has already been presaged in the account of the beginning of Neros reign, the power struggle in which Agrippina is engaged is not only one between mother and son but between Agrippina and the very imperial advisers who owed their prominence at the imperial court to Agrippinas patronage: Seneca and Burrus. This fact serves to highlight the frustration, anger, and even desperation that Agrippinas actions display as she faces a diminution of her influence over her son. Ceterum infracta paulatim potentia matris delapso Nerone in amorem libertae, cui vocabulum Acte fuit (The mothers power was gradually broken as Nero slipped into a love affair with a freedwoman named Acte, 13.12.1). The phrase potentia matris here ought to remind us of a similar expression, potentia uxoria, employed earlier to describe the kind of power Agrippina exercised even before she was officially Claudiuss wife. Like potentia uxoria, potentia matris is conveniently ambiguous: it can mean either the power of a mother over her son or the power Agrippina holds in Roman society by virtue of her position as the mother of the emperor. For the Agrippina of the Tacitean account, the ability to exercise control over her son is precisely what will make it possible for her to continue to exercise potentia in the public sphere. The event that precipitates the Tacitean Agrippinas diminution of power is not, as we might expect from the earlier chapters of Book 13, a matter of public policy but a seemingly private and trivial one: the sexual liaison between Nero and Acte. Even if it is not quite constructed as a Roman comedy like its counterpart at the opening of Book 13, the episode does nonetheless have some of the elements of a comedic plot that revolves around the son of the household engaged in an affair with a woman of inappropriate status. In the absence of the stern father, we have a stern mother; at the other end of the spectrum are the imperial advisers who play the role of indulgent father-figures or uncles. The opposition between mother and advisers is neatly expressed here in terms of their different approaches to the imperial liaison, in ablative absolutes at the beginning and end of a sentence that reports the success of Actes play for the emperor: While the mother
61. Cf. Furneaux II 159: Her present action would appear to be an assertion of the regency to which she aspired. See also Dio 61.3.4 and Paratore 1952, 5253.



was at first ignorant of the affair, then opposing it ineffectually (ignaro matre, dein frustra obnitente, 13.12.2), Acte had thoroughly insinuated herself into the emperors favor, and not even Neros advisers offered opposition (ne senioribus quidem amicis adversantibus). To the latter the text attributes the rationale that Acte, because of her status as a mere muliercula, would fulfill the desires of the young emperor without harm to anyone, while they feared that if his passion for Acte were blocked, since he was estranged from his wife Octavia, he would burst forth into illicit liaisons with feminae inlustres. In fact, such reasoning may have been consistent with class prejudices and with a double standard for extramarital sexual activity, but in emphasizing that the emperors advisers regarded a liaison with a freedwoman as a lesser evil than an attack on the virtue of noble women, our narrative conceals what may have been a legitimate concern on Agrippinas partthe survival of the dynastic marriage between Nero and Octavia that she had worked so hard to achieve.62 According to the Tacitean narrative, Agrippina made a serious mistake in not simply waiting for her sons infatuation with Acte to run its course. Instead, she is said to have raged in a womans manner (muliebriter fremere, 13.13.1) at having a freedwoman as a rival and a slave girl as a daughter-in- law63the hyperbole of these statements not only recalls the stereotypical attribution of female rivalry to influential women at the imperial court but underlines the overreaction of Agrippina to her sons sexual intrigue with Acte, who cannot in any real sense be a rival to the Augusta. As it turns out, the Tacitean Agrippinas real rival in the struggle over the control of Nero is Seneca, who has not only treated the affair with Acte with laxity but has also offered one of his intimates, Annaeus Serenus, to act as a go-between, pretending a passion for Acte so that the first stages of the affair could be cloaked in secrecy. Agrippinas violent reproaches of her son, we are told, only increased his fervor for Acte and resulted in an extraordinary transfer of loyalty: Nero threw off his obedience (obsequium) to his mother and gave himself over to Seneca.64 For the first time in the Tacitean narrative Agrippina appears at a loss. Abruptly changing course, she exerted all her blandishments on Nero (per blandimenta iuvenem adgredi) and offered him the privacy of her bedroom (cubiculum ac sinum) for concealing an affair which his youth and high station might require (13.13.2).65
62. Cf. Barrett 1996, 167169. 63. See Santoro LHoir 1992, 138, for the suggestion that as Agrippinas power plummets, the Tacitean narrative treats her no longer as the once proud femina but as a mulier. 64. [Obsequium signifies compliance that ranges from consideration for the wishes of others to deference, and down to servility and obsequiousness. Tacitus uses obsequium in a positive sense at Agr. 42.2, where he asserts that there can indeed be good men under bad emperors; obsequium and modestia, linked with animation and energy, can enable a man to reach the pinnacle of fame. Cf. Ann. 4.20.3 where Tacitus praises M. Lepidus, who in dealing with Tiberius steered a middle course between abruptam contumaciam and deforme obsequium. EK] 65. Koestermann III 258 refers to the distastefulness of this scene and refers to 12.7.



She even admitted that she had acted with excessive severity (intempestiva severitas) and offered Nero the use of her considerable resources. Summing up, the narrative suggests that Agrippinas indulgence now took the same extreme form as her earlier attempt to hold her son in checkin vain, since this change of temperament did not deceive Nero and, in fact, struck terror into the hearts of his advisers, who now warned him to beware the treachery of a woman, always terrible (semper atrox) and now hypocritical (falsae) as well (13.13.3). Agrippina has already been characterized as atrox odii (fierce in her hatred) at 12.22.1, a quality that the Tacitean narrative attaches to masculine females. More striking, however, is the phrase semper atrox, which recalls a similar characterization of Agrippinas mother. From this point on in the Tacitean account, the daughter will follow in her mothers footsteps in terms of her relationship to the emperor. The first instance of such an uneasy and hostile relationship between mother and son immediately follows: a gift of a dress and jewels, specially chosen from those which the wives and mothers of previous emperors had worn, becomes the occasion for a sharp reminder from Agrippina that, although her son owed everything he had to her (quae cuncta ex ipsa haberet), he was doling out only a part of it to her.66 Such remarks, reported to Nero with a sinister turn, according to the Tacitean narrative, led to the first attack on Agrippinas political base of support: Nero, ready to attack the supporters of this female arrogance (superbia muliebris), removed Pallas from the post from which, since his appointment by Claudius, he had virtually ruled the empire (13.14.1).67 The reaction of Agrippina to her supporters dismissal was swift and menacing (praeceps posthac Agrippina ruere ad terrorem et minas), and she did not refrain from communicating these threats to Nero. The indirect speech that Tacitus attributes to her is a creative masterpiece which serves the needs of the narrative well.68 Agrippina, whom the emperors advisers had described only a chapter earlier as semper atrox, will prove to be very much in character here as she attacks not only the son whom she promoted to power through a series of crimes but also the very same advisers who have supplanted her in Neros affections. She is portrayed as responding to the dismissal of her supporter Pallas with a threat to take up the cause of Britannicus, whom she calls the rightful heir to the imperial power, with all the energy that she had previously devoted to the promotion of Nero. So, she is prepared, the account would have us believe, to accompany Britannicus to the praetorian camp, where the daughter of Germanicus will have much greater sway than either the cripple Burrus or the exile Seneca. Nor is this all. Agrippinas speech is a self-indictment in which she confesses all her crimes, not the least of which were her marriage to Claudius and his poisoning. In fact, Agrippina employs the very rhetorical topos of the saeva noverca that had been attributed to her earlier: the imperial house is ill-fated and
66. [Cf. Tiberius and Livia at 4.57.3. EK] 67. I doubt Nero actually used the expression superbia muliebristhis is an intrusion of the narrative voice. 68. Cf. Syme 1958, 316.



full of evil, a situation to which she, the mother, contributed by advancing the position of the adoptive son over that of the true stirps of Claudius, who should have succeeded to the power of his father. This scene leads directly to the account of the murder of Britannicus (13.15 18) and, in fact, provides the motivation for the murder. (It also sets in motion subsequent eventsAgrippinas slide into the politics of oppositionwhich leads to her real loss of power, her removal from the palace.) Nero contemplates on the one hand the violence of his mother (matris violentiam) and on the other the character of Britannicus, who was about to turn fourteen (the age at which he would assume the toga virilis). Although Britannicus had recently incurred Neros hatred by reciting a poem telling of his expulsion from his fathers house and the throne, it is Agrippinas insistent threats (urgentibusque Agrippinae minis) that prompt the emperor to action. In the story that Tacitus tells of the dinner at which Britannicus was poisoned, the evident fear and consternation on Agrippinas face, although she tried to control her features,69 revealed that she knew as little of the deed as did Octavia, Britannicuss sister. The murder of Britannicus, as Tacitus relates it, is in fact a definitive moment in the history of Agrippina at the Neronian court. Tacitus characterizes her as coming to the realization that her last hope of help had been taken from her and that a precedent for parricide had been set. Her response to this realization (ira) will drive her to yet more extreme measuressupporting the interests of Octavia, holding secret meetings with amici, appropriating funds from all sources for her cause,70 granting military officers a gracious reception, and paying court to distinguished nobles (13.18.2)which in the end will result in her banishment from the imperial palace altogether. She was looking for a leader and a party (quasi quaereret ducem et partes, 13.18.2) is the interpretation placed on such activities in Tacituss account, a description that will lay Agrippina open to the same kind of charges earlier brought against Agrippina the Elder, as we shall soon see. In Tacituss account, Nero, upon learning of these activities, deprived his mother both of the personal guard she had by virtue of her status, first as wife of the emperor and then as mother, and of the German bodyguards who had been added as a mark of respect. More important, in order to prevent his mother from receiving daily salutationes at the imperial palace, the emperor removed her from the palace altogether to the house that had once belonged to Antonia. The narrative here reveals the intrinsic connection between space and political power by dramatizing Agrippinas loss of political influence once separated from the seat of imperial power: Nothing in the world is as precarious and transient
69. Koestermann III 265 attempts to reconcile the fact that Agrippina is here described as capable of self-control with her usual lack of it. He comments that Agrippina had it in her power to control herself at especially critical moments. Perhaps it is only the text that creates the inconsistency by portraying Agrippina as out of control. 70. Cf. 12.7.



as the reputation of a power not based on its own strength: Agrippinas threshold was immediately deserted (statim relictum Agrippinae limen, 13.19.1). The historians choice of elegiac diction evokes the image of a woman abandoned by all her lovers, an especially pointed image for a woman whose political influence has been inextricably connected to her capacity for exploiting her sexual powers. Deprived of her political standing, Tacituss Agrippina is, like her mother, an easy mark for an accusation of treason. The charge came at the hands of a former female friend, but now a bitter enemy anxious for revenge. Junia Silana, a woman whom the historian describes as outstanding in birth, beauty, and wantonness (13.19.2) and a very dear friend of Agrippinas, had set her sights on an eligible young noble, Sextius Africanus. Agrippina is said to have dissuaded Africanus from marriage to Silana, calling her shameless and old, not because she wanted him for herself but to keep him from obtaining the childless Silanas wealth. Agrippinas recent loss of power offered Silana the opportunity for revenge and a pretext for an accusation. Two clients of Silana were suborned to lay a charge against Agrippina not the old and often heard allegations that Agrippina was mourning the death of Britannicus or publishing abroad the wrongs done to Octavia, but that she was again aiming to grasp political power, this time through a marriage to Rubellius Plautus, whose claim to the imperial power stemmed from the fact that he was related to Augustus on his mothers side by the same degree as Nero. Iturius and Calvisius, Silanas clientes, were aided in this endeavor by Atimetus, freedman of Neros aunt Domitia. Atimetus, so Tacitus claims, was happy to oblige because of the deadly rivalry (infensa aemulatio, 13.19.4) between his mistress and Agrippina; he incited another freedman of Domitia, the actor Paris, to lay the charge before Nero in the most heinous terms. At this point, Tacitus paints for us a most vivid scene. It was late at night and Nero had long been drinking when Paris arrived, not as usual to enliven the emperors dissipations but to relate the story, point by point. This so frightened Nero that he was determining not only to kill his mother and Plautus but even to remove Burrus as praetorian prefect on the grounds that Burruss career had been advanced by Agrippina and he was now paying his debt (tamquam Agrippinae gratia provectum et vicem reddentem, 13.20.1). It turns out that this last detail was supplied by the account of Fabius Rusticus, whose authority on this point Tacitus eventually rejects in favor of the report of Pliny the Elder and Cluvius Rufus that Burruss loyalty was not in question. We may well wonder why Tacitus bothered to include the detail at all. Are we meant to have in mind how Burrus came to his position, as we read on to discover that Nero was only deterred from killing his mother by the praetorian prefects promise that Agrippina would die if she should be found guilty? We are even privy to Burruss argument: Everyone, above all a parent, should be granted an opportunity for defense. There were no prosecutors, but only the word of one man and that coming from the household of her enemy. Nero should take into consideration the darkness, the night spent in conviviality, and all the circumstances which were conducive to rashness and ignorance (13.20.3).



Burrus allays Neros fears, and the scene now changes to Agrippinas house, where an unusual judicial proceeding takes place (13.21).71 Neither Nero nor a prosecutor is present; the charges and accusers of Agrippina are presented by the praetorian prefect, in the presence of Seneca and some liberti who serve as witnesses. Agrippina, ferociae memor (true to her defiant spirit), replies in direct discourse, the only direct speech in Book 13.72 Recognizing in the names of her accusers the true origin of the charges against her, she begins a vitriolic attack in which maternal feelings and the support of a son are invoked against her female rivals and their henchmen. Silana, having never given birth to children, Agrippina asserts, is ignorant of true maternal feelings: parents do not change children like Silana, a shameless woman, changes her lovers. Nor, she goes on to argue, should any credence be given to the allegations fabricated by her clients, Iturius and Calvisius, who would do anything for money. As for Domitia, Agrippina would actually be grateful if the former were engaged in a contest in benevolentia toward Nero rather than cooking up a story through her minions, her paramour Atimetus and the actor Paris, as though composing a drama for the stage. Nor does the tone of the speech change when Agrippina turns to the charges against her. She challenges her accusers to present evidence of her planning a coup intriguing with the praetorian cohorts in Rome, tampering with the loyalty of the provinces, inciting slaves or freedmen to crimeand, in fact, points out that if Britannicus had been in power or if Rubellius or someone else were to come to power, the crimes she committed in securing power for Nero would put her life in jeopardy. By the conclusion of this speech, Agrippinas listeners have been convinced of her innocence, but they are not able to soften her anger. She demands and is granted an audience with her son. There, we are informed, she spoke neither in her defense nor of her services to him, but she obtained punishment for her accusers and rewards for her friends. Junia Silana suffered the penalty of exile; Iturius and Calvisius incurred relegatio; Atimetus was executed. The prizes granted to Agrippinas amici were not inconsiderable: Faenius Rufus was made praefectus annonae, Arruntius Stella was put in charge of the games planned by the emperor, Claudius Balbillus was given the prefecture of Egypt, and Publius Anteius was designated governor of Syria.73 For a woman who is said to have fallen from power, Agrippina seems quite capable of exercising her political clout. And yet she now disappears entirely from the Tacitean narrative for three full years.
71. See Koestermann III 274275. 72. On the speech, see Devillers 1994, 253, who remarks on the improbability both of the charges against Agrippina and of the fact that Tacitus could have known what was said on this very confidential occasion. Vehemence of speech does characterize Agrippina; this speech, together with the remarks of Agrippina at 13.14, serve to underline her loss of power. [See also Ullmann 1929, 238239. EK] 73. He did not actually serve.



V. THE MURDER OF AGRIPPINA Agrippina reappears at the beginning of Book 14, as the object of Neros longdelayed plan (diu meditatum scelus) to murder his mother. The matricide occupies the first thirteen chapters of the book and is one of the most dramatically reported episodes in the Annals; some, indeed, have read it as owing its inspiration to a tragedy.74 It also has a central role in the structure of Book 14 and in the historians analysis of the Neronian principate. As has often been remarked, Book 14 is framed by accounts of two dynastic murders: that of Agrippina at its opening and that of Neros wife Octavia at its close. Moreover, the roles attributed to Poppaea Sabina and Anicetus in both murders establishes a parallel between the two episodes. But more than artistic unity is the aim. As R. H. Martin has argued, the structure of Book 14 gives the lie to the notion that there was a single point in time when Neros principate took a turn for the worse. The dynastic murders of Agrippina and Octavia are part . . . of a nexus of events that involved a significant shift of power within the imperial household and in the emperors relations with the senatorial class.75 With the destruction of Agrippina the restraining influence that she had exercised on her son was removed, and the way was now open for the replacement of the emperors old advisers by new and inferior ministers, the revival of treason trials in the senate, the execution of the last remaining serious rivals for the imperial power, and finally the divorce and murder of Octavia, the decisive break with the Claudian alliance. For the first time Agrippina receives some sympathetic treatment, but not before the ugly sexual perversion theme is sounded for the last time. Like the fall of Agrippina from power at the beginning of Book 13, her murder at the opening of Book 14 is motivated by Neros infatuation with a woman, this time not the freedwoman Acte but Poppaea Sabina (flagrantior in dies amore Poppaeae, 14.1.1).76 According to Tacitus, Poppaea believed that Nero would divorce Octavia and marry her only if Agrippina were removed from the scene, for the Augustas loyalty to Octavia was well known. Poppaea delivers a harangue to that end in the first chapter of Book 14 and pulls out all the stops. Nero is accused of being a mere pupillus, who takes orders from his mother and is neither in charge nor free. The reason he hasnt already married Poppaea, who possesses beauty, an aristocratic heritage, the ability to bear children, and sincere affection
74. See, for example, Dawson 1969, 261267 [and Quinn 1963, 123129. EK] 75. Martin 1981, 163. Sage 1990, 994995, sees 62 CE as the more important turning point in the reign since it is linked to political change while the death of Agrippina is not. 76. Poppaea Sabina was introduced to the reader at Annals 13.45, where she is implicated with responsibility for great evils for the state (13.45.1). She is given a character portrait in Sallustian style and reminiscent of Sallusts Sempronia. The salient fact about her is that she was not a slave to her passions but put them to work wherever material advantage was to be found. At the time of her introduction, she is married to Otho but has already successfully established ascendancy over Nero.



for him, she suggests, is fear that as his wife, she will speak out about the senates humiliation and the peoples anger at his mothers arrogance and greed. If Agrippina can only put up with a daughter-in-law who hates her son, Poppaea would rather go back to her marriage to Otho than have to witness Neros degradation firsthand. Not only did these words, accompanied by a lovers tears and tricks, win over Nero, but no one opposed them: all were desirous that the mothers power be broken, and no one believed the sons hatred would go as far as murder. Tacituss explanation for the murder of Agrippina has not satisfied many critics. Poppaeas fundamental role in driving Nero to do away with his mother, for example, is not entirely consistent with the fact that Nero is said to have long planned this crime. And if it is true that Agrippina stood in the way of Neros divorcing Octavia and marrying Poppaea, why did the divorce and remarriage not take place until three years later? Moreover, if the desire to see Agrippinas power broken explains why no one opposed what Poppaea was advocating, why has the Tacitean narrative suggested that Agrippina fell from power in 55? Finally, having attributed the prompting of the murder of Agrippina to Poppaea, the Tacitean narrative immediately drops the idea to suggest another force at work. The very next chapter of the Tacitean account produces a story that is not altogether consistent with the historians initial portrayal of the motivation behind Agrippinas murder. This is the story given by Cluvius to the effect that in her burning desire to retain her power (ardore retinendae . . . potentiae) Agrippina went so far on several occasions as to approach Nero at midday, a time when he was experiencing the warmth of food and drink, and to offer herself decked out and ready for incest (offerret se . . . comptam et incesto paratam) to her intoxicated son (14.2.1). To counteract these womanly enticements (muliebres inlecebras), we learn that Seneca introduced the freedwoman Acte, who was to inform Nero that the incest was widely known since Agrippina was boasting of it and that the troops would not endure the rule of a sacrilegious princeps. We might well ask why, if Seneca thought the assistance of a female was needed, he did not turn to Poppaea at this moment. The Tacitean account, however, does not allow us to linger over this question; immediately, the historian mentions the existence of a different version of the storythat of Fabius Rusticusin which it was Nero, not Agrippina, who initiated the intimate relationship between mother and son. Writing from the stance of the impartial historian who weighs the evidence carefully, Tacitus first makes the point that Fabius is the odd man outthe other authorities support Cluvius, and so weight is given to their story. At the same time, the narrative voice admits there were two possibilities: either Agrippina really did contemplate such a monstrous act (seu concepit animo tantum immanitatis Agrippina) or her past behavior made the thought of a novel form of passion quite credible. We are then reminded of Agrippinas past sexual history: adultery with Lepidus spe dominationis, a sexual intrigue with Pallas for the same end, and an incestuous marriage to Claudius that trained her for every disgrace. Tacitus leaves us with an Agrippina who, even as she is about to be murdered, is true to form: nihil domi impudicum, nisi dominationi expediret (12.7.3).



By chapter 3 the Tacitean narrative seems to have forgotten about Poppaeas role in the death of Agrippina entirely. Rather, it is implied that the only way of putting an end to Agrippinas embarrassing and inappropriate sexual advances was to remove her permanently from the scene: Nero therefore (igitur) began to avoid private meetings with her, and when she went off to her gardens or her country villas at Tusculum or Antium, he would praise her for taking a holiday. At last, however, he determined that wherever she was, she was too much to bear and he decided to kill her the only question being whether by poison, by the sword, or by some other form of violence. (14.3.1) Tacitus makes us privy to the emperors thoughts on this question and especially on the many difficulties the preferred methodpoisoningwould present, perhaps as a way of preparing us for the fantastical nature of the eventual choice: a collapsible boat. But what we learn about Agrippina in the processthat as a woman with great experience of criminal activity, she was ever vigilant against plots, and that she had actually fortified her body with a preventative dose of antidoteswill contribute to our understanding of her as an extraordinarily resourceful person even in life-threatening circumstances. The idea of a collapsible boat that would break apart at sea is the brainchild of the freedman Anicetus, prefect of the fleet at Misenum. We learn that there was no love lost between him and Agrippina. He had been Neros tutor and had a longstanding enmity with Agrippina. The advantage of a death at sea, Anicetus is in a position to point out, is that no one would attribute to human agency what was the work of the winds and the waves. He is made to addwith patent irony and hypocrisythat Agrippinas drowning would provide the opportunity for the princeps to ordain a temple for the deceased woman and altars and other things designed to advertise filial piety (pietas). As the Tacitean narrative will make clear, however, Agrippina is just as adept as Nero at playing the game of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy or pretense is indeed a theme that looms large in the historians account of Agrippinas final days, beginning with Neros invitation to his mother to join him at Baiae, where he was accustomed to celebrate the Quinquatria, the festival of Minerva on April 19. There the emperor lured his mother by repeatedly asserting that parents outbursts of anger should be tolerated and their minds placated in order that he might create a rumor of reconciliation and that Agrippina might receive it with womens ready belief in joyful news (facili feminarum credulitate ad gaudia) (14.4.1).77 Agrippina, coming from Antium, was received on the shore
77. This remark is attributed to Neros thought process and does not necessarily represent Tacituss own position. In fact, the sententia may even be ironic, given Agrippinas characterization in the episode: her credulitas is not facilis since she at first doesnt trust Nero and travels to Baiae from Bauli in a litter, not the navis ornatior inter alias. And although the narrator employs a gender term here, perhaps we are also to be reminded that Agrippina is not the typical femina!



by Nero, manu et complexu, and escorted to the nearby villa at Bauli, where there stood a ship more handsomely fitted out (ornatior) than the others, as if this too was a tribute to his mothers honor (tamquam id quoque honori matris daretur). Nevertheless, invited to dinner at Baiae so that night could be employed to hide the crime, Agrippina chose to travel to Baiae in a litter rather than the shipthe reason: the plot had been betrayed to her and she didnt know whether to believe it. Once there, however, Agrippinas fears, we are told, were dispelled by Neros charming manner (blandimentum, a word previously associated with Agrippina herself!) andthe Tacitean passage suggestsby an overt appeal to her sense of importance. She was kindly received by her son and was given the seat of honor, and the conversation in which Nero engaged her at the protracted dinner was sometimes boyishly familiar and sometimes serious, as if he were taking counsel with her on important matters (quasi seria consociaret). As he accompanies his mother as she is leaving, Nero clings to her, looking into her eyes.78 For this Tacitus provides two alternate explanations: either he was adding the final touch to his hypocrisy (sive explenda simulatione) or the final sight of his mother who was about to die gave pause even to Neros cruel heart. Agrippina proceeds to her near fatal voyage, as a result of which she too will turn to simulatio. The narrative reveals to us what Agrippina and her attendants, Crepereius Gallus and Acerronia, were doing at the moment that, at a given signal, the roof of Agrippinas vessel, which had been weighted down with lead, collapsed. At the same time, it does not neglect to remind us of a quality she has displayed throughout: her political ambition. We are told that Crepereius Gallus had been standing near the rudder and was immediately crushed to death by the falling roof. While Agrippina was reclining on a couch, Acerronia had been leaning over her feet, happily recalling the sons repentance and the restoration of the mothers influence (recuperatam matris gratiam). Both were thrown into the sea, but more gently than would have happened if the ship had actually broken apart as planned. In an attempt to save her life, Acerronia foolishly cried out that she was Agrippina and that help should be given to the mother of the emperor; she was immediately beaten to death by oarsmen in on the plot. Agrippina, although her shoulder had been injured, made her escape by remaining silent and unrecognized; she swam until she was picked up by some small boats and brought to the Lucrine Lake and thence carried to her villa. At this point in the Tacitean narrative we are given access to Agrippinas thought processes. A single sentence conveys both her reflections on the reason for her summons to Baiae and the accident at sea and her realization that the only escape from the plot was to pretend ignorance of it (solum insidiarum remedium esse <sensit>, si non intellegerentur, 14.6.1). It is Agrippinas turn for simulatio, and countering the attack takes priority even over tending to her wound. She sends her freedman Agermus to report to her son that she had escaped a serious accident, thanks
78. Note how significant physical contact between son and mother is, even in this final episode.



to the kindness of the gods and his good fortune, and to dissuade Nero, however frightened he might be by his mothers danger, from paying her a visit. In the meantime, we are informed, she feigned unconcern (securitata simulatione) and tended to her wound. At the end of the chapter comes a double whammy: not only does Agrippina, consistent with her reputation for avarice (cf. 12.7.3), give orders to search for Acerronias will and to seal up her goods, but also we are informed that this was the only action where there was no question of pretense (id tantum non per simulationem, 14.6.3). At this point the narrative turns back to Nero, whose weakness in the face of the failure of the plot is in marked contrast to his mothers determination to take control of her situation. Nero is said to be pavore exanimis, half-dead with terror, at the news that his mother not only survived the attack with only a slight wound but also was in no doubt about the instigator of the deed. Neros reaction and the fears attributed to him in this account reflect a view that Agrippina, even at this stage, was someone to be reckoned with. Nero imagines that either his mother will come in her own person to take vengeance, or she will be in a position to incite an armed insurrection against him, or she will command the senate and people as her audience for leveling charges against him. (In any of these cases, Agrippina would be acting contrary to the expectations for female behavior.) Nor are Seneca and Burrus, in whose lap Nero throws the problem, any more capable of taking Agrippina on. Tacitus conveniently fudges the question of whether they were complicit in the original plot against her. He explains their long silence now as motivated either by their despair of being able to dissuade the emperor from a contemplated action or by their belief that Nero would perish if Agrippina was not forestalled. Seneca, at any rate, is said to have roused himself to the extent of enquiring of Burrus whether a soldier could be ordered to carry out Agrippinas execution, and Burrus is made to answer that the praetorians, loyal to the imperial house and especially attached to the memory of Germanicus, would not dare any act of violence against one of his descendants. In the end it is Anicetus who is put on the spot; when the buck is passed to him by Burrus, he, without hesitation, demands to be put in charge of the crime. We suspect that he has little choice in the matter; the historian, at any rate, takes the opportunity to underline the aporia of the emperor and his advisers by having Nero exclaim that on that day an empire was given to him and that he had a freedman to thank for such a gift. It is perhaps ironic that by the end of the chapter Nero is the only one who has the presence of mind to set the stage for an accusation (scaenam ultro criminis parat, 14.7.6). By throwing a sword at the feet of Agrippinas messenger Agermus and then having him arrested on a charge of attempting to assassinate the emperor at the instigation of Agrippina, Nero is in a position to fabricate the story that his mother, having plotted the murder of her son, committed suicide once the plot had been detected. Agrippina, however, now takes center stage and has the last word. We first follow the crowds who have gathered on the beach after hearing of Agrippinas



accident. After much running about and confusion, they learn of her safety and are preparing to offer congratulations when the sight of an armed and menacing column causes them to disperse. Next we follow Anicetus as he breaks into her house and arrives at the door of her bedroom. The bedroom itself is dimly lit, and Agrippina is attended by only one servant. She has been growing more and more worried because no one, not even Agermus, has come from her son. Finally, as the single maid slips away, Agrippina turns around and catches sight of Anicetus and with him the trierach Herculeius and Obaritus, a centurion of marines. Her words are reported: If he has come to pay her a visit, let him report back that she is better; but if to carry out a crime, she believes her son has no part in it; he would not give the order for a mothers murder. The assassins surround her bed. We see the trierarch Herculeius strike first, a blow to her head; as the centurion is drawing his sword for the death blow, she thrusts out her stomach and cries, strike the womb. She died from many wounds (14.8.5). This is not the last we hear of Agrippina. Tacitus briefly notes her cremation on that very night, as well as the fact that her ashes did not receive proper burial until Neros reign had come to an end and some of Agrippinas household had raised a modest tomb for her. This notice is framed in the Tacitean account by two macabre items. The first alludes once again to the physical attraction between mother and son: the historian reports without comment a traditionfollowed by some and rejected by othersthat after Agrippinas demise, Nero had inspected his mothers corpse and praised the beauty of her body (14.9.1). Later (14.9.2) we learn that at the cremation, Agrippinas freedman Mnester committed suicideeither out of love for his patroness or from fear of his own destruction. We might ask what narrative function Neros unnatural attraction to his mother on the one hand and the dying declaration of Mnesters love for his mistress on the other have in common. Even in her death Agrippina seems to have exerted a strong sexual attraction. The account of her death (but not of its aftermath) ends with Agrippinas most famous utteranceher reply to the astrologers telling her that Nero would become emperor and would kill his mother: Let him kill me as long as he reigns (14.9.3). We are not allowed to forget what her real ambition was. In contrast to the Tacitean narrative, in which the account of Agrippinas death takes up the first thirteen chapters of Book 14, Suetoniuss account details the entire story of Agrippinas decline (from Neros initial resentment of her severity to the murder itself) in one chapter. This account is found in a section of the Life of Nero, describing the emperors career of parricide and murder (33.1) within the imperial family; it is perhaps noteworthy that the demise of Britannicus occupies roughly the same space as does that of Agrippina. Nor is the initiative for the murder of his mother given to anyone other than Nero, whose initial resentment of his parents critical examination of his every word and deed had led to her banishment from the palace and to her harassment and abuse, first in Rome and then in the country. Ultimately the emperors fear of his mothers threats and violence



determined him to destroy her.79 As we might expect from a biography, Nero alone is given agency for the various attempts on Agrippinas life (by poisoning, a mechanical contrivance in her bedroom that was supposed to allow the ceiling to drop on her while sleeping, the collapsible boat), although the account divulges that there were others in the plot through whom the plan to kill her in her bedroom was leaked. In a few sentences we learn about Neros pretended reconciliation, his invitation to his mother to come to Baiae to celebrate the Quinquatria, the banquet at which he detained her, his offer of the collapsible ship to replace the deliberately damaged galley in which (we now learn) she had sailed from Bauli to Baiae, and their parting, during which Nero is said to have kissed his mothers breasts. Instead of the Tacitean scene at sea which gives us access not only to what happens to Agrippina but also to her thoughts, Suetonius omits a description of the shipwreck altogether. The focus is rather on Neros psychological state: his anxiety as he awaits news of his plan, his desperation as he learns of its failure and stages a bungled assassination attempt against him as justification for ordering the execution of his mother, and his guilty conscience after the matricide. Two of the themes that are so prominent in the Tacitean narrativefirst, Agrippinas extreme passion for power (so strong that reports of her incestuous advances to her son in the hope of retaining power were believable to some); then, the contest in hypocrisy between mother and son that culminates in the great lieare completely absent from the Suetonian Life. Finally, no sympathy for the victim can be evoked here because we are never allowed to see the events through Agrippinas eyes and above all, because there isastoundinglyno description of the actual matricide at all.80 Like the Tacitean account, Dios narrative attributes the idea of removing Agrippina in the first instance to Poppaea Sabina. Agrippina is said to have been so afraid that Nero would marry the latter that she attempted to enslave her son by the same means that she had seduced her uncle Claudius (61.11.3). Dio here is no more forthcoming than Tacitus had been about why Agrippina would have been so threatened by a liaison between her son and Poppaea that might have eventuated in the divorce of Octavia. Once again the literary tradition represents an event with important political implications as a contest between women; in a sense the Agrippina-Poppaea rivalry is a repetition of that between Agrippina and Acte earlier. We should note, however, that Dio says he is not certain whether the charge of incest between mother and son was true or invented to fit their character (61.11.4). Indeed, Dio vouches for the story that Nero had a mistress who resembled Agrippina and that whenever he toyed with this woman or showed
79. [Bradley 1978, 202, believes this passage suggests that Agrippinas intrigues continued as late as 59 CE; her power was not broken once she left the palace. EK] 80. While Tacituss account does not explain why Agrippina would have embarked on the collapsible boat at Baiae, Suetonius has Nero order his trierarchs to ram, as if by accident, the galley in which she came to Baiae so that it would not be available for the return journey.



her off to others he used to claim that he was sleeping with his mother. Although neither Tacitus nor Dio vouches for the authenticity of the incest story, there is an important difference in the evidence brought forward in support of the contention that the story may have been invented or believed because it was in keeping with their character. While Tacitus reminds us of earlier instances of Agrippinas exploitation of sexuality in order to acquire power, the story that Dio relates speaks not to Agrippinas character but to Neros. In Dios account it is Poppaea who from the very beginning suggests the idea that Nero should murder Agrippina on the grounds that she was plotting against him (61.12.1). Another important difference between the accounts of Tacitus and Dio is the latters assertion that Seneca also incited Nero to the murder of Agrippinaa fact stated, he says, by many very trustworthy men. The motivations attributed to Seneca are not very convincing, and we may suspect that Tacitus rejected this version because it emanated from Fabius Rusticus, a source, according to Tacitus, hostile to Seneca. Although Tacitus and Dio share a number of details about the shipwreck itself, the latters narrative (or its epitomaters) offers a simpler version than we find in Tacitus. For example, in Dios account after Nero has had a ship built on the model of one seen in the theater and has succeeded in winning over Agrippina by his attentions to her, the two travel together to Campania on this specially built ship. The festival of Minerva and Baiae are omitted altogether; all the action leading up to the shipwreck takes place at Bauli. Anicetus comes into the story as the one to whom Nero entrusted his mother, ostensibly to convey her home on the special ship, but we are not told what happened to him in the shipwreck. We next hear of him when Nero, having executed Agrippinas messenger (unnamed) as if he had come to assassinate him, orders Anicetus and sailors to murder his mother (not trusting the praetorians to do the job). The murder itself is not described, but Agrippina is given her last words (Strike here, Anicetus, strike here, for this bore Nero, 61.13.5, Loeb translation). Dio concludes: Thus was Agrippina, daughter of Germanicus, grand-daughter of Agrippa, and descendant of Augustus, slain by the very son to whom she had given the sovereignty and for whose sake she had killed her uncle and others (61.14.1, Loeb translation). Is the effect of this to suggest crime begets crime?

[VI. CONCLUSION The prevailing image of Agrippina presented to us in the literary tradition comes packaged with careful craft. A close reading of the surviving accounts reveals the constructed nature of this image with its recurring motifs and echoing themes. Tacitus, Suetonius, and Dio, each in his own way and occasionally with conflicting results, rely heavily on rhetorical and literary tropes to create character and impugn intentions. Our texts, through a series of vignettes, build a picture of Agrippinas transgressive sexual behavior and inordinate ambition that is foreshadowed in her early life, reinforced in positions of authority, and extended until it determines her fate.



Agrippinas initial anglings for matrimony already presage the future. The inclination to dominatio and the suggestion of regnum occur from the outset, as do the intimate interconnections between the domestic and the imperial spheres. The very consilium that chose the wife also helps govern the realm. Potentia uxoria extends to court as well as home. And the critique of Agrippina serves the larger purpose of exposing the fallibilities of the regime. Tacitus brilliantly merges motifs. The dedication of a triumphal arch, for example, resonates with allusions to female interference in military affairs, foreign policy, and public display, calling to mind not only imperious women of the past but nefarious ministers of the crown. Intimations of dynastic murder overlap reigns, tying together disparate events, reported differently by the sources, and weaving them into an ongoing theme. Allusions to comedic plots and stock characters underscore the literary quality of the presentation in scenes like the debate on Claudiuss marriage and the advancement of sexual liaisons for Nero. And the pointed irony of Agrippinas self-indictmentrehearsing her own crimes in a speech after Pallass dismissalunmistakably exhibits Tacituss calculated design. Agrippinas success in obtaining power and her desire to put it on display have a central role in the literary account (especially Tacituss) of the status and gender inversions that weakened the imperial house under Claudius and produced the horror that was Nero. Verbal echoes in the Tacitean narrative compare Agrippina not only to her transgressive foremothers in the imperial family but also to Augustus during his rise to power and to the dangerously powerful Sejanus. A careful and resisting reading of the texts keeps us alert to the shape of narrative and construct of character that mark our literary tradition. The figure of Agrippina was molded by contemporaries and manipulated by historians. EG and BS-H]

Chapter 2
Visualizing Agrippina


different from those we have examined in the literary tradition. Gone is the ruthless power-seeker, the wicked stepmother, the seducer turned poisoner of husbands, the mother who commits incest with her son. These constructs are now replaced by much more flattering ones, the products of the culture of the imperial dynasty itself, its supporters, or those wishing to obtain its favor. But the hostile tradition of the literary sources, as we will see, continues to leave its mark on even the most respected scholars as they confront the Agrippina of coins, sculpture, and cameos. My purpose here is to offer a survey of the images of Agrippina found in the visual media and to ask what we might make of them when they are placed in their historical context. [Adding new questions to the old ones about who Agrippina was really, the visual material prods us to inquire into the conditions that permitted or encouraged writers to fulminate against certain imperial women. Is the complimentary quality of the visual material a direct result of the attitudes of the ruler? Was there an imperial department of public propaganda? Did the empress play any role in developing her own image? And what difference does the audience make? Here we have information that comes from knowing who patrons were for certain objects in the provinces, especially the Sebasteion at Aphrodisias, and it becomes clear, as we shall see below, that the patrons and audience had much to gain by representing the imperial house, women as well as men, in a favorable light. The contrasting representations of Agrippina offer valuable information about gender in two senses. In one sense Agrippina shows us a good deal about the roles and functions of women in imperial dynastic ideology, and her images help us understand the ways in which the court and local elites used them for a variety of political purposes. In another sense the disjunction between her textual and her visual images tell much about the culture of praise and blame in the Roman world and the way it used gender to make itself understood. NK] The chapter begins with a section on coinage. We have a virtually complete record of imperial coinage; in addition, coins are more widely disseminated and handled than any other medium.1
1. See K. Fittschen in Kleiner and Matheson 1996, 4252. See also Kleiner and Matheson 1996, 6266.




What emerges as the central feature of autocracy is the urge to monopolize all symbols of authority. The spread of the head of Augustus to the obverse is the most dramatic sign of this; but no less significant is the spread of supplementary images of imperial power, celebrations of imperial success, power and glory that become characteristic of the reverse. It is this tendency, an intolerance of rival images of power, even of the gods, unless their power can be identified with that of the emperor, which dictates the pattern of the coinage of Augustus successors. A. Wallace-Hadrill, Image and Authority in the Coinage of Augustus, 85

By the end of his reign, Augustus had appropriated for himself all the persuasive power of the imperial coinage. The images of both the obverse and the reverse of coins struck by the Roman mint belonged to the emperor, whether these were portraits of Augustus himself or imperial imagery alluding to his descent, character, or achievements and to the values of his regime. If, as A. Wallace-Hadrill argues, both the obverse and reverse of a coin conveyed a single message, we will want to ask how the images of imperial women, when they appeared on the Roman coinage, contributed to (and perhaps changed) the persuasive content of that coinage.2 It is this question that I pose in regard to the numismatic representations of Agrippina on both the official (i.e., Roman/Imperial) coinage and coins issued by the local, civic, and provincial communities of the Roman Empire (referred to below as the provincial coinage).3

2. No issue in Roman numismatics has been more hotly debated than whether coins were intended to function as propaganda. I accept that coins had a persuasive function in the Roman world. Even if coin types were chosen by an imperial mint official to honor the emperor rather than by the emperor himself to disseminate imperial ideology, coins presented the regime as it wishedor was thought to wishto be seen. For the debate on this topic, see Wallace-Hadrill 1986, 6770, and Howgego 1995, 7077, and the literature cited there. 3. I separate consideration of the Roman/imperial and local/provincial coinages on the assumption that the former is a reflection of the way the imperial regime wished to be seen, while the latter represents to a large extent how the subjects of the empire either viewed their rulers or imagined how their rulers might wish to be portrayed. The difference is crucial: if the two coinages were lumped together, the early reluctance of the Julio-Claudians to portray the women of the dynasty on the official coinage would not be apparent, since imperial women are depicted, in familiar, Hellenistic idioms, right from the beginning on local and provincial coins.


1. Sestertius of Caligula: obverse bust of Caligula, reverse standing figures of Agrippina, Drusilla and Livilla.

Photo courtesy Trustees of the British Museum

FIGURE 2. Aureus of Claudius: obverse bust

of Claudius, reverse bust of Agrippina. Photo American Numismatic Society.


3. Aureus of Nero and Agrippina: obverse jugate busts of Nero and Agrippina, reverse with wreath and inscription.

Photo courtesy Trustees of the British Museum.

FIGURE 4. Marble relief of Agrippina clasping hands with Claudius and accompanied by headless togate figure. Aphrodisias, Sebasteion.

Photo Aphrodisias Excavations, New York University.

FIGURE 5. Marble Relief of Agrippina holding a cornucopeia and crowning Nero. Aphrodisias, Sebasteion.

Photo Aphrodisias Excavations, New York University.

FIGURE 6. Cistophoros of Claudius from Ephesus: obverse bust of Claudius, reverse bust of Agrippina.

Photo American Numismatic Society.


7. Gemma Claudia. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

Photo KHM, Vienna.

FIGURE 8. Gem of Agrippina and Claudius as Ceres and Triptolemus. Paris, Bibliothque Nationale, Cabinet des Mdailles.

FIGURE 9. Gem with female bust on a cornucopeia with two small busts. Paris, Bibliothque Nationale, Cabinet des Mdailles.

FIGURE 10. Grand Came de France. Paris, Bibliothque Nationale, Cabinet des Mdailles.



Roman Coinage Images of Agrippina enjoyed a much more prominent role on the Roman coinage than did those of any other woman of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. In fact, Agrippinas depiction on coins issued from the Roman mint was bound up with a number of numismatic firsts for imperial women. To take just two of these: Agrippina was the first imperial woman to have a clearly identified portrait displayed on the official coinage in her lifetime; hers was the first portrait of a living imperial woman to share space on this coinage with the ruling emperor. The most popular explanation of Agrippinas extraordinary position on the official coinage has been to see it as a reflection of the considerable political power she possessed under Claudius and Nero. In other words, either Agrippina is imagined as having sufficient political clout to influence how she would be represented on the coinage, or her real and acknowledged role as a partner in power demanded that she be portrayed as such.4 The problem with such an explanation is that it depends on the motivations provided by the literary tradition for Agrippinas behavior. What I want to suggest is that the complex roles that Agrippinas image plays on the coinage, while they might well be an accurate reflection of Agrippinas real power in the state, equally served the political interests of the three emperors with whom she was connectedher brother Gaius, her husband Claudius, and her son Nero. To demonstrate just how remarkable Agrippinas numismatic prominence was, I offer here a brief survey of her predecessors appearance on the official coinage and the uses to which these images were put. The manner in which imperial women were depicted on the coinage, the extent to which they were clearly identified, and their status at the time of the issue are all important factors to notice. For not only was there an initial reluctance to portray imperial women on coins issued from the Roman or imperial mints but also the roles assigned to their images even when they did appear were quite circumscribed.5 The contrast between Livia and Agrippina especially, given their parallel careers as imperial wives and mothers, is instructive. Images of Livia are not represented at all on the coinage struck under Augustus at Rome. The princeps reluctance to accord his wife any visibility on the official coinage was in marked contrast to (if not a direct reaction to) the prominence given to Antonys wife Octavia (and later to Cleopatra) on coin issues struck in the East in the decade

4. For this kind of explanation, see, for example, Sutherland 1951, 143147, 151 155. Cf. also Barrett 1996, 152, commenting on the fact that the first gold and silver coinage issued after Neros accession featured facing busts of Nero and Agrippina: This arrangement involves a remarkable association of the emperor with his mother and is the most powerful hint that Agrippina saw herself as a kind of regent, or co-ruler, with her son, a position that had no precedent in Roman law or tradition. 5. For earlier general discussions of imperial women on the official coinage, see Grant 1954, 133148, and Giacosa 1974.



before Actium.6 Paired portraits of a ruler and his wife such as those of Antony and Octavia found on a series of gold, silver, and bronze coins issued in the East, beginning in 39 BCE,7 were quite acceptable in the eastern part of the empire, where Antony and his supporters could avail themselves of the long-established tradition of portraying Hellenistic rulers and their families on state-issued coinage. To evoke Hellenistic models of kingship in the West, however, was inconsistent with the ideology of the princeps as primus inter pares. The paired portrait format of an emperor on the obverse and his wife on the reverse will not appear on the Roman coinage until 50/51 CE, when it is employed to celebrate the recent marriage of Claudius and Agrippina (RIC I2 126 nos. 8081, discussed below).8 The first imperial woman depicted on the Roman coinage under Augustus was not Livia but his daughter Julia, whose image appears on two denarii issued in 13 BCE (RIC I2 72 nos. 404405). The obverse of these coins shows a bare-headed portrait of Augustus, while on the reverse a small bust of Julia is flanked by those of her sons Gaius and Lucius Caesar, the grandsons whom Augustus had adopted in 17 BCE.9 Above Julias head is the corona civica, the oak wreath that was traditionally awarded to a man who had saved the life of a Roman citizen in battle; Augustus was considered to have merited the corona civica, which by senatorial decree was to adorn the door of his house, because he had saved the lives of all the citizens (Dio 53.16.4 and Res Gestae 34.2). Here the corona civica is thought

6. For images of his wives on Antonian coin issues struck in the East, see Kleiner 1992a. Octavia may not have been the first wife of Antony whose image appeared on the state coinage, if the features of Fulvia are to be recognized in the Victory figure depicted on coins struck in Gaul and Phrygia in 43 and 42 BCE and at Rome in 40. The identification has not been universally accepted: see Kleiner 1992a, 360; Delia 1991, 201202; and Wood 1999, 4144. 7. For Octavia and Antony on the triumviral coinage, see Kleiner 1992a, 361363, and Wood, 1999, 4151. Initially, paired portraits of Antony and Octavia on gold and silver issues struck soon after their marriage commemorated the marital alliance between Octavian and Antony as a sign of the reconciliation between the triumvirs at Brundisium in 40 BCE. The later bronze issues, beginning in 3635 BCE, allude more explicitly to Octavias active participation as mediator between the triumvirs and to the treaty of Tarentum in 37 BCE that resulted. 8. See Bartman 1999, 112, for the manner in which the Roman mint resisted portraying Livia as Tiberiuss equal. 9. The obverse legend on RIC I2 72 no. 404 is AUGUSTUS; on 405, AUGUSTUS DIVI F. The reverse of each bears the name of the moneyer, C. Marius Tro. Contra Rose 1997, 1415, who identifies the two male figures who flank Julia as Augustus and Agrippa. Some have identified the features of Julia in the portrait of Diana on the reverse of another denarius issued by C. Marius: RIC I2 72 no. 430. See, for example, Fullerton 1985, 476 and 480. Wood 1999, 68, finds the suggestion of Pollini 1990, 353355, that Diana bears the features of Augustus, not Julia, more convincing: The goddess would thus become Diana Augusta, not the emperor in the form of a goddess but the goddess subtly assimilated to the emperor.



to represent the domus Augusta to which Julia and her sons belong and to mark out the latter as the future heirs of the princeps.10 Mark Fullerton has argued that these coinstogether with other issues of 1312 BCE that celebrate the achievements of Agrippa, Julias husband, and the birth father of Gaius and Lucius Caesarformed a clear statement of Augustuss succession policy and the vital role of the gens Iulia in the preservation of the peace and prosperity that Augustus had brought to the Roman world.11 It is worth noting that even though these issues suggest a dynastic message, they eschew the format of paired, jugate, or en face (confronting) portraits of the ruler and members of his family familiar from dynastic presentations of the Hellenistic period.12 This first appropriation of an imperial womans image on the Roman coinage of 1312 BCE reveals a certain hesitancy: Julia is represented not by a full portrait, but as one of three small busts; nor is she identified by legend on these coins. Even this tentative experiment was not soon repeated. No woman of the imperial family is commemorated on the official coinage for the next thirty-five yearsbetween Julias appearance in 13 BCE and 22/23 CE, when Livia figures for the first time on sestertii and dupondii from the Roman mint. Here, too, a certain amount of caution can be detected in the fact that on the sestertius Livia is named but not depicted, while on the dupondius her portrait is represented but not identified.13 These two issues of the bronze coinage have a common theme: Livias recovery from a life-threatening illness in 22 CE. But Livias commemoration on these coins is not merely honorific; Livias image, like that of Julia, has a role to play in dynastic politics. The obverse of the sestertius (RIC I2 97 nos. 5051) features a carpentum drawn by two mules and decorated on its front and sides, and it bears the legend SPQR IULIAE AUGUST.14 The reverse records Tiberiuss titles. The obverse legend commemorates the supplicatio which the senate decreed in 22 in honor of Livias recovery (Tac. Ann. 3.64.3), while the carpentum represents the vehicle in which Livia or her image rode in the pompa from the Capitol to the Circus Maximus.15 Since the carpentum was a vehicle reserved for the use of priests and priestesses

10. Fullerton 1985, 476; Zanker 1988, 216; and Wood 1999, 6667. On the obverse of RIC I2 72 no. 405, the head of Augustus with the legend AUGUSTUS DIVI F is enclosed in a corona civica: thus, there are four generations of the Julian gens (Caesar Augustus, Julia, Gaius, and Lucius) portrayed or alluded to on this issue. 11. Fullerton 1985, 476477, 480483. 12. By paired-portrait format, I mean one in which the ruler is depicted on the obverse of the coin; his wife or other close relative, the reverse. In the jugate format, both portraits occupy the same side of the coin, one overlapping the other; en face or confronting busts face each other. For a brief description of dynastic commemoration in the Hellenistic period, see Rose 1997, 47. 13. Wood 1999, 89. 14. For the elements of the decoration and their meaning, see Jucker 1980, 212214. 15. Mattingly BMCRE I cxxxv; Jucker 1980, 208.



in the city of Rome, it was probably Livias position as priestess of the cult of the deified Augustus that earned her the privilege of riding in it. Moreover, as Hans Jucker has pointed out, the carpentum sestertius is one of a complementary group of three sestertii issued in 22/23 CE; the obverses of the other two (RIC I2 97 nos. 4849) depict Tiberius sitting on a curule chair and Divus Augustus sitting on a throne. Jucker observes that the furniture associated with the three principals on the coinsthrone, curule chair, carpentumestablishes a hierarchy with the deified Augustus at the top, followed by Tiberius in the middle, and then Livia.16 Taking Juckers analysis one step farther, I suggest that the commemoration of the supplicatio in honor of Livias recovery on the carpentum sestertius afforded an opportunity to commemorate Tiberiuss place in the domus Augusta between Augustushis deified predecessor, his own adoptive father, and the Pater Patriaeand his mother, the Augusta and priestess of Divus Augustus.17 Livias recovery, as already noted, was commemorated on another coin issue of 22/23 CE (RIC I2 97 no. 47), on which the legend SALUS AUGUSTA is found below a female portrait, clearly recognizable as that of Livia even though she is not identified by name.18 The Salus Augusta dupondius, like the carpentum sestertius, may have a broader application than the commemoration and celebration of Livias recovery. Although the phrase Salus Augusta may be understood as an allusion to Livias recovery from a life-threatening illness, it does not strictly mean Livias personal good health, for which the proper word is valetudo,19 but rather something like Augustan well-being.20 As a legend under a clearly recognizable portrait of Livia, who had in fact recovered her good health after a serious illness, Salus Augusta links the physical good health of the Augusta to that of the state. Livia, the matriarch of the imperial family, a potent symbol of its past and present, here comes to personify the well-being and prosperity both of the ruling family and of the entire Roman state.21 Or, as Lorenz Winkler has

16. Jucker 1980, 208. 17. Wood 1999, 82, offers a different interpretation of the carpentum sestertius. She posits that at the same time that Livia was granted the right to sit at the public games with the Vestals, she received a further privilege enjoyed by the Vestalsthat of riding in a carpentum in the city. On her view, it was the latter honor that the coin commemorates. This suggestion would be attractive if by the time of the coins issue (22/23 CE) Livia already enjoyed the right of sitting with the Vestals at the games; however, she was not granted this privilege until sometime in 23: Tacitus records it at the end of his narrative of that year (Ann. 4.16.4). 18. The reverse of this dupondius gives the titles of Tiberius, TI CAESAR DIVI AUG F AUG TR POT XXIIII, around an SC. For the identification as Livia, see Bartman 1999, 112, 114116; Wood 1999, 82, 109; and Winkes 1995, 22. 19. Winkler 1995, 4748, and Wood 1999, 82. 20. Bartman 1999, 112. 21. Wood 1999, 110.



suggested, the assimilation of Livia to the goddess Salus furthers the idea that the welfare of the state was linked to the imperial dynasty and its continuation.22 Two terms employed by Brian Rose to describe the dynastic imagery of Hellenistic and Julio-Claudian statuary groupsprospective and retrospectiveare useful also for describing the visual language of the coinage examined so far.23 The former term describes dynastic imagery which looks to the future, to the continuation of the dynasty and of the benefits and prosperity it has already conferred. The visual language of the Augustan denarii featuring the princeps on the obverse and small busts of Julia and her two sons on the reverse may be termed prospective in that it advertises the prospective heirs of the imperial power; similarly, the Salus Augusta dupondius has a prospective message in alluding to the present and future well-being of the imperial family and the Roman state. Retrospective imagery, in contrast, is that which legitimates the current rulers claim to power through reference to the history of the imperial family. The visual language of the carpentum sestertius dedicated to Livia as Julia Augusta, although more complex than the others, chiefly falls into this category. On the surface, this numismatic issue seems to refer to a historical event in the presentLivias recovery from a life-threatening illness in 22 CE. The commemoration of Livias recovery, however, also provided an opportunity to call to mind Tiberiuss link to Augustus through his mother and thus to legitimate his authority. Much of the coinage on which imperial women appear under Gaius and in the early years of Claudius has a retrospective function, largely because, with one important exception (to which I will return shortly) the women depicted were already deceased.

22. Winkler 1995, 5354. Winkler, 4849, in fact, denies that the Salus Augusta issue had any relation to the illness and recovery of Livia since the vota for her recovery would have been pro valetudine rather than pro salute Liviae. Rather, he interprets the coin as playing a role, along with two related issues of 22/23 CE that feature female personifications of PIETAS and IUSTITIA (RIC I2 97 nos. 43 and 46), in the dissemination of a dynastic messagethe advertisement and legitimation of Drusus as the designated successor of Tiberius. As part of this numismatic propaganda, the personifications Salus, Iustitia, and Pietas are celebrated as benefits of imperial rule and contribute to the idea that the general well-being of the Roman state depended on the stability and continuation of the imperial family. Even if Winkler is correct that the legend SALUS AUGUSTA should not refer specifically to the personal good health of Livia, it is difficult to imagine that the combination of the legend and a clearly identifiable portrait of Livia did not call up the Augustas recovery from a very serious illness in 22 CE. In fact, it is precisely this recollection that is necessary to activate the connection between the physical well-being of Livia, the matriarch of the imperial dynasty, and that of the state. On the identification of the female portraits above the legends PIETAS and IUSTITIA (now generally thought not to be Livia, as on the Salus Augusta coin), see, most recently, Bartman 1999, 3; Wood 1999, 109; and Winkes 1995, 22. 23. Rose 1997, 7.



It was not until the reign of Gaius that an imperial woman appeared on the Roman coinage with an image that was clearly identified by a legend. The first recipient of this honor was the emperors deceased mother, Agrippina the Elder. Aurei and denarii issued by the imperial mints at Rome and Lugdunum (e.g., RIC I2 108 nos. 78 and 109 nos. 1314) feature a portrait of the emperor surrounded by his titles, C CAESAR AUG GERM PM TR POT, on the obverse, while the reverse portrays a bust of Caligulas mother, who is identified as such by the legend, AGRIPPINA MAT C CAES AUG GERM. These issues, as will be seen shortly, were part of a program to honor and rehabilitate the elder Agrippina, who died in disgrace and banishment on the island of Pandateria under Tiberius. The configuration of the emperor and his mother on the precious coinage was also a method of advertising the emperors descent, through his mother Agrippina, from Augustus, the founder of the dynasty.24 Descent from ones imperial predecessors, especially that from the Julian founder, conferred legitimacy on the current regime. The bronze coinage under Gaius, which was heavily invested in the dynastic theme,25 gave even more prominence to Agrippina by devoting both the obverse and the reverse of a carpentum sestertius to her. On the obverse is a portrait of Agrippina, identified by the legend, AGRIPPINA M F MAT C CAESARIS AUGUSTI. The carpentum drawn by two mules on the reverse, together with the legend, SPQR MEMORIAE AGRIPPINAE, refers to the games and sacrifices Caligula instituted in honor of Agrippina, when her image rode in the cart during the ceremony (Suet. Gaius 15.1).26 The allusion this carpentum coin makes to its Tiberian counterpart, issued in commemoration of Livias recovery from a serious illness in 22 CE, illustrates the degree to which Livia in her own right, as the wife of the first princeps and as the Augusta, has become an icon who might confer legitimacy on later female members of the imperial family and, through the women, on later emperors. Under Claudius the images of deceased female members of the imperial house on the official coinage continue to play a prominent role in what we might call the politics of legitimacy, whose aim was to enhance the status and the power of the current ruler. One of these women was Claudiuss mother Antonia Minor, who, as Susan Wood has aptly said, was second only to Livia in honor.27 The coin

24. For the pivotal role of Agrippina the Elders name and images in advertising Caligulas relationship to Augustus, see Trillmich 1978, 181183. Trillmich argues that Agrippinas connection to Augustus was stronger than that of the emperors father Germanicus, even though the latter was adopted into the Julian gens. The interest in advertising a dynastic pedigree for Caligula is also evident in related issues that featured Caligula on the obverse and Divus Augustus and Germanicus on the reverse (e.g., RIC I2 108 nos. 3, 6, 9 12 and 109 nos. 1518). 25. See Trillmich 1978, 3840, 4648, and Wood 1999, 208211. 26. RIC I2 112, no. 55; Mattingly BMCRE I 159, nos. 8187. For the date, see Trillmich 1978, 3538, 43. 27. Wood, 1999, 154.



issues posthumously honoring Antonia in the early years of Claudiuss reign not only advertised the emperors pietas28 but also furnished Claudius with a link to the revered ancestors of the dynasty, Augustus and, especially, Livia. Antonias portrait, identified by the legend ANTONIA AUGUSTA, occupies the obverse of numismatic issues in all three metalsgold, silver, and bronze.29 The title Augusta30 would immediately evoke Livia since she was the only other imperial woman to hold it. In addition, both Livia and Antonia were the mothers of Roman emperors. Another connection between Livia and Antonia would have been activated by Antonias assimilation to the goddess Ceres on the obverse of two series of aurei and denarii featuring her portrait. On both, she is represented as wearing the so-called corona spicea, a crown of wheat stalks which was the particular attribute of Ceres/Demeter, the goddess of agricultural and human fertility. This was the first time that divine attributes were employed on Roman coinage to create an explicit identification between an imperial woman and a goddess.31 Such an assimilation to the goddess Ceresperhaps less daring because it did not occur in Antonias lifetimeis consistent with Antonias roles as matrona and materfamilias.32 Just as important, it associated the emperors mother with the newly deified Livia, who had been linked to Ceres in inscriptions and on sculpture from the late Augustan period on.33 The reverses of these two series of aurei and denarii featuring a portrait of Antonia on the obverse also contributed to the enhancement of Claudiuss status by advertising Antonias connections to the past and present history of the

28. Coins honoring Antonia were matched by issues dedicated to the memory of Claudiuss father, Nero Claudius Drusus: RIC I2 125 nos. 6974 and 127 no. 93. 29. Aurei: RIC I2 124 nos. 65, 67; denarii: RIC I2 124 nos. 66, 68; dupondii: RIC I2 127 no. 92. 30. Suetonius (Claud. 11.2) credits Claudius with bestowing this title on his mother posthumously and suggests that she had rejected an earlier award by Caligula. But already in 38 (a year after her death), she is Antonia Augusta in the Acta Fratrum Arvalium (= Smallwood 1967 no. 3). Hurley 2001, 104105, suggests that Claudius could take credit for the award because Gaiuss acta had been allowed to lapse and would have to be reenacted. 31. Wood 1999, 154. Livia was also linked to Ceres on the Claudian coinage, probably soon after the Antonia issues discussed above. The undated aurei and denarii featuring Antonia in the guise of Ceres are variously assigned: to 41/42 CE alone by Kaenel, 1986, 245246; to c. 4145 CE in Mattingly, BMCRE I cli, and Sutherland, RIC I2 118, 124 nos. 6568; and to 4151/52 CE by Trillmich, 1978, 7277. If these issues are correctly assigned to the first year of Claudiuss reign, they were struck before the dupondius honoring Livia as Diva Augusta, which must have postdated Livias consecration as Diva on 17 January 42 (= Smallwood no. 13). 32. Kokkinos 1992, 88. 33. For epigraphical and sculptural links between Livia and Ceres in the late Augustan and Tiberian period, see Bartman 1999, 9394, 106107.



Julio-Claudian dynasty.34 On one series, the reverse shows two vertical long torches which are lighted and linked by a beaded string;35 above them is the legend SACERDOS DIVI AUGUSTI. This commemoration of the mother of the emperor as priestess of Divus Augustusa position to which Antonia was appointed by Caligula and in which she was the successor to Livia, the first priestess of the deified Augustusdiscreetly attests to Claudiuss position in the line of succession from Augustus and Livia, the first founders of the dynasty. The reverse of the other series bears the legend CONSTANTIAE AUGUSTI and pictures Constantia standing, holding a long torch in her right hand and a cornucopia in her left. This side of the coin plays up the emperors mother as a model for the new imperial virtue of Constantia (Steadfastness). Whether one understands Constantia here as the personal quality of the emperor or the Stoic ideal which he and the imperial house have realized, the purpose of advertising this virtue would seem to be to draw a clear distinction between the current stability of the empire and the uncertain situation under Caligula.36 Antonia was not the only deceased imperial woman to play an important role on the early Claudian coinage at Rome. Livia was to reemerge to furnish the emperor with a vital connection to Augustus and divine ancestry. Claudius came to the imperial power under questionable circumstances and without a direct relationship to the Julian house or to the founder of the dynasty. His deification of Livia in 42 CE enhanced his own status, as well as hers, since he was now the grandson of a goddess.37 The deification of Livia also gave Claudius an opportunity to create a link with Augustus through his relationship with Livia. The dupondius issue that celebrated the deification (RIC I2 128 no. 101; BMCRE I 195 nos. 224225) depicted the deified pair: on the obverse, Augustus in radiate crown, with the legend DIVUS AUGUSTUS ; on the reverse, Livia, identified as DIVA AUGUSTA, a seated female figure, wearing a corona spicea and holding wheat stalks in her right hand and a long torch in her left. In strengthening Claudiuss imperial position by invoking the emperors relationship to the first couple, the founders of the dynasty, this numismatic issue could be said to serve

34. Wood 1999, 152153, aptly notes that both sides on these aurei and denarii are devoted to Antonia; in contrast, when Agrippina the Elder was similarly honored on both the obverse and the reverse of Caligulan coinage, it was on the bronze rather than the precious coinage. 35. Wood 1999, 155, believes the beaded string was meant to represent an infula and that on some of the obverses of this issue, the ends of Antonias corona spicea also take the form of an infula. 36. For Constantia Augusti as the personal quality of the emperor, see Grant 1954, 166169; as the Stoic ideal, see Mannsperger 1974, 952953, and Hlscher LIMC III.1, 300301. CONSTANTIAE AUGUSTI appears as the reverse legend on two other Claudian coin types: RIC I2 121 no. 2; 122 nos. 1314; 123 nos. 3132, 4243; 124 nos. 5556 (aurei and denarii); and 127 no. 95 (as). 37. Bartman 1999, 128.



a retrospective function. But Livias image here has a prospective role as well. As Diva Augusta, Livia appears in the guise of Ceres, wearing the corona spicea that was the primary attribute of the goddess and holding other attributes, the wheat stalks and the torch, associated with Ceres both as the goddess of fertility and as the protector of marriage. Imperial women who were linked with the goddess in this way, according to Barbette Spaeth, became symbols of the prosperity and moral rectitude of the Empire, and through them the princeps himself was tied to these concepts.38 The fact that the imperial woman in this case was the newly deified Augusta would have made the affirmation of such imperial benefits by the Claudian regime all the more potent. I have been briefly examining the ways in which the images of deceased female members of the imperial family were appropriated on the official coinage to provide legitimacy for the current emperors claim to power. They did this primarily in one of two ways: either retrospectively, by providing a connection back to Augustus, the Julian founder of the dynasty, or prospectively, by calling to mind the present and future benefits of imperial rule, such as stability and prosperity. But, as already mentioned, there was one important exception to the trend of featuring deceased imperial women on the Roman coinage, and to this I now turn. The exception is a sestertius issued by the Roman mint in 37/38 and again in 39 CE on which our Agrippina appears, together with her sisters Drusilla and Julia Livilla.39 During Gaiuss reign, as Susan Wood notes, the women of the imperial family attained the most public prominence to date.40 The three-sisters sestertius (Fig. 1) is noteworthy as the first example of a Roman coin on which living imperial women were portrayed and named. The coin featured a laureate head of the emperor on the obverse with standing figures of his sisters, Agrippina, Drusilla, and Julia Livilla, identified by name, on the reverse.41 The latter are represented

38. Spaeth, 1996, 30. 39. RIC I2, 110, no. 33; 111, no. 41; Mattingly BMCRE I 152, nos. 3637; Trillmich 1978, 39, Typ 2. Note that in the revised edition of RIC, Sutherland admits an issue in 39 p. 111, no. 41; cf. 1987, 74; earlier he had limited the sesterius to an issue in the first twelve months of the reign 1951, 113 n. 3; cf. also Grant 1954, 142, and Trillmich 1978, 42. 40. Wood 1995, 458. 41. For the description and identifications, see Mattingly BMCRE I cxlv f., and Wood 1995, 461. Mattinglys identifications of Agrippina as Securitas and Drusilla as Concordia have generally been accepted, but they may not be definitive. Gottschall LIMC VIII, 1, 1093, for example, points out that the representation of Securitas standing and leaning on a column does not appear until the coinage of Antoninus Pius. Cf. Grants 1954, 143, identification of Agrippina as Salus-Securitas on the basis of the iconography of Salus on Republican coins and of Securitas on the later imperial coinage. Similarly, Hlscher LIMC V, 1, 487, accepts the identification of Drusilla as Concordia, not on the basis of the attributes patera and cornucopia, but on the grounds of Drusillas status as the Lieblingsschwester of Caligula.



as draped female figures standing frontally, each in the guise of a divine personification. In addition to the cornucopia, a general symbol of prosperity, which all three female figures hold, each is portrayed with an attribute of a specific deity. On the left is Agrippina, depicted as Securitas; she holds a cornucopia in her right hand and her right elbow rests on a column. Agrippina looks toward Drusilla, the figure in the middle, and her left hand rests on Drusillas shoulder. Drusilla is represented as Concordia; her head is turned to the left, facing Agrippina, and she holds a patera in her right hand and a cornucopia in her left. On the right stands Livilla with the attribute of Fortuna, a rudder, in her right hand and a cornucopia in her left. Drusilla (and possibly all three) wears the crescent diadem.42 One context for this remarkable coin is Gaiuss program of rehabilitating and honoring the family of Germanicus and Agrippina at the beginning of his principate.43 Immediately after the funeral of Tiberius, the new emperor, in a demonstration of his pietas, sailed to the islands where his mother and brother had died in banishment under Tiberius, collected their bones and deposited them in the Mausoleum of Augustus (Suet. Gaius 15.1 and Dio 59.3.5). He ordered statues of his deceased brothers, Nero and Drusus Caesar, to be set up in Rome (Suet. Claud. 9.1). In honor of his father, the month of September was renamed Germanicus; for his mother he established annual funeral games to be celebrated in the Circus (Suet. Gaius 15.12). To his sisters, he granted the privileges of the Vestal Virgins and the right to view the games in the Circus from the imperial box. In an unprecedented move, their names were to be included in the oaths of allegiance to his rule and in all consular relationes (Suet. Gaius 15.3 and Dio 59.3.4). The bronze coinage struck in 37/38 coincides with and may be seen as recapitulating many of these honors: thus, not only were there the three-sisters sestertii, but dupondii with Nero and Drusus Caesar on horseback44 and asses featuring the portrait of Germanicus.45 In the same category is the striking carpentum sestertius, discussed above, whose obverse identified the portrait of Agrippina the Elder as that of the emperors mother and whose reverse commemorated the cart in which Agrippinas image was carried for the annual funeral games in the Circus, celebrated in her honor. These honors to his parents and siblings, reported in the literary sources and commemorated on the imperial coinage, served not only to rehabilitate the members of the family disgraced under Tiberius but also, by evoking his lineage, to legitimize and advertise Gaiuss claim to rule. The gold and silver coinage issued by the imperial mints at Lugdunum and Rome at the beginning of Gaiuss reign
42. For the significance of the crescent diadem, see n. 96 below. 43. Kaenel 1989. 44. RIC I2 110, no. 34; BMCRE I 154, no.44; Trillmich, 1978, 39, Typ. 3. For evocation of the Dioscuri, see Rose 1997, 33, and Wood 1999, 211. 45. RIC I2 110, no. 35; BMCRE I 154, no. 49; Trillmich, 1978, 40, Typ. 4. I follow Sutherland here in regard to the identification of obverse and reverse; cf. his general remarks, RIC I2 95 note.



featured obverse portraits of the emperor with reverse images of Divus Augustus Pater Patriae, Germanicus, and Agrippina (the latter two identified as father and mother of the emperor).46 It was important for Gaius to be seen not only as a member of the family of Germanicus and Agrippina but also as the heir of the tradition of Divus Augustus, the founder of the dynasty.47 Walter Trillmich is certainly correct to attribute the central role played by Gaiuss mother in his numismatic program to the emperors need to advertise a blood relationship to the (Julian) Augustus through her.48 Although the three-sisters sestertius participated in this program of rehabilitation and retrospection, a coin depicting the current ruler together with his living sisters spoke as well to concerns about the present and the future. In the interpretive history of this coin, however, there has sometimes been a misguided attempt to read the presence of Gaius and his sisters on the coin in light of the literary traditions charges of incest between Gaius and his siblings. Thus, for example, Giacosa: This coin is a pathetic testimony to the unbalanced explosion of family affection on the part of the young and newly-crowned emperor.49 Mattingly, who was probably correct to understand the three sisters as representing the qualities of security, harmony, and good fortune in their special application to the Imperial House, seems to have taken the literary tradition too much to heart in speaking of the appropriateness of Drusillas assimilation to Concordia, given the gossip that she was wife as well as sister to the Emperor.50 Concordia on our coin is not, however, a reference, ironic or otherwise, to marital harmony between Gaius and his sister Drusilla. An important feature of the coin is its presentation of the three sisters, assimilated to the personifications Securitas, Concordia, and Fortuna, as a unity. Wood thus characterizes the sisters on the coin: . . . a close-knit triad, wearing identical drapery (with the himation looped below the abdomen), each standing in contrapposto with the weight on the right leg, and all sharing one attribute, the cornucopia, although the other attribute differs. The varying directions of their gazes and gestures toward one another individualize them somewhat, while their apparent interaction emphasizes bonds of affection; they appear as inseparably linked entities like the Horai, the Fates, or the Graces.51 The very depiction of the sisters as a harmonious triad on the reverse of a coin portraying their brother, the current ruler, underlines the unity (concordia) of the imperial family. The coin, in other words, makes an appeal to what Barbara Levick
46. RIC I2 108, nos. 34, 712, and 109, nos. 1318; BMCRE I 147, nos. 713 and 148, nos. 1420; Trillmich, 1978, 27, Typ. 35. 47. Meise 1969, 97, and Hannestad 1986, 97. 48. Trillmich 1978, 181184. 49. Giacosa 1977, 31. 50. BMCRE I, cxlvvi. Cf. also Kleiner and Matheson 1996, 6465 no. 17. 51. Wood 1995, 461.



terms the Concordia of partnershipthat is, the harmony of the imperial family and its closest associates.52 An earlier example of the Concordia of partnership discussed by Levicknamely, the restoration of the Temple of Concord in the Roman Forum undertaken by Tiberius in 7 BCEmay offer an instructive analogy for our coin.53 Concordia, as Levick has indicated, is customarily invoked when it is endangered.54 On her view, Tiberius, by undertaking rebuilding the Temple of Concord and dedicating it in 10 CE in his own name and that of his dead brother Drusus, was not simply making a reference to the harmony of the two brothers but, more important, was announcing a policy of reconciliation within an imperial family that had experienced strife over the succession for almost two decades.55 I would suggest that the strong reference to concordia on the reverse of the Caligulan sestertius conveyed a similar message. This amounted to a promise that the strife between the Julian and Claudian lines under Tiberiusone that was particularly devastating for the family of Agrippina and Germanicushad come to an end and that security and good fortune were the benefits that would result for both the imperial domus and Roman society as a whole. Wood argues that the prominence of the sisters on our coin and in other aspects of Roman public life reflected the reality that in a monarchical system, women have real political importance as bearers of bloodlines.56 She sees our coin as part of a dynastic program that sought to convince the Roman public that the secure future of Rome lay exclusively with the family of Germanicus and Agrippina.57 The aim of such dynastic propaganda was to prepare the way for public acceptance of a child of any of the four siblings as Gaiuss heiran expedient necessitated by the fact that for most of the time Gaiuss three sisters were in favor, he was unmarried and still childless.58 But perhaps the most sig52. Levick 1978, 227. 53. There is a possibility that the restored Temple of Concordor at least its depiction on sestertii issued late in Tiberiuss reignserved as a model or inspiration for the representation of Gaiuss sisters as a triad of female divinities or personifications. The obverse of Tiberian sestertii issued in 34/35, 35/36, and 36/37 CE (RIC I2 98 nos. 55, 61, and 67; BMCRE I 137 no. 116 and 139 nos. 132134) depicting the Temple of Concord shows in the center above the pediment a group of three figures, originally identified as Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. These three embracing figures, however (as Zanker 1972, 22 and n. 140; Zanker 1988, 111; and Gasparri 1979, 21, have pointed out), are clearly feminine. Zanker and Gasparri suggest that we have a triad of divinities or personifications expressing concordia: perhaps Concordia, Pax, and Salus or Concordia, Securitas, and Fortuna, as on the coin of Gaius. 54. Levick 1978, 217. 55. Levick 1978, 224. 56. Wood 1995, 459. 57. Wood 1995, 461. 58. Wood 1995, 459. If this was Gaiuss plan, it foundered on the death of Drusilla in 38 CE and the exile of the remaining two sisters in the following year on charges of adultery and treason; see Chapter 1.



nificant feature of this numismatic issue is the fact that it depicted the only remaining members of the family of Germanicus and Agrippina. Gaius and his sisters wereto all intents and purposesthe imperial family. In depicting and identifying by name living imperial women, the three-sisters sestertius stands in contrast with the rather tentative appropriations of female images on the official coinage under Augustus and Tiberius. Even under Gaius, however, it was only deceased women of the dynasty who were commemorated with full portraits on coinage from the Roman and imperial mints. Another ten years would pass before the official coinage would adopt the Hellenistic idiom of a paired portrait of a ruler and his wifethe first in a series of numismatic innovations involving the image of Agrippina that attest to her importance in the dissemination of dynastic propaganda under Claudius and Nero. Agrippinas appearance on the Roman coinage, shortly after her marriage to Claudius in 49, marks the first time that the wife of the reigning emperor was portrayed together with her husband on an imperial coin. Livia had not enjoyed this privilege under Augustus, nor had Messalina in the first years of Claudiuss reign. The period of Claudiuss marriage to Agrippina also marked a shift in the content of the imperial coinage: the reverses of the gold and silver coinage had advertised the political and military achievements of the emperor; they now highlighted Agrippinas family and the emperors adopted son Nero.59 As we have seen, the marital alliance with Agrippina had important political implications. The coins featuring Claudius and his new wife (Fig. 2) are aurei and denarii issued by the Roman mint, beginning in 50 CE (the year when Agrippina received the title Augusta) or shortly thereafter (RIC I2 126 nos. 8081, BMCRE I 72, 75).60 On the obverse is a laureate head of Claudius facing right, with the legend TI CLAUD CAESAR AUG GERM P M TRIB POT P P. The reverse features a draped bust of Agrippina, facing right; the legend reads AGRIPPINAE AUGUSTAE. Agrippina is depicted here wearing the corona spicea, from which a long tie hangs down at the back. Her hair is parted in the middle and is gathered together at the back in a long plait; two strands fall loose at the sides of the neck.61 Two features of the Agrippina reverse stand out. The first is the legend naming Agrippina as Augusta, the title conferred on her in 50, a year after her marriage to Claudius. Agrippina was only the second imperial woman to be awarded

59. Wood 1988, 410, and Trillmich 1978, 5563, 7879. 60. For the date, see Trillmich 1978, 5563; Kaenel 1986, 1720, 249250; and Sutherland 1951, 146. A date in 51 is suggested by a provincial series honoring Claudius, Agrippina, and Nero, issued by the imperial mint at Ephesus (RPC 22232225). One type, dated to 50/51 (2223) features a head of Claudius on the obverse (legend: TI CLAUD CAESAR AUG P M TR P X IMP XIIX) and on the reverse a draped bust of Agrippina; the latter is identified as AGRIPPINA AUGUSTA CAESARIS AUG. Another in the series commemorates honors and offices granted to Nero in March 51; cf. RPC I, p. 379. 61. See Wood 1999, 289290, for the manner in which these issues emphasize Agrippinas Claudian features.



the title in her lifetime; the first was Livia who received the honor by virtue of Augustuss will, together with adoption into the Julian family. As the feminine form of the imperial name Augustus, the title Augusta clearly conferred a special status on its holder: it signified a kind of equivalency between the imperial couple, making the Augusta the partner of the ruling emperor. By this I do not mean that the title Augusta conferred any constitutional powers on Agrippina but, rather, that it endowed her with a public prominence and visibility, as the wife of the emperor, that even Livia, whose influence on the first princeps was considerable, had not been accorded during Augustuss lifetime. Marleen Flory is no doubt correct to suggest that Augustuss reason for not adopting Livia into the Julian family and granting her the name Augusta during his lifetime was to avoid the appearance of a ruling couple on the Hellenistic model.62 The conferral of the title Augusta on Agrippina in the year following her marriage to Claudius and its advertisement on imperial coins depicting the emperor on one side and his wife on the other was, then, quite extraordinary. The advertisement of this partnership on the gold and silver coinage is surely to be explained by the importance of the dynastic marriage to Agrippina for Claudiuss claim to power. After the arrest and execution of his third wife Messalina in 48 CE, Claudius found himself in an extremely vulnerable position; he had already faced numerous challenges to his authority in his first years, and the demise of Messalina was seen as a sign of his weakness. The marriage to Agrippina so soon after Messalinas deathan event the literary tradition presents as motivated by the emperors inability to live without a wife, or worse yet, to withstand the seductive advances of his nieceprovided Claudius with much-needed distance from the disgrace of Messalina63 and strengthened the legitimacy of his imperial claim. Agrippina was the daughter of Claudiuss brother Germanicus, a man whose name still carried tremendous political cachet in the popular imagination; she was also the great granddaughter of Augustus and provided Claudius, who had no claim to membership in the gens Iulia, with a link to the Julian line. As the daughter of Agrippina (the Elder) and Germanicus, Agrippina united in her own person the Julian and Claudian lines; marriage to her held out the promise of an end to the strife between the two branches of the imperial family which had plagued previous regimes: thus, the aes coinage, issued at about the same time, commemorated her mother and father (RIC I2 128129 nos. 102, 105106).64 A concern to provide legitimacy for the marital union of Claudius and Agrippina is also discernible in the design of this coin type. Marriage to ones own niece was
62. Flory [1988] 1997, 118. 63. So also Wood 1988, 410. 64. Agrippina herself does not appear on the aes coinage under Claudius. Kaenel 1984, 141144, 146149, argues convincingly that RIC I2 129 no. 103, a sestertius featuring Agrippina on the obverse, is not a Roman issue but belongs to a number of coins featuring Britannicus, Agrippina, and Nero that were struck in the new imperial province of Thrace, possibly by the provincial procurator for troop payments.



classed as incestum (Tac. Ann. 12.5.1); before it could take place, a senatorial dispensation from the legal ban on such unions was required. Clearly, one of the essential characteristics of the reverse is Agrippinas designation as Augusta, a title that placed her in the company of two revered female icons of the dynasty, Livia and Antonia the Younger.65 An equally important feature of these aurei and denarii is Agrippinas assimilation to the goddess Ceres, the deity who symbolized both the ideal woman and the virtues of chastity, motherhood, and female fertility. Here, too, Agrippina was both set apart from other Julio-Claudian women, in being the first to be depicted on the Roman coinage with the corona spicea during her lifetime, and yet associated with the most prestigious of them. Her representation here with Ceres crown and with the designation Augusta recalls similar issues in honor of Antonia66 so that Agrippina, as Wood remarks, enjoyed the reflected glory of the emperors mother.67 Moreover, Agrippinas depiction in the guise of the goddess Ceres on these coins may have activated another association that provided further legitimation of her marriage to Claudius. It has been argued that the assimilation of an imperial woman to Ceres Mater was an implicit claim to the designation of Mater Patriae.68 If this suggestion is valid, Claudiuss explicit claim to the title Pater Patriae on the obverse of these issues had its counterpart in Agrippinas figuration as Ceres/Mater Patriae on the reverse. Agrippinas assimilation to Ceres, together with the designation as Augusta, also gives these coins an important prospective role. Since the goddess Ceres was associated with human fertility, the imperial woman assimilated to her was being invoked as the mother (or potential mother) of imperial heirs. As bearers of the bloodlines, imperial women were instrumental in holding out the promise of the continuation of the dynasty and a secure and orderly succession, the prerequisite for the peace and prosperity of Roman society at large. At the time of this issue, Agrippina, of course, was already the mother of the potential successor to Claudius, since Nero, three years older than Claudiuss own son Britannicus, was adopted by the emperor at about the same time that Agrippina received the title Augusta. The temporal connection between the adoption of Nero and Agrippinas assumption of the title Augusta was not accidental: the latter signified the mother of the imperial successor.69 Our coin type, in fact, heralded a series of aurei and denarii from the Roman mint that advertised the new Claudian dynastic program. A year after his adoption, Neros formal entry into public life, with his assumption of the toga virilis, was marked by the honors that had designated previous imperial heirs: he was
65. See Wood 1988, 410, for the important suggestion that the conferral of the title Augusta on Agrippina would have helped provide legitimacy for the marital union of Claudius and Agrippina. 66. RIC I2 124 nos. 6568 and 127 no. 92 (all posthumous issues). 67. Wood 1999, 291. 68. Spaeth 1996, 122. 69. Flory 1988 [1997], 125.



designated consul five years in advance and granted the title princeps iuventutis; a donative was given to the troops in his name (Tac. Ann. 12.41.1). Neros position as heir apparent was announced by the issue of gold and silver coinage that featured obverse types of Claudius and of Agrippina with Neros portrait and titles on the reverse.70 This was the first time that the designated successor appeared on the imperial coinage together with both the emperor and empress.71 Agrippina enjoys even greater prominence on gold and silver coins issued from the Roman mint in 54 and 55, the first two years of Neros reign. The first series (RIC I2 150 nos. 13; BMCRE I 200 nos. 13) was struck in the last weeks (or months) of 5472 and depicts on the obverse confronting busts of Agrippina (on the right) and Nero (on the left) (Fig. 3). Both are bare-headed; Agrippina is draped with her hair in a long plait at the back. Agrippinas titles are on the front of the coin (AGRIPP AUG DIVI CLAUD NERONIS CAES MATER), while the young emperors (NERONI CLAUD DIVI F CAES AUG GERM IMP TR P) appear on the reverse with an oak wreath (corona civica) enclosing EX S C. In the following year the Roman coinage features jugate busts of Nero and Agrippina on the obverse, with Neros head in front of his mothers; both are draped and bareheaded (RIC I2 150 nos. 67; BMCRE I 201 nos. 78). This time Neros titles are on the obverse (NERO CLAUD DIVI F CAES AUG GERM IMP TR P COS), Agrippinas (as on the coinage of the previous year) on the reverse, to which we shall return in a moment. These issues reflect a number of further innovations on the imperial coinage. Not only was this the first time that a living imperial woman appeared together with the ruling emperor on the obverse of a coin, but as Brian Rose points out, the combination of two Imperial portraits on the obverse was extremely rare, nor had the emperor ever been so closely identified with his mother as opposed to his father.73 In addition, the depiction of jugate busts was a numismatic format developed at the Ptolemaic and Seleucid courts for consanguineous kings and queens and for queens and their sons; this was its first appearance on the Roman coinage.74

70. RIC I2 125 no. 75 and 126 nos. 8283; BMCRE I 175 nos. 7980 and 176 no. 82. Kaenel 1986, 1819, however, regards the denarius with Agrippina on the obverse and Nero on the reverse (=RIC I2 125 no. 75; BMCRE I 176 no. 82) as a unique (and thus, not a regular) issue; it is made up of two reverse dies. 71. Rose 1997, 42. 72. The difference depends on the dating of Neros assumption of tribunicia potestas: Mattingly, BMCRE I clxii, n. 1, dates that event to c. 9 December; MacDowall 1979, 14, followed by Sutherland, RIC I2 133, to 4 December; Clay 1982, 1116, to 13 October. 73. Rose 1997, 47 and 241 n. 17. The only previous example, a sestertius depicting the children of Drusus II arising out of cornucopiae, is not a good comparandum for our coin. 74. Rose 1997, 47. There are precedents for the jugate format, however, in the provincial coinage, even as early as coins depicting jugate busts of Augustus and Livia; cf. RPC 2097, 2449, 2464, 2466, 2581, 2663.



Scholars have tended to interpret the coinage of 54 and 55 as a reflection of Agrippinas political power under the principate of her son. On this reading, in the first series, Agrippina is represented as more significant than her son, whose titles are banished to the reverse and are in the dative case, usually reserved for the subordinate figure;75 by the following year, the situation has reversed, and Nero holds the predominant position (quite literally, as his bust is in front of his mothers). The change is regarded as an indication of Agrippinas loss of power in 55 CE, as reported in Tacitus (Ann.13.1213).76 This is another instance, I think, of scholars mistakenly imposing an interpretation based on the literary tradition onto the numismatic material. Anthony Barrett has quite rightly questioned the notion that a slight diminution of an earlier honor should be thought of as a demotion of Agrippinas prestige when the honor in question was still quite extraordinary.77 The changes in the gold and silver coinage of 54 and 55, rather than pointing to Agrippinas loss of political influence, may well reflect, as Susan Wood suggests, different solutions to the problem of how to represent Nero and Agrippina as partners in power.78 In any case, these numismatic issues are more than a simple reflection of Agrippinas political standing. They are striking evidence for the degree to which Neros claim to authority depended on the figure of Agrippina. Agrippinas titles on these issues are significant: AGRIPP AUG DIVI CLAUD NERONIS CAES MATER (Agrippina Augusta, wife of Divus Claudius, mother of Nero Caesar). Portrayed here as wife of Divus Claudius and mother of his successor, Agrippina provided the link between the young emperor and his deified predecessor. This relationship is further emphasized by the reverse on the second series, on which, together with Agrippinas titles, is portrayed a wagon drawn by four elephants and bearing two seated male figures, usually interpreted as Divus Augustus and Divus Claudius. Such elephant-drawn wagons were employed to carry the images of deified members of the imperial family in the procession from the Capitol to the Circus Maximus, where circus games were celebrated. What is represented on this reverse, then, is one of the honors voted to Claudius by the senate when he was consecrated at the end of October 54.79 The coin, in connecting the name of Agrippina with the funeral cart for the two deified emperors, alludes to the fact that she had an official position as priestess of the deified Claudius.80

75. On the use of the dative, see Mattingly, BMCRE I clxxi n. 3. 76. See, e.g., Mattingly, BMCRE I clxxi f., and Sutherland 1951, 153155. 77. Barrett 1996, 167. He has also suggested that, for all intents and purposes, the two issues were contemporaneous. 78. Wood 1999, 293294. 79. Clay 1982, 2627, and Rose 1997, 46, 240241 nn. 89. 80. This interpretation would not be mitigated if Clay 1982, 4245, is correct in viewing the second figure not as Divus Augustus but as a personification of Fides Praetorianorum, represented as Divus Claudiuss protective goddess.



Surely, these coins did advertise Agrippinas prominence at the Neronian court. At the same time, they fulfill what is by now a familiar function played by the women of the imperial family: that of legitimizing the current ruler by emphasizing his blood relationship with his imperial predecessors.81

Provincial Coinage As the cities of the empire honored the imperial power by adopting and elaborating dynastic themes on their coins, there was a general proliferation of images of members of the imperial family on the provincial coinage. In marked contrast to the Roman coinage, the images of living female members of the Julio-Claudian dynasty were depicted and identified on provincial coinage, especially from the eastern provinces, right from the beginning of the principate. The bust of Livia, for example, identified by legend, appears on the reverse in the paired-portrait format with Augustus on the obverse on issues from the Thessalian League in Achaea (RPC 1427) and from the cities of Methymna, Clazomenae, and Tralles in Asia (RPC 2338, 2496, 2647). Yet, on the Roman coinage, as just noted, the first imperial wife to be depicted in this manner with her husband, the ruling emperor, was Agrippina, on aurei and denarii issued by the Roman mint under Claudius. Similarly, the jugate heads of Augustus and Livia are found on the coinage of Magnesia (ad Sipylum), Smyrna, and Nysa in Asia (RPC 2449, 2464, 2466, 2663)a format not evidenced on Roman coins until 55 CE when Nero and Agrippina are so depicted together on the gold and silver coinage. Yet more striking, Livias image even appeared on the obverse of provincial issues during her lifetimea phenomenon not attested at all on the Roman coinage.82 Clearly, the Hellenistic tradition of depicting male and female rulers and their families on coins made portraits of imperial women more acceptable on the Roman provincial coinage in these areas than they were on the coinage minted at Rome. Agrippinas image appeared on the provincial, local, and civic coinages of the Roman Empire only slightly less frequently than that of Livia. At first glance it might be argued that the prominence of both women is owed to the practice by the cities of Asia of distinguishing coin denominations by obverse portraits of members of the imperial family: the portrait of the emperor marked the larger denomination, while that of his wife or mother designated the smaller ones.83 But,

81. Confirmation for Agrippinas dynastic significance is found in the use of a new titular formula, stressing both patrilineal and matrilineal descent, in most of Neros inscriptions; see Rose 1997, 47. 82. For Livia on the obverses of provincial coins, see, for example, RPC 1105, 1563, 2359, 2576, 2580, 3143, 4007, 5006, 5079. The only clearly identified images of imperial women on the obverse of coins issued from the Roman mint depict women who were already deceased at the time; one possible exception is RIC I2 125 no. 75 with a bust of Agrippina the Younger on the obverse and young Nero on the reverse, but this issue actually is made up of two reverse dies: Mattingly, BMCRE I 176 no. 82. 83. RPC pp. 44, 46, 50.



as the editors of Roman Provincial Coinage argue,84 this practice alone cannot explain her frequent appearance on obverses together with the emperor or her portrait on reverses.85 In addition to marking coin denominations, Agrippinas image on provincial issues might convey messages about the relationship of the current rulers to the imperial past, as well as to its future. Many of the Claudian coins featuring Agrippina commemorate the marriage and partnership of the emperor and his wife. This is most obvious on coins depicting Claudius on the obverse and Agrippina on the reverse86 and on those which portray Claudius and Agrippina together on the obverse, as confronting or jugate busts.87 While the visual language of these coins implicitly invokes the marriage of Claudius and Agrippina, the point is made explicitly by some of their legends: for example, three coins issued by the Koinon of Crete label Agrippina gunh (wife) of v Tiberius Claudius Caesar (RPC 10341036); some follow the usual practice of putting Claudiuss name and/or title(s) in the genitive to indicate that Agrippina is the wife of the emperor (RPC 1924, 2223). Sometimes the connection is less explicit, but clear: Claudius is Augustus or Sebastos; Agrippina is Augusta or Sebast (RPC 2101, 2224, 2380). A bronze coin issued at Ephesus has confronting busts of the emperor and Agrippina on the obverse and celebrates their wedding as a divine union, with the telling legend THEOGAM[I]A (RPC 2620).88 This legend I take to reveal the provincial rather than the imperial construction of the marriage; it is a reminder to us that even when provincial coins exhibit dynastic themes, they are not necessarily taking their cues from Rome. Unlike the Roman coinage during the later years of Claudiuss principate, which was both retrospective and prospective, the provincial issues under Claudius look almost exclusively to the present and, especially, the future. Agrippinas JulioClaudian heritage and her descent from Augustus through her mother, so much a part of the program at Rome to legitimize Claudiuss claim to power in the wake of Messalinas fall, receives little attention: no certain representation of Agrippina the Elder is attested on the Claudian provincial coinage, and Germanicus, if the identifications are correct, makes only two appearances (RPC 4060, 428189). Rather, the emphasis is on the imperial marriage itself and its consequences for the

84. RPC p. 46. 85. Of the Claudian and Neronian coins on which Agrippina appears in RPC, about half are from the province of Asia (seventeen under Claudius; forty-five under Nero); on only seven of the former and twenty-eight of the latter does Agrippinas image alone occupy the obverse, and not all of these can be considered examples of smaller denominations. 86. RPC 10341036, 19241925, 21002101, 2134, 2223, 2380, 3542, 4859, 4970. 87. RPC 2224, 2322, 2475, 26202624. 88. Cf. Hahn 1994, 194. 89. Contra Trillmich 1978, 185. He attributes the disappearance of Agrippinas parents from the provincial coinage to their daughters lack of personal power in the region.



future of the dynasty, a secure succession.90 A number of the provincial issues commemorate the dynastic groupClaudius, Agrippina, Nero, and Britannicus. At Sinope in Bithynia, for example, coins were struck with Claudius on the obverse, with Claudius on the obverse and Agrippina on the reverse, with the jugate heads of Nero and Britannicus on the obverse, and with Britannicus on the obverse and Nero on the reverse (RPC 2134, 2132, 2135, respectively); aes coinage from Corinth struck in 50/51 CE has reverses of Nero and Britannicus, standing face to face, in conjunction with obverse types both of Claudius and of Agrippina (identified as the wife of Caesar) (RPC 11821184).91 More often it is Nero alone, as the elder of the two, who is depicted together with Agrippina and Claudius in provincial series92making it clear that Agrippinas prominence on such coinage reflects her special role not just as the wife of the emperor but as the mother of the designated successorthat is, the guarantor of the continuation of the dynasty. This role of preserver of the bloodlines is further indicated on some provincial coins which assimilate Agrippina to a fertility goddess by depicting her with the appropriate attributes. A silver cistophorus issued by the imperial mint at Ephesus (RPC 2224=RIC I2 119) portrays jugate heads of Claudius, with a laurel wreath, and Agrippina, with a crown of wheat stalks (the corona spicea), the attribute of Ceres/Demeter.93 Bronze coins struck at Alexandria in the years 5153 also assimilate Agrippina (portrayed on the obverse with the corona spicea) to Demeter (RPC 5188, 5190, 5192, 5194, 5196; Hahn 1994, 351 nos. 210211; Mikocki 1995, 180 no. 201). On a bronze issue from Caesarea Maritima, which depicts the laureate head of Claudius on the obverse, Agrippina appears on the reverse seated, veiled, holding a branch and cornucopia; above her is a crescent (RPC 4859). That Agrippina is to be understood here as some sort of fertility goddess

90. The editors of RPC note (p. 51) that while the members of the imperial family appear in a rather haphazard way on the provincial coinage in the early years of Claudiuss reign, the marriage to Agrippina and the adoption of Nero are reflected in a resurgence in dynastic portraits in the emperors last years. 91. Banti and Simonetti, CNR 16, 58 no. 20 (followed by Wood 1999, 292293), erroneously date RPC 1183 to 54 CE and identify the two male figures on the reverse as Claudius and Nero, supposing that the coin commemorates Claudiuss adoption of Nero. The names of the duoviri L. Paconius Flam. and Cn. Publicius Regulus date these three coins to 50/51. The abbreviated names of the male figures on the reverse identify them as Nero and Britannicus. Furthermore, the obverse legend (IUL AGRIP AUG CAESARIS) on RPC 1183 identifies Agrippina as the wife of the emperor (Claudius) rather than (pace Wood 1999, 293) as the mother of the emperor (Nero). 92. RPC 2225, 2381, 24032404, 2462, 2476(?), 2625, 3248, 41694171. 93. For the presence of the corona spicea, see Banti and Simonetti, CNR 16, 77 no. 18; Mikocki 1995, 179 no. 197; and Wood 1999, 291. The corona spicea is visible in the enlarged photograph in Giacosa 1977, pl. 13.



appears to me quite likely; this particular set of attributes, however, does not permit a clear identification with a specific deity.94 Agrippina figures even more prominently on the provincial coinage under Nero, appearing on almost twice as many issues as she had under Claudius. On half of these, she is depicted together with Nero either as the reverse type of Neronian obverses or with her son on the obverse as jugate or confronting busts. On the other half, Agrippina appears alone on the obverse; many of these issues come from the province of Asia where Agrippinas image appears to mark a smaller denomination coin while that of Nero occurs on larger denominations. This practice, however, does not diminish Agrippinas importance on the Neronian coinage. Even if, as I suspect, coin types featuring Nero and Agrippina were issued by local communities to mark the change of ruler, one still has to ask why it is the mother of the emperor rather than his wife Octavia who plays this role. Certainly, one reason is that, as is the case on the Roman coinage, Agrippina, as the wife and now priestess of Neros deified predecessor, provided a link between the two regimes and conferred legitimacy on Nero as Claudiuss successor. Several provincial issues refer to this relationship explicitly. Both Nero and Agrippina appear alone on obverses of the Cretan silver coinage (RPC 971A, 972, 973). Agrippina appears on the obverse of the latter two drachmas; on RPC 972, the legend identifies her as Sebast and wife of a Sebastos (i.e., Claudius). A bronze coin issued by the Cretan Koinon (RPC 1038) features the head of Nero on the obverse and confronting busts of a veiled Agrippina and Divus Claudius on the reverse. On a tetradrachm from Antioch in Syria, we find Agrippina on the reverse; Nero appears on the obverse with the legend NERONOS KLAUDIOU THEOU HUI KAISAROS SEB (RPC 4175). The most explicit is a group of coins issued by the imperial mint at Caesarea in Cappadocia in 5860:95 On the obverse is a laureate head of Nero, with a legend that in addition to Neros titles identifies him as the son of Divus Claudius; the reverse has a bust of Agrippina with the legend AGRIPPINA AUGUSTA MATER AUGUSTI (RPC 36323633, 36373638, 36403642).96

94. I do not find the suggestions made so far very convincing: Demeter/Fortuna (Mikocki 1995, 180 no.199); an astral deity (Hahn 1994, 350 no. 201). The representation of Agrippina here may be what Grant 1954, 134, refers to as a composite figure. Two other coinsone from Cydonia in Crete which depicts jugate busts of Claudius and Agrippina; one from Mostene in Asia featuring Claudius on the obverse and Agrippina on the reverseidentify her in the legends as thea, while Claudius has imperial titles. 95. For the date, see RPC p. 555. 96. Agrippina also appears on the reverse of RPC 3636 but without a legend identifying her. She is veiled on RPC 3633, 3638, and 3642 (cf. also RPC 1038)perhaps a reference to her status as priestess of Divus Claudius. CNR 16, 132135, nos. 6671, and RIC I2 185, no. 608, describe Agrippina as both veiled and wearing a diadem; on the basis of this iconography, Wood 1999, 294295, suggests an identification of Agrippina



The prominence of Agrippina on the provincial coinage under Nero may also be a reflection of the way that the inhabitants of the eastern provinces saw their rulers. The combination of mother and son was one with a long tradition in the East. This tradition is invoked not only on the group of coins from Caesarea in Cappadocia, just discussed, but also on the obverse of a leaded bronze coin from Samos (RPC 2686), which depicts a draped bust of Agrippina with the legend THEOMETOR. The same designation was employed for Olympias, mother of Alexander the Great.97 As under Claudius, Agrippina is often identified as a goddess98 or represented in the guise of a divinity on the Neronian provincial coinage. She bears the attributes of Demeter on coins from Cyme (RPC 2434)99 and Acmonea in Asia (RPC 31723173)100 and Paneas in Syria (RPC 4845).101 A bronze issue from Caesarea Maritima in Syria (RPC 4860) repeats the reverse of its Claudian counterpart (RPC 4859), discussed above, on which Agrippina is identified with an indeterminate fertility goddess. The most interesting assimilation of Agrippina to Demeter on the provincial coinage is a leaded bronze issue from Magnesia ad Sipylum in Asia. The obverse depicts jugate busts of Nero and Agrippina, with the legend NERONA KAISARA. On the reverse, Agrippina is shown as Demeter standing, with wheat sheaves and a scepter, perhaps being crowned by a togate figure who stands behind her holding a scepter.102 I think it is quite clear from the foregoing discussion that even when Agrippinas image on certain provincial issues from Asia functioned to mark a smaller coin denominationand this is not the case in the majority of instances in which Agrippina appears on provincial coinsher image must have activated other meanings for those designing, holding, and viewing these coins. Agrippina would have been seen as an important, influential, and visible member of the imperial family; as the wife and partner of the current ruler; as an imperial woman whose

with Juno/Hera or Pietas. Mikocki 1995, 101, however, points out that the diadem and veil in connection with imperial women were so common in numismatic iconography of the first century CE that no identification with a specific deity can be assumed; in fact, these attributes could be associated with certain functions accorded to imperial women (e.g., Augusta, Flaminica, Diva) and do not necessarily point to a divine assimilation at all. 97. Hahn 1994, 202 n. 69. 98. Agrippina is designated as thea on RPC 2349, 23862388A, 2685, 3107. 99. Cf. Mikocki 1995, 179 no. 194; Hahn 1994, 348 no. 180. 100. Cf. Mikocki 1995, 179 no. 195; Hahn 1994, nos. 208209. 101. Cf. Mikocki 1995, 179 no. 198 (Ceres/Fortuna); Hahn 1994, 352 no. 213 (Fortuna/Tyche). 102. The identification of the togate figure is not secure: the editors of RPC identify the figure as Nero (RPC 2457, followed by Mikocki 1995, 179 no. 196, and Hahn 1994, 351 no. 207); Rose 1997, 241 n. 26 opts for a personification.



reproductive power would guarantee the continuation of the Julio-Claudian dynasty; as the mother of the ruling emperor; as the priestess of his deified predecessor; and as a divinity in her own right. The most important issue raised by the nature of the representation of Agrippina on the provincial coinage will be taken up in Part IV. Why is it that on the provincial coinage only imperial women and not imperial men were assimilated to divinities (RPC pp. 4748)? Further, why were assimilations to Demeter more popular than those to other goddesses, and what was the effect of such assimilations?

II. AGRIPPINA IN SCULPTURE In a recent analysis of what literary texts can reveal about the Roman appreciation of the power of images, Andrew Gregory offers several important observations about how Roman portraits could convey political meaning and what sort of political responses to these images might be expected or desired.103 Put simply, images could convey meaning by the choice of subject, the way in which the individual was rendered (through attributes, costume, posture, etc.), and the context in which the image was placed. Images might be understood as asserting political allegiance and sympathy, they might prompt imitation of the represented subjects action, or they might serve to control an individuals behavior. In contrast, a representation might arouse violent reaction, leading to a range of responses: written (or verbal?) abuse directed at the image (or the person represented), an incitement to riot and demonstrate, or in some cases the mutilation or destruction of the image itself.104 The extant portraits and other sculptural representations of Agrippina, then, offer us the opportunity to investigate how the images of an imperial woman might be deployed in the creation of political meaning (the subject of the present discussion) and in the evocation of desired responses (to which we will turn in the next chapter). First, some preliminaries. In undertaking for the images of Agrippina the kind of project that Gregory has set out, one must acknowledge the practical and methodological difficulties that immediately present themselves; several of these are not unique to the figure of Agrippina. For example, there is the not unexpected problem of identification. Despite a generally accepted typology for the portraits of Agrippina, there remains an ongoing debate about the identification of several of its representatives. Some of the pieces included in my discussion are not without their controversies. Equally problematical is the fact that for many of Agrippinas portraits and statues not only the provenance but the display context, the setting for which they were intended, is not known. In general, one is on firmer ground with pieces that were part of Julio-Claudian statue groups (see below) than with individual portraits or statues that have no archaeological context at all. Most important, there are the complicated issues of authorship and audience. Since many of the extant portraits, statues, and other sculptural representations of
103. Gregory 1994. 104. Gregory 1994, 93.



Agrippina were erected at the instigation of local or provincial communities rather than by the imperial authority, there will be the question of whose message is being constructed in the images and for whom it was intended.105 All of which is to admit that much of what scholars have to say about these works is of necessity tentative and hypothetical. Second, the fact that there existed sculptural representations of Agrippina or any other imperial woman at all is highly significant. As Marleen Flory has demonstrated, although there was a long tradition at Rome for honoring men who had served the state with statues erected in public places, the only historical woman to be so honored before the Augustan period was Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi, for whom a public statue was voted at the end of the second century BCE. The senatorial grant of public statues in honor of Octavians wife Livia and his sister Octavia in 35 BCE was a striking innovation.106 The portraits identified as Agrippina have been classified into four types, based primarily on hairstyle; these range in date from the Caligulan to the Neronian periods.107 The majority of the known examplessome thirty-five at a conservative estimate, but perhaps as many as fifty108belong to the period of Agrippinas marriage to Claudius.109 There is no way of knowing how many simply have not survived. Inscribed statue bases attest to another sixteen portraits or statues of Agrippina that are no longer extant,110 and it is reasonable to assume that whatever other factors counted against the survival of material evidence from antiq-

105. The portraits themselves would have been based on official models disseminated from Rome or regional workshops. For the production and dissemination of portraits in the Julio-Claudian period, see Rose 1997, 5759, and Price 1984, 172174. 106. Flory 1993, 287. 107. For the typology of Agrippinas portraiture, see Fittschen and Zanker III 6 n. 4; Boschung 1993, 7374; Sande 1985, 182197; and Trillmich 1974, 188195. Wood 1988, 424426, identifies two posthumous portraits of Agrippina: a colossal head found in the Forum of Trajan and a second-century portrait found near Cologne. 108. Disagreements over identification make a definitive count impossible. Fittschen and Zanker III 67 list thirty-four representatives under the four types (four of these attributions are assigned by Wood 1988, 419, to Agrippina the Elder). Trillmich 1983, 2634, adds two subtypes to the Naples-Parma type and lists thirteen examples; Wood 1995, 471479, refers the second of these subtypes (Munich 316) instead to Drusilla. Sande 1985, 182197, assigns five types to Agrippina and lists some forty possible replicas. 109. Precise dating of the portrait types is difficult; cf. Fittschen and Zanker III 6 n. 4. The Naples-Parma type is generally regarded as Caligulan (but see Rose 1997, 6970, on the statue from Velleia); types 2 and 3, Claudian; type 4, Neronian. 110. One inscribed statue base each from Caere (ILS 223), Herculaneum (CIL X 1418), Cos (Herzog 1922, 237 n. 2), Delphi (Ditt. Syll.3 809), Aphrodisias (Rose 1997, Cat. 103), and possibly Ephesus (I v. Ephesos no. 261); two from Rome (ILS 222 and Rose 1997, 240 n. 2) and Ruscino (ILG 628629); and three from Epidaurus (IG IV2 602603; AE 1980, n. 855) and Mytilene (IG XII, 2, 208, 211, 232).



uity, the virtual damnatio memoriae that befell Agrippina after her execution in 59 CE played some considerable part in the loss of her images.111 Agrippinas portraiture, despite variations in hairstyle, displays a number of consistent features. The woman presented to us has a short broad face, a low forehead, eyebrows that flare slightly toward the temples, a small thin-lipped mouth with a slightly protuding upper lip, and a small but prominent chin.112 These features of Agrippinas image were taken from the iconography of her father Germanicus, and, as Wood remarks, this was a resemblance that both Agrippina and Claudius were eager to emphasize.113 In the Claudian examples (the Milan and Ancona types), her hair is parted in the middle and at first lies flat and close to the head, then it is arranged in tiers of tightly rolled spiral curls on each side; the ears are sometimes partially covered by spiral curls, and some examples feature a row of smaller curls on the forehead. Behind the ears, long corkscrew locks fall onto the shoulders, and at the back the hair is twisted into a plait.114 As remarked above, the provenance and context of most of this material is not known. Often we do not know whether a given portrait stood alone or was part of a statuary group; the inscribed bases do not for the most part reveal whether the piece was a portrait bust or a full statue. An archaeological and display context for several sculptural representations of Agrippina, however, is provided by their presence in imperial statue groups. Viewed in the context of the larger sculptural group, these pieces offer a greater opportunity to assess how an individual representation of Agrippina might have contributed to or modified the message of the statue group as a whole. By the end of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, numerous statuary groups representing the imperial family could be found throughout the Mediterranean world. Such dynastic group monuments have recently been the subject of thorough analysis by Brian Rose.115 This tradition, well established by the age of Augustus, had originated in the Hellenistic period. Rose analyses it in terms of a gift exchange, whereby the provincial city or group dedicating honorific statues to the emperor and his family should be seen as the donor of a gift to reward an imperial benefactor for services rendered or to encourage future benefactions.116 The formulation and composition of such statuary groups was based on the donors understanding of the reigning emperors dynastic program, whether retrospective (emphasizing

111. Rose 1997, 37, also notes that no portrait or statue of Agrippina has been found from the period of her exile under Caligula. [On damnatio memoriae, see Varner 2000. JCC] 112. See Wood 1988, 419420, and Wood 1995, 466467. 113. Wood 1988, 420. 114. See Boschung 1993, 7374. 115. Rose 1997. For the Hellenistic and late Republican background, see Rose 1997, 18. On Julio-Claudian statue groups, see also Balty 1988 and Pekry 1985, 9096. 116. This summary of the process of production of Julio-Claudian statuary groups is taken from Rose 1997, 810, 5153.



the history of the imperial familys power) or prospective (giving promise of the dynastys continuing prosperity into the future). Rose suggests that donors must often have taken their cue from imperial and senatorial decrees disseminated throughout the empire about important events within the dynasty (e.g., births, deaths, marriages, adoptions, deifications, and denunciations) and from types employed on the imperial coinage. Another motivation for the creation of statuary groups was imperial visits to the provinces. Dedicators had to secure imperial approval in advance for their gifts. The statues, once completed, were displayed in public areas of the donors city where they would have the greatest visibility. These dynastic groups were multifigured, often spanned several generations, and provided a visual exposition of the history of the power which the current rulers exercised.117 Absolute precision about the number of statuary groups in which Agrippina was represented is not possible. First, because, as already mentioned, some or many of her images were destroyed in the aftermath of her execution in 59. Moreover, where an actual portrait, statue, or sculptural representation is extant which is true in about half the casesits identification as Agrippina is often not unproblematic.118 Even the epigraphical evidence that would seem to indicate the presence of a representation of Agrippina in a group sometimes does not tell us as much as we would like: for example, whether the representation

117. Rose 1997, 3; cf. Price 1984. 118. The most problematic case is the statue group found in the Metroon at Olympia. Even though there is a consensus that Agrippina and Claudius were represented in this group, there is considerable disagreement not only about which of the statues found at Olympia and identified as Agrippina belongs to the Metroon group but also about the dating of the group and the interpretation of its sculptural program. On the basis of its find spot outside of the Metroon, Rose 1997, 147149, has recently rejected the view of Hitzl 1991, 4346, 6869, 108111, 115; Bol 1986, 294295; Stone 1985, 384; and others that a statue of Agrippina (in her Ancona type) depicted as a priestess was paired with that of Claudius in the Metroon. Instead, he argues that a headless female statue of the Kore/Demeter type (identified by Hitzl as the younger Flavia Domitilla, 4952) must be Agrippina since the statue was positioned across from that of Claudius. Further, even the supporters of the earlier view do not agree about the date and significance. Hitzl believes it is likely that statues of Agrippina and Claudius belong to the period shortly after their marriage in 49 and that statues of Germanicus and Agrippina I or Tiberius and Livia may have originally belonged to the Claudian phase of the Metroon group. Stone and Bol view the imperial pair as Divus Claudius and Agrippina as his priestess. Stone regards the whole group as Flavian and sees in it an effort to repudiate Nero and to emphasize a return to the good government of Augustus and Claudius; Bol, however, views the group as early Neronian and as part of a program of legitimizing Nero through his adoption by Divus Claudius and his marriage to Octavia. [Collins Clinton 2000, 122 n. 93, sides with those scholars who prefer to restore the statue of Agrippina to the Metroon, even though it what was not found inside. She takes the statue to be a representation of Agrippina as the priestess of the divine Claudius. JCC]



of Agrippina belongs to a Caligulan or Claudian phase of the group.119 Granted these uncertainties, the presence of Agrippina is attested or assumed in some fifteen Julio-Claudian statue groups.120 Ten of these come from Rome (three groups: one Tiberian, one Claudian, and one Neronian) and Italy (Caere, Cosa, Herculaneum, Pompeii, Rusellae, Velia, and Velleia);121 two come from the western provinces (Lugdunum Convenarum and Ruscino); and three come from the East (Epidaurus, Olympia, and Aphrodisias).122 Although the earliest known statuary group to include a representation of Agrippina dates to the Tiberian period123 and Agrippina makes an appearance in a few Neronian contexts,124 she is most prevalent in Claudian statuary groups or in Claudian phases of earlier groups.125 In several of these instances, the production of a Claudian phase of the group can be dated to the period shortly following the emperors marriage to Agrippina in 49, his adoption of Nero in 50, or the latters assumption of the toga virilis in 51.126 The statue groups in which Agrippina appears in Rome (on the arch of Germanicus in the Circus Flaminius and the Claudian monument on the Via Lata) were both monuments erected by the imperial regime to honor its own members and to advertise the dynasty. Outside of Rome, the statue groups including Agrippina

119. For example, the statuary group from Ruscino (Rose 1997, Cat. 57). Rose argues for a Claudian dating of two fragmentary statue base inscriptions for Agrippina on the basis that there is little evidence for statuary dedications to Agrippina under Caligula. Since another inscription for Agrippina from Ruscino is clearly dated to 39 CE (ILG 628), however, there is no reason to exclude the possibility that statues of Agrippina were part of the Caligulan phase of the group in the forum at Ruscino. Another sort of problem is illustrated by the group from Caere (Rose 1997, Cat. 5): whether the draped female statue found in the 1840 excavation is identified as Agrippina or Drusilla, the two inscribed statue bases, one for Drusilla and one for Agrippina, found in the 1846 excavation in the theater at Caere, are probably not to be associated with it since the statue and the inscriptions were found in quite different locations. 120. Rose 1997, Cat. 37 and 42 and p. 240 n. 2. 121. Rose 1997, Cat. 5, 16, 45, 49, 50. For Cosa, see Collins Clinton 2000; for Pompeii, see Small 1996. 122. Rose 1997 Cat. 7273, 79, 103, 105. Another inscribed statue base for Agrippina was found at Epidaurus IG IV2 603; whether it was part of a group is not known. 123. The four-year-old Agrippina appeared in a group of twelve statues of the JulioClaudian family atop the arch of Germanicus in the Circus Flaminius in Rome, one of the posthumous honors voted to her father in a senatorial decree of 19 CE. See Rose 1997, Cat. 37. The details of the arch and its sculptural program are given in the so-called Tabula Siarensis (text quoted in Rose). 124. Cosa, Pompeii, Aphrodisias. 125. See the list in Rose 1997, 250 n. 166. The statue of Agrippina at Ruscino need not have come from a Claudian phase: see note 119 above. 126. It is not clear to me, however, what grounds Rose (1997, 251 n. 168) has for dating the statue of Agrippina at Velia after A.D. 51.



were located in a theater (Caere), an odeon (Cosa), basilicas (Herculaneum, Velleia), a macellum (Pompeii), fora (Lugdunum Convenarum, Ruscino), and structures explicitly associated with the imperial cult (an Augusteum at Rusellae, a medical collegium with connections to the imperial cult at Velia, the Metroon at Olympia, and the Sebasteion at Aphrodisias). In summing up the iconography of imperial women in Julio-Claudian statue groups, Rose has remarked that imperial women were rarely portrayed in the stola, the dress of the Roman matrona; rather, their statue types were usually those of divinities.127 The case of Agrippina is somewhat different. The only secure depictions of Agrippina as a divine type come from the East, from the Sebasteion at Aphrodisias where she is represented in two of the imperial reliefs as Demeter and perhaps Fortuna.128 A more common representation of Agrippina in these statuary groups is as a priestess (sacrificing); this is the case at Cosa, Pompeii, Velleia, and Olympia. Three of these were Neronian groups in which Agrippinas depiction would have been a reference to her position as the priestess of Divus Claudiusa role which, as already noted in the case of the imperial coinage, served to further legitimize Neros power by figuring his mother as the link between her son and his deified predecessor. The presence of Agrippina together with her husband was necessary to another kind of dynastic statement in some of the Claudian statuary groupswhat Rose terms the visual framing of the Claudian family by images of Augustus and Livia.129 There is evidence for such framing in Claudian groups at Herculaneum and Rusellae; at Velleia, statues of Claudius and Agrippina, Nero, and (possibly) Britannicus were added to a Caligulan phase that included Divus Augustus and Livia.130 These groups are good examples of the way in which individual statues might take on new ideological meaning by the juxtaposition of particular statues in a larger group.131 Agrippinas Julian ancestry allowed for the advertisement of the (Claudian) emperor and his (Julian) wife as squarely in the tradition of the first imperial pair. Such arrangements in Claudian statuary groups, in fact, suggest that the desire to portray the emperor as a new Augustus may have been as much a motivation for the conferral of the title Augusta on Agrippina (thus making her the equivalent of Livia) as the latters ambition. We can see this theme and others at work, for example, on a monument near the Britannic arch of Claudius on the Via Lata in Rome. Like the arch itself, this

127. Rose 1997, 75. Agrippina is depicted wearing a stola on a statue from the group at Pompeii, a portrait found at Milreu (Trillmich 1974) and a statue from Petworth House. 128. Other possibilities for the representation of Agrippina as a divine type include Caere (where the draped female statue depicted in a Kore/Albani type was either Drusilla or Agrippina) and Olympia (where a headless statue of the Kore type may have been Agrippina: see note 118 above). 129. Rose 1997, 44. 130. See Rose 1997, Cat. 15, 45, 50. 131. Gregory 1994, 85.



Claudian monument was probably dedicated in 51 CE as a commemoration of the victory in Britain in 43 CE. Although the statuary group from the monument does not survive, inscribed statue bases reveal that on this monument were displayed statues of the emperors brother Germanicus, his mother Antonia, his wife Agrippina, his adoptive son Nero, and his children by a previous marriage, Octavia and Britannicus (ILS 222). Claudius himself must also have been represented and perhaps his father Drusus as well.132 The monument, which evokes the past, present, and future of Claudiuss family, well illustrates how such statuary groups reflect dynastic aims. Clearly, one of the aims of this group was the reassertion of the Julian component of the imperial family. The inscription for Claudiuss brother Germanicus (who was a Claudian by birth) links him to the Julian line by naming him son of Tiberius, grandson of Divus Augustus and greatgrandson of Divus Iulius; Antonia, Claudiuss mother, is presented not simply as the wife of Drusus and mother of Claudius but as priestess of the cult of Divus Augustusemphasizing her connection to the gens Iulia. As the daughter of Germanicus and wife of Claudius, Agrippina is identified with both branches; furthermore, since the first line of her dedication, IULIAE AUG(USTAE), was written in larger letters than the rest, her titular connection with Livia, the first Augusta (whose name was also Iulia Augusta), was evoked. The inclusion of Claudiuss children, Britannicus and Octavia, and his adoptive son Nero promised the continuation of the imperial dynasty, a future made more secure by the knowledge that Nero and Octavia were already betrothed at this time. By far the most impressive extant site at which Agrippina was represented with other members of the Julio-Claudian family was the temple and sanctuary complex known as the Sebasteion at Aphrodisias in modern Turkey, a Carian city in the Roman province of Asia. The complex consisted of the following elements: at the west end, a monumental gate (propylon) which led into a paved, processional way; the latter was flanked by two parallel porticoes (each ninety meters long) and terminated at the east end at a Roman style temple. The porticoes consisted of three superimposed stories of half columns and resembled stage facades. They served as an architectural frame for a series of relief panels (some one hundred and ninety in all), which filled the spaces between the columns in the upper two stories.133 Not only are the two relief panels on which Agrippina is represented fascinating and stunning in themselves, but also the recent excavation of the Sebasteion offers a number of all-important contexts in which to study them: the archaeological and display contexts; the larger sculptural program134 of the complex, whose overall function is clear; the history of the city and its relationship to Rome

132. Rose 1997, 42 and Cat. 42. 133. Smith 1987, 8998, and Rose 1997, 165166. 134. See Smith 1987, 9598, 132133, and Smith 1988, esp. 7071, 7577; rather than an integrated program, we should speak of programs or themes.



and the imperial dynasty. Further, in giving us a detailed picture of the emperor and Rome as seen from the Greek East,135 the Sebasteion allows us to address the questions of authorship and audience. The temple at the east end of the complex was dedicated to Aphrodite and the divine Augusti (theoi Sebastoi). Its function was thus service of the cult of Aphrodite and the imperial family (i.e., the deified Augustus and his JulioClaudian successors).136 The Julio-Claudians had a special relationship with the city and its goddess Aphrodite, who, on a statue base from the propylon, is titled promtr tn then sebastn (i.e., ancestress of the Julian gens), the Greek equivalent of Venus Genetrix.137 Aphrodisias had already begun to establish ties with Caesar before his assassination. As a result of the patronage of Octavian, in 39 CE the city was granted free and autonomous status (i.e., independence from the province of Asia), immunity from taxation, and a treaty with Rome. Begun under Tiberius and completed under Nero, with a substantial building phase under Claudius, the Sebasteion at Aphrodisias, R. R. Smith believes,138 was a response to the prominent status conferred on the city by Augustus and his successors: The city has of its own accord sought out a Roman imperial model and adapted it to its own purposes. Unlike Ephesus or Pergamon, for example, the city had no great architectural past, no large store of Hellenistic building forms on which to draw. And unlike these cities, Aphrodisias boasted special family links with Caesar and Augustan Rome. These factors combined probably explain the use of a recognizably Roman temple design and a sanctuary plan derived from the imperial fora.139 The south portico, from which the first of the reliefs depicting Agrippina comes, featured standard scenes from Greek myth and religion on the second story140 and gods and emperors on the upper or third story. The purpose of the repertoire of Greek myth on the lower story was to evoke, through a series of its familiar and authorized images, the world of Greek culture and religion, into which the Roman emperors are to be incorporated in the upper story.141 Ten of the panels from the upper story feature emperors and the imperial family;142 imperial conquest and victory is a prominent theme of these pieces: heroically nude emperors

135. Smith 1987, 88. 136. For the imperial cult at Aphrodisias, see Reynolds 1980, 1981, 1986, and 1996. 137. Reynolds 1986, 111. 138. Smith 1987, 90. 139. Smith 1987, 94. 140. A few panels point to Rome and Aphrodisiass connection with it: Smith 1987, 97. Rose 1997, 167168, argues for an Aeneas cycle moving from Asia Minor to Italy. 141. Smith 1987, 97. 142. See the full discussion in Smith 1987, 98132, and, with some differences, Rose 1997, 166167.



and imperial princes are depicted with trophies and captives. The south portico, then, which presents in great detail the idea that Augustus, the Julio-Claudians, and the Roman empire were the natural outcome or continuation of Greek mythhistory up to that time,143 is a good illustration of S. R. Prices analysis of the imperial cult as an institution that allowed the subjects of the empire to make sense of the power of their rulers.144 The first of the relief panels on which Agrippina appears (Fig. 4) is, as mentioned above, from the south portico and portrays a group of three figures: Claudius in the center, flanked by his wife Agrippina on the left and by a togate personification of the Roman senate or people on the right.145 With the exception of a cloak fastened over his right shoulder by a brooch, the emperor is shown nude; the object in his left hand was probably a short spear. With his right hand he clasps the hand of Agrippina, while he is crowned with an oak wreath by the togate figure on the right. Agrippina wears a short-sleeved chiton under a himation drawn diagonally across the bodya Kore type, which, together with the bunch of corn ears she holds in her left hand, marks an assimilation to Demeter and brings to the fore Agrippinas role as genetrix.146 Thus, the visual language that marks the Augusta as a new Demeter (as we have seen, a common assimilation in the numismatic material), when viewed in the context of Aphrodisias, also allows a reading of her as a new Aphrodite in whose power lies the continuity of the dynastic line. The handshake between Claudius and Agrippina, the dextrarum iunctio, a familiar iconographical symbol of marital harmony (concordia) in domestic/private art, is applied here for the first time to an emperor and his wife.147 In introducing his publication of the imperial reliefs from the Sebasteion, Smith draws attention to the Sebasteion complex as an important example of the way in which traditional Hellenistic forms, Roman models, and local innovations were combined in the Greek East.148 He advances strong arguments for the local design of the relief panel we have been discussing: The design seems to combine or conflate two themes and compositions in a way that seems unlikely at Rome. First, there is the theme of concord in the imperial house, an elevated representation of domestic harmony between
143. Smith 1987, 136. 144. Price 1984, 248. 145. For a more detailed description and a discussion of the identifications, see Smith 1987, 106109. 146. Rose 1997, 44. See also the suggestion of Rose 1997, 167, that the presence of a relief panel depicting Demeter and Triptolemus on the same portico would have strengthened the association between Agrippina and the fertility goddess. 147. Rose 1997, 44, 239 n. 85, draws attention to the dextrarum iunctio on issues from the Alexandrian mint (RPC 5176, 5183), references, he believes, to the marriage of Claudius and Agrippina. On the Aphrodisian relief panel, however, the symbol is much more charged (see below). 148. Smith 1987, 89.



the emperor and his wife; and second, there is the (public) crowning of the emperor with the corona civica, awarded for the saving of citizens lives (ob cives servatos), nominally in battle, but metaphorically in the widest sense.149 For the first of these themes, he believes there may have been a Roman model,150 but the crowning narrative contains a number of problematic features that suggest local design: imperial nudity,151 the oak wreath already placed on the emperors head, and the awkward addition of the togate figures crowning arm.152 He may well be correct in suggesting that this panel was designed locally from known, but disparate elements of imperial iconography,153 but he stops short of asking how the resulting composition might have been understood. While Smith emphasizes the disparity between the elements of imperial iconography heredomestic harmony versus public crowningI would stress instead the way in which the distinction between private and public has been erased in this composition. Not only does concord in the imperial house and the promise of the dynastys continuation into the future (symbolized by the joining of hands and Agrippinas assimilation to a fertility goddess) have public import (apparently in Julio-Claudian Aphrodisias as much as in Julio-Claudian Rome). The assertion of concordia between the emperor and his wife would have been especially meaningful in the aftermath of Messalinas fall; it was what allowed, as we have seen, the marriage to be advertised as a new beginning (to which the crowning with the corona civica may allude). Whether or not the local designers and (especially) the local audience would have been aware of all these factors cannot, of course, be known. The composition of our panel seems to me to suggest, however, that some people at Aphrodisias were quite knowledgeable about political events in Rome. The second relief on which Agrippina is represented belonged, on the basis of its measurements, to either the second or the third story of the north portico.154 It was probably part of another imperial series on the north portico, from which only a few panels have survived. Facing the imperial reliefs on the top story of the south portico was, on the north, a series of personifications of time and space; below, opposite the mythological panels, were the so-called ethne reliefs, representations of tribes and provinces conquered by Augustuseach represented as a standing, draped woman.155 According to Smith, the north-portico reliefs suggested an identification of the physical world and the Roman empire: Taken together, the north-portico reliefs seem to speak the language of empire without end, imperial conquest by land and sea, night and day.156
149. 150. 151. 152. 153. 154. 155. 156. Smith Smith Smith Smith Smith Smith Smith Smith 1987, 110. 1987, 135. 1987, 103, 134135. 1987, 110. 1987, 110. 1987, 128. 1987, 9596, and Rose 1997, 165168. 1987, 96.



The panel (Fig. 5) depicts Agrippina, wearing a diadem and holding a cornucopia in her left arm, crowning Nero with a laurel wreath. The diadem, an attribute associated with Olympian goddesses, confers a special status on Agrippina. She is, in fact, the only woman of the dynasty to be depicted wearing a diadem in her lifetime.157 Nero, in military dressthe only imperial figure on the Sebasteion to be so clothedoriginally had a spear in his right hand and probably an orb in his left. His helmet has been removed for the crowning and lies on the ground. Agrippina wears a chiton under a himation. Smith puts the dramatic date of this composition at 54 CE, the year of Neros accession.158 His description is telling and bears quoting: Both figures stand frontally, each with a pose roughly mirroring that of the other. . . . Nero looks to his left and out of the relief, while Agrippinas head is turned more, to look at him. A quite subtle interplay of imperial status is represented. The mother is senior and therefore slightly taller; she bestows the wreath on her son, who already has political and military imperium, symbolized by his spear and probably an orb. What is represented, then, is Neros promotion from heir to emperor (for which there was no Roman ritual or coronation), portrayed in the symbolic terms of the crowning of a military victor. Such a task could be performed only by a notionally superior authority, either a deity like the Genius of Senate or People . . . or a senior member of the imperial family as here.159 That Nero is represented as receiving the imperial power from the hands of his mother, a notionally superior authority, is quite extraordinary and unprecedented. Rose points out that this is the first known scene in which one member of the imperial family is crowned by another.160 Even here, however, the ability of Agrippina as the wife of Claudius and the mother of Nero to confer power on her son is mediated through a representation which evokes a wellknown model. Rose has pointed out that the pose, dress, and attributes of Nero and Agrippina here are based on the reverse type of a cistophorus (Fig. 6) struck at Ephesus in the reign of Claudius (the obverse depicts the portrait and titles

157. See Wood 1988, 420, and Rose 1997, 7677. Before Agrippina, the diadem was an attribute of deified or deceased imperial women. Rose posits a major change in the use of the diadem for imperial women in the reign of Nero and cites the fact that on the Sebasteion Agrippina is undiademed on the Claudian relief and diademed on the Neronian one. In three replicas of her Claudian portrait types, however, Agrippina is already diademed: Copenhagen (Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek 636), Rome (Museo Nazionale Romano 56964), and Madrid (Museo Arqueolgico Nacional 34.433). 158. The date not only fits the iconography but also is confirmed by the fact that Neros portrait is his accession type (Smith 1987, 130). 159. Smith 1987, 129. 160. Rose 1997, 47.



of that emperor).161 Depicted on the reverse of this coin is the temple of Augustus and Roma at Pergamum enclosing the figure of a male in military dress being crowned by a female figure holding a cornucopia. Rose identifies the figures as the cult statues of Augustus and Roma in the temple of Augustus and Roma at Pergamum.162 This identification of the female figure, however, does not fit the iconography of Roma at all; she is usually represented wearing a helmet or in military dress. It is more likely that the male figure on the coin is Claudius himself, as both Mattingly and Sutherland suggest,163 and that he is being crowned by a fertility goddess or a personification such as Fortuna or Pax.164 Rose has said of the Aphrodisian relief of Nero and Agrippina that it reflects the designers perspective on the power wielded by Agrippina at the beginning of the Neronian principate165implying correctly, I believe, that once again we are dealing essentially with a local design, albeit one based on the provincial coinage.166 Here it is not the scheming and ambitious wife and mother of the literary tradition that is presented to us, but a beneficient fertility goddess who bestows her gifts on a grateful world. Finally, the contrast in the two representations of Agrippina on the Aphrodisias reliefs is worth noting. Even though she is assimilated in both to a goddess figure, the body language in each is quite different. In the south-portico relief, Agrippina, although associated with Demeter and fertility by her Kore type, is, as the new wife of the emperor, above all figured as a proper Roman matron (even though her dress is Greek). The himation drawn across her body covers her up and provides respectability. Seen in the aftermath of Messalinas executionthe result of an apparent breach of the marital bondthe panel tells us that this is a woman who will observe the limits of proper female behavior. Across the way on the north portico, the sexuality of the Agrippina who is presented to us is barely hidden: her breasts are clearly visible under her thin chiton, which, as Smith points out, clings so close to her lower torso that her navel is revealed.167 Her assimilation to a fertility goddess, however, makes the figuration of Agrippina here as a sexual being unthreatening; it is quite appropriate for establishing the newly crowned emperor, her son, as one of the many gifts she will continue to bestow on the Roman world. [The sculptural images of Agrippina at the Sebasteion, in their references to divine figures, differ from the portraits of Rome and the West in which Agrippina
161. RPC 2221. The editors of RPC accept Mattinglys attribution of this issue to the mint at Ephesus, rather than that at Pergamum. 162. Rose 1997, 47. 163. RIC I2 131 no. 120, BMCRE 196 no. 228. 164. Mikocki 1995, 181 no. 210, identifies the figure to whom Agrippina is assimilated on the Aphrodisias relief as Fortuna or Victoria. 165. Rose 1997, 47. 166. Smith 1987, 132, believes the relief is based on a Roman composition; this is true, however, only insofar as we believe the design of the cistophoric coinage was controlled from the center. 167. Smith 1987, 129.



appears frequently as a priestess. Nevertheless, the messages of the figures and programs are fundamentally the same. As with the eastern provincial coinage, local preferences emerge in the sculptural representation of the empress, but her functions as wife, mother, link to the past, and guarantor of the future remain central to her presence. NK]

III. AGRIPPINA ON CAMEOS In contrast to the public media of coinage and sculpture which enjoyed a wide audience, the medium to which we now turn, that of engraved gems or cameos, was intended for a more limited private audience consisting of the imperial court and its supporters. We do not know in any given case who was responsible for the production of the gem. In some instances, the inspiration for such pieces came from wealthy supporters of the regime, who financed their production as private gifts for members of the imperial family. In others, it was the emperor himself or another member of the imperial family who commissioned them.168 The distinction may not be as significant as it first seems. Even if these cameos were commissioned by private individuals as gifts for the imperial court rather than produced at the dictate of the regime itself, the likelihood is that the donors of such gifts would want to appeal to the thematic and ideological interests of the recipients, insofar as these were understood. Although cameos are usually classified as private art, they were displayed in houses visited by the upper classes of Roman society.169 Thus, they could be the means of conveying and disseminating complex ideological messages. At the same time, because cameos were private artistic creations intended for a limited audience, they were not bound by the same restraints as the official, publicly displayed ideology. Although several of the messages conveyed by cameos featuring Agrippina will be familiar to us, the syntax and vocabulary of their artistic language may be quite different.170 Let us begin with the so-called Gemma Claudia171 or Marriage Cameo, as it is sometimes known, because it is thought to have been a gift to Claudius and Agrippina in commemoration of their marriage in 49 CE. Depicted on the gem (Fig. 7) are two pairs of confronting busts arising out of cornucopiae. Each pair represents a married couple, who are depicted jugate, with the husband in the foreground, the wife in the background. The imperial pair on the left are Claudius and Agrippina the Younger; facing them on the right are Agrippinas (deceased) parents, Germanicus and Agrippina the Elder.172 Claudius, crowned with an oak
168. Kuttner 1995, esp. 912. 169. Kuttner 1995, 66. 170. Pollini 1993, 260. 171. Megow 1987, A81. 172. These identifications have been accepted by most scholars since they were defended at length by Fuchs 1936, 212231. A few still hold to the view that the right pair are Tiberius and Livia, an identification rejected by both Megow 1987, 200, and Mbius 1975, 60.



wreath and wearing the aegis around his shoulders, is portrayed in the guise of Jupiter, while his wife wears a mural crown encircled by a corona spicea, two sheaves of grain and a poppy, attributes of the goddess Tyche, the protector of cities.173 Opposite her is her mother, Agrippina the Elder, wearing an Attic helmet decorated with a laurel wreath; she is represented as the war goddess Minerva.174 Germanicus is depicted in the emblems of the general, the military cloak (paludamentum) and the oak wreath (corona civica) which, as mentioned earlier, was awarded for the saving of citizen lives. The cornucopiae from which the imperial pairs emerge are adorned with small flowers at the end of spiraling tendrils and overflow with the fruits of the seasongrapes, corn ears, poppies, pomegranates, and, perhaps, quinces can be discerned. Significantly, these evocations of abundance and prosperity are juxtaposed to symbols of the military realm, for the cornucopiae rest on a bed of arms and armor and the zone between them is filled with Jupiters eagle, wings unfurled, looking up at Claudius. The Gemma Claudia depicts four imperial figures related to one another in multifaceted ways. The couple on the left represents not only the reigning emperor and his wife but also an uncle and niece. Confronting them on the right are Agrippinas parents, who are also Claudiuss brother and sister-in-law and now, by virtue of his marriage to their daughter, his in-laws. Daughter and mother balance each other as protectors of the civilian/urban and military realms, respectively.175 The two brothers are connected by the oak wreath crown each wears, and in this way Claudius shares in the military fame of his brother. As S. Fuchs recognized long ago,176 the gem must be seen in the context of the events of 48 CE and Claudiuss need to reestablish his political position. It is a statement of Claudiuss claim to dynastic legitimacy through his marriage to Agrippina and the new relationship it forged with her parents, Germanicus and the elder Agrippina. The intimate connection between the four people represented on the cameo is expressed by the pairs of cornucopiae that grow out of a common roota phenomenon that suggests a common descent from Augustus, although this is true in reality only for Agrippina and her parents (Germanicus through his adoption by Tiberius, who was himself the adoptive son of Augustus). I would

173. Smith 1994, 9697, refers to Agrippina II as a Ceres/Cybele/Tyche figure but sees a clearer association with Tyche than with Cybele since the attributes of tympanon and lion are missing. Sande 1985, 165166, argues for Cybele/Magna Mater on the basis that Agrippina wears the same headdress as Livia at Lepcis Magna. 174. Fuchs 1936, 231 n. 2, followed by Smith 1994, 97, suggests that Agrippina the Elder may be a synchretized image of Minerva and Mater Castrorum, Mother of the Military Camps. This attribution seems doubtful to me, however, since the title Mater Castrorum for an empress is not found before the time of Julia Domna. Wood 1988, 421 423, offers different identifications for the two Agrippinas: the daughter as Oikoumene; her mother as Virtus or Dea Roma. 175. Smith 1994, 97. 176. Fuchs 1936, 232237.



add here the no less important fact that the stone, in depicting Agrippina with her parents, advertises Agrippinas embodiment of the Julian and Claudian lines in her own person and thus, as we have noted before, holds out the promise that the kind of strife between members of the two branches of the ruling family which had characterized previous reigns will not recur in the current one. Although the force of the visual language of the cameo is principally retrospective here (looking to the past to legitimize a claim to power), Fuchs is quite correct, I think, to call attention to the role of the cornucopiae on which the busts are placed as symbolic of a new and better age. The cameo, he argues, plays the same role as the speech of Vitellius in Tacituss account,177 emphasizing the relationship between this imperial marriage and the fortune of the Roman state by calling attention to the nobility of Agrippinas family and her fecunditas. Even this prospective aspect of the gem has its retrospective and legitimizing force in that the juxtaposition here of military symbols and those associated with abundance and prosperity to suggest that the pax Romana is dependent on military success evokes a familiar theme in Augustan imperial ideology. Quite different visual language is employed on another cameo (Fig. 8) for the similar end of celebrating the marital union of Claudius and Agrippina as a decisive turning point in the Claudian principate. This gem (Paris, Cabinet des Mdaille 276) represents the emperor as Triptolemus and his wife as Ceres standing in a wheelless, winged wagon drawn by serpents.178 Such a wagon is the main attribute of Triptomelus in Greek art from the third quarter of the sixth century BCE.179 The emperor here is attired in a cuirass, cingulum, and paludamentum, which he holds aloft in his raised left hand. Agrippina, dressed in a sleeveless chiton and mantel, leans forward, holding a broad object in the hand of her outstretched left arm (possibly a vessel for distribution of grain); her right hand holds a bunch of wheat sheaves and poppy, the traditional attributes of Ceres. Scholars have viewed this cameo as a reflection of the emperors interest in the Eleusinian Mysteries, which according to Suetonius (Claudius 25.5) he attempted to transfer from Attica to Rome.180 Further, Alfldi, on the basis of Ptolemaic
177. Perhaps a better counterpart is the speech of Pallas (Tac. Ann. 12.2). 178. Megow 1987, A86. Megow dates the work to the late 40s and identifies the Ceres figure as Agrippina (although he cannot rule out Messalina entirely). Sande 1985, 192, also identifies the female figure as Agrippina; Mbius 1975, 68, thinks Messalina is more likely than Agrippina but gives no reason for the preference; Alfldis 1979, 584585, identification of the figure as Messalina is not based on typological grounds but on the date of the celebration of the Ludi Saeculares in Rome in 47 BCE, which he thinks was the occasion of the production of this cameo. Schwarz 1987, 59 and 172, and Mikocki 1995, 180 no. 204, identify a second cameo, from the Hermitage Collection, on which Claudius appears as Triptolemus together with his wife (Agrippina or Messalina). Megow 1987, 83 n. 249, does not regard the stone as ancient. 179. Clinton 1992, 4047. 180. See Mbius 1975, 6869, and Alfldi 1979, 585.



models for the depiction of the emperor as a new Triptolemus,181 wants to connect the artistic use of this symbolism either to the beginning of a reign or to some sort of jubilee celebration during the reign and finds the occasion to be the celebration of the Secular Games in 47 CE. The new Triptolemus, however, was a potent symbol that might well have been evoked at another moment in Claudiuss reign that is, the aftermath of the downfall of Messalina and the subsequent marriage to Agrippina, which, as we have seen, was presented as a new beginning. The myth of Triptolemuss mission offered a powerful metaphor for this new beginning. Unlike the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, subsequent versions of the myth of the rape of Persephone account for the origin of agriculture as one of the rewards granted by Demeter to those who provided information about the rape. According to them, Demeter taught Triptolemus the gift of agriculture, and it was his mission to bring it to the rest of humankind by means of travel in a winged wagon drawn by serpents. The evocation of the emperor as a new Triptolemus introducing the gift of grain to mankind was especially meaningful in a society in which the emperor took responsibility for (and was held responsible for) securing an adequate grain supply and reasonable grain prices. On our cameo it is not Claudius but Agrippina who distributes the grain. The cameos visual language gives us to understand that the new prosperity comes from the emperors marriage to Agrippina, the new Demeter. Two other cameos have been thought by some scholars to refer to Agrippinas role as wife of Claudius and mother of his probable successor. Their interpretation is not without some controversy. The first (Fig. 9) of these (Megow 1987, D39) portrays a portrait bust of a woman dressed in chiton and mantel and crowned with a laurel wreath. This portrait rests in the curve of a large cornucopia, from which a draped bust emerges. On the left is a small clothed female portrait. The identification of the figures on this cameo has undergone an evolution. It was previously thought that the cameo represented Claudiuss third wife, Messalina, flanked by her two childrenher daughter Octavia on the left and her son Britannicus emerging from the cornucopia. More recently it has been noticed that the small female figure previously thought to be Octavia wears a helmet and has breasts so that the identification as a child seems less likely. Further, the male head of the draped bust on the right has been shown not to belong to the cameo at all. What is left is a bust dressed in the toga praetexta, which was worn by both male and female children.182 Trillmich and Sande each independently identified the main figure of the cameo as Agrippina the Younger, and they speculate, reasonably, that the figure emerging from the cornucopia is her son Nero.183 Current opinion favors an identification of the small female figure on the left as the goddess Roma.

181. Alfldi 1979, 584. 182. On the toga praetexta, see Goette 1989. 183. Trillmich 1983, 2234, and Sande 1985, 189190. See also Rose 1997, 70.



Interpreting the message of the cameo will depend not only on identification of the figures on it but on who we think might have commissioned its production or on whose behalf it was commissioned. W. Trillmich suggests that we should understand the cameo as an attempt on Agrippinas part to further the claims of her son Nero at the expense of Claudiuss natural son Britannicus; he would date the cameo to 49/50 CE (the laurel wreath which Agrippina wears is a sign of her status as the wife of Claudius and the Augusta). He even goes so far as to suggest that Agrippina, who is here portrayed in a Caligulan portrait type and perhaps as she actually was at the time of Neros birth in December 37 CE, was advertising her connection to Germanicus and her Julian origin on her mothers side.184 This is an unnecessarily narrow interpretation, however, and one that perhaps owes too much to the representation of Agrippina in the literary tradition. As we saw in the last chapter, the promotion of Nero as successor-apparent was as much in Claudiuss interest as it was in Agrippinas. I would prefer to think of the cameo as advertising the emperors new succession policy and as deploying dea Roma to sanction it. The other (Fig. 10) is the famous Grand Came, a sardonyx cameo whose date as well as the identification of many of its figures is still much debated.185 The cameo has three sectors: an upper celestial sphere featuring Divus Augustus surrounded by other deceased male members of the imperial family and other figures; a middle zone whose focus is a seated imperial couple in the center, flanked by other imperial personages; and a lower sector depicting barbarians of northern and eastern origin in humble poses on the ground, in the midst of whom sits a woman holding a child. The cameo, whose message . . . as a whole is the glorification of the past, present, and future Julio-Claudian dynasty,186 is usually dated to the Tiberian period on the basis of the identification of the central imperial couple as Tiberius and his mother Livia. Theories abound as to the identification of the other figures in the middle sector and the historical event to which it refers.187 What is important for our purposes is that if the Grand Came was indeed manufactured under Tiberius, it is not likely our Agrippina was represented on it at all. Several respected scholars, however, have weighed in with the view, based on stylistic grounds, that the gem is Claudian. The most influential analysis is that of H. Jucker,188 who not only starts from the common assumption that the

184. Trillmich 1983, 32. 185. Megow 1987, A85. For the range of interpretations, see Jucker 1976 and Megow 1987, 205207, with the literature cited there. 186. Kleiner 1992b, 149. 187. Some of the suggestions: the celebration of Germanicuss triumph in 17 CE and his subsequent appointment to the Eastern command; the line of succession following the death of Tiberiuss son Drusus in 23; Nero Caesars appointment as quaestor in 26; Sejanuss exalted political position in 28. For details, see the works cited in n. 114 above, to which add Jeppesen 1993. 188. Jucker 1976, followed by Megow 1987, 202207.



figures seated on a throne in the middle of the cameo represent Tiberius and Livia but accepts the view that the historical event to which the scene depicted in the middle of the stone refers is the celebration of Germanicuss triumph and appointment to the supreme command in the East in 17 CEfrom the point of view of the gems manufacture c. 51 CE, an event some thirty-five years in the past.189 On Juckers reading, this cameo, too, is to be seen as a celebration of the promotion of Agrippinas son Nero as the heir apparent to the imperial power. The central scene of the cameo features Tiberius and Livia (the Augustus and Augusta in 17 CE), flanked on the left by Germanicus and his wife Agrippina the Elder and on the right by Claudius and Agrippina the Younger. Germanicus, fresh from his triumph, has just removed his helmet and faces Tiberius. The upward gazes of Claudius and Agrippina toward Divus Augustus in the upper zone, in contrast, mark them as the current rulers of c. 51 CE. On the far left, behind Germanicus, is another group consisting of the boy Nero, in armor, in front; behind him is a seated Providentia. In this juxtaposition of past (Germanicus/Agrippina the Elder and Tiberius/Livia) and present (Nero and Claudius/Agrippina the Younger) members of the imperial family, the central scene of the cameo creates an analogy between Germanicus, depicted here standing before his adoptive father at the height of his career in 17 CE, and his grandson Nero, who by virtue of his adoption by Claudius in 50, has been marked out as the successor to the throne. In him resides the hope for the future. This short summary of Juckers interpretation of the central scene by no means exhausts possible readings of the gem. Natalie Kampen offers an enticingly brief, but telling, feminist reading of the stone which, incidentally, demonstrates how much we may miss if we devote our attention exclusively to dynastic messages. Pointing out that gender can function as a model for other kinds of social relations, she draws attention to the barbarians who sit below the scene we have just described: On the Grand Came de France . . . the seated men appear with a woman holding a baby in her arms. Above her are images of the emperor Tiberius seated beside his mother Livia as his now deceased and divinized father (by adoption) floats in the heavens above. Kin and Kin! Together they present male aggression and female passivity as normative, for she, after all, need not be chained. At the same time, the couple mark out the totality of Roman power over the conquered barbarians by suggesting that the family, and thus the future of their world, has been forever transformed by defeat.190 [The cameos go beyond sculpture and coins in the complexity of their iconography and the richness of their references and thus remain difficult to interpret.
189. This is a sticking point for some. The argument of Zadoks-Josephus Jitta 1964, which also views the stone as Claudian, would sidestep this difficulty, but the identification of the central figures as Claudius and Agrippina is quite unconvincing. 190. Kampen 1996, 20.



Even their status as private objects is a complicated matter, given the expectation that elite and court life should be open to the view of all. The cameos use dense layers of myth and genealogy to convey messages of legitimacy and stability, but these are, in the end, the same messages purveyed by coins and sculpture as well. As Paul Zanker suggests, ideas embedded in Roman representation may be complex, but the repetition of a fairly small number of elements, no matter how open to diverse readings, eventually created a clear language that, on one level or another, became accessible to most people.191 Repeating the same few fundamental ideas tended to help make them seem inevitable. Developing those ideas with the use of basic and naturalized notions about gender, as we see with Agrippina as mother and the like, tapped into the taken-for-granted in Roman culture; Agrippina thus clearly plays her part in the development of an iconography of legitimacy and stability precisely because she can be presented as mother, as link to the past, and as guarantor of the future. NK]

IV. AGRIPPINAS ASSIMILATION TO DEMETER The official version of the circumstances of Agrippinas death precluded her deification, a status enjoyed both by her sister Drusilla and by Livia and and one which, under other circumstances, we might have expected Agrippina herself to attain. For it was in Agrippinas adulthood, at the beginning of Claudiuss reign, that the idea of a ruling family of divine originand with it, therefore, the acceptability of the deification of a Roman womanwas first established.192 Nonetheless, in her lifetime, Agrippina enjoyed a more-than-human status: she was both identified as thea and likened to specific female deities, especially Ceres/Demeter, throughout the Roman world. Already under the first imperial dynasty it was quite common for the wives, mothers, and sisters of emperors to be associated with or even directly assimilated to goddesses in the public media. The identification might take different forms.193 An imperial woman might be named diva, dea, or thea; she might be explicitly assimilated to a particular goddess (e.g., Aphrodite, Demeter, or Hera in the Greek East; Venus, Juno, or Ceres in the West) or a specific form of the goddess (Venus Genetrix, Demeter Karpophoros); or she might be designated as a new form of the goddess (Nea Aphrodite). The characteristic epithet of a goddess might be applied to her (e.g., Karpophoros), or she might be depicted in visual representations with the attributes of a goddess (e.g., the corona spicea).194
191. Zanker 1988. 192. On the deification of Roman women, see Flory 1995, 127134. According to Flory, it was precisely under Claudius that the idea of a ruling family of divine origin and with it therefore the acceptability of the deification of a Roman womanwas first established. 193. For a detailed list, see Hahn 1994, 312319. 194. Not that a precise identification is always easy to make since some epithets and attributes could indicate more than one deity: cf. Hahn 1994, 313. Mikocki 1995, in my view, does not take sufficient account of this problem in his survey.



Without the corroborating evidence of details such as the names of priests or priestesses, instructions for processions and sacrifices, and so forth, however, such assimilations or identifications of imperial women with female deities do not constitute evidence for the existence of a cult of the individual so identified. They may simply be manifestations of honors granted to members of the imperial familywhich is not to say, however, that they are without meaning. In the Greek East there were clear Hellenistic models for this phenomenon in the assimilation of queens to goddesses.195 Thus, attribution of the name New Hera to Livia (IGR IV 249) or New Aphrodite to Drusilla (IGR IV 78, 145), for example, had Ptolemaic models. The assimilation of rulers to deities undoubtedly served some of the same functions in the Roman imperial world as it had in the Hellenistic. The attribution of the names of deities and of nonhuman characteristics to their rulers made it easier for the subjects of the eastern empire to make sense of the place of the ruling power in their world. Such assimilations further provided a way for subjects to worship and express loyalty to these rulers and might serve to acknowledge benefactions made by rulers to their subjects and/or to secure the goodwill and continued benefactions of the ruling power in the future.196 Appeal to the model of Hellenistic ruler cult, however, will not fully explain the phenomenon of assimilation of imperial women to goddesses or its significance. Even in the East where there were Hellenistic models for the phenomenon, we find a significant difference in the goddesses to whom imperial and Hellenistic women were assimilated: in the Hellenistic kingdoms, the most frequent and popular assimilations were to Aphrodite and Isis; under the Julio-Claudians, the goddess with whom female members of the imperial family were most often identified was Ceres/Demeter. Moreover, imperial women were associated with female divinities not just in the Greek East but in Rome, Italy, and the West. In his recent study of the assimilation of imperial women to goddesses, Tomasz Mikocki has concluded that while the phenomenon in the East was the product of largely unchanged Hellenistic traditions, in the West it was adapted to the ideological needs of the imperial house. I would agree in general with this assessment as long as we leave the door open, even in the East, for imperial influence on what seem to be traditional and local initiatives. One piece of evidence for the kind of imperial influence on local practice I am suggesting is the rarity of divine or superhuman representations of the living emperor on the coinage (both Roman and provincial/local) and in sculptural representations. This, as the editors of Roman Provincial Coinage note, is in marked contrast both to the assimilation of imperial women to goddesses on the coinage and other visual media and to the fact that inscriptions frequently record divine honors to the emperor and there is widespread evidence for the cult of the emperor throughout the Roman world. The local and civic coinages, in other words, do not follow the lead of their communities in paying divine honors to the emperor but are, instead, in tune with the prac195. See Hahn 1994, 2124. 196. Price 1984, 183184.



tice of the Roman mint in depicting the living emperor only in human form. The editors of Roman Provincial Coinage conclude that there was some degree of centralized control over the way emperors were depicted on the provincial coinage. The contrast between the treatment of emperors and female members of the imperial family on the coinage is important not only for the issue of Roman versus local initiative (to which we will return below). This contrast raises another question: if we can interpret the reluctance to portray the emperor in superhuman form on the coinageeven in the Greek East where it would have been acceptableas part of an imperial policy to refuse divine worship, we will want to ask what kinds of messages the assimilation or association of imperial women with goddesses might convey, and why these were acceptable. Well before her official deification in 41 CE, Livia had been the recipient throughout the Roman world of a vast array of honors which either explicitly identified her as a goddess or associated her with specific female deities. Although Livia was not the first Roman woman to be so represented, the epigraphical, numismatic, and art historical evidence presents Livia in this role more often than any other imperial woman.197 Demeter/Ceres, Juno/Hera, and Venus/Aphrodite are the goddesses with whom Livia is most frequently associated. She is also assimilated to a number of other goddesses and personifications (e.g., Fortuna, Hekate, Cybele, Athena, Vesta, Iustitia, and Pietas) but in far fewer cases.198 Although the evidence for honors to Livia as a goddess far outstrips that for any other woman of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Agrippina was the next most frequent recipient of such honors. The instances of her identification as a goddess or her assimilation to specific goddesses are considerable.199 An important difference between the divine honors to Livia and to Agrippina, however, is immediately apparent. Unlike Livia, Agrippina was almost exclusively assimilated to Demeter.

Agrippina as Demeter The most popular assimilation of imperial women in the Julio-Claudian period was to Ceres/Demeter. This is especially evident in the cases of Livia and Agrippina the Younger. In the case of Livia, for whom we have the most examples and the greatest range of assimilations, the largest number of attested assimilations are to

197. The first Roman women to be honored as goddesses were Fulvia and Octavia, wives of Mark Antony: cf. Hahn 1994, 24, 312. 198. For the attested cases of Livias representation as a goddess, see Hahn 1994, 3465, 322334; Mikocki 1995, 1830, 151170; and Spaeth 1996, 169173. The nature of the evidence is such that the identification of the female figure as Livia is not certain in every case; equally problematic is the precise identification of the specific goddess with whom Livia is associated. 199. See Hahn 1994, 186207 n. 177219, and Mikocki 1995, 3842, 178183. There is no way of knowing how many more instances might be attested had Agrippina not suffered damnatio memoriae.



Ceres/Demeter, but Juno and Venus were also frequently the objects of assimilation. Agrippina under Claudius and Nero, in contrast, was almost exclusively associated with Ceres/Demeter. We are naturally led to ask why assimilation to Demeter had become so overwhelmingly popular. For Agrippinas assimilation to Demeter in the Greek East, there were both Roman and Hellenistic precedents. Livia, for example, was honored at Ephesus as Sebaste Demeter Karpophoros and as Nea Demeter at Aphrodisias; Messalina was depicted on Alexandrian coins as Demeter; and Agrippinas mother was honored with the epithet of Demeter (karpophoros) on Lesbos.200 The case of Agrippina is particularly striking in that, unlike Livia, she was almost exclusively assimilated to Demeter. Agrippinas assimilation to Demeter in the Greek East is well attested. There are examples of her depiction with the attributes of the goddessthe corona spicea on her head or wheat sheaves and poppies, a cornucopia or a torch in her hand in all of the visual media examined in this chapter. So, for instance, a series of bronze coins struck at Alexandria in 5153 CE feature a bust of Agrippina on the obverse wearing the corona spicea (RPC 5188, 5190, 5194, 5196, 5199; cf. RPC 2434, 2457, 31723173). Agrippina is assimilated to or associated with Demeter also on a provincial issue, probably from Ephesus (RPC 2224=RIC I2 119), and on local issues from Cyme, Acmonea, Magnesia ad Sipylum in Asia, and Paneas in Syria. We recall also the relief from the Sebasteion at Aphrodisias in which, together with her husband Claudius and a togate personification in the act of crowning the emperor, Agrippina appears in a statue type associated with Demeter, holding a bunch of wheat sheaves in her hand. An even more explicit assimilation of Agrippina to Demeter emerges on a cameo (Paris, Cabinet des Mdailles 276) that portrays Agrippina as Demeter and her husband Claudius as Triptolemus. Epigraphical evidence also reveals a strong association between Agrippina and Demeter on the islands of Lesbos and Cos. A series of inscriptions from Mytilene disclose that the two Agrippinas, mother and daughter, had successively been given the title thea Aiolis karpophoros by the inhabitants of the city.201 The title karpophoros was an epithet of agrarian divinities, especially of Demeter. A two-sided semi-circular statue base from Cos honored Claudius as Zeus Soter and Agrippina as Demeter Karpophoros (Maiuri 1925, nos. 468a, 468b). Another Coan inscription records that the deme of Isthmus, which had also dedicated a sanctuary to Claudius (Maiuri 1925, no. 680), dedicated a statue to Agrippina as Sebaste Damatra Karpophoros.202
200. Citations in Rose 1977, 176; RPC, etc. 201. Agrippina Maior: IG XII, 2, 212; IGR IV 75. Agrippina Minor: IG XII, 2, 232 (as emended by Robert 1960, 288300) and 258; cf. IG XII, 2, 208 (thea Sebaste Boulaia Aiolis Karpophoros) and 211 (nea Boulaia). 202. IGR IV 1104 (revised by Herzog 1922, 239 n. 3). Hahns suggestion (1994, 190 191) that Agrippina may have been included in the cult of her husband in the city rests on an uncorrected version of IGR IV 1104 and the inconclusive evidence of Ditt., Syll.3



In the West also, Agrippinas identification with Ceres/Demeter was presaged by earlier assimilations of imperial women to the goddess. Livia was honored as Ceres Augusta on inscriptions from the island of Gaulos near Malta (ILS 121) and Lepcis Magna (IRT p. 88, n. 269).203 We have numerous examples in glyptic art of Livia (e.g., Megow 1995 A22 and A49, B17 and B18) and Agrippinas sister Livilla depicted as Ceres. Under Claudius, both Livia, identified as Diva Augusta, and Antonia Minor, the emperors deceased mother, were featured on the Roman coinage wearing the corona spicea. In none of these instances, however, as B. Spaeth has rightly noted, are we dealing with an officially sanctioned assimilation of a still living woman.204 Agrippina was the first living female member of the imperial family whose assimilation to a goddess received official recognition. This innovation occurred, as so many others involving Agrippina, on the Roman coinage. The concentration of Agrippinas assimilations to the figure of Ceres/Demeter cannot be explained by the assumption that in the Greek East the identification of an imperial woman with a specific goddess is due to the presence of a local cult of that goddess in the community.205 This proposition would explain why an imperial woman might be assimilated to more than one goddess in a particular city or why women of different imperial dynasties are identified with the same goddesses in a given city, but it does not explain the preponderance of assimilations to Demeter rather than to another deity. Nor should we automatically assume that local initiative alone lies behind assimilations of Agrippina to Ceres/Demeter in the Roman provinces. It is worth noting that from the very beginning of the principate, there was an interest in associating the princeps and the imperial house with the goddess Ceres/Demeter. This is hardly surprising. As a goddess of both agricultural and human fertility, Ceres was a fitting symbol of the Augustan ideology of peace and prosperity won through imperial victory. In 7 CE, for example, altars were dedicated in Rome to Ceres Mater and Ops Augusta (Dio 55.31.34). Augustus himself undertook the restoration of the Temple of Ceres, Liber, and Libera, which had been destroyed by a fire in 31 BCE (Dio 50.10.3); it was dedicated by Tiberius in 17 CE (Tac. Ann. 2.49). Some have thought that the altars to Ceres Mater and Ops Augusta were responses to agrarian crises in Rome; these were especially severe in 7 CE206 and

no. 804, which attests Claudiuss physician, C. Stertinus Xenophon, a native of Cos, as perpetual priest of the Sebastoi theoi. The Sebastoi theoi could refer to Claudius and Agrippina or to Claudius, Agrippina, and Nero, but a reference to Claudius and Nero alone cannot be ruled out. 203. See Wood 1999, ch. 2, n. 50, on the colossal statue of Livia as Ceres-Cybele at Lepcis Magna. 204. Spaeth 1996, 120. 205. Hahn 1994, 196197. 206. Richardson 1992, 81, and Palombi 1997, 159164. The latter thinks that there were two separate altars.



resulted in Augustuss appointing two consulars as commissioners of the grain supply (Dio 55.31.34). A marble bust depicting Augustus wearing the corona spicea may imply, as Spaeth suggests, the emperors guarantee, through his association with the goddess, of the agricultural fertility of the empire.207 Claudian dupondii (RIC I2 127 n. 94 and 129 n. 110), which feature Claudiuss portrait and titles on the obverse and a seated Ceres on the reverse with the legend CERES AUGUSTA, indicate in all likelihood a similar appropriation of the goddess for the imperial family. A further stage in this process of appropriation is the depiction of Livia and Antonia, deceased female members of the imperial house, with the attributes of Ceres/Demeter on the Roman coinage of Claudius. Finally, evidence of the imperial familys interest in the Eleusinian cult of Demeter is evinced by Augustuss initiation into the mysteries at Eleusis (Suet. Aug. 93) and Claudiuss plan to transfer the sacra Eleusinia to Rome (Suet. Claud. 25.5). In light of this evidence of imperial investment in the goddess Ceres/Demeter at the center, we should not exclude the possibility that in paying honor to Agrippina by likening her almost exclusively to Ceres/Demeter, local communities may have been following the lead of the imperial authorities. Several of the localities in which Agrippina was honored as Ceres/Demeter had close ties with the imperial family and even with Agrippina herself. The long-standing connection of Aphrodisias in Caria with the imperial family has already been noted. The popularity of Ceres/Demeter as the female deity with whom Agrippina was primarily identified owes less, I think, to local cults of the goddess than to the fact that this goddesss multiple associations with human and agricultural productivity made her a potent symbol of the munificence and bounty the imperial family could claim to bestow on the Roman world. Let us, then, consider the associations that Agrippinas assimilation to Ceres/Demeter might have evoked and the messages it might have facilitated.

Agrippina Karpophoros Agrippina and her mother, as previously noted, were both honored with the epithet karpophoros on the island of Lesbos. Since karpophoros is primarily an epithet of Demeter, the goddess of both human and agricultural fertility, some scholars have interpreted karpophoros as a reference to the fact that Agrippina the Elder gave birth to Julia Livilla on Lesbos in 18 CE during Germanicuss command in the East. There are good reasons for rejecting this view, however. On the most superficial level, this explanation will not account for the younger Agrippinas assumption of the title karpophoros since she did not give birth to any children on the island of Lesbos and we have no certain evidence that she was ever on the island at all.208 It might be objected that the epithet need not refer to a specific
207. Spaeth 1996, 23. 208. It is also the case that we cannot be certain that all the honors to Agrippina and Germanicus on Lesbos are to be dated to their stay on the island in 18 CE rather than to the period when Caligula was in power and engaged in a program of rehabilitation of his



birth on the island but to human fertility and may simply mean fertile or productive. This argument does not solve the problem, however, since karpophoros is used of male deities (Dionysus) and of Hadrians wife Sabina, who produced no children at all.209 The epithet karpophoros must mean just what it says: fruit-bearing. When an imperial woman is depicted as Demeter karpophoroswhether the assimilation represents her inclusion in the cult of a local fertility goddess or simply an honor to a member of the ruling familythe association evoked may be a literal one to agricultural productivity and the role of the imperial family in securing it. In the West, something like this message may be seen on coins like the Claudian CERES AUGUSTA dupondius discussed or on cameos depicting the emperor as Triptolemus and his wife as Demeter. Or the reference might be a figurative one, alluding to the blessings of peace and prosperity. It may be that in honoring the two Agrippinas as Demeter Karpophoros, the goddess of agricultural bounty, the Lesbians were acknowledging (or encouraging) the contributions of the ruling power to the well-being of the island. Agrippina the Youngers attestation as gymnasiarch for lifea position that entailed a considerable financial burden on two Mytilenian inscriptions which also identify her as karpophoros (IG XII, 2, 208, and 232)210 is evidence of the kind of munificence to which the epithet might be referring.

Ceres Mater As a goddess associated with human fertility and motherhoodin Roman cult she was Ceres Mater211Ceres/Demeter was a fitting symbol of the primary attribute of women: their reproductive capacity (fecunditas). Identification of the female members of the imperial house with this goddess alluded to their vital function in the continuation of the dynasty through the production of imperial heirs. The importance of the reproductive role of imperial women is even attested in the literary accounts of Claudiuss marriage to Agrippina, where, we may recall, both of Agrippinas supporters, Pallas and Vitellius, adduced her fecunditas as an important determiner of her suitability for marriage to the emperor (Tac. Ann. 12.2). The fecunditas of the women of the imperial family played no less a central role in the dynastic ideology evoked in the visual media. In much of the visual material that advertises or celebrates the marriage of Claudius and Agrippina such as the relief from the Sebasteion at Aphrodisias that depicts the imperial couple
parents. Trillmich 1978, 116121, in fact, has dated the numismatic evidence for these honors to the reign of Caligula. 209. Trillmich 1978, 116 n. 389. 210. Cf. also IG XII, 2, 232 (nea thea Boulaia and perpetual gymnasiarchos), and XII, 2, 258 (in honor of Marcus Granius Carbo, hypogymnasiarchsas theas Sebastas Aiolidos Karpophor Agrippeinas). On the gymnasiarchia in this period, see van Bremen 1996, 6667. 211. For the connection between Ceres and motherhood, see Spaeth 1996, 4244.



in a dextrarum iunctio and Agrippina in a well-known statue type of Demeter or the Roman and provincial coinage which portrays her with the attributes of the goddessAgrippinas association with the goddess of fertility may be read as a reference to her already proven ability to produce (and continue to produce) imperial heirs. In fact, the stability of the regime depended in no small part on its ability to assure an unproblematic succession. The visual assimilation of the wife of the emperor to Ceres/Demeter, like the representation of prospective imperial heirs together with the ruling couple on coins and inscriptions and in statue groups, was one of the methods by which this message could be conveyed. Moreover, since the figure of Ceres Mater evoked the ideals of chastity and motherhood, the primary female virtues, the association of imperial women with the goddess, as Spaeth has argued, might amount to a claim on the part of the emperor that the females of his family exemplified these virtues. The representation of the female members of the Julio-Claudian domus as Ceres/Demeter would, in this way, contribute to the notion of the ruling house as a family that embodied and thereby promoted traditional Roman family values. Perhaps we should see the appropriation of Ceres by and for the women of the imperial family as doing a kind of double duty. On the one hand, it could lend an air of acceptability to the ever more prominent and visible public roles they were assuming. At the same time, the suggestion that the female members of the imperial house were models of appropriate female behavior made them important participants in a discourse about the moral revival of Roman societya discourse which, as Catherine Edwards has shown, might be as much about the legitimacy of a regimes right to power as about the genuine desire for moral reform. An association with Ceres/ Demeter might also be invoked to mark an imperial womans special role as mother of the emperor: Mater Augusti. Like Livia, Neros mother, as the wife of the emperors deified predecessor, served as an important symbol of the legitimacy of the succession and of her sons claim to power.

[V. CONCLUSION The visual representations of Agrippina provide an important contrast to much of the textual evidence. They allow us to see the preferred public images of the empress as she was meant to be understood by a broad public, many or most of whom would have had no contact with the texts circulating among the literate. We see Agrippina not only as the court wished her to be seen, but also as it was in the courts interest for her to be seen. Through the provincial evidence, we also have a sense of how this public image was received, understood, and reproduced for local audiences. As the first living empress to be assimilated to divine forms, Agrippina appears not simply in the traditional guise of a priestess; she appears as well, and often, as Demeter/Ceres. Her imagery clearly focused on fertility and the traditional characteristics of the Roman wife and mother, chaste and fecund, and Demeter gave this an eternal and superhuman form, immediately recognizable because of the



fame of the statue types on which the images of Agrippina built. Guarantor of moral rectitude and dynastic continuity, the empress, especially as Demeter/Ceres, granted the regime a clear signifier of continuity with the past in her relationship as genealogical and iconographic heir to Augustus and Livia. She further signified continuity as mother of Nero and guarantor of the political stability that came, in Roman hopes, at any rate, from an unbroken dynastic chain. Agrippinas image is thus a central piece of the public ideology of the Julio-Claudian period. Her representation makes clear how crucial conservative gender assumptions about wives and mothers were. Such assumptions permitted major changes, for example, the increasing connection of imperial women to gods, to become not only acceptable but even natural. NK]



Chapter 3
Agrippina and the Power of Rhetorical Stereotypes

It can be argued that, whatever the reality in the late Republic, any evidence of politically active or politically motivated women originates in political polemic. It consists of allegation rather than observation; it alleges nonobservable activities; it is aimed at reducing the credibility of politically powerful men with whom the women are legitimately or illegitimately associated; and any such literature, even if only coincidentally, dissuaded women of talent from being seen to exercise it. Over time, such a rhetorical motif may have served as a conditioning agent fostering something analogous to the now familiar motive to avoid success. It is just possible, however, that the imagery that was applied to politically active aristocratic women represents a conscious discouragement, and that it was being aimed at them in an era when changing mores threatened to challenge the male monopoly of the public arena. T. Hillard, On the Stage, Behind the Curtain, 4647

. HILLARDS STUDY1 OF THE RHETORICAL CONSTRUCTION OF POLITICALLY ACTIVE women in the late Republic as scheming concubines and domineering dowagers shows that the kind of rhetorical topoi with which this chapter is concerned the saeva noverca, dux femina, sexual transgressor, and domineering motherhad a history. These rhetorical stereotypes, in which the Agrippina of the literary tradition participates, did not arise for the first time in the Julio-Claudian principate but go back to the period of Roman history for which there is clear evidence of politically active women: the late Republic. Much of what Hillard ascribes to the rhetorical stereotypes with which politically active women of the late Republic were fashioned may be true of the rhetorical construction of Agrippina and her predecessors. We can agree that the allegations against imperial women that have made their way into the historical tradition probably had their origin in contemporary political polemic and that at least two motivations underlie these negative portrayals: to cast opprobrium on the men with whom
1. Hillard 1992.



these women were associated and to discourage aristocratic and imperial women from challenging the male monopoly of the Roman political system. My primary task in what follows will be to consider what cultural assumptions and what historical circumstances underlie the rhetorical stereotypes applied to Agrippina in the literary tradition and why these particular constructions were so powerful.

I. SAEVA NOVERCA One of the important figurations that Agrippina shares with Livia is that of the saeva noverca, or wicked stepmother: the scheming murderess of Roman literature, who resorts to deception and even violence in order to secure her husbands inheritance for her children or herself. The stepmother stereotype, especially prominent in Roman literature and rhetoric from the late Republic onward,2 always had decidedly negative connotations.3 Intrigue, murder, and poisoning are synonymous with the stepmother; her victims are her stepsons andmore rarely stepdaughters.4 It speaks volumes for the ill repute of the stepmother figure that speakers in Roman declamations, where the stepmother is a stock character, almost never take the stepmothers side,5 and that while terms for stepfather and stepson/ stepdaughter are found fairly frequently on funerary inscriptions, the word noverca is exceedingly rare.6 The implication is that the deaths of stepmothers were not thought to merit the respectful and affectionate commemoration that other family members, even stepkin, received.7 Thus, the stereotype of the wicked stepmother was an ideal vehicle for expressing criticism of the imperial regime; its negative associations could be exploited against imperial women like Livia and Agrippina women who came to marriage to the emperor with sons of their own and who could be expected to foster their sons interests over those of their stepchildren.8
2. Watson 1995, 92134. 3. See Watson 1995, 149150, however, for examples that contradict the stereotype of the saeva noverca. 4. Even the linguistic evidence, as Gray-Fow 1988, 741, remarks, points in this direction: The word for stepmother was noverca, possibly Oscan in origin and having a fairly obvious connection with the Latin novus new. A stepmother was therefore denominated as someone new in the family, and her name suggests the connotation newcomer, or interloper. Her name in fact emphasized her intrusive aspect, unlike the Greek metruia (from meter mother) which stressed her role as a maternal surrogate. Cf. Noy 1991, 348: In contexts completely unrelated to the family, noverca and its adjective novercalis can be applied to anyone or anything hostile, cruel, or unfair. 5. Watson 1995, 100102. 6. Noy 1991, 348. 7. However, see Watson 1995, 157163, for other explanations of the dearth of the term noverca on funerary inscriptions. 8. See Imber 1997, 155158, for the manner in which Roman declamation furnished notions of good and bad motherhood that could be summoned up by the historiographical tradition.



In Livias case the apparently convenient deaths of all of Tiberiuss rivals for the succession to Augustus made her an easy mark for her enemies.9 This hostile account is reflected in the suspicions and insinuations we find leveled against her in the Tacitean narrative, often in the form of rumors and innuendo.10 As a noverca venefica (poisoning stepmother) Livia smoothes the way first for Tiberiuss adoption by Augustus and then his succession to the imperial power by removing the rightful heirs. In the account the Annals offers of Augustuss successive provisions for the succession, Livias sons, Tiberius and Drusus, are termed the princeps stepsons and are set against his grandsons, Gaius and Lucius Caesar. When the latter are soon carried off, it is as the result of either premature natural death or the treachery of their stepmother Livia (mors fato propera vel novercae Liviae dolus, 1.3.3). Their deaths and the subsequent banishment of Augustuss remaining grandson, Agrippa Postumusat the open urging of Livia, Tacitus says, rather than as previously through her motherly intrigues (1.3.34)leave Tiberius as the only remaining candidate for the succession, on whom everything now converges: adoption by the emperor and a share in the latters military command and tribunician powers. Further, Tacitus suggests that Livia, despite Tiberiuss apparently secure position, was suspected of ensuring his succession by encompassing the death of Augustus (et quidam scelus uxoris suspectabant, 1.5.1).11 Nor is she immune from suspicion when, upon the accession of Tiberius, orders for the execution of Agrippa Postumus are issued. The historian rejects Tiberiuss claim that Augustus had left orders that Agrippa was to be dispatched upon his own death and asserts instead that Tiberius and Livia were responsible: he out of fear; she from a stepmothers hatred (illum metu, hanc novercalibus odiis, 1.6.2).12 A few chapters later, when we are offered the comments of the bystanders at the funeral of Augustus, those hostile to the deceased emperor list among the criticisms of Augustuss private life, Livia disastrous for the nation as a mother, disastrous for the house of the Caesars as a stepmother (Livia gravis in rem publicam mater, gravis domui Caesarum noverca, 1.10.5). Once Tiberius has come to power, Livias role as stepmother is no longer so important. The Tacitean narrative concentrates instead on her as a domineering mother resented by her son. One exception is the mention of Livias stepmotherly

9. I here summarize the analysis of Watson 1995, 176192. [On the formation of the hostile tradition of Livia as mala noverca, see also Barrett 2001, 171175. Barrett notes (173) that Suetonius and other Latin sources before the fourth century CE make no mention of Livia in such a role. EK] 10. [For Tacituss use of innuendo, see Ryberg 1942, Shatzman 1974, Sullivan 1975, and Develin 1983. EK] 11. The motivation supplied is an unlikely rumor that Augustus had changed his mind about Agrippa Postumus. 12. [For Tacituss account of death of Agrippa Postumus, see Charlesworth 1923, 148152, who demonstrates that the whole thing is a farrago of improbabilities (Goodyear 1972, 131). EK].



enmity for the elder Agrippina (novercalibus Liviae in Agrippinam stimulis, 1.33.3), which will be recalled later to implicate Livia in the death of Germanicus in 19 CE.13 Tacitus makes a final reference to Livias status as stepmother in the obituary notice for Julia the Younger (Ann. 4.71.4), there noting that Livia helped sustain her step-granddaughter during twenty years of exile on the island of Trimerum off the coast of Apulia. Yet Livia remains a true saeva noverca. Even this admission of Livias compassion for Julia is undercut by the generalization on her treatment of her stepchildren: Although she had secretly ruined her stepchildren (privignos) while they flourished, she made a public display of her compassion for them in their ruin (Ann. 4.71.4).14 Although Agrippina might seem to fit the paradigm of the saeva noverca rather well in some respectsfor example, in working against her stepson Britannicus to further the interests of her sonin another, she falls short of it. It is not Agrippina, after all, who is said to be responsible for her stepson Britannicuss death, but Nero.15 Nevertheless, the Tacitean account will exploit Agrippinas role as stepmother right from the beginning in order to demonstrate that even before her marriage to the emperor, she was pursuing a long-term goal of placing Nero on the throne as Claudiuss successor.16 The prominence of the stepmother theme in the debate over a wife for Claudius at the opening of Book 12 has already been noted in Chapter 1. Two of the imperial freedmen raise the issue by stressing the unlikelihood of their candidates playing the role of wicked stepmother to Claudiuss children. Their arguments are far from persuasive, however, and the language they employ, especially the phrase novercalia odia (12.2.1), brings with it disturbing reminders of Livia as murderous stepmother. Further, as P. A. Watson so aptly observes,17 the historian has put into the mouth of Pallas the very argument that will give fuel to suspicions of Agrippinas following in the footsteps of her great-grandmother. For by stressing the fact that Agrippina will bring to the marriage the grandson of Germanicus (12.2.3), Tacitus alludes to the very circumstances that can produce a wicked stepmothera son from a previous marriage whose interests his mother will foster over those of her stepchildren. The saeva noverca theme emerges again in the next stages of Agrippinas program to place her son on the throne: Neros adoption by Claudius in 50 (Ann.

13. Watson 1995, 186188. 14. [Barrett 2001, 172173, notes that Livia was not, strictly speaking, the stepmother of Gaius and Lucius Caesar nor of Agrippina the Elder. Gaius and Lucius had been adopted by their grandfather, Augustus, while their mother was still an honorable member of the family; Livia was the stepmother of Julia, Agrippinas mother. EK] 15. I would take issue with Watsons 1995, 141146, 176, 209, idea that Agrippina is the only real-life paradigm for the wicked stepmother and his rejection of Livias representation as saeva noverca as fiction. The reasoning is circular since the evidence for the reality is essentially Tacitus, whose account in the case of Livia is dismissed as fiction. 16. Watson 1995, 192194. 17. Watson 1995, 194.



12.2526) and his premature assumption of the toga virilis in 51 (12.4142). In the account of the adoption, Agrippina is initially shown working through her advocate and lover, Pallas. Both the speech attributed to Pallas and the narratives description of his success explicitly invoke the step-relationships at the imperial court.18 Pallass case rests on Augustan precedents for adoption into the imperial family, especially the fact that the first princeps furthered the careers of his stepsons, Tiberius and Drusus, even while his own grandsons were his main supports. At the end, the narrator informs us that Claudius was convinced by this argument and that in adopting Domitius (henceforth Nero), he gave Agrippinas son precedence over his own (12.25.12). After Nero and Agrippina have achieved their goalsnot only the adoption but also the conferment of the title of Augusta on AgrippinaAgrippinas role as stepmother and Britannicuss as the victim of her efforts to promote her son are explicitly mentioned (12.26.12). Britannicus, whose loss of power was symbolized by the fact that little by little he was abandoned by everyone, even his servants, mocked his stepmothers very ill-timed attentions (perintempestiva novercae officia19), which he understood as false from start to finish. The manner in which this information is conveyedthe vagueness of the chronology for Britannicuss loss of influence and the lack of specificity about these officiaseems somewhat contrived and designed to anticipate Agrippinas attempts to diminish Britannicuss standing at the imperial court, events recounted in chapters 41 and 42.20 Neros early assumption of the toga virilis at the age of thirteen (announced at the beginning of chapter 41) is the next occasion for reporting several moves made by Agrippina to enhance the status of her son while diminishing that of her stepson Britannicus. First, at the Circensian games held to gain Nero popular support, Nero, attired in triumphal clothing, was distinguished from his stepbrother in the toga praetexta worn by children. This was the doing of Agrippina (as always, attuned to the way in which clothing could express fine distinctions of status), and the reader is privy to her thoughts: The people would see the one in imperial dress and the other in a boys garb and would thus deduce the destiny of each (12.41.2). Next she convinced Claudius to remove in succession the centurions and tribunes of the praetorian guard sympathetic to Britannicus, the freedmen who had remained loyal to him, and finally the two praetorian prefects (12.41.23 and 12.42.1). Agrippinas ability to exercise political influence through her husband is made more ominous by casting it in the light of her stepmotherly dislike of Britannicus. In the case of the freedmen, Agrippina is portrayed as using a recent occasion on which Britannicus slighted her son by
18. Sic apud divum Augustum, quamquam nepotibus subnixum, viguisse privignos; a Tiberio super propriam stirpem Germanicum adsumptum: se quoque accingeret iuvene partem curarum capessituro. his evictus triennio maiorum natu Domitium filio anteponit. . . . (12.25.12). 19. On this reading, see Furneaux II 92 and Koestermann III 152. 20. For the several parallels between 12.26 and 12.41, see Devillers 1994, 153154.



addressing him as Domitius rather than Nero to convince Claudius to banish or execute all of Britannicuss best tutors; they were replaced by others who had been hand picked by the stepmother to serve as a guard21 over her stepson (datosque a noverca custodiae eius imponit, 12.41.3). Likewise, a single prefect of her choosing, Afranius Burrus, replaced the two former prefects of the praetorian guard who she believed were loyal to the memory of Messalina and thus bound to the latters children (that is, Agrippinas stepchildren).22 Strife between Agrippina and the imperial freedman Narcissus provides another opportunity to comment on the formers role as stepmother. The two had clashed at the trial of Domitia Lepida, which Agrippina had engineered in order to remove a woman whom she regarded as a rival for influence over Nero. We find Narcissus, having failed to protect Lepida from the death penalty, bitterly attacking Agrippina in a conversation with his closest friends. He asserts that the entire imperial house is being torn apart by the intrigues of a stepmother (novercae insidiis) whose object is absolute power for herself (12.65.2). Not long thereafter, the Tacitean Agrippina takes the final step to secure the imperial power for her sonshe has Claudius murdered. Even here the historian brilliantly evokes the saeva noverca theme. According to Tacitus, as Nero emerged from the palace at noon on October 13, 54 CE, to be proclaimed emperor by the praetorian guard, some of the guardsmen momentarily hesitated, while looking around for Britannicus (12.69.1). The decree of divine honors and a magnificent funeral for Claudius are imputed to Agrippinas desire to emulate her great-grandmother Liviathe wicked stepmother par excellence (12.69.3). And the very last sentence of Book 12 is yet another reminder that Neros accession came at the expense of Agrippinas stepson Britannicus: Nevertheless, Claudius will was not read aloud in case the preference of the stepson to the son created a sense of unfairness and ill-will in the public mind (ne antepositius filio provignus iniuria et invidia animos vulgi turbaret, 12.69.3).23 Ironically, Tacitus will later have Agrippina, in the hearing of Nero, berate herself for depriving Claudiuss true heir (Britannicus) of the position, which Nero, an adopted intruder, now held as a result of the injustices committed by his mother (13.14.2).

21. See the discussion of custodia in Chapter 1. Cf. also Watson 1995, 195 n. 63: The word custodia suggests that, in contrast to his educatores, they are guarding him like prison-warders. 22. See the discussion of 12.2526 and 12.4143 in Mehl 1974, 130147, and Seif 1973, 193200. 23. See Watson 1995, 197, on the juxtaposition of filio and privignus: Tacitus purposely juxtaposes filius and privignus in this, the last sentence of the 12th book, in order to throw into relief the theme which had its commencement at the books beginning how the principate passed from Claudius into the hands of Nero through the machinations of Agrippina, Britannicus saeva noverca. Watson references Seif 1973, 140145, and Martin 1981, 158160, on this theme in Book 12.



Recent studies of the stereotype of the wicked stepmother in Roman literature suggest that its prominence was in part a response to social conditions, especially the fact that the frequency of remarriage among the Roman elite meant that families with stepmothers were quite common.24 Such step-familial arrangements must have brought with them psychological and emotional strains as step-relatives struggled to cope with a new and challenging situation. The stepmother seems to have been made the scapegoat for stepfamily conflicts in general and especially for fears regarding the inheritance prospects of children whose father remarried. Indeed, the provisions of Roman inheritance law worked to the detriment of the children of a fathers first marriage.25 It is no wonder, then, that the stereotype of the saeva noverca in Roman literature centers almost always on intrigues employed by the stepmother to diminish the inheritance prospects of her stepchildren in favor of her own children. When the paradigm of the stepmother who works to disinherit her stepchildren is applied to the imperial situation, the inheritance in question is the empire and the imperial power itself. Moreover, it is important to realize, as Watson astutely suggests, that the saeva noverca of Roman literature and rhetoric is a negative mother, one who is made the site of stepfamilial dysfunction. Thus, as in Roman literature the stepmother is the symbol of dysfunction in the Roman family, so the Agrippinaand Livia before herof the literary sources becomes a symbol of dysfunction in the state.

II. DUX FEMINA One of the most prominent constructions of Agrippina in the literary tradition is as the dux femina [commander woman], defined by Santoro LHoir as the stereotype of the femina who acts as dux or who attempts to exercise imperium.26 The stereotype is not a Tacitean invention. The phrase dux femina itself is first employed by Virgil in his description of Dido in Book 1.346 of the Aeneid. In that context, the words are not particularly pejorative, even though the figure of Dido in the Aeneid might at times call up a much more threatening image, that of Cleopatra. The stereotype, if not the words, certainly goes back to Ciceros Clodia. More immediate models for Tacitus may have been Seneca the Youngers Phaedra and Plutarchs Fulvia and Cleopatra.27 In the Agricola and Annals, this rhetorical topos of the dux femina is employed for barbarian queens (duces feminae) who actually lead armies or exercise po-

24. Noy 1991, 350 ff.; Watson 1995, 150157. Stepmothers more so than stepfathers since after a divorce children usually remained with the father. 25. Watson 1995, 151152. 26. Santoro LHoir 1994, 6. 27. Santoro LHoir 1994, 1724.



litical power in their own right.28 The Tacitean account of the Julio-Claudian dynasty also constructs the women of the imperial dynasty who attempt to usurp masculine power as duces feminae. What facilitates this transference of the rhetorical topos from those who are literally duces feminae to Agrippina and her predecessors who are represented as aspiring to imperium is the effective evocation in the Tacitean narrative of similarities between the two groups. Thus, although the imperial women are not depicted as commanders of armies, their inappropriate involvement in military matters is emphasized. Such is the case with Agrippinas mother, who had accompanied Germanicus to the Rhine in 14 16 CE. At the conclusion of the German campaigns of 15 CE, panic broke out in the Roman camp as the result of a rumor that the Roman troops returning with Aulus Caecina had been destroyed and that a hostile German force under Arminius was about to invade Gaul; there were some who wanted to cut the enemy off by destroying the bridge over the Rhine at Vetera. The destruction of the bridge, however, would also have cut off the returning Roman army. It was only Agrippinas firm action in preventing the bridges destruction, Tacitus tells us, that averted a military disgrace. The narrative of this event makes explicit appeal to the rhetorical topos of the dux femina by terming Agrippina a great-hearted woman (femina ingens animi) who during this time assumed the duties of a general (munia ducis per eos dies induit, 1.69.1), distributing clothing to the needy and dressings to the wounded.29 The construction placed on these activities by Tiberius (whether or not this view was shared by the historian himself) clarifies the extent to which Agrippinas behavior might be considered transgressive: Nothing was left for the generals (imperatoribus) when a woman (femina) inspected the maniples, approached the standards and planned to distribute largess (1.69.4). When Caecina Severus in 21 CE proposed to the senate that wives should be prohibited from accompanying their husbands to the provinces, he pointed out the various ways in which women were corrupting influences abroad (Ann. 3.33). One of these was their familiarity with the common soldiers and their officers, and he cited the recent example of a woman who had presided at the exercises of the cohorts and the maneuvers of the legions (praesedisse nuper feminam exercitio cohortium, decursu legionum, 3.33.3). Caecina here alludes to Plancina, who accompanied her husband, Cn. Calpurnius Piso, to his province upon his appointment by Tiberius to the governorship of Syria. The Tacitean account shows Piso and Plancina, after their arrival in Syria, corrupting the discipline and loyalty of the legions. Plancina, it is said, failed to keep herself within the proper limits of female behavior (intra decora feminis): she attended military exercises and maneuvers

28. Boudicca and the female leader of the Brigantes are termed feminae duces (Agr. 16.1, 31.4; cf. Ann. 14.35.1: Boudicca . . . solitum quidem Britannis feminarum ductu bellare testabatur). For further discussion, see Santoro LHoir 1994, 612. 29. See Goodyear 1981, 124129.



(exercitio equitum, decursibus cohortium interesse), hurled insults at Germanicus and Agrippina, and even found support among some of the good soldiers (2.55.6).30 For Agrippina the Youngers construction as a dux femina, a woman who aspires to both military and political power, the locus classicus is Annals There in language highly reminiscent of that employed by Caecina in 3.33.3, an imputation of inappropriate female interference in military matters is directed at Agrippina: novum sane et moribus veterum insolitum, feminam signis Romanis praesidere: ipsa semet parti a maioribus suis imperii sociam ferebat (It was an innovation certainly and one without precedent in ancient customthat a woman should sit in state before Roman standards; it was an advertisement of her claim to a partnership in the empire which her ancestors had created.). The reference, as the reader will recall,32 is to the fact that Agrippina, sitting on a raised platform (a suggestus33) of her own near Claudius, had received the obeisance of the captured British chieftain Caratacus and his family in the same terms in which it had been paid to the emperor. The first part of the comment, by means of verbal echoes, assimilates Agrippinas behavior to that of her mother and Plancina even though, as remarked earlier, she cannot be said to have interfered in military affairs directly, as the elder Agrippina and Plancina are said to have done. While the words praesedisse feminam, in the case of Plancina, refer to her conducting the exercises and maneuvers of the Roman army in Syria, as a commander or provincial governor would, the use of the same phrase in reference to Agrippina imports a military context into what is essentially a ceremonial function. Without the reminiscence of Plancina, we would understand by the words simply that Agrippina sat in state before Roman standards as she witnessed a quasi-triumphal celebration of victory over a foreign prince. But the historian goes even further. It is not until the very end of the passage that we are aware that Agrippina was present at
30. Caecinas attack on Plancina here is especially fitting given the fact that during the German campaigns of 15 and 16 CE he had been a legate of Germanicus and had remained a supporter of the latters widow, Agrippina. For it was widely rumored, according to the Tacitean account, that Piso and Plancina had been sent out to Syria expressly to keep Germanicus under control and that they were ultimately responsible for Germanicuss death. Ironically, Caecinas remarks about womens interference in military affairs in the provinces were also applicable to the elder Agrippinas activities on the Rhine. 31. Agrippina, in fact, seems to me to fit the requirements of a dux femina (e.g., Cleopatra, Fulvia, or even Dido) far better than Livia does (pace Santoro LHoir 1994, 1825). It is true that the latter is portrayed as a powerful influence behind the throne, one who employs both persuasion and deceit to achieve the transfer of political power to Tiberius, but interference in military affairs is not imputed to her; she is not depicted as working openly and in public for her aims, nor is her aim imperium for herself. When Agrippina is assimilated to her, it is as saeva noverca and mater impotens. Nor is Livia presented as transgressing gender roles. 32. See the discussion of this passage in Chapter 1. 33. I have not found any evidence for Santoro LHoirs 1994, 12, 22, view that the suggestus has specifically military associations.



this public ceremony. Her presence provides a certain amount of shock value for the reader, but, in addition, the detail that she was sitting on anotherthat is, her ownsuggestus, from where she too received the homage of Caratacus and his family, is insinuated into Tacituss account of this event in the same way that it is suggested that Agrippina insinuated herself into the ceremony. The manner of presentation thus paves the way for the historians interpretation of Agrippinas presence and position at the ceremony as an advertisement of herself as a partner in the imperial power won by her ancestors. Tacituss presentation of Agrippina in this incident plays on the oxymoronic quality of the dux femina stereotype: women are neither real commanders of troops nor are they supposed to attain political power. To do so would violate the canons of the appropriate roles and behavior for men and women in Roman society. Earlier in the Annals we are told that Tiberius rejected the very notion of his mother as a partner in his rule (quam dominationis sociam aspernabatur, 4.57.3) even though he had received his power from her hands. Agrippinas behavior in the Caratacus incident would suggest that Claudius did not object to the Augustas assumption of such a political role or that he did not manage to do so successfully.34 Certainly the role of socia imperii is not what Vitellius had in mind when he argued before the senate that the emperor needed a wife who would be his partner in good times and bad (prosperis dubiisque sociam, 12.5.3)! But it is not merely that Agrippina transgresses gender boundaries in assuming or aspiring to roles that were considered closed to women. She is figured, especially in Tacitus, with both masculine and feminine qualities or attributes. A relatively subtle indication of this is the application to Agrippina, as to her mother, of the adjective atrox, an attribute normally associated with soldiers in battle and emphasizing their forceful display of virtus. Seemingly inappropriate when applied to Agrippina, it underlines the way in which she has transferred the fierceness necessary for success on the battlefield to the political arena in her pursuit of what are regarded as exclusively masculine goals. In another instance, clothing, which is an important marker of gender, as well as of rank and status in Roman society, emphasized Agrippinas masculine pretensions. In 52 CE Claudius staged a naval battle on the Fucine Lake to make a display of the tunnel that had been completed between the lake and the Liris River. Huge crowds flocked to the spectacle, which Claudius and Agrippina presided over (praesedere): he in a splendid military cloak (paludamentum); she in a mantle (chlamys) of cloth of gold (Ann. 12.56.3).35 There is no subtlety at all in Tacituss description of Agrippinas dominance over Roman society in the aftermath of her marriage to Claudius; it is termed a quasi virile servitium. The words servitium and dominatio (which is Agrippinas
34. See the discussion of this passage in Chapter 1 for the possibilitynot admitted by Tacitusthat Agrippinas conspicuous presence at the ceremony served Claudiuss interests. 35. See Chapter 1.



aim) both suggest that, as an influential figure in the state, Agrippina exercised the same kind of absolute power that a masculine head of household exercises over his slave familia. Such terms denote illegitimate political power and would be pejorative enough if used in reference to a man.36 They carry yet more opprobrium when applied to a woman, an outsider in the political process.

III. SEXUAL TRANSGRESSOR The literary tradition is consistent in its depiction of Agrippina as a transgressor of sexual morality. Incest figures prominently in her story. Initially the victim of her brother, the emperor Gaius, who not only had incestuous relations with his sisters but also regularly prostituted them to his own male lovers,37 Agrippina is soon shown taking the initiative,38 for explicitly political ends: she seduced her uncle Claudius into an incestuous marriage in order to gain power for herself and her son;39 later, she offered herself to her son in order to retain it.40 Adultery, too, is employed by Agrippina as a political tool, and her name is linked in adulterous affairs with various influential men: her brother-in-law Marcus Lepidus, Gaiuss heir-apparent;41 Ofonius Tigellinus, who later held two of the most important equestrian posts under Nero;42 the imperial freedman Pallas;43 the philosopher and imperial adviser Seneca;44 and Faenius Rufus, prefect of the praetorian
36. Benario 1964, 105. 37. Suet. Gaius 24.1 and 24.3; cf. Suet. Gaius 36.1; Dio 59.3.6, 59.11.1, 59.22.6, and 59.26.5; Jos. AJ 19.204. For the dubiousness of this allegation, see Barrett 1996, 54. 38. Even before this, Agrippina is portrayed as taking the initiative of choosing her own husband. She attempted to lure the future emperor Galba, already married, into marriage with her and was only dissuaded when Galbas mother (in the company of Roman matronae) publicly rebuked her: Suet. Galba 5.1. For further discussion, see Chapter 1. 39. Ann. 12.3.1 and 14.2.2; cf. Suet. Claudius 26.3. 40. Ann. 14.2.1 and cf. 13.13.2; Dio 61.11.3. Both authors initially report the version of the story that made Agrippina the instigator of this relationship, but neither will vouch for the storys authenticity: cf. Ann. 14.2.2 and Dio 61.11.4. Suetonius (Nero 28.2) appears to follow Fabius Rusticus in making Nero the initiator, but such may have been demanded by the biographical presentation: cf. Bradley 1978, 163. 41. Ann. 14.2.2; Suet. Gaius 24.3; and Dio 59.22.69. 42. Dio 59.23.9 and Schol. Juv. 1.155. Tigellinus was appointed praefectus vigilum (sometime between 55 and 62 CE: cf. Roper 1979, 348) and praefectus praetorio in 62 (Ann. 14.51.2). 43. Ann. 12.25.1, 12.65.2, and 14.2.2; Schol. Juv. 1.109. 44. Dio 61.10.1. The language is less specific, however, in the corresponding passage in Tacitus (13.42.3), where the historian gives an account of the charges leveled against Seneca by P. Suillius: there Seneca is alleged to have been an adulterer of Germanicuss house (illum domus eius adulterium fuisse) and to have corrupted the bedrooms of imperial princesses (corrumpere cubicula principum feminarum). Most likely, Suillius is here referring to Senecas alleged illicit relations with Agrippinas sister, Julia Livilla, for which he was exiled under Claudius. If Suillius was making a veiled reference to Seneca as Agrippinas lover, this was not a charge the Tacitean narrative is prepared to confirm.



guard.45 Indeed, the Tacitean narrative plays on the consistency of the tradition about Agrippinas sexual mores to produce a history of her transgressive sexual behavior as an explanation for the belief that Agrippina instigated an incestuous relationship with her son (14.2.2): [It was believed that Agrippina was the instigator] whether it was because Agrippina really did intend such a monstrous wickedness (tantum immanitatis) or perhaps the contemplation of a new sexual depravity (novae libidinis meditatio) seemed quite believable in a woman who, in her earliest years had committed adultery (stuprum) with Lepidus in the hope of gaining power (spe dominationis), who, through the same ambition (pari cupidine), had lowered herself to serve Pallas desires (usque ad libita Pallantis provoluta), and who had been trained for every kind of disgrace by marriage to her uncle. Of course, Agrippina is not the only Julio-Claudian woman to whom sexual immorality (impudicitia) is imputed, nor is hers necessarily the first name that would come to mind when the topic of female sexual misconduct within the imperial family is raised.46 But Agrippinas profile as sexual transgressor is somewhat different from that of her predecessors in sexual crime. On the one hand, a large role in her story is played by incestuous relations with a brother, husband, and son, while incest plays no role at all in that of Julia or Messalina; on the other hand, while these imperial women are constructed not only as adulteresses but also as prostitutes, Agrippina is not. Are these differences significant, and do they provide clues, to paraphrase Marilyn Skinner,47 as to what ideological messages are encoded in the literary representation of Agrippinas deviant sexuality? It has often been remarked that female sexual misconduct and transgressive politics go together in Roman historical texts. By placing the representation of Agrippina in the larger context of female sexual misconduct at the imperial court we will be in a better position to understand why the imputation of an imperial womans sexual immorality in particular might be an effective means of political criticism. It could be objected that Agrippina simply was the adulterous and incestuous woman the literary tradition says she was and that there is no reason to search for the figurative or ideological meanings embedded in the charges of sexual misconduct made against her. Let me reply by pointing to some of the grounds for doubting the historical reliability of such charges and by considering their possible origins. That the consistency of the tradition on Agrippinas sexual mores is no guarantee of its reliability is suggested by the ancient evidence itself.48 Indeed, the very same sources that allege various sexual transgressions against Agrippina also
45. Ann. 15.50.3. 46. The notorious cases of Augustuss daughter Julia and Messalina, the wife of Claudius, would probably come to mind more readily. 47. Skinner 1997, 13. 48. See Richlin 1981 for the various categories of evidence on adultery and how each depicts Roman sexual attitudes.



attest how easily formal accusations of incest or adultery could be manufactured in order to achieve the removal of a political opponent or rival. In Tacituss account, for example, Agrippina herself, working through her agent Vitellius, employed allegations of incest against L. Junius Silanus and his sister Junia Calvina in 48 CE. The historian pronounces the brother and sister guilty only of unguarded love (incustoditus amor), not incest (12.4.2), and makes it clear that the charge of incest stemmed from the fact that Silanus stood in the way of the plan to betroth Agrippinas son to Claudiuss daughter (Ann. 12.4.12; cf. 16.8.12).49 The difficulty of substantiating such allegations of sexual misconduct is also acknowledged by the ancient sources. Dio, like Tacitus in the passage quoted above (Ann. 14.2.2), refuses to be accountable for the reliability of the story of the incestuous relationship between Agrippina and Nero: Agrippina, therefore, fearing that Nero would marry [Poppaea] (for he was now beginning to entertain a mad passion for her), ventured upon a most unholy course. As if it were not notoriety enough for her that she had used her blandishments and immodest looks and kisses to seduce her uncle Claudius, she undertook to enslave even Nero in similar fashion. Whether this actually occurred, now, or whether it was invented to fit their character, I am not sure. (Dio 61.11.34, Loeb translation).50 If anything, Dios account suggests that the story is untrue, for he goes on to relate that Nero had a mistress who resembled Agrippina and that when Nero toyed with her or showed her off to others, he would say that he was having sexual relations with his mother.51 Furthermore, the imputations of incest, adultery, and other sexual transgressions that are leveled against Agrippina in the Tacitean narrative were part of the stock in trade of political invective.52 Such insinuations of sexual misconduct were

49. Equally instructive is the Tacitean account of the case contrived in 62 CE against Neros wife Octavia in order to furnish grounds for the emperor to divorce her. As a result of a false charge of adultery, Octavia was relegated to the island of Pandateria and soon after executed (Ann. 14.6064). See Meise 1969, 204215, and Bauman 1974, 188 190, for detailed discussions of the divorce, exile and execution of Octavia. 50. See also Dio 61.8.5 under the year 55 CE: Nearly everything, to be sure, that he and his mother said to each other or that they did each day was reported outside the palace, yet it did not all reach the public, and hence various conjectures were made and various stories circulated. For, in view of the depravity and lewdness of the pair, everything that could conceivably happen was noised abroad as having actually taken place, and reports possessing any credibility were believed as true (Loeb translation). 51. Bradley 1978, 162163. 52. Examples are the Ciceronian attacks on Antonys homosexuality (Cic. Phil. 2.44 47) and Clodiuss incestuous relations with his sisters (Cic. Cael. 32, 36, 78; Pis. 28; Sest. 16; cf. Catul. 79 and Cic. Q fr. 2.3.2). See Richlin 1992, 96104, for the use of sexual humor in political invective and propaganda and Nisbet 1961, 192197, for some of the



regularly employed to denigrate the character of the person under attack without any expectation that the audience would necessarily find the charges credible. Many of the allegations against Agrippina in the literary sources must have had their origin, as T. A. Dorey suggests, in the hostile propaganda circulated by her political opponents or by the enemies of the regime that she represented.53 Such charges could also serve the interests of the emperor or other members of the imperial family. Tacitus provides an example when he reports that after the suicide of Agrippina the Elder, Tiberius indulged in the foulest vilification of her, accusing her of impudicitia and of adultery with Asinius Gallus, whose death had driven her to take her own life (Ann. 6.25.2). Tiberiuss vilification of the elder Agrippina appears to have been an attempt to deflect criticism of him over her death.54 One can well imagine that some of the intimations of the younger Agrippinas immorality had a similar origin. There were certainly several periods in Agrippinas life when she would have been the target of violently hostile propaganda by the imperial house itselffor example, during her banishment by Caligula or after Agrippinas break with Nero in 55 and her murder in 59.55 The probable origin of the allegations of sexual misconduct against Agrippina in hostile propaganda would make any attempt to determine the truth of the charges a futile, if not dangerous, undertaking. My interest, here, in any case, is not in the historical reliability of the allegations made against Agrippina but in the messages that were produced by the representation of Agrippina as sexual transgressor. What were the ideological associations of female sexual impropriety, especially within the imperial family, and how might these have served the interests of the literary tradition on Agrippina?

The Incestuous Woman The emphatic position of incest in Agrippinas profile as sexual transgressor marks her off from her predecessors in sexual crime who are portrayed as adulteresses or as sexually promiscuous but not as engaging in incestuous behavior. The construction of Agrippina as incestuous woman, in fact, acts as a structural device in the Tacitean narrative. Allegations of incestuous behavior frame the historians account of Agrippinas rise and fall from power. At the beginning of Annals 12,

stock themes of Roman invective. Koster 1980, 97354, provides an account of the development of Roman invective and a detailed analysis of prose and poetic examples. 53. Dorey 1961, 6. See Vinson 1989 for a study of the way in which invective topoi are employed to discredit an imperial regime. 54. Tacitus has Tiberius point out to the senate that Agrippina and Sejanus had died on the same date but had not suffered the same fate: he congratulated himself for not having her strangled or thrown down the Gemonian steps, as Sejanus had beenfor which the senate, with its typical sycophancy, decreed a thanksgiving (Ann. 6.25.3; cf. Suet. Tiberius 53.2). 55. Dorey 1961, 12. See Ann. 14.10.311.2 for the conscious rewriting of history after Agrippinas murder.



we find Agrippina setting her sights on obtaining political influence through a marital union with Claudius; this she accomplished by using the excuse of their familial connection to make frequent visits to the palace and to entice the emperor into an incestuous relationship with her (12.3.1 and 12.5.1). Early in Neros reign, however, Agrippinas influence over the son whom she had put into power and the political power she exercised by virtue of her relationship to him had begun to decline. At the opening of Annals 14, we are presented with an Agrippina so desperate to retain power that, on more than one occasion, she offered herself, all decked out and ready for incest, to her drunken son (14.2.1). These scenes present a woman so ambitious for political power that she is prepared to employ even unholy means to obtain and hold onto it. Moreover, the incestuous marriage of Claudius and Agrippina is itself a kind of leitmotif that runs through the Claudian and Neronian books of the Annals. The nuptiae incestae of Claudius and Agrippina is already anticipated at the beginning of the historians account of another fateful marriagethat between Messalina and Gaius Silius at the conclusion of Book 11: And this was the end of [Claudiuss] ignorance in regard to the affairs of his own house; not long afterwards he was compelled to note and punish his wifes sexual crimes, but as a result he would soon burn with desire for an incestuous union (ut deinde ardesceret in nuptias incestas, 11.25.8). Just as Claudiuss own desire for an incestuous marriage to Agrippina is somehow linked to the emperors knowledge and punishment of Messalinas crimes (11.25.8), so Agrippinas marriage to her uncle serves as a training ground for her later incestuous advances to her son at the beginning of Book 14 (2.2). What associations would have attached themselves to Agrippinas representation as an incestuous woman? J. H. Liebeschuetz believes that the Romans considered incestum, which comprises both marriage between close relatives56 and sexual relations between them, as a violation of divine and human law.57 He suggests that one indication of the horror with which the Romans viewed incest is the fact that slaves could be tortured to give evidence against masters charged with incest; the only other charge that permitted the evidence of slaves was treason.58 In de Legibus, Cicero includes a law against incest among his leges de religione: The pontiffs shall inflict capital punishment on those guilty of incest

56. A legal marriage could not be contracted between ascendants and descendants, between brothers and sisters, between aunts and nephews, and, up to 49 CE when a law was passed allowing marriage between a man and his brothers daughter, between uncles and nieces. Originally marriages between second cousins were forbidden, but by the first century BCE, even marriage between first cousins had become customary. See further Corbett [1930] 1979, 4751, and Treggiari 1991, 3739. 57. Liebeschuetz 1979, 4143. 58. Liebeschuetz 1979, 42 n. 1, citing evidence from Garnsey 1970, 215 n. 5. See also Bauman 1974, 44.



(2.22, tr. Keyes).59 That Cicero a few chapters later assumes there is no need to explain or justify the provisions of his law (2.41) is a mark of the degree to which incest was regarded as a universally understood taboo, the violation of which might threaten the security of the state. It is not surprising that Tacitus glosses Agrippinas sexual advances toward Nero as such a monstrous wickedness (tantum immanitatis, 14.2.2). To be guilty of incest was to be impure, to pollute (another meaning of incestum). Moreover, this pollution could have dangerous consequences for the state. In the Tacitean account, Claudius and Agrippina fear that if they were to disregard the prohibition of marriage between an uncle and niece, it would bring retribution on the state (ne in malum publicum erumperet, 12.5.1); only the passage of a senatorial decree legalizing marital unions between a man and his brothers daughter made the marriage possible (12.5.1 and 12.7.2).60 A woman represented as incestuous, then, was understood to have violated a strongly held religious and social taboo: to have transgressed a fundamental limit placed on human conduct. The impurity of her behavior threatened to expose the Roman state to divine vengeance. Agrippinas status as an incesta thus not only marks important moments in the Tacitean narrative but also, like her representation as adulteress to which I now turn, serves as a powerful metaphor for her destructive effect on the Roman state.

59. Originally, the punishment for incest was death. In the imperial period, the usual penalty for incest was relegation to an island; when adultery was also involved, the severer penalty of deportation was imposed (see Ebner 1998, 964, and Gardner 1986, 36 37). There is no scholarly agreement on whether incest was punished under the Augustan law on adultery or a separate statute: see the literature cited in McGinn 1998, 140 n. 2. 60. Cf. also the responses to the accusation of incest against L. Junius Silanus and his sister Junia Calvina: Silanus was immediately removed from the senatorial roll and compelled to resign his praetorship on the very last day of his term; later Claudius as Pontifex Maximus ordered the pontiffs to perform expiatory sacrifices based on rites instituted by King Tullus Hostilius (12.4.3 and 12.8.1). Behind the spin that the Tacitean narrative places on the coincidence of these events and Claudiuss own marriage to Agrippina, one can discern in these responses a concern to avert any kind of public disaster. The ancient sources (e.g., Tac. Ann. 12.8.1 and Suet.Claudius 39.2) make much of Claudiuss ineptness in calling attention to his own incestuous relationship with Agrippina by his actions against Silanus and by the manner in which he referred to Agrippina in speeches as his daughter or niece. Unlike those modern readers who are puzzled by Claudiuss apparent inconsistency in punishing Silanus for incest at the very moment he was entering on a questionable marriage himself, Green (1998) proposes (unconvincingly, to my mind) that Claudius and Agrippina intentionally advertised their marriage as incestuouseither (1) to develop the notion of a divine Caesarian family based on the Ptolemaic precedent of brother/sister marriages or (2) to celebrate, under the cover of expiatory rites, a hypothetical old ritual established by Servius Tullius to validate regnum at Rome.



The Adulterous Woman Adultery, here broadly defined as a sexual relationship with a married woman or with an unmarried woman of respectable social status,61 was made a criminal offense by the Augustan legislation on adultery (the lex Iulia de adulteriis coercendis) of 18 BCE. With the Augustan law, behavior that had been considered a private matter and had been handled within the family became subject to the intervention of the state. The criminal penalties to which a convicted adulterous pair were liable included their relegation to separate islands and the confiscation of a portion of their property (one-third in the case of the woman, one-half in the case of her lover; the woman also forfeited half of her dowry). The husband of a woman convicted of adultery was compelled to divorce her or be liable to prosecution for lenocinium (pandering). The woman was forbidden to remarry.62 A convicted adulteress belonged to the category of disgraced persons (prostitutes, procuresses, actresses, and convicted criminals) who could not contract a legitimate marriage with a free citizen.63 Thus, as Thomas McGinn has aptly remarked, the Augustan statute lowered the status of the wife found guilty of adultery to that of the prostitute.64 This change of status was remarkably signified by a concomitant change in dress: the convicted adulteress was required to exchange the stola, the dress of the respectable Roman matrona, for the toga, the emblem of male Roman citizenship but also worn by female prostitutes.65 In turning to Agrippinas figuration as an adulterous woman, I begin by considering what ideological meanings are produced by the imputation of adultery to imperial women in general. Then we will be in a better position to appreciate the ways in which the representation of Agrippina both draws on these associations and activates others. At the most basic and obvious level, an imperial womans representation as an adulterous wife makes her a bad woman, one who has departed from the ideational norm for Roman matronae. Marital fidelity was, above all, the quality that marked the virtuous Roman womanan ideal that is evoked in sources as disparate as funerary inscriptions which foreground the female subjects castitas or pudicitia;66

61. Properly speaking, adulterium was confined to an extramarital relationship of a married woman, while a sexual relationship with an unmarried woman or widow constituted stuprum (Treggiari 1991, 262264, and McGinn 1998, 144). In fact, adulterium was a form of stuprum; both were covered under the adultery law. For the meaning of stuprum and the social assumptions underlying it in the Republic, see Fantham 1991, 269271. 62. For a fuller discussion of the provisions of the law, see Treggiari 1991, 277290; Edwards 1993, 3742; and McGinn 1998, 140147. 63. Treggiari 1991, 6165. 64. McGinn 1998, 147. 65. Edwards 1993, 40, and McGinn 1998, 156171. 66. For examples, see Lattimore 1962, 295296. In Senecas treatise, On Marriage (fragments of which are preserved in Jerome, adversus Iovinianum), pudicitia is termed



the historiographical tradition about Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi, that emphasized her status as an univiraa woman who remained faithful to her husband even after his death;67 and Roman declamation, which is preoccupied, if not obsessed, with exploring the disastrous consequences of a wife and mothers sexual freedom to father and sons.68 That the virtuous wife is defined by pudicitia is the assumption that underlies Juvenals Satire 6, a poetic version of a standard rhetorical set-piece on the theme of whether or not a man should marry;69 the speaker, in order to dissuade Postumus from marrying, dilates on the ubiquity of adultery. The materfamilias and the adulteress, then, are at opposite ends of the hierarchy of status for women.70 Just like a convicted adulteress, a woman to whom adultery has been imputed in the literary tradition has been demoted from her status of materfamilias. To impute sexual transgression to a female member of the imperial house, however, was more than to call into question her worthiness as materfamilias. Given the Roman assumptions about gender roles within the patriarchal Roman family and about the relation of the family to the state, the implication that an adulterous imperial womans status as materfamilias had been lost has important political ramifications. In Roman ideology, uncontrolled female sexuality is a sign of familial disorder, the responsibility for which clearly lay with the husband. In the properly functioning familial unit, it was the duty of the father/husband to maintain order in the household by controlling the sexuality of its female members. A husband unable to control the sexual behavior of his wife or daughter was marked as weak and unmasculine.71 When the family in question was the imperial family and the husband the emperor, the implications of the moral breach were far more telling. Unchecked sexual transgression in an imperial wifeemblematic of the emperors failure to guarantee order in his own householdimpugned not just the emperors masculinity but his political power. An imperial paterfamilias who could not maintain order in his own household could not be expected to maintain order when his sphere of responsibility was the entire state. Female sexual impropriety within the imperial house, then, clearly had political overtones. Allegations of such behavior struck at the heart of one of the justifications of imperial rule. Catherine Edwards has recently called attention to the symbolic significance of sexual misbehavior in a world in which a claim to moral

the virtue peculiar to a woman (adv. Iovin. 1.49); the passage is quoted and discussed in Treggiari 1991, 219220; cf. also 105106, 218219, 232233, and 236237. 67. For Cornelia as a univira, see Plut. Ti. Gracch. 1.25. Other sources on Cornelia include Cic. Brut. 211, Sen. Helv. 16.6, Quint. Inst. 1.1.6, Tac. Dial. 28.45, and Plut. C. Gracch. 4 and 19. On the univira, see Treggiari 1991, 233236. 68. Imber 1997, 160. 69. Braund 1992, 71. 70. McGinn 1998, 151153. 71. Edwards 1993, 54, 57.



reform is a method of legitimizing ones own power. The Augustan moral legislation, whatever its other aims, Edwards argues, played an essential role in establishing the credentials of the new regime by evoking the connection in Roman thought between female sexual license and the breakdown of order in the late Republic: The emperor may be seen as making a claim, in accordance with the conventions of Roman invective, that the Roman republic failed because its governing class was composed of men who were not men enough to control their own wives.72 One of the sites in which the symbolic importance of Augustuss selfpresentation as a moral reformer manifests itself is the advertisement of the emperors moral reforms in the Res Gestae: By new laws passed on my proposal I brought back into use many exemplary practices of our ancestors which were disappearing in our time, and in many ways I myself transmitted exemplary practices to posterity for their imitation (8.5, tr. Brunt and Moore). The emperor clearly saw himself and his family as a model for the traditional Roman values he was attempting to reassert and encourage by his social legislation. A series of anecdotes in Suetoniuss Augustus is revealing. The biographer offers a fascinating description of Augustus as a paterfamilias who held the women of his household to a traditional, even an old-fashioned, way of life. The disciplina that Augustus imposed on his daughter Julia (and later on her daughters, Julia and Agrippina) even included training in spinning and weaving, the arts of the respectable Roman matron (Augustus 64.2). Suetonius later adds the detail that Augustuss clothes were made for him by all the women of his householdhis sister, wife, daughter, and granddaughters (Augustus 73). One wonders if the same could be said of many other aristocratic households in Augustan Rome. Julia and her daughters, moreover, were forbidden to say or do anything except openly presumably an injunction against engaging in gossip and intrigueand their conduct was to be such that it would cause no embarrassment if included in the acta diurna, the daily public bulletin of official news.73 Suetonius also notes that the princeps was very strict in keeping his daughter and granddaughters from meeting strangers (Suet. Augustus 64.2).74 As Suetonius well knew, since he juxtaposes the above information with a notice of the banishment of the two Julias for adultery (Augustus 65.1), the gap between the ideal and real life could be devastating. An emperor, whether Augustus or one of his successors, could hardly claim to be a guarantor of the moral order if he could not control female sexual license in his own household. It is even worse when the offending party is an imperial woman who is said to engage in sexual relationships with men of low social status, as is alleged in the cases of Messalina
72. Edwards 1993, 47. 73. Carter 1982, 184, identifies the diurni commentarii of the text with the acta diurna. 74. It is tempting to speculate about how these intimate details of Augustuss own household entered the historical record. Did Augustus himself employ them on some occasion when he spoke publicly about the need for a return to traditional values? Cf. Dio 54.16.45 for such a context.



and the actor Mnester (Dio 60.22.5) or Agrippina and the imperial freedman Pallas (Ann. 12.25.1, 12.65.2, and 14.2.2). This constituted a breach of the social hierarchy in which the senatorial and equestrian orders had so much invested and which it was the duty of the emperor to protect.75 The potential for the sexual transgressions of an imperial woman to cause damage to an emperors moral and political standing was only intensified by the increasing tendency to view the imperial family and the state as synonymous. Within Roman tradition there had long existed a metonymical relationship between the family as an institution and the state. It has been argued that the Romans conceived of the state as a family and that several fundamental Roman political institutions took their inspiration from the potestas of the paterfamilias.76 The idea that the family was a microcosm of the state and that the welfare of the latter depended on the integrity of the former is implied in such foundational myths as the Lucretia story, in which the sexual violation of a wife/daughter is constructed as an attack on the state, and this idea is explicit in Dionysius of Halicarnassuss discussion of Romuluss law on marriage (Ant. Rom. 2.2426.1).77 By the end of Augustuss reign, an identification between one family, that of the emperor, and the state can be discerned.78 The iconography of the Ara Pacis Augustae evinces the new ideology that identifies the fortunes of the state with those of the imperial family: The altars inclusion of mortal women in a depiction of a state ceremony represented an iconographic revolution in the sphere of Roman historical relief. For the first time women and children were seen as active participants in a public religious ceremony, involved as the near equals of their male partners. By mingling the priests, senators, and members of the JulioClaudian clan together, the frieze designers brought into the public realm a social institutionthe familythat had traditionally been confined to the private sphere. In a sense Augustus family became synonymous with the state itself, an association encouraged by the emperor because it paved the way for public acceptance of a designated family member as his successor.79 Given this identification between the family of the emperor and the state, the sexual impropriety of an imperial woman could be thought of as betokening the same kind of disastrous consequences for the Roman state as did the impudicitia of a Vestal Virgin.80 Such behavior within the emperors own household gave the lie to imperial pretensions to moral leadership in the state. To call attention to such
75. Edwards 1993, 5253. 76. Lacey 1986. 77. On the Dionysius passage, see Treggiari 1991, 211212. 78. Severy 2003. 79. Bartman 1999, 88. 80. Some imperial women had a connection with the Vestal Virgins by virtue of their assumption of honors held by the Vestals, such as release from tutela, a lictor, or special seats in the theater (Ann. 1.14.2; Dio 49.38.1 and 56.46.2).



behavior was essentially to take a page out of Augustuss book and to hold the emperor responsible for the same kind of moral decline that had led to the downfall of the Republic. The allegation of adultery against an imperial woman might also take on a more overtly political cast and mark her as treasonous. Because it was through the women of the imperial house that marital links within the imperial family and to other aristocratic families were effected, an adulterous liaison with a close female relative of the princeps could be interpreted as an attempt to undermine the provision for the imperial succession or worse. According to Tacitus, during the trials of his daughter and granddaughter, the two Julias, for adultery, Augustus named their offenses as sacrilege and treason: By calling the common offense of misbehavior between men and women by the severe name of sacrilege and treason, he exceeded the clementia of our ancestors and his own laws (Ann. 3.24.2). Tacituss statement is not evidence for the frequently expressed view that in cases of this sort a charge of adultery was a cover for the real crime, conspiracy against the emperor.81 Rather, the point is that Augustus treated any adulterous relationship his daughter or granddaughter had as subversive in itself.82 This is not to deny that such adulterous liaisons sometimes created suspicions of more overtly treasonous activities. It was this connection between adultery and subversive activity that Gaius was able to play on, according to Suetonius, when, at the trial of Marcus Lepidus in 39 CE, he was able to condemn his sisters Agrippina and Julia Livilla as adulteresses and complicit in a plot against him (Suet. Gaius 24.3). Thus far I have considered the ideological import of female sexual impropriety within the imperial family in rather general terms. It is time to turn our attention to Agrippina herself. Clearly the construction of Agrippina in the literary tradition partakes of the paradigms of the sexually transgressive woman just elaborated. Like other imperial women, especially Messalina, whose name is synonymous with sexual license and depravity, the figure of Agrippina as sexual transgressor might be useful as a metaphor for the political weakness of the emperor and the illegitimacy of his claim to power. Book 12 of the Annals picks up right where Book 11 had left off in terms of highlighting the ineffectiveness of Claudius, an emperor who needed to be under the control of a wife (Claudio . . . coniugum imperiis obnoxio, 12.1.1).83 But, as remarked earlier, the figuration of Agrippina as sexually transgressive is in important respects different from that of Messalina, her immediate predecessor in sexual improprieties. The first is that Agrippina is more infamous in the
81. The case of Augustuss daughter Julia has often been cited as support for this view, but the evidence for a conspiracy against Augustus is not as strong as once supposed: see Ferrill 1980; Raaflaub and Samons 1990, 428430; and Bauman 1992, 108119. 82. See the discussion of this difficult Tacitean passage in Woodman and Martin 1996, 225229. This is not to deny that charges of treason (maiestas) and adultery were sometimes linked (for examples, see Richlin 1981, 387388, and Marshall 1990, 336338 and 342351) or that the charge of adultery was sometimes substituted for the charge of treason in periods when the lex maiestatis was in abeyance (Bauman 1974, 176177). 83. For the characterization of Claudius at the opening of Book 12, see Chapter 1.



literary tradition for her participation in incest than for adulterya point to which I will return below. Another difference between the two imperial women is that, unlike Messalina, Agrippina, though an adulteress, is not constructed as someone for whom sexual pleasure is a goal; nor is she represented as a meretrix, a prostitute.84 A convicted adulteress, as noted already, was commonly assimilated to the status of the prostitute by the requirement that she give up the stola of the respectable Roman matrona and don the toga, which was not only the dress of a male Roman citizen but was also worn by the prostitute. Thomas McGinn explains the symbolic transvestism of the toga as a visible symbol of a womans arrogation to herself of behavior appropriate to a male: instead of female chastity, the adulteress and the prostitute have laid claim to the sexual promiscuity that characterizes and is appropriate to the Roman male.85 Tacituss narrative sharply distinguishes Messalinas behavior and sexual mores from those of Agrippina. The distinction is made explicit in Annals 12.7.3, a passage already discussed in Chapter 1. It is in this passage that Tacitus marks a turning point in Claudiuss reignthe beginning of a new regime in which Agrippina, by virtue of her marriage to the emperor, exercises absolute power herself: Versa ex eo civitas, et cuncta feminae oboediebant (From this moment the state changed; all things were obedient to a woman,12.7.3). This woman, however, the historian goes on to say, is not a Messalina who only toyed with public affairs to serve her sexual wantonness (non per lasciviam, ut Messalina, rebus Romanis inludenti).86 Rather, Agrippina, from the moment her marriage to Claudius was secured, imposed a rigorous and almost masculine despotism (adductum et quasi virile servitium); she indulged in sexual license only if it made dominatio possible (nihil domi impudicum nisi dominationi expediret, 12.7.3). The contrast between the two women could not be clearer: while political power was of interest to Messalina only as a means of satisfying her own appetites, it was an end in itself for Agrippina. Not surprisingly, the depiction of Messalina and Agrippina in the Tacitean narrative is consistent with this generalization. As Sandra Joshel has shown, scholars may attribute political calculation to the real Messalina, but in Tacitus, she is a figure of unconstrained and excessive desire.87 Messalina, as a desiring woman,

84. For Messalina as prostitute, see Pliny NH 10.172, Juv. 6.115132, and Dio 60.31.1. 85. McGinn 1998, 164171. See also Edwards 1993, 40: The form of dress which for a man indicated his possession of the honourable status of Roman citizen indicated dishonour for a woman, since women could never possess a citizens political rights. Being a woman and being politically active were, like wife and mistress, unassimilable categories. 86. On the meaning, see Furneaux II 70 and Koestermann III 119120. 87. Joshel 1997, 229235. For the language of desire applied to Messalina, see, for example, Ann. 11.12.1, where Messalinas passion for C. Silius is new and the nearest thing to madness (novo et furori proximo amore), and 11.26.1, where Messalina, bored by the ease of her adulteries, was rushing into unknown excesses (ad incognitas libidines profluebat); cf. 11.26.3, 11.34.2, 11.36.4, 11.37.4).



becomes a trope in Tacituss narrative for the excesses and abuses of imperial power.88 By contrast, nearly all of the sexual crimes imputed to Agrippina by Tacitus are motivated by her obsessive ambition for political power. When Agrippina employs her allurements (inlecebrae, 12.3.1 and 14.2.1) to seduce both her uncle Claudius and her son Nero, she is driven by this desire: in the case of Claudius, that she might already enjoy the power of the emperors wife (potentia uxoria) even before she was his wife (Ann. 12.3.1); in Neros, in her burning passion to retain power (ardore retinendae potentiae, 14.2.1).89 Similarly, spes dominationis (the hope of absolute power) is given as Agrippinas motivation for her adulterous liaisons with her brother-in-law Marcus Lepidus90 and the imperial freedman Pallas (14.2.2).91 Again, Agrippinas impudicitia and her desire for regnum are the focus of the imperial freedman Narcissuss attack on Agrippina and her lover Pallas: But the entire imperial house is being torn apart by the plots of a stepmother, with greater disgrace than if I had been silent about the sexual immorality (impudicitia) of the emperors former wife. Yet shamelessness (impudicitia) is not even now absent, since Pallas is her lover, so that no one could doubt that she holds everythingbeauty, honor, her bodycheaper than power (ne quis ambigat decus pudorem corpus, cuncta regno viliora habere). (Ann. 12.65.2) This passage immediately precedes the account of Claudiuss murder and Neros accessionthe latter Agrippinas goal from the beginning. Here, as at 12.7.3, which marks the inception of Agrippinas rise to power, she and her predecessor, Messalina, are contrasted. Both are characterized by impudicitia, but we are reminded that, unlike Messalina, Agrippina had political ambitions that outweighed everything else.92

88. Cf. Joshel 1997, 239: the desiring Messalina enables the historian to distinguish his present from a corrupt imperial past in which a woman is empowered to enact her desire; at the same time, as the desiring woman signals any and every exercise of imperial power, she allows him to recount the growth of the emperors power, acknowledged as autocratic at his moment of writing. 89. While there are common features in the accounts of Tacitus, Suetonius, and Dio, only the first expresses a political motivation for Agrippinas actions. Cf. Suet. Claudius 26.3 for language similar to Tacituss to describe Agrippinas seduction of Claudius; see Dio 61.11.3 for an explicit connection between the two seductionsin Tacitus, the seductions are implicitly linked through the repetition of the word inlecebrae. 90. Tacitus alludes here to the alleged liaison between Marcus Lepidus and Agrippina that led to the formers death and the latters exile in 39 CE; for further discussion, see Chapter 1. It is not possible, however, to discern from these words, intriguing as they are, what interpretation the historian might have placed on these events in the Caligulan narrative that is no longer extant. 91. Cf. 12.8.2, where Agrippina is said to have obtained Senecas recall from exile and his appointment as Neros tutor in order to make use of the philosophers advice in her own designs on the throne (ad spem dominationis). 92. Keitel 1977, 209210.



Agrippina, who, as we have seen, sometimes shares the qualities of Messalina in the Tacitean narrative, is clearly distinguished from her predecessor in terms of sexual mores and behavior. Even though various adulterous liaisons are attributed to her, as they were to Messalina earlier, the fact that such liaisons are said to be employed for political ends gives her more in common with an imperial adulterer than an imperial adulteress.93 Indeed, even the passage examined above, Annals 12.7.3, which records that everything was under the control of a woman (cuncta feminae oboediebant), does not emphasize her feminine qualities so much as her possession of masculine characteristics. Hers is a rigorous and almost masculine despotism (Ann. 12.7.3), and the quality of severitas that she displays openly (palam severitas) is associated elsewhere in the Tacitean narrative exclusively with men.94 In her use of sexuality for political ends (nihil domi impudicum nisi dominationi expediret, 12.7.3), Agrippina resembles no one as much as her great grandfather Augustus in the pages of Suetonius. Not even his friends, so the biographer reports, could deny that Augustus often committed adulteries. These were to be excused, however, because the emperor acted not out of lust but from policy (adulteria . . . excusantes sane non libidine, sed ratione commissa); he carried on such relationships in order to inquire more easily into his enemies designs through their wives (Augustus 69.1). Of course, the analogy between Agrippina and Augustus should not be taken too far. It is unlikely that a reputation for adultery benefited Agrippina as it may have Augustus.95 The latter had been accused in his younger days of shameless homosexual acts and military cowardice;96 it was

93. Joshel 1997, 233235, comments on another distinction between Messalina and Agrippina in the Tacitean narrative: Messalinas speech is reduced to a minimum, while Agrippina is allowed to speak directly: If the female is deployed for political gain, a goal outside its own pleasure, the utterance of the female voice in Tacitus is allowed a representation similar to that granted male agents. 94. Severitas is twice attributed to Agrippina: here at 12.7.3, by the narrative voice, and at 13.13.2, where Agrippina, who has not succeeded in preventing Neros infatuation with the freedwoman Acte by forbidding it, tries to regain influence over her son by describing her previous behavior as intempestiva severitas. In the Annals, severitas, unless it is associated with the inculcation of old-fashioned virtue or characterizes the behavior of a general, is usually not a positive quality: see Ginsburg 1993, 99. The only emperor who possesses it is Tiberius (see 1.46 and 1.75). Another quality attributed to Agrippina here and at Ann. 13.14 and 14.1superbia is even less positive. It is particularly associated with Tiberius and the Claudian gens (1.4.3, 1.72.4, and 6.13.2) and with foreigners (Arminius: 1.61.4; Artabanus: 6.31.1; Italicus: 11.17.3; Vannius: 12.29.1; Parthians: 14.26.2; and Vologaeses: 15.15.3, 15.31. The only women with whom superbia is associated are Agrippina the Elder (4.12.3), Aelia Paetina (12.2.2), and Poppaea Sabina (13.46.2). 95. Hallett [1977] 1979, 158160. 96. For the evidence, see Hallett [1977] 1979, 157158.



in his interest to encourage stories of adulterous liaisons with aristocratic women for adultery could be associated with power and with masculinity.97 Nevertheless, this is not the only instance of the literary tradition likening Agrippina to Augustus. The passage we have been discussing, Annals 12.7.3, opens with the words versa ex eo civitas (from this moment on, the state was transformed), a statement that echoes a phrase at 1.4.1igitur verso civitatis statu and thus suggests a link between the regime of Agrippina and that of Augustus.98 Such parallels between Agrippina and Augustus, whether reliable representations or not, suggest the heights to which Agrippinas ambition reaches and establish her as a serious political actor in her own right. But to return to Agrippina and incest. I would like to suggest that there is an ideological message in the Tacitean narratives relentless focus on Agrippinas status as an incestuous woman. The allegations that Agrippina had incestuous relations with her brother Gaius and made incestuous advances to her son Nero and the insistence that her marriage to Claudius was an incestuous union may be read as a critique on the Julio-Claudian policy of endogamy. As Beth Severy has demonstrated, it is with Augustus that one can first discern a departure from the usual Republican practice of using exogamous ties to other aristocratic families to create political alliances between powerful families. Instead, the members of the imperial family married each other.99 This new pattern of marriage ties, necessitated by the fact that Augustuss family had a shortage of adult males but an excess of females, led to the development of a new family unit, the domus Augusta, in which legitimacy was transmitted to male descendants by their female relatives.100 The goal of this new marital strategy was the construction of a kinship group sufficiently large to ensure its reproduction and survival by internal alliances, and sufficiently exclusive to avoid the distribution of rights of succession among too many rival candidates.101 The Agrippina represented to us in the literary tradition was not content simply to pass on power to her son, nor was she satisfied with honor rather than real political influence. A dynastic system that depended on female relatives for its legitimation might regret giving so much power to women.

[IV. CONCLUSION In this chapter, we return to the literary image of Agrippina with which the book began. The goal is to consider the late Republican history of the rhetorical stereotypes used to construct the textual Agrippina and analyze how they worked in the political context of the early empire. In other words, why did such an image of Agrippina develop in the literary tradition?
97. Edwards 1993, 48. 98. For discussion, see Chapter 1. 99. Severy 1998, 113121. 100. Corbier 1995. 101. Corbier 1995, 192.



Much of Tacituss depiction of Agrippina grows out of three distinct Roman stereotypes of dangerous women: the saeva noverca, the dux femina, and the sexual transgressor. The saeva noverca, or wicked stepmother, was a well-established scapegoat for the tensions associated with stepfamilies so common in the Roman world. In literature, this extremely negative stereotype focused on her intrigues on behalf of her own children against her stepchildren. Due to the untimely death of so many of Augustuss heirs, Livia was easy to depict along these lines, and Tacitus pushes the trope at every opportunity. Close reading of Tacituss presentation of Agrippinas marriage to Claudius, however, shows his meticulous efforts to portray her also as a poisoning stepmother, sometimes even through comparison to her great-grandmother Livia. In an imperial context in which their family had come to be closely associated with the state, the inheritance that these novercae threatened was leadership of Rome. Tacitus could thus use the image of the conniving stepmother and the familial dysfunction it entailed to argue that a dysfunction of the state had begun with Livia and bloomed again under Agrippina. Similarly negative was the image of the dux femina, a commander woman who inappropriately aspired to male military or political power. Tacitus underscores similarities between women of the Julio-Claudian family and barbarian queens who did rule armies. In his presentation of Agrippina, he also associates her with masculine and military words and dress, and he depicts her striving for public recognition equal to that of the emperor Claudius. Tacitus calls her goal dominatio and even a quasi virile servitium, both terms from the master/slave relationship employed to label inappropriate or illegitimate exercise of power. Tacituss presentation of Agrippina as a sexual transgressor relates to this image, since his Agrippina uses her sexuality in the service of her quest for power. Her transgressions in his narrative consistently take two forms: incest and adultery. Although the charge that his female relatives sexuality was not in a mans control was a common trope of Republican political invective, in the context of the imperial family the consequences were even greater. If Claudius was unable to control his wives, how could he be man enough to manage the state? In turn, allegations of incest with her brother Gaius, uncle Claudius, and son Nero provide a structural frame to Tacituss narrative of Agrippinas rise and fall. Since the Romans understood incest to be a violation of divine and human law, Tacitus hereby creates a powerful metaphor for her and her familys threat to the health of the community. Even more particularly, we may see here a critique of the JulioClaudian policy of marrying exclusively within the family, which, according to Tacitus, Dio, and others, gave women the ability to transmit power and thus far too much influence and access. Tacitus pushes the incest theme to demonstrate the degree to which this endangered the state. These insights into the force of Tacituss allegations in an imperial context are even more clear in light of the middle chapter of this book, which analyzes images of Agrippina produced during her lifetime and under the sponsorship of the imperial court. Coins and sculpture projected the notion that the imperial family, through its exemplary morality and fecundity, was key to the health and



continuing stability of Rome. Such an image was drawn through explicit reference to conservative gender roles and cultural assumptions about wives and mothers. In the particular case of Agrippina, imagery focused on her chastity and fertility through allusion to Demeter/Ceres and to other members of the imperial house. These, of course, are precisely the forms of legitimacy that Tacituss portrait of Agrippina undermines: his Agrippina was a destructive mother-in-law, not a bountiful mater; her sexual activities were incestuously dangerous rather than chastely reproductive; and her masculine quest for political power revealed horrible gender inversions in the Julio-Claudian family, and thus the inability of the father of that family to lead. Tacitus shapes his story of Agrippina to reveal a dysfunctional political system unable to protect the privileges of the men of the senatorial and equestrian classes. Tacitus employs powerful and well-established stereotypes to characterize and use Agrippina in this way, and as a result his portrait has overwhelmed many subsequent attempts to perceive her. This critical evaluation of the textual and material sources on Agrippina the Younger reveals that we may never know much about her as a historical individual. Now, however, we know a great deal about how images of herand the cultural assumptions about gender upon which these images were builtwere used in both the promulgation and criticism of imperial rule. BS-H]

Chart of the Julio-Claudians

M. Atius - Julia Balbus

C. Julius Caesar

C. Octavius - Atia Scribonia - (1) AUGUSTUS (2) - (2) Livia (1) - Ti. Claudius Nero M. Vipsanius Agrippa - (2) Julia (3) - Ti. Claudius Nero (TIBERIUS) Agrippa Julia Postumus Gaius Lucius Agrippina - Germanicus the Elder Nero Drusus GAIUS Drusilla (Caligula) Octavia - M. Antonius Antonia - L. Domitius the Elder Ahenobarbus

Drusus - Antonia the Younger Livia CLAUDIUS


Agrippina (1) - Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus the Younger

Domitia - M. Valerius Lepida Messala Barbatus

(2) - (2) Passienus Crispus (1) - Domitia (3) - (4) CLAUDIUS (3) - Valeria Messalina Poppaea - (2) L. Domitius (1) - Octavia Sabina Ahenobarbus (NERO) Ti. Claudius Caesar Britannicus

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Acerronia, 4950 Acmonea, 78 Acte, 4041, 4647, 52, 129 n. 94 adultery, ideological meanings of, 122 126. See also Agrippina, as adulterous woman Aelia Paetina, 17, 21, 129 n. 94 Afranius Burrus, S., 28, 32, 3637, 40, 42, 4445, 50, 111 Agermus, 4951 Agrippa, 53, 58 n. 9, 59 Agrippa Postumus, 36, 108 Agrippina as adulterous woman, 1416, 25, 28, 116119, 122, 126132 as Augusta or Sebast, 25, 38, 41, 69, 71, 75, 77, 84, 95 banishment of, 1115, 68 n. 58, 81 n. 111 on cameos, 9197, 100, Figs. 710 on coins, 5658, 6579, 100, 103, Figs. 13, Fig. 6 death of, 40, 4653, 8182, 97, 119 as Demeter, 71, 76, 77 n. 94, 78, 84, 87, 90, 97104, 132 with diadem, 89, Fig. 5 and female rivalry, 17, 2324, 31, 33, 41, 4445, 52 as fertility goddess, 7678, 8788, 90, 104 (see also Agrippina, as Demeter) as incestuous woman, 119121, 130 132 with Caligula, 12, 67, 116117, 130131 with Claudius. See Agrippina, marriage to Claudius with Nero, 18, 41, 4748, 5154, 116118, 120121, 128, 130131

marriage to Claudius, 1622, 35, 38, 47, 52, 54, 58, 6971, 9194, 109, 116117, 120121, 127 128, 130 as masculine, 1920, 23, 2629, 37, 42, 112116, 127132 (see also Agrippina, political aspirations of) described as atrox, 23, 37, 42, 115 as murderess, 17, 3032, 3537, 42, 53, 111 physical description of, 81 political aspirations of (dux femina), 1821, 23, 26, 2830, 33, 3740, 45, 50, 5254, 57, 112116, 120, 131132 public honors of, 1112, 2628, 33, 3839, 59, 66, 73 (see also Agrippina, as Augusta or Sebast) in sculpture, 7991, 100, 103104, Figs. 45 as sexual transgressor, 46, 53, 106, 116132 (see also Agrippina, as adulterous woman; Agrippina, as incestuous woman) as stepmother (saeva noverca), 21, 23, 25, 2728, 3132, 34, 42, 106 112, 131 Agrippina the Elder, 15, 24, 6870, 82 n. 118, 109, 119, 124, 129 n. 94 on cameos, 9192, 96, Fig. 7, Fig. 10 on coins, 62, 64 n. 34, 6667, 75 as dux femina, 2627, 3738 n. 54, 4244, 113114 as goddess, 92, 100, 102103 Albucilla, 11 n. 5 Alexander the Great, 78 Anicetus, 46, 48, 5051, 53



Annaeus Seneca, L., 20, 33, 3637, 39 42, 45, 47, 50, 53, 116, 128 n. 91 Annaeus Serenus, 41 Anteius, P., 45 Antonia (daughter of Claudius), 32 Antonia Minor, 31, 43, 6264, 71, 85, 101102 Antonia the Elder, 31 Antonius, M. (Marc Antony), 34 n. 48, 5758, 118 n. 52 Aphrodisias, 55, 8488, 90, 100, 102 103, Fig. 45 Aphrodite, 8687, 9799 Arminius, 113, 129 n. 94 Arruntius Stella, 45 Artabanus, 129 n. 94 Asinius Gallus, 119 Athena, 99 Atimetus, 4445 Augustus (Octavian), 1516, 19, 29, 36, 54, 70, 8081, 82 n. 118, 101 102 adultery as political strategy, 129130 as subversive to the state, 122126 on cameo, 9596, Fig. 10 on coins, 60, 7374 coins issued during rule of, 5659, 61, 69, 74 death and funeral of, 32, 108 as divine, 38, 60, 64, 67, 73, 8486, 90, 9596 dynastic link to, 10, 31, 44, 53, 6165, 67, 70, 75, 85, 92, 105 in sculpture, 84, 8688 succession of, 27, 59, 61, 108, 109 n. 14, 110, 131 Aulus Caecina, 26, 113 Baiae, 4849, 5253 Boudicca, 113 n. 28 Britannicus, 17, 22, 45, 71, 94 on coins, 70 n. 64, 76 death of, 4344, 51 as rival to Nero, 21, 25, 2728, 3235, 37, 42, 95, 109111 in sculpture, 8485 Burrus, S. Afranius. See Afranius Burrus, S. Cadius Rufus, 23 Caecina Severus, 113114

Caligula (Gaius), 1115, 33, 57, 63 n. 30, 64, 81 n. 111, 83 n. 119, 119, 126 on coins, 62, 6569, Fig. 1 coins issued during rule of, 6162, 65 69, 102103 n. 208, Fig. 1 conspiracy against, 1215 incest with sisters, 12, 67, 116117, 130131 Callistus, 17, 2122 Calpurnia, 2324, 30 Calpurnius Piso, Cn., 113 Calvisius, 4445 cameos, 9197 as private objects 91, 97 Caratacus, 26, 29, 39, 114115 carpentum, 28, 5960, 62, 66 Ceres, 63, 65, 71, 76, 78 n. 101, 92 n. 173, 93, 97105 as ideal woman, 71 See also Agrippina, as Demeter; Demeter Claudius (emperor), 9, 15, 2235, 38 40, 4243, 57, 8081, 83, 89, 114115, 131 on cameos, 9197, Figs. 78, Fig. 10 on coins, 58, 6976, 8990, 102103, Fig. 2, Fig. 6 coins issued during rule of, 58, 6165, 6972, 7478, 8990, 101103, Fig. 2, Fig. 6 death of, 3032, 3637, 111 as dominated by wives and freedmen, 1718, 2123, 33, 35, 126 incest with Agrippina. See Claudius, marriage to Agrippina marriage to Agrippina, 10, 1622, 35, 38, 47, 52, 54, 6971, 9194, 109, 116117, 120121, 127 128, 130 promotion of Nero, 2428, 33, 72, 83, 96, 109111 in sculpture, 82 n. 118, 8488, 100, Fig. 4 as Triptolemus, 9394, 100, 103, Fig. 8 Claudius Balbillus, 45 Claudius Rufus, Nero (father of Claudius, emperor), 63 n. 28 Cleopatra, 57, 114 n. 31 Clodius, P., 118 n. 52



coinage persuasive power of, 56, 73, 7879, 104105 provincial, 7479, 98101 Roman, 5774, 102 Concordia, 65 n. 41, 6668, 8788 Constantia, 64 Cornelia (mother of Gracchi), 80, 123 cornucopia, 66, 90, 9294, 100 corona civica, 58, 72, 88, 92 corona spicea, 6365, 69, 71, 76, 88, 92, 97, 100102 Crepereius Gallus, 49 Cybele, 92 n. 173, 99, 101 n. 203 Demeter, 77 n. 94, 7879, 82 n. 118, 84, 87, 90, 94, 97105. See also Agrippina, as Demeter; Ceres Diana, 58 n. 9 Dido, 29 n. 41, 112, 114 n. 31 Dionysius, 103 Domitia, 16, 17 n. 19, 4445 Domitia Lepida, 3031, 111 Domitius. See Nero Domitius Ahenobarbus, Cn., 1011, 15 16, 17 n. 19, 31 Drusilla, 1015, 80 n. 108, 83 n. 119, 84 n. 128, 9798 on coins, 6569, Fig. 1 Drusus (son of Germanicus), 66 Drusus (son of Livia), 61 n. 22, 68, 85, 108, 110 Drusus (son of Tiberius), 72 n. 73, 95 n. 187 Faenius Rufus, 45, 116 Fides Praetorianorum, 73 n. 80 Flavia Domitilla, 82 n. 118 Fortuna, 6667, 68 n. 53, 77 n. 94, 78 n. 101, 84, 90, 99 Fucine Lake, 29, 115 Fulvia, 58 n. 6, 99 n. 197, 114 n. 31 Gaetulicus, 12 n. 11 Gaius (emperor). See Caligula Gaius (grandson of Augustus), 27, 5859, 61, 108, 109 n. 14 Galba, 116 n. 38 Gemma Claudia, 9193, Fig. 7. See also cameos

Germanicus, 15, 26, 62 n. 24, 6869, 83, 102, 113114, 116 n. 44 on cameos, 9192, 96, Fig. 7, Fig. 10 on coins, 6667, 75 father of Agrippina, 10, 42, 50, 53, 70, 95 grandfather of Nero, 17, 21, 109 in sculpture, 81, 82 n. 118, 85 Grand Came, 9596, Fig. 10 Granius Carbo, M., 103 n. 210 Hadrian, 103 Halotus, 32 Hekate, 99 Hera, 78 n. 96, 9799 Herculeius, 51 incest, 120121. See also Agrippina, as incestuous woman Isis, 98 Italicus, 129 n. 94 Iturius, 4445 Iunius Lupus, 28 Iustitia, 61 n. 22, 99 Julia Domna, 92 n. 174 Julia Livilla, 1015, 24, 101102, 116 n. 44, 126 on coins, 6569, Fig. 1 Julia the Elder, 10, 15, 5859, 61, 109 n. 14, 117, 124, 126 Julia the Younger, 109, 124, 126 Julius Caesar, C., 15, 85 Junia Calvina, 118, 121 n. 60 Junia Silana, 4445 Junius Silanus, 3537 Junius Silanus, L., 1920, 36, 118, 121 n. 60 Juno, 78 n. 96, 97, 99100 Jupiter, 92 karpophoros, 97, 100, 102103 Lepida (sister of Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus). See Domitia Lepida Lepida (wife of Galba), 16 Lepidus, M., 1215, 19, 41 n. 64, 47, 116117, 126, 128 Liris River, 29



Livia, 24, 29, 32, 42 n. 66, 104105 on cameos, 91 n. 172, 9596, Fig. 10 on coins, 5765, 74 as goddess, 6465, 92 n. 173, 97102 public honors of, 28, 33, 38, 60, 69 71, 80, 8485 in sculpture, 80, 82 n. 118, 84 as stepmother (saeva noverca), 107 109, 111112, 114 n. 31, 131 Livilla. See Julia Livilla Locusta, 32, 35 Lollia Paulina, 17, 21, 2324, 3334 Lucius (grandson of Augustus), 27, 58 59, 61, 108, 109 n. 14 Lucretia, 125 Lucrine Lake, 49 Lusius Geta, 28 Marius Tro., C., 58 n. 9 Marriage Cameo. See Gemma Claudia Mars Ultor, Temple of, 1315 Mater Castrorum, 92 n. 174 Messalina, 10, 2122, 24, 28, 30, 6970, 75, 88, 90, 94, 111 on cameos, 93 n. 178, 94 as goddess, 100 as sexual transgressor, 19, 117, 120, 124129 Minerva, 92 n. 174 Mnester, 51, 125 Narcissus, 17, 19, 2122, 29, 31, 33, 37, 111, 128 Nero (emperor), 911, 14, 21, 23, 29 45, 54, 57, 100, 101 n. 202, 104 105, 116, 119120, 129 n. 94 on cameos, 9496, Figs. 910 on coins, 70 n. 64, 7274, 7678, Fig. 3 coins issued during rule of, 69, 7374, 75 n. 85, 7778, Fig. 3 incest with Agrippina, 18, 41, 4748, 5154, 116118, 120121, 128, 130131 marriage to Octavia, 1821, 30, 34, 82 n. 118 murder of Agrippina, 4653 murder of Britannicus, 43, 109 promotion by Agrippina and Claudius, 2425, 27, 3335, 7172, 8384, 96, 109111

in sculpture, 8586, 82 n. 118, 89, Fig. 5 Nero (son of Germanicus), 66, 95 n. 187 Obaritus, 51 Octavia (daughter of Claudius), 17, 32, 41, 4344, 4647, 52, 77, 82 n. 118, 85, 94, 118 n. 49 marriage to Nero, 1821, 30, 34 Octavia (wife of Marcus Antonius), 10, 5758, 80, 99 n. 197 Octavian. See Augustus Ofonius Tigellinus, 14, 116 Oikoumene, 92 n. 174 Olympias, 78 Oppidum Ubiorum, 2526 Otho, 46 n. 76, 47 Paconius Flam., L., 76 n. 91 Pallas, 1719, 2125, 28, 33, 35, 38, 42, 47, 54, 93 n. 177, 103, 109110, 116117, 125, 128 Pandateria, 15, 62, 118 n. 49 Paneas, 78 Paris, 4445 Pax, 68 n. 53, 90 Persephone, 94 Pietas, 61 n. 22, 78 n. 96, 99 Plancina, 2627, 113114 Pontian Islands, 1113, 15, 16 n. 17 Poppaea Sabina, 23 n. 31, 4648, 5253, 118, 129 n. 94 Providentia, 96, Fig. 10 Publicius Regulus, Cn., 76 n. 91 Publius Celer, 36 Roma (goddess), 92 n. 174, 9495 Rubellius Plautus, 4445 Rufrius Crispinus, 28 Sabina, 103 Sallustius Passienus Crispus, C., 1617 Salus, 6061, 65, 68 n. 53 sculpture, 7991 political meaning of, 79, 9091 Sebasteion at Aphrodisias, 55, 8490, 100, 103, Figs. 45 Securitas, 65 n. 41, 6667, 68 n. 53 Sejanus, 27, 2930, 54, 95 n. 187, 119 n. 54 Sempronia, 46 n. 76



Seneca, L. Annaeus. See Annaeus Seneca, L. Sextius Africanus, 44 Silanus, L. See Junius Silanus, L. Silius, C., 19, 120, 127 n. 87 Sosibius, 34 Statilius Taurus, 30 Stertinus Xenophon, C. (physician of Claudius), 32, 101 n. 202 Suillius, P., 116 Sulpicius Galba, Servius, 16 Tarquitius Priscus, 30 Tiberius, 10, 1516, 29 n. 42, 36, 41 n. 64, 62, 66, 68, 82 n. 118, 85 86, 92, 101, 113, 119, 129 n. 94 on cameos, 91 n. 172, 9596, Fig. 10 on coins, 60 coins issued during rule of, 58 n. 8, 5961, 69 limiting female political power and honors, 11, 26, 38, 58 n. 8, 115 promotion by Livia and Augustus, 32 n. 46, 42 n. 66, 108, 110, 114 n. 31, 115

Triaria, 37 n. 54 Triptolemus, 87 n. 146, 9394, 100, 103 Tyche, 78 n. 101, 92 Valerius Asiaticus, 30 Vannius, 129 n. 94 Venus, 86, 97, 99100 Vesta, 99 Vestal Virgins, 11, 60 n. 17, 66, 125 Victoria, 90 n. 164 Vipsania, 37 n. 54 Virtus, 92 n. 174 Vitellius, L., 1920, 25, 28, 35, 37 n. 54, 93, 103, 115, 118 Vologaeses, 129 n. 94 women and dynastic ideology, 5557, 9899 Hellenistic influences on representational style, 56 n. 3, 5859, 61, 69, 74, 78, 81, 8687, 98, 100 as symbols of legitimacy and future stability, 6162, 91, 105