July 21, 2008

Agrippina (Draft Bio/Intro)

How does one write (or read) 79 Year Books that take thousands of pages to cover hundreds of real-life characters? What kind of planning does that take? Now, add that we'd like for each Year Book to be a fairly accessible starting point for any new reader. And yet we'd also like to use the start of each "Volume" as jumping on points for those who will be reading straight through.

Among other things - such as a character glossary and hyperlink-style footnotes - there will be occasional character introductions. I haven't done this much since the early Year Books of Volume One, but I believe I've got to do this for 14 AD, Part Two. In other words, it will be partly a Year Book and partly an introduction to the 'cast' of major players.

Today I drafted an intro to Agrippina "the Elder" at the time of Augustus' death. As usual, in recent months, I'm posting it here to get feedback from anyone so inclined. At least, before long, some professor or Ph.D student will probably google it. Here's hoping they (or you) are inclined to post helpful, challenging or inquisitive comments...

Here, now, is my intro to Agrippina in 14 AD. Please note, this is still a draft! But isn't it all? ;)


Vipsania Agrippina (“Agrippina the Elder”) was a granddaughter of Caesar Augustus. If she had been born a man, she’d have become emperor instead of Tiberius. Then again, if Agrippina ahd been born a man, she might have died mysteriously or gotten exiled like her three brothers, Gaius, Lucius & Posthumous.

In 4 AD, while Rome whispered that Livia (Caesar's wife, Tiberius' mother) had somehow killed Gaius & Lucius, Agrippina found favor with Livia by marrying her grandson Germanicus. In the first four years of her marriage, Agrippina had two sons. She also saw her brother Posthumous and sister Julia both get exiled. The infants made Agrippina the mother of great-grandbaby Caesars. The exiles made Agrippina the last of her family in Rome, lonely, but glad to survive.

Agrippina’s father, Marcus Agrippa, had died when she was two. Her mother, Julia, got exiled when Agrippina was only twelve. She lost her siblings in a span of six years, from age 15 through 21. Married by age 17, mother by age 19, Agrippina had been playing her role. But she left Rome whenever her husband did. And she steered clear of Tiberius.

Agrippina did not want to suffer cruel fate like the rest of her family. She stayed far from Rome, as much as she could. She kept having babies to keep herself on Livia’s good side. And she aimed for the very top.

For Agrippina, ambition was not merely in her blood. It was a matter of survival. So was having lots of children. Agrippina was working toward the day when her husband Germanicus and/or one of her sons would be Emperor. Personal history had already assured her: the only other options were exile or death.

Agrippina’s half-sister, Vipsania, and her mother, Julia, had each married Tiberius once. The old man was her former half-brother-in-law, former step-father, now father-in-law by adoption. He was currently unmarried. Agrippina’s mother-in-law, Antonia, was Marc Antony’s daughter. Antonia had survived a long time being the sister-in-law of Tiberius and the daughter-in-law of Livia. So Agrippina took notes from watching her mother-in-law, Antonia.

There were only so many strong women role models to learn from. Agrippina was determined to make her own mark, her own way.

It will be interesting to watch how she does that… especially after her husband dies! (But we'll get to that.) And decades from now, after her own death, a son and a grandson of Agrippina will both become Emperor. Yet, one of Agrippina's daughters will prove far more impressive than any of them.

What kind of a mother produces such offspring? Stay tuned. These are the years when Agrippina (“the elder”) comes into her own.

We’ll keep up with her progress from this point on, Year by Year.


Hope y'all enjoyed that. Any help? Any mistakes? Anyone?

No comments:

Recent Posts
Recent Posts Widget
"If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient observation than to any other reason."

-- Isaac Newton