Julia Agrippina (the Younger) was born on November 6, 15 AD just one year after Caesar Augustus died…that would be Great Grandpa Augusta to Agrippina. She was the first daughter to Germanicus, a very popular military general, and Agrippina the Elder a very brave and unconventional Roman military wife. Although her father would die when she was very young coughpoisoncough and the rest of her family didn’t fare so well either, Agrippina would do what was needed to survive a very high profile life in a society where “high profile” meant “giant target.”
This episode was a little different for both of us– the magnitude of materials we needed to reference so that we could puzzle together Agrippina’s life was surprising. We cover that dramatic life as the daughter of a military leader, the sister to an emperor, the wife AND niece to another emperor and the mother to yet another…but we also talked about life, challenges, customs and survival strategies for women in ancient Rome.
And we talk a lot about poison.
Even with all the deaths (and trust us, there are many) Agrippina put a lot of living into her 44 years. Five siblings, three husbands, one son (Emperor Nero, heard of him?), several exiles, positions in power unusual for a woman, confidants and enemies add many story arcs to her tale. Layer in loyalty, betrayal, strategy, keen knowledge of her strengths and even murder–all common themes for both her time and her times and this is one epic life story. You would think that death would end all the drama..but oh no! The twisting of her life story after she died at the hand of (REDACTED…spoilers) was a battle she couldn’t fight.
Was she an innocent victim, a scheming malefactress, a survivor…all of them? We give you the history, legends and tales (with a heavy hand of debate) and you decide for yourself.
TIME TRAVEL WITH THE HISTORY CHICKS
We had a lot…A LOT of recommendations this time so you better settle in because you are about to dive into a rabbit hole of ancient Rome.
Online reading links to: The Annals by Tacitus, and Suetonius: Lives of the Caesars, and the Women of the Caesars/ Agrippina, the mother of Nero by Guglielmo Ferrero.
We can recommend:
The History of Rome with the legendary Mike Duncan. Really? This series ended in 2012 and it’s STILL on the top iTunes lists-it’s that good. Agrippina’s life runs through episodes 57-64, then flip up to History of Roman Weddings, episode 69.
Emperors of Rome with Dr Rhiannon Evans and Matt Smith (not that Matt Smith, but still a nice guy who sorta time travels)
Her life as a comedic opera by Handel! (if there is no opera company presenting it, here is a quick NPR Overview of Agrippina opera. )
Srsly. It looks beautiful (from outside a prison, of course.) Pontine Islands tourist info.
A nice tidy list of all the articles that Beckett talked about in the media section of the show:
If you go to only one of these websites, maybe it should be the one that tells you about the lives of women in ancient Rome because…History Chicks. (What is up with those Vestal Virgins?)
The British Museum Collection of Roman Artifacts (which is really a lot less dry than that title may suggest)
For the kids, What Was Life Like in Ancient Rome?
Eat like a Roman with Colatura di Alici (super fancy fish sauce) or at least learn about the how and why of garum from this NPR piece, Fish Sauce: An ancient Roman condiment rises again.
VISUAL LEARNERS (or for when only a video will do)
Silent film, Agrippina (it’s 18 minutes of your life, but well spent.)
If you can’t (or won’t) eat Roman food, you can watch Giles and Sue do it for you on Supersizers, Eat
Hairdressing archeologist Janet Stevens. People! This really is a great time to be alive! If you do this ‘do, #historychicksfieldtrip on Instagram, we ALL want to see it!
“Caligula is the poster boy for sociopaths everywhere.” First line of this video. Strongest lead EVER.