Julia Agrippina (16–59 CE), most commonly referred to as Agrippina Minor or Agrippina the Younger, was one of the more prominent women in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. She was a great-granddaughter of the Emperor Augustus, sister of the Emperor Caligula, niece and fourth wife of the Emperor Claudius, and mother of the Emperor Nero. she was apparently a beautiful and reputable woman but has also been described by both ancient and modern sources as ‘ruthless, ambitious, violent and domineering’.
In 39 CE Agrippina and Livilla were involved in a failed the ‘Plot of the Three Daggers’ to murder Caligula, which resulted in them being exiled until Claudius came to power in 41 CE. Agrippina and Claudius married on New Year’s Day, 49 CE to widespread disapproval because of their close relationship. The following year she was granted the honorific title of Augusta, which no other imperial woman had previously received during the lifetime of her husband.
Agrippina successfully manipulated and influenced Claudius into adopting her son, whose name was changed to Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus, and having him become his successor – in place of Claudius’ son Britannicus . The ancient sources say Agrippina poisoned Claudius in October 54 CE with a plate of deadly mushrooms at a banquet, thus enabling Nero to quickly take the throne as emperor. It’s possible – but exceedingly convenient – that his death was of of natural causes.
In the first months of Nero’s reign Agrippina controlled her son and the Empire. But before long Agrippina was forced out of the palace, deprived of all honours and powers, lost her Roman and German bodyguards, and went to live in a riverside estate in Misenum.
Tacitus, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio all allege that Nero was responsible for his mother’s death – though their stories differ.