Ancient Essay on Agrippina

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Tim Wong-See.


Part B: With specific reference to the sources you have chosen, evaluate the ancient and modern interpretations of Agrippina the Younger.

The ancient sources depict and write of Agrippina the Younger as a cruel and ruthless ruler who would stretch the power of women to boundaries unseen before. Tacitus describes her as a woman having a “masculine despotism”. However modern interpretations of Agrippina such as Bauman perceive a woman of power, skill, determination, one able to dominate her husband and able to achieve what was thought impossible for a woman. A level of uncertainty surrounds the interpretations of Agrippina during the time of her death. Tacitus’ The Annals provides an account, however, this is disputed by modern scholar Bauman in Women And Politics In Ancient Rome .

Event 1: first marriage.
The ancient and modern sources reveal differing perspectives of Agrippina the Younger. Tacitus is known to be generally hostile to imperial rule and by displaying Agrippina’s power he portrays how easily manipulated and foolish the imperial rule is. Suetonius is acclaimed for his biographies on the Roman emperors which served as a model for later writers, he also made use of executive documents in the archives of the Senate. Dio Cassius is typically politically conservative and was a solider rather than a critical historian. One key event from 15AD -39 AD would be Tiberius’ arrangement (and Agrippina’s consent to?) of Agrippina’s first marriage in 28 AD at the age of 13 to Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus. He was wealthy and had political connections, providing an opportunity for Agrippina to build a support base by gaining influence and wealth. While the marriage was beneficial for Agrippina and her status, ancient writers perceive Ahenobarbus as a cruel and spiteful character. Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars depicts him as a man who was “detestable in every way” Tacitus also writes that he was “utterly detestable”. The...
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