Different Interpretations of Agrippina the Younger

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With reference to sources, assess the different interpretations of Agrippina the Younger

Sources from ancient historians tend to be more hostile towards Agrippina because she was a woman and she stepped outside the expected role of a Roman matron. In contrast to this, modern historians consider the context of her time and approach her with a neutral attitude. However, most of the historians present her according to three main stereotypes- the seducer and murderer of Claudius, the scheming and dominating mother figure or the imperial woman who goes beyond her matronly and aristocratic role. Tacitus, an ancient historian, was the closest to Agrippina's time and was hostile towards her since he disliked the principate, instead favouring the senate to be in power. He portrayed Agrippina as a deceptive, ill- mannered woman and is highly- critical when he relates her many schemes and intrigues in her pursuit of power not only for the men in her life, but also, and more despicably, for herself, as can be seen in the following quote from The Annals. ‘From this moment the country was transformed. Complete obedience was accorded to a woman – and not a woman like Messalina who toyed with national affairs in order to satisfy her appetites. This was a rigorous, almost masculine despotism. In public Agrippina was austere and often arrogant. Her private life was chaste – unless power was to be gained. Her passion to acquire money was unbounded. She wanted it as a stepping stone to supremacy.' This, however, is not highly out of the ordinary, for a writer of his time, as the role of the Roman matron was not to strive for political success herself, but to support her husband in his achievements. Agrippina disregarded the status quo and thus became the target for many slanderous exaggerations through representation in ancient writings, and became the epitome of all that was evil in woman. Moral purpose is never absent from Tacitus' mind in his writings and virtue and...
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