Agrippina was the daughter of Agrippina the Elder and Germanicus. She spent much of her childhood in Rome while her parents traveled. At age 13 she married Domitius Ahenobarbus, a man whom Suetonius calls “in every aspect of his life detestable.” The couple had one son together, the future Emperor Nero.
Her life changed when her brother Caligula became Emperor. For a while he honored his sisters very highly, but after Drusilla’s death showed Agrippina and Livilla no respect and ended up exiling both of them. It was probably during this time period that Agrippina wrote her (now lost) history of her family and of her mother’s life.**
Once Empress, Agrippina encouraged Claudius to prefer Nero over his son Britannicus. She moved decisively to remove from power anyone who might oppose her plans to make her son Emperor and quickly married her son to Claudius’s daughter Octavia. Ancient sources claim that Agrippina poisoned her husband when he began to favor Britannicus again, but how true that accusation was is unknown.
[Agrippina crowning her son Nero, 1st century CE, source: Wikimedia Commons]
All of the major sources on Agrippina’s are heavily biased against both her and her son. As a result, we cannot know which of the accusations against her were true and which were mere fabrications. What comes through is her desire for power and her intelligence in getting it.
*Romans and their terrible, confusing naming conventions for women. Gah! What? Have strong opinions on this? Who me?
**Thus she predates Anna Komnene as a female historian.
***We acted out the murder of Agrippina the Younger in one of my Classics courses in college. Every single role (down to Agrippina’s maid and guardsman) was cross-cast except Nero. I played the captain of the soldiers sent to kill her.
Cassius Dio, Roman History Book LXI, Book LXII - Lacus Curtius
Tacitus, Annals Book XII (part 2), Book XIV - Lacus Curtius
Suetonius, "Life of Claudius," "Life of Nero," "Life of Galba" - Lacus Curtius
Agrippina the Younger - De Imperatoribus Romanis
The Julio-Claudian Family Tree - De Imperatoribus Romanis
Agrippina the Younger - Wikipedia