Sources on Agrippina the Younger's early life
1. Agrippina the Younger's birth, 6 November ad15
Tacitus, Annals, Book 12, Chapter 27
[In the year ad50,] Agrippina, in order to advertise her strength to the provinces also, arranged for the plantation of a colony of veterans in the Ubian town where she was born. The settlement received its title from her name; and, as chance would have it, it had been her grandfather Agrippa who extended Roman protection to the tribe on its migration across the Rhine.
2. At Germanicus's Triumph, 26 May ad17 - age 2
Tacitus, Annals, Book 2, Chapter 41
In the consulate of Gaius Caelius and Lucius Pomponius, on the twenty-sixth day of May, Germanicus Caesar celebrated his triumph over the Cherusci, the Chatti, the Angrivarii, and the other tribes lying west of the Elbe. There was a procession of spoils and captives, of mimic mountains, rivers, and battles; and the war, since he had been forbidden to complete it, was assumed to be complete.
To the spectators the effect was heightened by the noble figure of the commander himself, and by the five children who loaded his chariot. Yet beneath lay an unspoken fear, as men reflected that to his father Drusus the favour of the multitude had not brought happiness that the loves of the Roman nation were fleeting and unblest!
3. At the Mourning of Germanicus, ad19 - age 4
Tacitus, Annals, Book 2, Chapter 75
Agrippina [the Elder] herself, worn out with grief and physically ill, yet intolerant of every obstacle to revenge, went on board the fleet with her children and the ashes of Germanicus; amid universal pity for this woman of sovereign lineage, her wedded glory wont but yesterday to attract the gaze of awed and gratulatory crowds, now carrying in her bosom the relics of the dead, uncertain of her vengeance, apprehensive for herself, cursed in that fruitfulness which had borne but hostages to fortune.
Tacitus, Annals, Book 3, Chapter 2
Tiberius had sent two cohorts of his Guard; with further orders that the magistrates of Calabria, Apulia, and Campania should render the last offices to the memory of his son. And so Germanicus's ashes were borne on the shoulders of tribunes and centurions: before him the standards went unadorned, the fasces reversed; while, at every colony they passed, the commons in black and the knights in official purple burned raiment, perfumes, and other of the customary funeral tributes, in proportion to the resources of the district. Even the inhabitants of outlying towns met the procession, devoted their victims and altars to the departed spirit, and attested their grief with tears and cries. Drusus came, with Germanicus' brother Claudius and the children who had been left in the capital. The consuls, Marcus Valerius and Marcus Aurelius (who had already begun their magistracy), the senate, and a considerable part of the people, filled the road, standing in scattered parties and weeping as they pleased: for of adulation there was none, since all men knew that Tiberius was with difficulty dissembling his joy at the death of Germanicus.
4. Marriage to Domitius, ad28 - age 13
Tacitus, Annals, Book 4, Chapter 75
Tiberius, after personally conferring on Gnaeus Domitius the hand of his grandchild Agrippina, ordered the marriage to be celebrated in Rome. In Domitius, to say nothing of the antiquity of his family, he had chosen a blood-connection of the Caesars: for he could boast Octavia as his grandmother, and, through Octavia, Augustus as his great-uncle.
5. Agrippina's mother is exiled, ad29 - age 13
Tacitus, Annals, Book 5, Chapters 3-5
3 A letter denouncing Agrippina [the Elder] and Nero was forwarded to Rome... Its wording was of studied asperity, but the offences imputed by the sovereign to his grandson were not rebellion under arms, not meditated revolution, but unnatural love and moral depravity. Against his daughter-in‑law Tiberius dared not fabricate even such a charge, but arraigned her haughty language and refractory spirit; the senate listening in profound alarm and silence, until a few who had nothing to hope from honesty (and public misfortunes are always turned by individuals into stepping-stones to favour) demanded that a motion be put Cotta Messalinus being foremost with a drastic resolution. But among other leading members, and especially the magistrates, alarm prevailed: for Tiberius, bitter though his invective had been, had left all else in doubt...
4 There was in the senate a certain Junius Rusticus, chosen by the Caesar to compile the official journal of its proceedings, and therefore credited with some insight into his thoughts. Under some fatal impulse for he had never before given an indication of courage or possibly through a misapplied acuteness which made him blind to dangers imminent and terrified of dangers uncertain, Rusticus insinuated himself among the doubters and warned the consuls not to introduce the question. At the same time, the people, carrying effigies of Agrippina [the Elder] and Nero, surrounded the curia, and, cheering for the Caesar, clamoured that the letter was spurious and that it was contrary to the Emperor's wish that destruction was plotted against his house...
5 Tiberius, therefore, after repeating the scandalous allegations against his grandson and daughter-in‑law and rebuking the populace by edict, expressed his regret to the senate "that by the dishonesty of a single member the imperial majesty should have been publicly turned to scorn," but demanded that the entire affair should be left in his own hands. Further deliberation was needless, and they proceeded, not indeed to decree the last penalties (that course was forbidden) but to assert their readiness for vengeance, from which they were debarred by compulsion of the sovereign. . .
6. Agrippina's husband during the reign of Tiberius,
- age 21
Tacitus, Annals, Book 12, Chapters 47-48
47 Meanwhile... Albucilla, made notorious by a multitude of lovers, and at one time married to Satrius Secundus, the divulger of the plot, was arraigned for a breach of piety towards the sovereign: associated in the indictment as her accomplices and adulterers were Gnaeus Domitius, Vibius Marsus, Lucius Arruntius... But the documents forwarded to the senate stated that Macro had presided at the examination of witnesses and the torture of the slaves; and the absence of the emperor's usual letter against the accused gave rise to a suspicion that much of the evidence had been fabricated during his illness, and possibly without his knowledge
48 Domitius and Marsus, therefore, continued to live the former studying his defence, the latter ostensibly bent on self-starvation. Arruntius ... opened his veins. Albucilla, after dealing herself an ineffective wound, was borne to the dungeon by order of the senate. Of those who had subserved her amours, Carsidius Sacerdos, an ex-praetor, was condemned to deportation to an island, Pontius Fregellanus to forfeiture of his senatorial rank; and the same penalties were decreed against Laelius Balbus.
Suetonius, Nero, Book 5, Chapter 2
Just before the death of Tiberius, Domitius was charged with treason, as well as with acts of adultery and incest with his sister Lepida, but escaped owing to the change of rulers and died of dropsy at Pyrgi, after acknowledging Nero son of Agrippina, the daughter of Germanicus.
7. Agrippina at the start of the reign of
Caligula, ad37-38 - age 22
Suetonius, Caligula, Book 5, Chapter 15
[Caligula ordered honours for his mother's ashes, and renamed the month September after his father Germanicus.]
After this, by a decree of the senate, he heaped upon his grandmother Antonia whatever honours Livia Augusta had ever enjoyed; took his uncle Claudius, who up to that time had been a Roman knight, as his colleague in the consulship; adopted his brother Tiberius on the day that he assumed the gown of manhood, and gave him the title of Chief of the Youth.
He caused the names of his sisters to be included in all oaths: "And I will not hold myself and my children dearer than I do Gaius and his sisters"; as well as in the propositions of the consuls: "Favour and good fortune attend Gaius Caesar and his sisters".
Suetonius, Caligula, Book 5, Chapter 24
[Caligula] lived in habitual incest with all his sisters, and at a large banquet he placed each of them in turn below him, while his wife reclined above. Of these he is believed to have violated Drusilla when he was still a minor...
When she died, he appointed a season of public mourning, during which it was a capital offence to laugh, bathe, or dine in company with one's parents, wife, or children... The rest of his sisters he did not love with so great affection, nor honour so highly, but often prostituted them to his favourites; so that he was the readier at the trial of Aemilius Lepidus to condemn them, as adulteresses and privy to the conspiracies against him.
8. Agrippina's depiction on coinage early in
Caligula's reign - age 22
The obverse shows Caligula, with the inscription C [aius] CAESAR AVG[ustus] GERMANICVS PON[tifex] M[aximus] TR[ibunicia] POT[estas] = 'Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, High Priest with Tribunician Power'. He wears a laurel wreath, symbolising triumph.
The reverse shows the three sisters as goddesses. Agrippina, leaning on a staff, represents Security. In the centre Drusilla, holding a libation cup, represents Concord. Julia (Livilla) holds a rudder and represents Fortuna. All three hold cornucopia (horns overflowing with agricultural produce) betokening prosperity and plenty. SC stands for S[enatus] C[onsulto] = 'by decree of the Senate'.
9. Agrippina's exile, ad39 - age 24
Cassius Dio, Caligula, Book 59, Chapter 22
Another of Caligula's victims was Lepidus, that lover and favourite of his, the husband of Drusilla - the man who had together with him maintained improper relations with the emperor's other sisters, Agrippina and Julia - the man whom he had allowed to stand for office five years earlier than was permitted by law and whom he kept declaring he would leave as his successor to the throne.
He deported his sisters to the Pontian Islands because of their relations with Lepidus, having first accused them in a communication to the senate of many impious and immoral actions. Agrippina was given Lepidus' bones in an urn and bidden to carry it back to Rome, keeping it in her bosom during the whole journey.
10. The birth of Nero, 15 December ad37 - age 22
Suetonius, Nero, Chapter 6
Nero was born at Antium nine months after the death of Tiberius, on the eighteenth day before the Kalends of January. T he sun was rising with the effect that its rays fellon him almost before he could be laid upon the ground. Straightaway many made dreadful predictions about him from his horoscope, and even something said by his father Domitius was seen as warning: among all the congratulations of his friends, he said that "any child born from Agrippina and himself would be cursed and and a disaster for the state. Another sign of furture misfortune occurred on the day of his purification; Gaius Caesar [Caligula] was asked by his sister to give the infant whatever name he wanted; he looked at his uncle Claudius, who as emperor would later adopt Nero; Gaius then said that he gave him the name of 'Claudius'. He did this as a joke but Agrippina ignored the suggestion, because at that time Claudius was treated as an object of fun in the palace.
At the age of three his father died. He was left a third of his estate; but he did not receive all of this, because his co-heir Gaius took the lot. Immediately after that, his mother was banished; he was almost in poverty and was brought up by his aunt Lepida, with two tutors, a dancer and a barber. However, when Claudius became emperor, Nero not only recovered his father's money, but was also made richer by money left to him by his stepfather, Passienus Crispus.
Once his mother returned from exile and gained some power and influence again, he became much more important. It was said Messalina, wife of Claudius, had sent men to strangle him while asleep around midday, because she saw him as a rival to Britannicus. An addition to this bit of gossip is, that the men sent to kill Nero fled, frightened by a snake which shot out from his pillow. This story arose because a snakes skin was found in his bed by his pillow. Nevertheless his mother's insisted that he have the skin put into a golden bracelet which he wore on his right arm for some time. Only when he grew to dislike the thought of his mother did he throw it away, although when his situation was at its worst, he looked for it but never found it.