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Agrippina – Heroine of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty

525600. SOLD $4250

Agrippina Senior. Died AD 33. Æ Sestertius (36mm, 30.28 g, 6h). Rome mint. Struck under Claudius, AD 42-43. Draped bust right, hair waved and drawn into plait / TI • CLAVDIVS • CAESAR • AVG • GERM • P • M • TR • P IMP P P • around large S • C. RIC I 102 (Claudius); von Kaenel Type 78; BMCRE 219-23 (Claudius); BN 236-40 (Claudius). Beautiful green patina. Near EF.

Vipsania Agrippina was born in 14 BC to Julia the Elder, daughter of Caesar Augustus, and his right-hand-man Marcus Agrippa. Though immensely rich and powerful, her Julio-Claudian family was shot through with intrigue, tension and untimely death. Her father died when she was only two. A few years later, Augustus exiled her mother Julia for adultery, effectively orphaning her and her three brothers, who were all taken into the imperial household and raised by the emperor and his wife, the arch-manipulator Livia Drusilla. In the drama-filled last decade of Augustus's reign, all three of her brothers died young, or were murdered, clearing the path for the succession of Livia's son Tiberius. Agrippina was also married during this span, sometime between 1 BC and AD 5, to Germanicus, the charismatic nephew of Tiberius and her second maternal cousin. Though political, the union was also a very happy one and the couple eventually had nine children, including the future emperor Gaius 'Caligula' and empress Agrippina the Younger. All ancient historians call Agrippina a model of rectitude and matronly virtue. Yet she also went beyond the traditional role of a Roman wife and mother in accompanying Germanicus on dangerous military campaigns and foreign postings. Admired for her courage, she also had an imperious nature and longed for the day when her husband would inherit supreme power. The mysterious death of Germanicus while on a diplomatic mission in the East in AD 19 dashed these hopes. Agrippina believed Tiberius and/or Livia orchestrated her husband’s demise and made no secret of her suspicions. This put her squarely in the crosshairs of Sejanus, Tiberius's unscrupulous Praetorian prefect, who waged a patient campaign to undermine her. In AD 29 she was charged with treason and banished to a remote island. Repeatedly abused and starved, she died four years later. Upon the death of Tiberius, her son Gaius 'Caligula' became emperor and rehabilitated his mother's reputation. Claudius further honored her with this impressive sestertius, struck a decade after her death.