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Episode Eight and Nine: Mother Knows Best

This week Abi and Sarah bring you a very exciting and unprecedented episode! As in, we’re bringing you an episode that we’re very excited about and it’s the first time anyone’s ever related this ancient star to myth. And what a cracking delight of a star she is. You could call her a one-woman band, but I think that’s grossly underestimating her wide variety of talents. Talents that range from navigating polite society, to autobiographical prose, to mushroom connoisseurship, to her ability to always keep both eyes open (special thanks to Nick Fury and the MCU for that reference). This week, we take you through the extraordinary life and times of Agrippina the Younger. *insert nerd squeal*

This woman, whose life spanned the majority of the most famous dynasty of the Roman Empire, is a seriously underrated human and so it’s particularly fitting that we share her story in the same week as International Women’s Day (honestly a total coincidence, but an absolute aligning of the planets for this boss lady and her story). In Part One, we take you through Agrippina’s early life and experiences under the rules of Emperors Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius. We’ll show you the ancient fires in which this maneuverer extraordinaire was forged, casting a political figure of iron resolve. Whilst her methods are more than questionable, and we do not approve her message here at Myth Dynamite, we can’t help but admire a Roman counterpart’s rise to the highest seat in one of the most influential empire’s in history (especially in a time when her counterparts were limited to seats in general).

In Part Two, we’ll take you through her most famous years: her time as matriarch of the Empire during the reign of her son – Nero. The culmination of her political intrigue turned out to be a great success....or did it? Was Nero grateful for her machinations and where they left him? Did she later instigate a conspiracy against her own son’s rule after decades of manipulation, manoeuvring and (wo)manpower to get him there in the first place? How successful is Nero at building a collapsing bed? Are all the rumours true about their “special relationship”? You know, the really important questions.

Here’s where the myth comes in! I know, I know – you thought we were going to shoehorn a history episode into the myth theme so we could talk about one of our favourite Romans! Well, you’re not wrong. No, but in all seriousness, Agrippina’s life has become so mythologised and intertwined with the characterisation of powerful women in myth – poisoner, manipulative, other, incestuous, and many many more – that it’s impossible not to read her life as a myth of sorts now. The main sources on her adventures wrote about her decades after her death and in the wake of a damnatio memoriae on Nero and anything to do with him.

This week we really wanted to spend some time with our good friend Agrippina, and pay her the same due that her male counterparts have literally received for thousands of years – she’s a badass, barbed, brilliant, breathtaking black widow of a woman and we can’t wait to share her story.

Texts Referenced:

The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Suetonius

The Annals, Tacitus

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