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Murder of Agrippina


. . . At last convinced that she would become too formidable Nero resolved to destroy her, merely deliberating whether it was to be accomplished by poison, or by the sword, or by any other violent means. Poison at first seemed best, but, were it to be administered at the imperial table, the result could not be referred to chance after the recent circumstances of the death of Britannicus. Again, to tamper with the servants of a woman who, from her familiarity with crime, was on her guard against treachery, appeared to be extremely difficult. Then, too, she had fortified her constitution by the use of antidotes. How, again, the dagger and its work were to be kept secret, no one could suggest, and it was feared, too, that whoever might be chosen to execute such a crime would spurn the order.

An ingenious suggestion was offered by Anicetus, a freedman, commander of the fleet at Misenum,2 who had been tutor to Nero in boyhood and had a hatred of Agrippina which she reciprocated. He explained that a vessel could be constructed, from which a part might by a contrivance be detached when out at sea, so as to plunge her unawares into the water. "Nothing," he said, "permitted accidents so much as the sea, and should she be overtaken by shipwreck, who would be so unfair as to impute to crime an offense committed by the winds and waves? The emperor would add the honor of a temple and of shrines to the deceased lady, with every other display of filial affection."

Nero liked the device, favored as it was, also, by the particular time, for he was celebrating Minerva’s five days’ festival1 at Baiæ.2 Thither he enticed his mother by repeated assurances that children ought to bear with the irritability of parents and to soothe their tempers. Nero wished thus to spread a rumor of reconciliation and to secure Agrippina’s acceptance through feminine credulity, which easily believes what gives joy. As she approached, he went to the shore to meet her (she was coming from Antium3), welcomed her with outstretched hands, and conducted her to Bauli. This was the name of a country house, washed by a bay of the sea, between the promontory of Misenum and the Lucrine Lake. Here was a vessel distinguished from others by its equipment and seemingly meant to do honor to his mother. . . .

It was a night of brilliant starlight with the calm of a tranquil sea. . . . Agrippina had with her two of her intimate attendants, one of whom, Crepereius, stood near the helm, while Acerronia, reclining at Agrippina’s feet as she reposed herself, spoke joyfully of Nero’s full repentance and of the recovery of the mother’s influence. The vessel had not gone far when at a given signal the ceiling of the place, which was loaded with a quantity of lead, fell in, and Crepereius was crushed and instantly killed. Agrippina and Acerronia were protected by the projecting sides of the couch, which happened to be too strong to yield under the weight. But this was not followed by the breaking up of the vessel; for all were bewildered, and those too, who were in the plot, were hindered by the unconscious majority. The crew then thought it best to throw the vessel on one side and so sink it, but they could not themselves promptly unite to face the emergency, and others, by counteracting the attempt, gave an opportunity of a gentler fall into the sea. Acerronia, however, who thoughtlessly exclaimed that she was Agrippina and implored help for the emperor’s mother, was killed with poles and oars, and such naval implements as chance offered. Agrippina was silent and was thus the less recognized; still, she received a wound in her shoulder. She swam away, then met some small boats which conveyed her to the Lucrine Lake, and so entered her house. . . .

Anicetus surrounded the house with a guard, and having burst open the gates, dragged off the slaves who met him, till he came to the door of her chamber. . . . A small lamp was in the room, and one slave-girl with Agrippina, who grew more and more anxious, as no messenger came from her son. . . . When the girl rose to depart, Agrippina exclaimed, "Do you also forsake me?" Looking around she saw Anicetus, who had with him the captain of the trireme, Herculeius, and Obaritus, a centurion of marines. "If," said she, "you have come to see me, take back word that I have recovered, but if you are here to do a crime, I believe nothing about my son; he has not ordered his mother’s murder." The assassins closed in round her couch, and the captain of the trireme first struck her head violently with a club. Then with numerous wounds she was slain. . . .

Many years before Agrippina had anticipated this end for herself and had spurned the thought. For, when she consulted the astrologers about Nero, they replied that he would be emperor and kill his mother. "Let him kill her," she said, "provided he is emperor."

1 Tacitus, , xiv, 3–5, 8–9.

2 A promontory on the coast of Campania.

1 On the 19th of March and the four following days.

2 A celebrated bathing resort of the Romans, located on the promontory of Misenum.

3 On the coast of Latium.


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Chicago: "Murder of Agrippina," Annals in Readings in Early European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926), 231–232. Original Sources, accessed September 29, 2023,

MLA: . "Murder of Agrippina." Annals, Vol. xiv, in Readings in Early European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1926, pp. 231–232. Original Sources. 29 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: , 'Murder of Agrippina' in Annals. cited in 1926, Readings in Early European History, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.231–232. Original Sources, retrieved 29 September 2023, from