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Summary

Agrippina the Younger held a unique position in the first Roman imperial family. As great niece of Tiberius, sister of Caligula, wife of Claudius and mother of Nero, she stood at the centre of power in the Roman empire for three generations. Even in her own time, she was recognised as a woman of unparalleled power. From exile to being hailed empress, across three marriages and three widowhoods, her life, power and role were extraordinary in their scope and drama. Beautiful and intelligent, she is alternately a ruthless murderer and helpless victim, the most loving mother and the most powerful woman of the Roman empire. 

She is portrayed in ancient sources as using sex, motherhood, manipulation and violence to get her way and as single-minded in her pursuit of power for herself and her son. Agrippina’s life sheds light on the Julio-Claudian dynasty and Rome at its height - the chaos, blood and politics of it all - as well as the place of women in the Roman world.

This book follows Agrippina as a daughter born to the expected heir to Augustus’ throne and who was then orphaned; as a sister to Caligula, who raped his sisters and showered them with honours until they attempted rebellion against him and were exiled; as a seductive niece and then wife to Claudius, who gave her access to near unlimited power; and then as a mother to Nero, who adored her until he killed her. 

She was 44 when she died. It takes us from the camps of Germany during a mutiny, through senatorial political intrigue, assassination attempts and exile to a small island, to the heights of imperial power, thrones and golden cloaks and games and adoration. 

We will see Agrippina found her own city (Cologne), live up to and then flaunt the greatest ideals of Roman femininity and motherhood, and explore the absolute limits of female power in Rome. The biography of Agrippina is also the biography of the first Roman imperial family, the Julio-Claudians, and of the empire itself.

©2020 Emma Southon (P)2020 Audible, Ltd

What listeners say about Agrippina

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History - Facebook style

Its not a bad telling of the story (well what we know and can guess) and makes clear the difficulties of using unreliable texts, mostly written and compiled by authors with an agenda decades or more after the events. This is probably the most useful bit of the book but that is not what people are likely to be most interest in.

The performance is good given the poor quality of the writing - which seems more an attempt at written standup. The author seems to be aiming more for street cred than style. My main irritation is the pronounciation of names which seems to border on the pompous and not the way most English speaking readers would recogise them.

Don't expect literature or a nice turn of phrase ... you get often pointless swearing, references to the David Cameron Pig F*****g episode, Sejanus is referred to as the one played by Patrick Stewart with hair in the 70s BBC series I Claudius, comparisons to Philp Green and Alan Sugar for class distinction and emphatic phrases like "Livia would have cut her sons (Tiberius) bollocks off before she ..." etc.

After a while it all becomes tedious to listen to ... I suspect the book was not read by an editor. Its a bit like horrible histories for adults with swearing, but the contemporary cultural references that guarantee it will be unreadable in 20 years.

11 people found this helpful

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Expected Better

Did not care for narration or content aware content bit frivolous could not take serious.

7 people found this helpful

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An entertaining listen

This was good fun! It took me a while to get used to the narrator's unusual style, but I really grew to appreciate how she took on the role wholeheartedly; this is not a stuffy, serious history book and shouldn't be read as such. Southon injects her own personality into her writing and research, providing us with a humorous and human account of Agrippina's life and times. It's refreshing to hear a disparaging female perspective picking apart the ancient, mysogynistic sources and considering the historical figure as a real person with real feelings.

5 people found this helpful

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Amazing book and narrator

Lovely book, really funny as well. It's great to have story, specially of neglected women figures revisited by a woman. The narrator is very good too!

4 people found this helpful

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Wonderful!

I absolutely loved this audiobook.
Just fabulous.
The narrator was excellent and I hope she narrates Emma Southon's other book 'A Fatal Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum'

3 people found this helpful

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Narration style spoiled this for me.

I persevered as the subject is interesting. However, the narrator more suited for children's books.

2 people found this helpful

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loved it from start to finish

excellent narration of a fantastic roman epic
nothing more to say apart from see you in the forum

2 people found this helpful

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Clear and entertaining account

Makes a complicated era of roman history understandable. The narrator was very engaging. Would recommend.

2 people found this helpful

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Stunningly good

Emma Southon presents a fascinating and credible case for every woman’s favourite Roman (well ok but she should be) being the first female ruler of Rome. It didn’t last long but no one denies Otho was emperor. Anyway, she doesn’t shy away from the gaps in the literature or the subjective nature of historical writing but her conclusions are very strong. It’s brilliantly read by Imogen Church and proves that swearing is indeed big and clever.

2 people found this helpful

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Couldn't get to grips with the style

I am all for repackaging for the younger audience, but this wasn't for me. Guess I am too old.

1 person found this helpful