|Birth to adoption: Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa Postumus
After adoption: Marcus Julius Caesar Agrippa Postumus
|Father||Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa|
|Mother||Julia the Elder|
|Born||26 June 12 BC|
|Died||20 August AD 14
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa Postumus (26 June 12 BC – 20 August AD 14), also known as Agrippa Postumus or Postumus Agrippa or just Postumus, was a son of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Julia the Elder. His maternal grandparents were Roman Emperor Augustus and his second wife Scribonia.
Born after his father's death (hence the name), he was adopted by the emperor Augustus. For a period he was heir to the throne of Augustus, but in unclear circumstances he was arrested and exiled. Around the time of Augustus' death he was executed by his guards.
Early life and personality
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa Postumus was born on June 26, 12 BC, the youngest of five children. His father Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa died before he was born. Augustus adopted Postumus' two older brothers, Gaius Caesar and Lucius Caesar. Postumus was left unadopted, so he could continue the family name.
However, upon the death of Lucius and then Gaius Caesar, Augustus finally decided to adopt both his grandson Postumus and step-son Tiberius (Postumus' stepfather) as his heirs, with Postumus first in the succession. As the designated heir, he became "Marcus Julius Caesar Agrippa Postumus", while his step-father Tiberius became "Tiberius Julius Caesar". The anxiety over who would follow in Augustus' footsteps naturally set up Postumus and Tiberius in opposition.
Although there is little clear contemporary account of him, virtually all Roman historians agree that Postumus was considered a rude and brutish sort; Tacitus defended him, but his praise was slight: [He was] the young, physically tough, indeed brutish, Agrippa Postumus. Though devoid of every good quality, he had been involved in no scandal.
There has never been a clear consensus on why it happened, but in 9 AD, Augustus banished Postumus to the small island of Planasia. Tacitus suggests that he was always disliked and shunned by Livia, as he stood in the way of her son Tiberius succeeding to the throne after Augustus. A banishment (and eventual execution) for merely being rude and unpleasant, though, is a harsh sentence. Thus, some modern historians theorize he was involved in a conspiracy against Augustus. Alternatively, it is speculated that he may have had learning difficulties. Postumus was held under intense security.
Postumus' sister Julia the Younger was banished around the same time and her husband, Lucius Aemilius Paullus was executed in a conspiracy against Augustus. Also, a conspiracy to rescue Postumus and Julia was planned and was foiled.
In any case, Postumus's banishment did ensure Tiberius's priority as Augustus's heir. Tacitus  reports a rumor that Augustus paid a highly covert visit to the island in 13 AD to apologize to his adopted son and give him notice of plans to return him to Rome. Augustus was accompanied by a trusted friend, Paullus Fabius Maximus, and swore him to secrecy about the matter; Maximus then told his wife, Marcia, who mentioned it to Livia. Maximus was soon found dead, and Marcia subsequently claimed she was responsible for his death. Cassius Dio's version  reports the island visit as fact, though the brief account is likely based on Tacitus' account  and does not mention Fabius and Marcia. It is dubious whether this tale has any veracity.
Regardless of Augustus' supposed visit, the emperor died the following year without having removed Postumus from Planasia and without including him in his will. Around Augustus' death, Postumus was executed by his guards with some accounts contradicting whether it happened before or after. Accounts are also inconsistent on who ordered the death and these existed almost from the start, when Tiberius immediately and publicly disavowed the act upon being notified of it.  Some suggested that Augustus may have ordered the execution, while others place the blame on either Tiberius or Livia (with or possibly without Tiberius's knowledge),  taking advantage of the confusing initial political situation upon Augustus' death.
Postumus was impersonated after his death by Clemens.
Robert Graves' work I, Claudius presents Postumus in a positive light, as a boyhood friend of Claudius. He suggests that, through Livia's influence, Augustus grew to dislike him, and Graves creates a fictional incident in which Postumus is framed by Livia and her granddaughter Livilla for attempted rape of the latter. Postumus tells Claudius of Livia's plans and advises him to play the fool. Graves also has Claudius believing that Postumus escaped execution by impersonating the freed slave Clemens, spending time on the run, but eventually being captured and executed by Tiberius. However, since Claudius does not meet Postumus/Clemens in person after Planasia, it is possible that Graves simply made Claudius fall for the Clemens hoax.
The television adaptation by Jack Pulman retained Postumus being framed for the assault on Livilla, but removed his fictional survival, he is killed by Sejanus on Planasia after Augustus's death. The character is portrayed by John Castle.
|Ancestors of Agrippa Postumus|
- Plate, William (1867), "Agrippa, Postumus", in Smith, William, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology 1, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, p. 78
- Tacitus, The Annals 1.3
- Norwood, Frances, "The Riddle of Ovid's Regelatio", Classical Philology (1963) p. 153
- Suetonius, The Lives of Caesars Life of Augustus 65
- Suetonius, The Lives of Caesars Life of Augustus 19
- Tacitus Annals 1.3
- Cassius Dio 56.30
- Tacitus Annals 1.1
- Tacitus, Annals 1.5
- Suetonius, Lives, Tiberius 22
- Pappano, Albert, "Agrippa Postumus", Classical Philology, 1941, p. 43