Nero and Agrippina II, Aureus

Historical background

Agrippina the Younger was the fourth wife of Claudius, her uncle. Claudius had three blood children – Britannicus, Octavia and Antonio from previous marriages. For Agrippina, the marriage was not based on lover, but on power. It was part of her plan to make her existing son, Nero, the next emperor. Things initially went to plan as Claudius adopted Nero as his son and was lining him up as his successor. However, he later repented marrying Agrippina and began to favour Britannicus.

This gave Agrippina a motive to kill Claudius and some sources say that she poisoned him with a plate of deadly mushrooms. Modern sources say that his death might have been from natural causes. Whatever the cause of his death, Agrippina took the opportunity to introduce Nero to the Praetorian Guard and the Senate as the new emperor.

Obverse

The obverse shows the jugate busts of Nero and his mother, Agrippina the Younger. Jugate coins are relatively uncommon in Roman coinage and show the close influence Agrippina had over Nero at the start of his reign. The legend reads: NERO CLAVD DIVI F CAES AVG GERM IMP TR P COS – ‘Nero Caesar Augustus Germanicus son of Divine Claudius, hailed victorious commander, with Tribunician power, Consul“. This raft of imperial titles and official positions is designed to give legitimacy to Nero.

Reverse

The denarius’ reverse shows an elephant-drawn quadriga bearing seated figures, likely those of Claudius and Augustus. This is designed to show Nero’s blood connection to Augustus as well as his adoption by Claudius. The Reverse’s Legend, AGRIPP AVG DIVI CLAVD NERONIS [CAES MATER] – “Agrippina Augusta, wife of Divus Claudius, mother of Nero Caesar“, stresses the significance of Agrippina in securing the imperial position for Nero.

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