Agrippa Postumus

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Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa Postumus (12 BC – 14 AD), also known as Agrippa Postumus or Postumus Agrippa, was a son of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Julia the Elder. His maternal grandparents were Roman Emperor Augustus and his second wife Scribonia.[1]

Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa Postumus was born on June 26, 12 BC, the youngest of three boys. His father Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa died before he was born. Augustus adopted two of his son-in-law's children, making sons of these grandchildren Gaius Caesar and Lucius Caesar. Postumus he left unadopted, so he could continue the family.

However, upon the death of Lucius and then Gaius Caesar, Augustus finally decided to adopt both Postumus and his step-son Tiberius as his heirs, with Postumus first in the succession. As the designated heir, he became Marcus Julius Caesar Agrippa Postumus, while his stepfather 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 Agrippa 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.[2] Postumus was held under intense security.[3]

Postumus' sister Julia the Younger was banished around the same time and her husband, Lucius Aemilius Paullus was executed in a conspiracy against Augustus.[4] Also, a conspiracy to rescue Postumus and Julia was planned and was foiled.[4]

In any case, Postumus's banishment did ensure Tiberius's priority as Augustus's heir. Tacitus (Ann. 1.3) 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, 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. Dio's version (56.30) reports the island visit as fact, though the brief account is likely based on Tacitus' account (Ann. 1.1) 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 (Tacitus, Ann. 1.5). 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) (Suetonius, Lives, Tiberius 22), taking advantage of the confusing initial political situation upon Augustus' death.[5]

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