Vipsania Agrippina

Vipsania Agrippina (/ˌæɡrəˈpnə, -ˈp-/; 36 BC – 20 AD) was the first wife of the Emperor Tiberius. She was the daughter of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Pomponia Caecilia Attica, thus a granddaughter of Titus Pomponius Atticus,[1] the best friend of Cicero.

Vipsania Agrippina
Bust of Vipsania (recovered from Leptis Magna, near Khoms, Libya)
Born36 BC
Died20 AD (aged 55/56)
Gaius Asinius Gallus Saloninus
IssueDrusus Julius Caesar
Gaius Asinius Pollio
Marcus Asinius Agrippa
Asinius Saloninus
Servius Asinius Celer
Lucius Asinius Gallus
FatherMarcus Vipsanius Agrippa
MotherPomponia Caecilia Attica
Roman imperial dynasties
Julio-Claudian dynasty
Augustus 27 BC – AD 14
Tiberius AD 14–37
Caligula AD 37–41
Claudius AD 41–54
Nero AD 54–68
Gens Julia
Gens Claudia
Gens Octavia
Gens Antonia
Gens Vipsania
Preceded by
Roman Republic
Followed by
Year of the Four Emperors
Category Category


She was betrothed by Augustus and her father to Tiberius, the stepson of Augustus, before her first birthday. They were married around 19 BC.[2] Their son Drusus Julius Caesar was born in 14 BC.

Despite Vipsania and Tiberius enjoying a happy marriage, Augustus ordered the two to divorce after the death of Vipsania's father, who was married to Augustus's daughter Julia the Elder.[3] Even though Tiberius wished to remain with Vipsania and held disdain for Julia for her purported unfaithfulness, Augustus engaged him to Julia in order to link Tiberius's growing power to the Julian family.[4] At the time of their divorce, Vipsania was pregnant with a second child, who did not survive.[3]

Tiberius divorced Vipsania against his will in 11 BC (non sine magno angore animi ["not without great mental anguish"], according to Suetonius) and never ceased to rue his action. On one occasion Tiberius caught sight of Vipsania and followed her with an intent and tearful gaze.[3] Precautions were taken to avoid further embarrassing meetings with her.

In 11 BC she married Gaius Asinius Gallus Saloninus,[5] a Senator and son of the famous orator Gaius Asinius Pollio. They had at least five sons. Vipsania Agrippina died in AD 20, a few days after the ovation of her son Drusus,[6] which took place on 28 May.

Tiberius hated Gallus, not least because Gallus claimed that Drusus was his own son. In 30, at Tiberius' instigation, the Senate was to declare Gallus a public enemy.[7] He died in prison in 33, of starvation.


Vipsania and Gallus' known sons were:

  • Gaius Asinius Pollio - Consul in 23; exiled as an accuser of a conspiracy and later was put to death on orders from Empress Valeria Messalina.
  • Marcus Asinius Agrippa - Consul in 25 and died in the end of 26. Tacitus describes him as "not unworthy of his ancestors".[8] His son Marcus Asinius Marcellus was Consul in 54, at the time when the Emperor Claudius died.[9]
  • Asinius Saloninus or (Gnaeus Asinius Saloninus) (sometimes wrongly called Salonius), died in 22. Tacitus describes him as an ‘eminent’ person. Saloninus was intended to marry one of the granddaughters of Emperor Tiberius.[10]
  • Servius Asinius Celer. He was consul suffectus in 38. From Emperor Caligula he purchased a fish at an enormous price.[11] He is mentioned in the satire, by Seneca, The Pumpkinification of Claudius, where he is listed among the many people killed by that emperor; his death probably occurred sometime before mid-47. Asinius Celer seems to have had a daughter by the name of Asinia Agrippina, though her existence is obscure.
  • Asinius Gallus or Lucius Asinius Gallus (sometimes wrongly called Gallo). In 46 he conspired against Claudius and was forced to go into exile. Cassius Dio describes him as being "very small and ugly".[12] Later rehabilitated, he became Consul in 62.
  • Gnaeus Asinius. His existence is recorded by the townsfolk of Puteoli,[13] whose patron he was. Nothing else is known about him. He may have been identical with Asinius Saloninus or the foregoing Asinius Gallus. Since the Asinius Gallus seems to have been the Lucius Asinius Gallus who became a Consul in 60, by exclusion of parts the Gnaeus Asinius must be the Asinius Saloninus.

A descendant of Vipsania and Gallus, Pomponia Graecina, was a distinguished lady married to Aulus Plautius.[14] Plautius was a general in the conquest of Britain, which he received as a military ovation. Nero murdered their son, reportedly because Agrippina the Younger, mother of Nero, was in love with him and encouraged him to bid for the throne.

Another descendant or otherwise relative, Gaius Asinius Lepidus Praetextatus (210 – after 242), became a Consul in 242, being the son of Gaius Asinius Lepidus, Suffect Consul of Rome in 222 and wife (Vettia) (born 190 or 195).

Tacitus states that Vipsania was the only one of Agrippa's children to die without violence.[15] She was one of the leading women of her time, and between 21-23, her son Drusus honored her memory with statues, coins and inscriptions.

Cultural depictionsEdit

Robert Graves' novel I, Claudius mentions Tiberius following Vipsania with his eyes after their divorce, referencing Suetonius. Lives of the Twelve Caesars. Tiberius. 7.

The television adaptation went somewhat further, the second episode included a fairly lengthy scene between Tiberius and Vipsania on the eve of her second marriage, with Tiberius upset and regretting their divorce. She was played by Sheila Ruskin.[16]


(See also Julio-Claudian family tree)


  1. ^ Nepos, Atticus 12
  2. ^ Ronald Syme, The Augustan Aristocracy (1987), 314.
  3. ^ a b c Suetonius, Tiberius 7
  4. ^ Seager 2005, p. 20.
  5. ^ Tacitus, Annals 1.12
  6. ^ Tacitus, Annals 3.19
  7. ^ Cassius Dio, 58.3
  8. ^ Tacitus, Annals 4.61
  9. ^ Syme, Ronald (1986). The Augustan Aristocracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 145f. ISBN 0-19-814731-7.
  10. ^ Tacitus, Annals 3.75
  11. ^ Naturalis Historia IX 31 § 67
  12. ^ Cassius Dio, 60.27.5
  13. ^ CIL X, 1682
  14. ^ Tacitus, Annals 13.32
  15. ^ Tacitus, Annals 3.19.4-5.
  16. ^ "I, Claudius (Full Cast & Crew)".

External linksEdit