chapter  2
25 Pages

Succession

The untimely death of Germanicus in AD 19 would naturally have caused Agrippina much personal and private grief; but at the same time she must also have felt a more pragmatic and political concern that the loss of her popular husband would deliver a serious blow to the imperial ambitions she so clearly harboured for their sons. Moreover, expectations that the succession would pass automatically to Tiberius’ own son, Drusus, must surely have been strengthened when Drusus’ wife, Livilla, gave birth a little later in that same year to twin sons, Tiberius Gemellus (gemellus means ‘twin’ in Latin) and, in honour of his late uncle, Germanicus (the latter died in 23).1 The public interest in Germanicus’ death was given no chance to abate. Piso’s return to Rome, early in the following year, AD 20, would have aggravated the existing tensions. He was placed on trial for murder, extortion and treason, and his wife Plancina was charged along with him. His subsequent suicide would have done little to calm public disquiet, especially since Tiberius’ intervention on behalf of Plancina (at the request of his mother), would have served to confirm a popular suspicion that he and Livia had played some ill-defined but definitely murky role in Germanicus’ death, and might be scheming to turn their malign attentions now to his widow and children.2