Poppaea Sabina, Empress of the Roman Empire

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Poppaea Sabina

Birthdate: (35)
Birthplace: Pompei, Rome
Death: Died
Cause of death: kicked to death while pregnant
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Titus Ollius and Poppaea Sabina Major
Wife of Rufrius Crispinus; Otho, Roman Emperor and Nero, Emperor of Rome
Ex-wife of <private> and <private>
Mother of Rufrius Crispinus; <private> and Claudia Augusta
Half sister of Publius Cornelius Lentulus Scipio

Managed by: Patricia (Hanson,Severson) Maxwell
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Immediate Family

About Poppaea Sabina, Empress of the Roman Empire

Poppaea Sabina

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Poppaea Sabina (after AD 63 known as Poppaea Augusta Sabina) (30-65) and sometimes referred to as Poppaea Sabina the Younger to differentiate her from her mother of the same name, was a Roman Empress as the second wife of the Emperor Nero. Prior to this she was the wife of the future Emperor Otho. The historians of antiquity describe her as a beautiful woman who used intrigues to become empress.

Contents [hide]

1 Early life

1.1 Birth in Pompeii

1.2 Family

1.2.1 Father

1.2.2 Mother

2 First marriage to Rufrius Crispinus

3 Second marriage to Otho

4 Empress and Marriage to Nero

4.1 Poppaea's involvement in the deaths of Agrippina the Younger and Claudia Octavia

4.2 Death

5 Reputation

6 References in art

7 In film

8 References in popular culture

9 References

10 Primary sources

11 External links

[edit] Early life

[edit] Birth in Pompeii

Poppaea Sabina was born in Pompeii in AD 30 as the daughter of Titus Ollius and Poppaea Sabina the Elder.[1] Most evidence suggesting Poppaea's Pompeiian origins comes from 20th century excavations of the town, destroyed in the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius. For instance, legal documents found during excavations in nearby Herculaneum described her as being the owner of a brick- or tile-work business in the Pompeii area. It is very likely that Poppaea's family came from Pompeii, and the common belief is that they might have been the owners of the House of the Menander (a house in Pompeii named for the painting of the fourth century BC playwright Menander that is found there). Although ancient sources do not directly state this, the legal documents in Herculaneum and evidence found in Pompeii for a prominent local family of the gens Poppaei makes Poppaea's Pompeiian origins much more likely.[2]

It should be mentioned that although a Roman villa in nearby Torre Annunziata (formerly known as Oplontis), located not far from Pompeii, is referred to as the Villa Poppaea as though it were certain, it is most likely that this villa was not hers.

[edit] Family

[edit] Father

Titus Ollius was a quaestor in the reign of the Emperor Tiberius. Ollius' friendship with the infamous Imperial palace guardsman Lucius Aelius Sejanus ruined him, before gaining public office. Titus Ollius was from Picenum (modern Marche and Abruzzo, Italy) and he was an unknown minor character in Imperial politics.

[edit] Mother

Poppaea Sabina the Elder was a distinguished woman, whom Tacitus praises as a wealthy woman and a woman of distinction. Tacitus describes her as ‘the loveliest woman of her day’. In 47, she committed suicide as an innocent victim of the intrigues of the Roman Empress Valeria Messalina.

The father of Poppaea Sabina the Elder was a certain Gaius Poppaeus Sabinus. This man of humble birth was consul in 9 and was the governor of Moesia from 12 - 35.[1] During his consulship, the future Emperor Vespasian was born. During the reign of the Emperor Tiberius, he received a military triumph, for ending a revolt in Thrace in 26. From 15 until his death, he served as Imperial Proconsul (or Governor) of Greece and in other provinces. This competent administrator enjoyed the friendship of the Emperors Augustus and Tiberius. He died in late December of AD 35 from natural causes. After his death, Poppaea Sabina the Younger assumed the name of her maternal grandfather.

Titus Ollius died in 31. Poppaea's mother remarried Publius Cornelius Lentulus Scipio (I). Lentulus Scipio was a divisional commander in 22, consul in 24 and later a senator. Publius Cornelius Lentulus Scipio (II) was most probably Poppaea's stepbrother. Lentulus Scipio II served as a consul in 56 and he later served as a senator.

[edit] First marriage to Rufrius Crispinus

Poppaea's first marriage was to Rufrius Crispinus, a man of equestrian rank. They married in 44, when Poppaea was 14 years old. He was the leader of the Praetorian Guard during the first ten years of the reign of the Emperor Claudius, until 51, when the Empress Agrippina the Younger removed him from this position. She regarded him as loyal to Valeria Messalina's memory and replaced him with Sextus Afranius Burrus. Later under Nero he was executed. During their marriage, Poppaea had borne him a son, a younger Rufrius Crispinus, who, after her death, would be drowned by Nero while out on a fishing trip.

[edit] Second marriage to Otho

Poppaea then married Otho, a good friend of the new Emperor Nero, who was seven years younger than her. Nero fell in love with Poppaea and she became Nero's mistress. According to Tacitus, Poppaea divorced Otho in 58 and focused her attentions solely on becoming empress of Rome and Nero's new wife. Otho was ordered away to be governor of Lusitania. A decade later, he became emperor briefly after Nero's death in succession to Galba. Suetonius places these events after 59.[3]

[edit] Empress and Marriage to Nero

According to Tacitus, Poppaea was ambitious, ruthless, and bisexual. He reports that Poppaea married Otho to get close to Nero and then, in turn, became Nero's favorite mistress.

[edit] Poppaea's involvement in the deaths of Agrippina the Younger and Claudia Octavia

Tacitus claims that Poppaea was the reason that Nero murdered his mother. Poppaea enticed Nero to murder Agrippina in 59 so that she could marry him.[4] Modern sources, though, question the reliability of this story as Nero did not marry Poppaea until 62.[5] Additionally, Suetonius mentions how Poppaea's husband, Otho, was not sent away until after Agrippina's death, which makes it very unlikely that an already married woman would be pressing Nero to marry her.[3] Some modern historians, however, theorize that Nero's decision to kill Agrippina was prompted by her plotting to set Gaius Rubellius Plautus (Nero's maternal second cousin) on the throne, rather than as a result of Poppaea's motives.

Still, Tacitus claims that, with Agrippina gone, Poppaea pressured Nero to divorce (and later execute) his first wife and stepsister Claudia Octavia in order to marry her. Octavia was initially dismissed to Campania (which by coincidence is the same general geographic area that Pompeii, Poppaea's place of birth as noted above, is located in), and then imprisoned on the island of Ventotene (a common place of banishment for members of the Imperial family who fell from favor), on a charge of adultery. Once more, like with the death of Agrippina, modern historians question Poppaea's pressure as Nero's true motive. During his eight year marriage to Claudia Octavia, Nero had produced no children, and in AD 62, around the time that he divorced Octavia, Poppaea was pregnant. When this happened, Nero divorced Octavia, claimed she was barren, and he married Poppaea two weeks after the divorce.

The historian Josephus, on the other hand, tells us of a very different Poppaea. He calls her a deeply religious woman (perhaps privately a Jewish proselyte) who urged Nero to show compassion, namely to the Jewish people. However, she harmed the Jews by securing the position of procurator of Judaea for her friend's husband, Gessius Florus, in 64.[1]

She bore Nero one daughter, Claudia Augusta, born on 21 January 63, who died at only four months of age. At the birth of Claudia, Nero honored mother and child with the title of Augusta.

[edit] Death

The cause and timing of Poppaea's death is uncertain. According to Suetonius, while she was awaiting the birth of her second child in the summer of 65, she quarreled fiercely with Nero over him spending too much time at the races. In a fit of rage, Nero kicked her in the abdomen, so causing her death.[6] Tacitus, on the other hand, places the death after the Quinquennial Neronia and claims Nero's kick was a "casual outburst." Tacitus also mentions that some writers (now lost) claimed Nero poisoned her, though Tacitus does not believe them.[7] Cassius Dio claims Nero leapt upon her belly, but admits that he doesn't know if it was intentional or an accident.[8]

Modern historians, though, noting Suetonius, Tacitus and Cassius Dio's severe bias against Nero and the impossibility of them knowing private events, recognize that Poppaea may have simply died due to fatal miscarriage complications or in childbirth (in which case the second child also did not survive).[9]

When Poppaea died in 65, Nero went into deep mourning. Her body was not cremated, it was stuffed with spices, embalmed and put in the Mausoleum of Augustus. She was given a state funeral. Nero praised her during the funeral eulogy and gave her divine honors.

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Poppaea Sabina, Empress of the Roman Empire's Timeline

Pompei, Rome
January 21, 63
Age 33
Age 34