M. Vipsanius Agrippa (4)

Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (64/63-12 BCE): Roman politician, friend of the emperor Augustus.

AgrippaThe final question remains: what kind of man was Agrippa? He is often praised as a noble man who was prepared to work for the benefit of the empire, accepting that he would always be eclipsed by Augustus. This is probably a bit too kind.

Agrippa's ancestors did not belong to the senatorial elite and it was quite evident that he could never achieve the position of Augustus himself. During his youth, Agrippa learned two things: the importance of the army and the strength of the Roman tradition, which - as Julius Caesar had discovered - could not be ignored. He knew that the army would be his road to power, but that as an eques, he could never himself be the first man in Rome.

Gaius CaesarHe settled for the best that was within reach: he was the emperor's right-hand man, and the emperor was to be succeeded by Agrippa's son Gaius Caesar. Every time he had the opportunity, he would show his power, for example by accepting all kinds of honors and putting his own statue next to Augustus' at the entrance of the Pantheon. As a child of the civil wars, Agrippa dreamed of power. What he obtained, he owed to Augustus, who knew that Agrippa would always remain loyal, because this was the only way in which Agrippa could fulfill his own ambitions.

When all is taken into account, the career of Agrippa illustrates especially the genius of Augustus, who was able to neutralize Agrippa's ambitions and use the man to support his own regime.