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The Family of Germanicus
Germanicus is not a name that many people are familiar with today, but the man and his family are central
figures in the story of one of the most colourful imperial dynasties the world has ever known – the Julio-
The Julio-Claudians get their name from two families of the old Roman republic. Both families were old.
The Julians had an impeccable aristocratic pedigree, while the Claudians were one of the most politically
powerful families in the state. The two were thrown together into an alliance during the troubles which
gripped Rome during the fall of the Republic.
Julius Caesar, the most famous member of the Julian family, led his legions in the conquest of Rome.
Though Caesar was a great general, he lacked the political skills to control the Roman senate and Caesar
was killed by the senators during one of their meetings. Another round of civil wars followed, and Caesar's
great-nephew, Augustus, became the ruler of Rome.
In contrast to Caesar, Augustus was a superb, uncompromising and ruthless politician. Early in his career
he realized that his family could not rule alone, and he allied himself with the Claudians by marrying a
woman called Livia Drusilla. Livia was not only a Claudian herself, but the former wife of another Claudian.
She had two children by her first marriage, Tiberius and Drusus.
When he grew up, Drusus married Antonia, the daughter of Mark Antony. They had two children, one
called Claudius and the other named Tiberius after his uncle and grandfather (Tiberius was a common
Roman name, and often used for members of the Claudian family.)
Tiberius joined the army while he was still a young man, and turned out to be an excellent soldier. At the
time, the Romans were busy with a major war in Germany. This war had not been going well, and the
Romans lost a number of legions during a major battle in the Teutonwald forest. Tiberius was one of the
commanders who helped to restore the power of Rome, and to celebrate his victories, and to distinguish
him from his uncle, the soldiers started calling him Germanicus.
Germanicus, or Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus to give him his proper name, was not only an excellent
commander, but one who took great care that his soldiers were well supplied and looked after. He was
loved by the troops he commanded and this love helped him to bring the legions back under control when
they mutinied on hearing of the death of Augustus.
Since Augustus had no sons he had adopted Tiberius, the uncle of Germanicus. As the son of Augustus,
Tiberius became emperor after him. Augustus had known how popular Germanicus was, and considered
adopting him instead of Tiberius, but instead adopted Tiberius and made Tiberius adopt Germanicus. His
plan was that power should go from himself, to Tiberius and then to Germanicus and his sons.
Germanicus had already become closer to the Julian family by his marriage to Agrippina, the grand-