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This episode is brought to you by Chris, I know with all of the research that I have to do, sometimes it's a little easy to just get a little overstressed. And sometimes the only quiet moment I have today is when I'm taking a shower, which is actually great, because that's what a lot of my best ideas happen. A lot of women get their best ideas in the shower. Caress will help. It immerses your senses with silk extract and floral essence.


You can get glowing skin and let your magic happen. Find it in the body wash aisle at your favorite retailer. Caress Inspiration starts here. Hi, guys.


I'm Katie Lowes, actress, mom and host of the parenting podcast Katie's Chrin, a show that helps women navigate the colossal changes that come with motherhood. You'll hear from resilient mamas, knowledgeable experts and me asking a whole lot of questions. It's real talk that offers real perspective on what it's really like to be a parent. New episodes publish every other Thursday. Listen to Katie's crib on the I Heart radio app or on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.


Welcome to criminalise a production of Shadowland Audio in partnership with I Heart Radio. Hello and welcome to Criminality, where we're exploring the intersection of history and true crime.


I'm Maria Aramaki. And I'm Holly Fry. And this season we're talking about Lady Poisoners. And this week's poisoner was born into royalty. She became the wife of one emperor and the mother of another. She has been described by both ancient and modern sources as ambitious, but also as ruthless, violent and domineering.


Not the kind of endorsements you're typically looking for on your LinkedIn profile summit. I always search for what I'm looking for in an employee domineering. So we are talking about Julia Agrippina, the power hungry Roman empress, and that's power hungry, eaten by Roman standards. So it's pretty great, I said, to have poisoned her husband, who also happened to be her uncle.


But we'll talk about that later to ensure her only son's succession to the throne. Julia Agrippina lived in the 1st century. She was born in a small town called Optum Burum, which is located in what is modern day Germany. She was born sometime between November and March 15 of the Common Era, and her parents were Germanicus SESAR and dipsomaniac Agrippina. Julia was often referred to as Agrippina the younger in order to distinguish her from her mother.


Julia was actually born into the Julia Claudie and Dynasty, which was the first Roman imperial dynasty and was made up of the first five Roman emperors who were Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero. Names you have probably heard before, Amy. Yes, Julia was the great granddaughter of Augustus, that was the man who had turned to the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire and became its first emperor. She was the great niece of Tiberius. She was the sister of Caligula, the niece and the fourth wife of Claudius and ultimately the mother of Nero.


Her story is one of ambition and scandal. And it sounds like something that came out of a fiction writers imagination. But the idea of the female murderer for whom poison is the weapon of choice is, as we mentioned just a moment ago, really prevalent throughout human history, but also throughout our mythologies as well.


So if you have studied any mythology, you may remember that in Greek mythology, certainly used magic herbs to turn people into wolves, lions and pigs, for instance, which sounds kind of cool.


You hear that today. You hear it described in more modern fiction in George Martin's Game of Thrones as the preferred weapon of the Kraven. So eunuchs and also women. Hmm.


Julia was married young in the year twenty eight, which would have made her a 13 year old bride. Her first husband, Denias Demitrius Akino. Barbas was an aristocrat who was her paternal first cousin. Once removed, he was also the biological father of her only child, a son whom they named Lucius Demetrius Obama's. Lucius was the youngest descendant of Augustus's Royal Blood and would eventually become the infamous Emperor Nero, infamous for his debauchery and his extravagance.


And in fact, upon receiving congratulations of his son's birth, the brutish Demetrius is said to have remarked or maybe prophesied that he didn't think that anything produced by him and Julia could possibly be good for the state or the people. Little did he know what was to come. Eleven years later, in thirty nine, Julia was exiled from Rome by her brother, the Emperor Caligula. And at this point, Caligula was roughly two years into his reign and he'd reached the stage of intense self-importance and had actually declared that he was a living God.


But even gods apparently fear assassination.


Yeah, Caligula had accused his sister of taking part in a plot to have him killed and to install Markus Amelia's Lepidus as emperor in his place. I want to make sure we're clear on this. This was not the Marcus Amelia's Lepidus, who had been a Roman general and an ally of Caesar, as well as a member of the second triumvirate.


He died in thirteen B.C. So well before the events that we're talking about this, Marcus was married to Caligula's sister, Julia Drucilla, and there was a conspiracy, as well as a lot of romantic drama involving him hooking up with both Julia, Agrippina and yet another of Caligula's sisters, Julia La Villa. But the plot to assassinate the emperor failed, and it came to be known as the plot of the three Dagres. He was executed for his part in it.


And like Julia Agrippina, Julia La Villa was also exiled.


I always have to wonder when I'm reading all these things about how one person was having affairs with all these sisters and like, did you not have like a wider dating pool to write? It's only only relatives. Julia Agrippina was sent to the Pontin Islands. That's a rocky archipelago in the tyranny and sea. And Caligula died two years after that. And after he passed Agrippina, his uncle, the new Emperor Claudius, allowed her to return to Rome and that allowed her to reunite with her young son.


Julia's husband, Dimity, has died in the year 40 of Ademar, not of suspicious causes. We promise. We're getting to the point, though. So while she was still in her 20s, Julia was not only a widow, but she was also the lone surviving member of her family. Her sister, Julia La Villa, was executed by starvation over a whole different matter. And circumstances were now that Julia's son was the only male heir left carrying the legacy of the royal family bloodline.


Julia married again, this time to the affluent ex console Gaius crispest passiveness. And it was Emperor Claudius, her uncle, who actually asked Christmas to divorce his then wife. He was already happily married, presumably with children.


Yeah, yeah. And he asked her to do this so that he could marry the recently widowed Julia Agrippina as a favour. Let's be very clear. It wasn't like she was pining for him. This was not a matter of Julia or Christmas being deeply in love. This was strictly a financial transaction.


Over the years, Christmas's fortune was valued at 200 million society, which is a form of Roman currency, persuaded during his marriage to name his new wife and son, Julia and Lucius, as heirs to his state. When Christmas died eight years into their marriage, his widow was suspected among the Romans to have poisoned him to gain his wealth and in general accused her of using her sexual allure to manipulate powerful men.


So for the record, we don't know for certain if Julia poisoned Christmas and we never will, because as you get farther and farther away from a point in time in history, your odds of unearthing anything that will give you that information get tiny, tiny and tinier. But as far as the court of public opinion went in her contemporary time, she was absolutely considered guilty, which you might as well just be guilty.


This episode is brought to you by Chris, I know with all of the research that I have to do, sometimes it's a little easy to just get a little overstressed. And sometimes the only quiet moment I have today is when I'm taking a shower, which is actually great, because that's what a lot of my best ideas happen. A lot of women get their best ideas in the shower. Caress will help. It immerses your senses with silk extract and floral essence.


You can get glowing skin and let your magic happen. Find it in the body wash aisle at your favorite retailer. Caress Inspiration starts here. Welcome back to criminality. So after the death of Christmas, Julia continued to manipulate and maneuver herself into a position of unprecedented power for a woman in the Empire at that time.


So enter Claudius, whose full name was Tiberius Claudius Nero, a dice playing history buff who was Julia's uncle. Kind of makes me love him.


I loved coming across that tidbit about him. I say, you know, throw the bones and write a history book.


Exactly. He suffered from partial paralysis and a movement disorder and he spoke with a stammer, according to descriptions of him, and also had a little bit of a propensity to have like a drooling problem. And he allegedly walked with a limp.


He was also known to have uncontrolled emotional responses and he had no political experience until he ascended as emperor in the year 2001 after Emperor Caligula was assassinated in the Praetorian Guard. These were the elite unit of the Imperial Roman Army who served as the personal bodyguards to the Roman emperors. They named him emperor after discovering him in the palace after the death. It would be another two days, though, before the Roman Senate would accept him into the position. But they did.


In 49, Claudius and Julia were married. This was an incestuous partnership and that was contrary to Roman law. But that's no problem. Claudius was the emperor, so he just had the law changed. This union may not have been the first time that Julia was involved in an incestuous relationship either.


Rumors swirled that she had had a sexual relationship with her brother Caligula when he served as emperor, and they would swirl again around just exactly how she managed to control her emperor son in the future. I have so many questions about that.


Like we know the name Caligula automatically comes with like association of Sexual Debauchery. But I also wonder how much of that is just like the rumor mill trying to take people down.


Right. I know to because, I mean, he's always associated with his sisters. But I always got the impression sisters inside, like those parties were way bigger than family.


Yeah, the wife. It's just like a quiet game of pinnacle. But in any case, it any women in ancient Rome at this time were citizens, but they did not have the power to vote or to hold political office.


And Julia never content with her position, pretty much ever just assumed the title of Augusta after marrying Claudius. And that is the Roman Imperial, yet honorific title given to empresses and honored women.


Her behavior actually led one of the Roman statesmen and historian cash due to comment. No one attempted in any way to check Agrippina. Indeed, she had more power than Claudius himself.


Yeah, sisters doing it for themselves. Yeah. Some historians suggest that the Roman Senate may have been behind the push for the marriage between Julia and Emperor Claudius as a political way to end the feud between the Julian and Claudie and branches of the dynasty. But regardless of the Senate's intentions, Roman society still considered this marriage incestuous and immoral and kind of gross. Hmm.


So we have to rewind for just a minute to talk about Claudius background.


Juliet here was not Claudius, his first wife. She's actually his fourth wife. And Claudius and his previous wife, Valeria Mizulina, had had a daughter, Octavia, and a son to name Britannicus.


But upon his marriage to Julia and at her prompting in the year 50, which was a year after they got married, Claudius formally adopted her son, Lucas Dimity Istana Barbas, whose name was then changed to Nero, Claudius, Caesar, Druzes, Germanicus.


This is an interesting and significant power move as Julius son was three years older than Claudius, his biological son, Botanicas, and that made him the now expected heir to the empire.


OK, the next step to sending her son to the position of Emperor would be to get rid of Claudius. Right. So it's been jokingly concluded that Claudius ultimately died because of de youna extra nimia, which means one too many wives. But he died on October 13th in the year 54. And it was Ruman public opinion that Julia was the one who poisoned him for the Imperial Purple.


To be clear, Claudius did die of poisoning. He had actually ingested a poisonous mushroom. But the facts of the story beyond that differ depending on who told it. So, though, he may have accidentally eaten a highly toxic death cap mushroom at a banquet. Most historians agree that in the year 54, Julia had sought the help of a notorious poisons expert. There was a local woman named Lucasta to supply her poison with which to murder her husband, the emperor.


Claudius. It was likely that Luke used to advise Julia to try a Trooper Belladonna as a poison, and you might already know that as deadly nightshade and this perennial plant has been used for poisoning since antiquity. It's highly poisonous. And the plant itself and its fruits contain something called trouping alkaloids, which are plant toxins.


And according to this version of the story, it is said the Belladonna was sprinkled on a mushroom and given to the emperor with his meal. I have read in some accounts that mushrooms were like his favorite thing I've ever seen.


Yeah. So alternatively, other historical accounts suggest that the mushroom may have just simply contained muscarinic. That's a toxin that's commonly found in mushrooms. And that toxin causes some really nasty effects, like vomiting, low blood pressure, difficulty breathing and neurological problems.


There's even a third theory that the poison mushroom didn't actually appear to work. So one of the royal doctors, Dr. Ghias Strategics Xenephon, then murdered the emperor with a poison tainted instrument, maybe a feather inserted into his throat as one story goes to induce vomiting.


But the important takeaway here, no matter how any of this actually played out, was that Claudius died from ingesting poison. And because she had a great deal to gain from his passing, everyone believed that Julia had somehow orchestrated it, being dead and all. Claudius could not reinstate his biological son, Britannicus, as his legitimate heir to the throne.


So naturally, Julia declares her teenage son as emperor in his place.


And here we get Emperor Nero with Nero ascending to the throne as a teenager, his mother was effectively his region, and that meant she had political power as a senior partner in ruling over the Romans.


Julia, we should point out, is not the only member of the family who had an association with poison. There was some cultural sort of poison acceptance at this time, just a year into his reign.


Like mother, like son, Nero poisoned his step brother, Claudius and son Britannicus, in doing this, knocked out any potential competition over the throne.


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Let's talk about the guy who Juliar was willing to kill for, her son, Nero, Nero, as we mentioned at the top of the episode, was Julia's only child.


And in addition to his emperor gig, Mirro considered himself primarily an artist with interests, including pantomimed dancing, poetry and even playing the lyre.


He also competed in the Olympic Games in their 67 in order to improve relations with Greece. But while he was there, he raced and he was actually thrown from a 10 horse chariot, but he was still victorious because he was Nero.


That's like the ultimate participation trophy you have. Good job. Chambre wins it. All those other horses ran too far. The horse, Miro's early years on the throne were primarily seen as successful.


And in the first two years of his reign, Niros Coleen's would depict his portrait side by side with that of his mother. Overall, though, mirror is of course associated not with chariot races or with art, but with cruelty.


So Nero ruled the Roman Empire from year 54 until his death by suicide, which was just 14 years later. He was best known for his debauchery, impulsiveness, political murders and his persecution of Christians. And for allegedly, although it's not proven in any story, infamously singing or playing music during and maybe even starting the great fire of Rome.


We should point out that fiddles did not even exist and wouldn't wouldn't exist for another fourteen hundred years. So he did not do that, even though it's quoted beautifully in an Elvis Costello song work of pure fiction.


Maybe he sang astrologers prophesies that Nero would become emperor and kill his mother. And though you may or may not believe in astrology and it could have just been a pattern recognition based on his family's proclivities for murder and intrigue.


Either way, they were totally right on what they predicted.


I mean, if I were the astrologer, I just feel like I told you guys right to check.


So upon Julia's encouragement and so that he could secure his imperial position while Claudius was still alive, Nero had married Claudius, his daughter, from a previous marriage. So for clarity, he was marrying his stepsister, Octavia. But Claudius had a change of heart regarding his marriage to Julia and his adoption of Nero as the years passed in his marriage. And he had started to again favor his biological son, Britannicus, as heir to the throne.


But perhaps not surprising to those following closely. Shortly after Claudius Claudia's death, Britannica's suddenly died poison.


Maybe no one can prove that Julia and Nero killed Britannicus to remove all of the remaining obstacles between Nero and the throne.


But their murderous reputations do precede them. Right. And Nero is often credited with his stepbrother's swift end.


And Julius certainly seemed to have made very efficient work of clearing out any obstacles to her growing power. But things started to go downhill for her after Nero began to assert himself and play a more interested role in the throne. And it would be, at least in part, Nero's extramarital affairs that would also decrease the amount of power and influence his mother had over him. In fact, it would be her insistent involvement and meddling that would eventually lead to Niros order of his mother's assassination just five years into his reign.


Oh, this family, the assassination story plays out like this.


Mirro actually tried to assassinate his mother more than once because she opposed his political and sexual affairs. Right. If at first you don't succeed, but because she opposed his political and sexual affairs bureau, first set his mother to sail on a boat that he had actually designed to sink.


The idea was that she would cross the Gulf of Naples and she would sink halfway there, regardless of which outcome of the story you believe, whether she was picked up by a small fishing boat or she swam to the shore, she actually survived the attempt on her life and he may have then tried to poison her yet unsuccessfully again. She finally met her demise, though, in the year 54 when Nero ordered her to be stabbed to death in her country home despite his generally poor leadership skills.


As time wore on, narrow support throughout Rome didn't really begin to crumble, though, until a Roman governor named Gaius Ulvaeus Windex declared his support for Galba than in Spain for emperor.


That effectively meant that he was denouncing Nero and igniting a rebellion against the reigning emperors tax policies of which he wanted no taxes, learning that he'd been tried in absentia and condemned to death as a public enemy of the state by the Roman Senate. Emperor Nero, who was just then 30 years old, fled Rome. But before he left, he called upon, you guessed it, the local poison expert, Lucasta, as his mother had to to murder Claudius to acquire poison for his own suicide, although he ended up not using it.


In the end, it is believed that Nero died by a self-inflicted knife wound to the throat to avoid capture, making him the last emperor and putting it close to the Giulio Claudie and Dynasty. It is said that his last words were what an artist dies in me.


Curiously, though, there was a widespread belief surrounding Nero suicide that he actually wasn't dead and somehow he would return. He did not return in any way.


This isn't a show about Nero, but Julia had been suspected of more than having a hand in poisoning a husband or two. And reportedly her crimes ranged from murder, which we've talked about to witchcraft and even to forcing a man named Stettinius Tarus into suicide because she wanted his beautiful gardens all to herself. I guess she really, really loved flowers, right?


He had that one rose that you just couldn't find anywhere.


Listen, after Claudius is death, Julia had risen so high in the royal family that she became the first living woman whose portrait bust appeared on the Imperial Coinage, along with that of a reigning Emperor Nero. We mentioned that that those first coins featured him and his mother together. Hmm.


Julie was undoubtedly a woman who followed the family tradition when it came to intrigue and power grabs. But was she, as history paints her, a poisoned, happy murderess and opportunistic seductress? Funny thing that right.


So for one thing, during the time that Julia Agrippina was alive, the words for adulterous and poisoned her were used almost interchangeably. The idea being that if a woman had sexual agency, she was not trustworthy. And it was also assumed that she had a proclivity for poisoning.


Throw in the fact that there was also some scientific confusion going on at that time when it came to, for example, the causes of sickness, certainly long before germ theory. Those kinds of things were often attributed to poison instead of their actual, often natural causes. And when you put all these pieces together, you can see how, even though it's completely unproven, a reputation like Julia's might have some roots in presumption instead of actual proof.


Oh, in a species of mushroom that killed Claudius, people today still die from it because it looks like a totally safe and harmless mushroom that you want to eat.


So it may very well have just been a case of somebody picking the wrong fungus. We should also say, right. Poison was very popular in Rome, not only among women. Worth noting in all of this is that husbands often poison their wives account after account of that, like for various reasons.


But there's never any kind of synonomous association between the word adulterer or poison, only adulterous.


So. We just want to introduce all of this as food for thought, this totally poison free, we promise. But that brings us to our final segment of the show.


And now we are going to do a little segment that we're calling What's Your Poison?


Where every week we will share some concoction related to the topic of the day. And this week we have a little cocktail that I have invented. We're going to call it Death by Too Many Wives.


And it's one of those cocktails that I fully expect to get mixed reactions to. I was not sure what I would think, but it turned out delightful.


So first, what I did was I made a simple syrup, but I used brown sugar instead of white sugar. Oh, interesting. If you've never made simple syrup before, you just throw equal amounts of sugar and water. So like half a cup of sugar, half a cup of water or whatever measure you want to use and let that boil. And then when it finished boiling, I threw in some roasted garlic and roasted mushrooms.


And I would just say we just lost like, you know. Right. I know. I know. But I'm telling you, come along with me.


And then I let that simmer very low for, like, literally just a couple of minutes. And then I steeped that in the fridge with a cup of vodka to make a liquor all in one container for a week. And then you strain it out and you get this very, very dark because of the brown sugar and the roasted components, syrupy liqueur. And I just poured that into a glass. And then I put an equal amount of club soda in it.


And I ended up with this very interesting mushroom, garlicky cocktail.


I don't even know what I would call it. It's not really a martini. It's not really a it's just a strange little thing. It's a death by too many wives. So you just end up with this interesting, like sense of savoriness and there's a little bit of a buttery taste to it because it was those those vegetables were roasted. But it's really quite bright. And like the first sip is where you get the most sense of the flavor. And then after that, it just kind of feels like this weird, sparkling, refreshing thing that has a buttery finish.


Consider that liquor for a Bloody Mary. I'm saying consider what kind of mushroom you're using that liquor. Right. We I don't want anybody to die from this sort of drink. Don't be hunting down the toxic mushrooms. And I hope this is giving you truly some some some information to think about regarding how we view historical figures in terms of just branding them as as murderers. But maybe they weren't. Maybe they were. We don't know with that. We thank you for listening to this first episode of criminality.


And we will see you next week. Criminality is a production of Shadowland Audio in partnership with I Heart Radio for more podcasts from Shadowland and Audio. Please visit the I Heart radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.