|Valeria Messalina was the third wife of the emperor Claudius. In Claudius'
absence she married Caius Silius and attempted to place him on the throne.
She was killed when the plot failed.
Valeria Messalina, AD c.22-48, married Claudius, later Roman Emperor
Claudius I, in 39 or 40. She bore him two children, Britannicus and Octavia.
Extremely promiscuous, Messalina manipulated her husband into executing
a number of those who rejected her advances or otherwise angered her, but
she herself was executed after Claudius's secretary Narcissus informed the
emperor of her secret marriage to Gaius Silius.
According to the De
Imperatoribus Romanis article on Claudius,
In 38 A.D. Claudius had married Valeria Messalina, a scion of a noble
house with impressive familial connections. Messalina bore him a daughter
(Octavia, born in 39) and a son (Britannicus, born in 41): she was therefore
the mother of the heir-apparent and enjoyed influence for that reason. In
the sources, Messalina is portrayed as little more than a pouting adolescent
nymphomaniac who holds wild parties and arranges the deaths of former lovers
or those who scorn her advances; and all this while her cuckolded husband
blunders on in blissful ignorance. Recently, attempts have been made to
rehabilitate Messalina as an astute player of court politics who used sex
as a weapon, but in the end we have little way of knowing the truth.[]
What we can say is that either her love of parties (on the adolescent model)
or her byzantine scheming (on the able courtier model) brought her down.
While Claudius was away in Ostia in AD 48, Messalina had a party in the
palace in the course of which a marriage ceremony was performed (or playacted)
between herself and a consul-designate, C. Silius. Whatever the intentions
behind it, the political ramifications of this folly were sufficiently grave
to cause the summary execution of Messalina, Silius, and assorted hangers-on
(orchestrated, tellingly, by the freedman Narcissus).[] Claudius was
now without a wife.
[] Messalina was Claudius's third wife: previous unions with Plautia
Urgulanilla and Aelia Paetina had failed for various reasons; see Suet.
Claud. 26.1-2. Messalina's influence is indicated by her appearance on the
obverse of coins of Claudius's reign (where one would expect the head of
the emperor), or in the cameo now in Paris depicting Messalina, Octavia,
and Britannicus. Messalina's excesses are reflected in such sources as Sen.
Apoc., passim and Juv. Sat. 6 and 10.
[] Messalina's fall: Tac. Ann. 11.26-37; Suet. Claud. 26; Dio 60(61).31.1-5;
Sen. Oct. 257-61.
See also the Geocities Tempus
site on Messalina