Biography of the Ancient Roman Adultress Messalina Part 2

About the famous ancient Roman adultress Messalina, wife of Claudius, biography and history of the woman.


It was 43 A.D., and Emperor Claudius was on the march, leading Roman legions into Britain. Rome was left to Messalina, and she turned the city into her private boudoir. According to Irving Wallace, in The Nympho and Other Maniacs:

With a veil draped over her head, she

entered taverns and alleys, searching for

men. On one such excursion, filled with

wine, she danced naked on a wooden

platform in the Forum. Another time,

she redecorated a bedroom of the palace

to resemble a brothel, hung the name of

Rome's most renowned prostitute on the

door, then disrobed, gilded the nipples

of her tiny breasts, and invited the male

public to enter and be entertained at no

more than the legally regulated fee. Emboldened

by the heavy traffic, she challenged

a particularly noted prostitute of

Rome to a contest, insisting that she

could entertain more men in 24 hours

than her rival. Pliny the Elder tells us

that she "surpassed" her rival, "for

within the space of 24 hours she cohabited

25 times."

In his Sixth Satire, Juvenal enlarged upon Messalina's brothel victory:

There she received all comers,

Getting top price until the doors shut tight.

The lust, though, still raged hotly in her bosom.

Dirt-stained, she left the house and journeyed home

Exhausted, but undaunted by the sweat.

Thus smeared with lampsoot, she returned unfazed

To settle odors in the royal pillows.

Claudius returned from his foreign invasion still totally unaware of his wife's indiscretions. Meanwhile, Messalina continued her sexual adventures. Seeking variety, she held orgies where she forced Roman ladies to prostitute themselves with other men and women in front of their husbands. She cuckolded her husband so often that it became a joke in Rome, but by no means was her greed only sexual. One of the profligate Empress's favorite tricks was to make love to men and learn of their real estate holdings, later condemn them to death for treason, and finally confiscate their property. However, she went too far when she eliminated the freedman Polybius. Shortly afterward, when Claudius was off enjoying the mineral baths in Ostia, the venal Messalina forced her current lover, a handsome youth named Gaius Silius, to divorce his wife and marry her in a public ceremony. The couple then celebrated the ceremony by performing on the bridal bed which had been placed before the guests.

The freedman Narcissus, alarmed at Polybius' fate, took this opportunity to have Claudius informed of Messalina's treachery. Immediately, the Emperor ordered her put to death. She was either killed by sword in the gardens of Lucullus, which she had obtained by confiscation, or forced to commit suicide there with her paramour.

The evening following her death, Claudius, once more in Rome, came to dinner and was momentarily surprised that Messalina's place was empty. "Where is the Empress tonight?" he inquired.

He was told. He nodded, and returned to his wine.

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