MESSALINA: THE TEXTS
The Anthology extract is abridged and adapted from the following chapters of Tacitus' Annals:
Tacitus, Annals XI. 12-13, 26.
Messalina is Denounced:
Tacitus, Annals XI. 28-30, 32, 34.
Death of Mesalina:
Tacitus, Annals XI. 35, 37-38.
English Complete Texts
A fairly old translation and of limited use as a word-for-word translation because the Anthology extract is abridged and adapted from the original text.
About the author
To find out about Tacitus' life and works, click here
Messalina was married to Claudius in AD38 or 39 (during the reign of Emperor Caligula) when she was around 18 years old - which was rather old for a first marriage in Roman times. Claudius was then about 50 years old and had been married twice before; a senior member of the imperial family, he was, however, certainly not considered as any possible future emperor.
Messalina's affair with Silius began in AD 47.
Detailed, referenced biography using the Roman sources of Tacitus, Suetonius and Cassius Dio.
Messalina shown with Britannicus and Octavia, her children by Claudius.
A cameo is a carved piece of stone jewellery where the subject is carved in relief to stand out from and contrast with its background, often a different colour. This cameo is cut from a coloured, banded stone called sardonyx
; the surrounding, jewelled mount is "modern". In the National Library, Paris.
Marble staue dating to c.45 AD thought to show Messalina holding her son Britannicus. In the Louvre, Paris.
Inspired by the Greek sculptor Cephisodotos' renowned sculpture of Eirene (Peace) holding Plutos (Wealth)
of c.370 BC which stood in the Athenian Agora, now known only by Roman copies.
The only other scupture thought to represent Messalina is this one in the Sculpture Museum, Dresden. She wears a "turret crown", associated with the goddess Fortune.
This provincial coin from Knossos on Crete depicts Claudius on the obverse and Messalina on the reverse.
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What little is known of this Roman consul, comes from his affair with Messalina.
A marble head showing Britannicus (the son of Claudius and Messalina) aged about 8 - and so contemporary with the events in this passage.
From the Black Sea region; now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA.
Here's a full biography
See this section for more information on the port of Rome.
See this section for more information on Roman marriage and weddings.
Excellent wiki page on this ex-slave and important advisor to Claudius.
See this section for more information on slavery.
The wonderful, landscaped gardens of Lucullus were on the Pincian hill (not one of the traditional seven hills of Rome) which lies to the north of the Quirinal hill, and overlooked the Campus Martius.
After Lucullus's death, his sumptuous gardens were bought and embellished by the wealthy consul Valerius Asiaticus. The gardens were appropriated later by Messalina, the promiscuous wife of the Emperor Claudius, who forced Valerius Asiaticus to commit suicide. Scraps of mosaics
have recently been unearthed from the Gardens of Lucullus.
The unfortunate life of Britannicus's sister (i.e. Claudius and Messalina's daughter) is described here.
Large cart reconstructed on Roman evidence that would have been used for transporting commercial goods, and with its slightly raised sides perfectly suited for crops and, as in Messalina's case, garden rubbish! It would have been puled by mules or oxen, and had a front-pivoting axle.
Click for more Roman carts
Knowledgeable article about the origins and later history of the Praetorian Guard - the Emperor's personal "body-guard" which, according to Roman historians Dio and Cassius, proclaimed Claudius emperor.
Here's the famous "Praetorian relief" sculpture
from the 2nd-century AD showing Praetorian guards; in the Louvre Museum, Paris....and close-up
Claudius and Narcissus addressed the Praetorian guard soldiers at thier huge and strongly fortified camp, as shown in this golden aureus
of Claudius, which was located in the eastern suburbs of Rome - see map
. The walls of the camp were later built into Emperor Aurelian's city walls - marked in red on this detailed map
. Finally, the walls as they look today and a few centuries ago
The raised platform from which political, military and judicial leaders addressed the assembled crowd. (In the Roman Forum it became known as the rostrum).
This wall-painting from the House of the Doctor in Pompeii, depicting the "Judgement of Solomon" plainly shows a tibunal.
Painted by Francesco Solimena c.1708, in the Getty Center, Los Angeles.
This may be the only painted representation of the death of Messalina, a story from the Annals of Tacitus. Why Francesco Solimena took or was given this subject is unknown, yet its inherent drama and potential for passion suited the Baroque taste. Characteristically, Solimena heightened the moment's intensity by creating monumental figures on an already huge canvas and presenting only the essentials of a setting. According to his eighteenth-century biographer, Solimena painted this subject for a series of five canvases of historical and mythological subjects for the state attorney in Venice.