Valeria Messalina was born in 25 a.C. in Rome from a Patrizia family related to the Giulio-Claudio houses, this in the ancient Rome Hierarchy means she was born into a noble and wealthy family.
Messalina lived only 23 years. However, she managed to earn an impressive reputation such as ‘The Most Scandalous Woman of Ancient Rome’.
Forced at the age of 14 by Imperator Caligula to marry Claudio, who was thirty-years older than her, stuttering and limping; she gave him two children better known as
Claudia Ottavia and Britannico. After the assassination of Caligula in 41 a.C. Claudio and Valeria were elected Imperator of Rome.
Messalina was famously known as a rebel who disliked court life, and with any intentions to embody the values of the Roman Matron, as expected from the Emperor’s wife.
Nevertheless, she was participating in the court intrigues, at a time of danger as well as her inexperience and political incapacity, she became the victim of blackmail and threat.
Although Messalina was still the Imperator of Rome while Claudio had left to expand the Roman Empire, she organised parties and met influential people from all over the Empire; where she meets Mnestere and fell in love with him.
Of course, the men cannot refuse the love of Messalina, so they become lovers, and that’s how the adventure of Messalina in the Roman Suburra started.
There are many legends on Messalina narrating her sexual adventures in the Roman Suburra, the notorious neighbourhood of the Ancient Roman Empire, written by Svetonio, Giovenale and Tacito.
In section VI of Satire of Giovenale:
while a blonde wig hides her black hair,
enters the old brothel warmth of the curtains
and in the empty room, all for her; then naked
with gold nipple she prostitutes herself
inventing the name
of Licisca […]”
According to the story of the writers, Messalina with the pseudonym of Licisca, she was giving herself for pure pleasure in the Roman Suburra, with her breast covered with gold dust, red lips and painted eyes with ash and antimony, she was an insatiable harlot.
According to the old Plinio, the legend tells how she challenged the most famous prostitute of the time in a competition to see who was able to have the more sexual intercourse in a day. Of course, Licisca won, counting 25 embraces within 24 hours.
After the past relationship with the Governor Appio Giunio Silano, and with the actor Mnestere, she fell in love with the most beautiful Roman aristocrat Gaio Silio, husband of Giulia Silana.
Gaio disavowed his wife and became the lover of Messalina, and while Claudio the Emperor was in Ostia, they mimed a fake marriage at the palace in 48 a.C.
Informed by Narciso, Claudio the Emperor decreed the death of the two lovers.
Valeria Messalina escapes in the ‘Horti Luculliani’, a breath-taking garden in Rome where a tribune killed her.
“[…] Then for the first time Messalina saw her fate; she took the sword and went in vain, trembling, to the throat and chest, until the tribune mortal blow sword penetrates her[…]”
Photo by Galen Crout on Unsplash