Episode 13 – Claudius and Messalina

Could it be a coincidence? Episode 13? Claudius and Messalina together at last?

Well the inauspicious episode number is a mere coincidence, but what better way to launch an episode about the influence that this marriage had on our understanding of the Julio-Claudian Empire than to convey an aura of unluckiness?

She might just be the most infamous wife of the Julio-Claudian era, so it would be crime to leave her out!

Valeria Messalina was a cousin of Claudius and there was quite an age difference between them. He was born in 10 BCE, while she was born in c. 20 CE. This thirty year age gap may go some way to explaining the character of the marriage as it developed over time.

The two were married in circa 38 CE (maybe even earlier), prior to Claudius’ accession to the position of emperor. The marriage between a man nearing his fifties and a young woman who likely still a teenager was not an uncommon situation in ancient Rome, but playing out that marriage in the public gaze is worth keeping in mind when we consider the nature of the narrative.

In this episode, your intrepid hosts explore the myth, the legend, and the history that is her legacy.


“Charlotte Wolter als ‘Messalina'” by Hans Makart c. 1875. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
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Drs R and G laugh and spar their way through the ancient Roman world!

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