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ORIGIN OF THE LEGEND

The black legend of Valeria Messalina originated from the continuous statements about her insatiable sexuality. The young woman was known as an undisciplined woman who did not like life in court. Because of this, she never intended to embody the values ​​of a Roman midwife, that is, the model of a woman with a behavior blameless, a perfect woman.

The fact that he did not act with the character expected of the emperor’s wife, along with her participating in the intrigues of the high command at a time of danger and her inexperience and political incapacity, Messalinahe became a victim of blackmail and threat. This is how her extortionists promulgated stories about her that defined her as a prostitute and a shameless woman.

The naturalist and philosopher Pliny the Elder, crazy himauthor of encyclopedias Natural History, published en the 77 d. C., that pretenenencompass all ancient knowledge. It is worth notingrthat the subject of the work is not limited to what we can understand by natural history, but to all the knowledge in general. It was in book number 10, chapter 83, where Pliny portrayed Messalina with one of the stories about her as a prostitute and immoral. The legend explained the duel between her and a professional prostitute to find out which of the two would endure more in a continuous sex. Finally, according to the author, the battle was won by Messalina maintaining a intercourse that would last day and night, and where she endured until the twenty-fifty “hug”.[1] 

Illustration on mural of brothel on Pompeya.

” … one of the most notorious women who followed the profession of a hired prostitute ; and the Empress overcame her, after continuous intercourse, day and night, in the twenty-fifth hug. “

PLINI

[1]Image taken from the web https://ca.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lupanar_de_Pompeia

But, Pliny was not the only one to mention it, however, in the artistic field of poetry, they gave their opinion on this one woman, as did the Roman poet Decimus Juvenal, author of sixteen satires collected under the name of Satiresand published in the 1st century d. C.Thehis satire number 10, set out how Messalina forced Cayo Silio, his lover, to divorce his wife and marry her. He described her as the wildest woman with a great hatred caused by her embarrassment at being a very sexual woman. The author, he explained how Messalina made Silio decide between divorcing his wife or offering his neck to the sword.[2]

too, talk about it in the sixth satire. In this, appears the notorious description of how the empress used to work clandestinely all the night in a brothel under the name of Wolf. The author will narrate how she hopesava that Claudius fell asleep to escape and disguise himself by obtaining a false identity to go to the brothel where came his body. There,despite many claimsvin his services, he was never satisfied. For this reason, when the day came he reluctantly returned to his room. According to him, she was a disgusting creature with a dirty face who carried the stench of brothels to the Emperor’s bed.[3]

However, othershistorians deteriorate the image of the empress. One of them was the Roman politician and military Dió Cassi author from’important work Roman history published in the 2nd century d. C. This work includes near 500 years of history, from the foundation of the city in 753 to the year 229 a. C. It was in volume number 60, where she highlighted Messalina’s debauchery, along with the influence she exerted on other women to act like her as well. Recalcà like this, how he caused many of them to commit adultery, doing that women acted shamelessly, even in front of their husbands.[4]

But Cassius was not the only one to mention it, other historians they described her as an unfaithful woman, as did one of the most important historians of Roman times: Gaius Suetonius. He was the one who wrote such remarkable works asLife of the Divine Caesar o Lives of the twelve Caesars. The latter will narrate the biographies of the first twelve Roman Caesars and in one of these, specifically in that of Claudius. Eexplained how this he realized the facts shameful and malevolent that the his wife, yen whent he learned that she had married in secret with Silio Key, he decided to kill her.[5]

Another example of historian he mentioned Messalina was Cornelius Tacitus, author d’works on Roman life as Dialogue of the speakers.[6]In the previously mentioned one, published in the year 72 d. C., it was where he mentioned Messalina. The play is the second publication most important of Tacitus and deals with the Julio-Claudian dynasty from the death of the deified Augustus to the year 68 d. C. Specifically, it was in the volume 11, chapter 26, on there was talk of her, treating her as a fatal woman. She explains how Messalina, overwhelmed by debauchery, conspired against Caesar with her lover Silio, but eventually Claudius overtakes her and proceeds to sacrifice her.[7]

Painting of "Los Fuegos de Vesta".

“ the ease of adultery had clouded Messalina and she was heading for inexperienced debauchery

Cornelio TÁCITO

[2]Image taken from the web https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archivo:Pavel_Svedomskiy_003.jpg

Who too perpetuate the legend later, particular inthe fourth century d. C. , was historian Sextus Aurelius Victor, author d’works on roman history. [8] It was in the relat Book of the Caesars, in the epitome of volume number 4 of the writing, where he treats Messalina of everythinga mena of tyrannies. The author, he explained how Messalina dragged Claudius towardsdepravity through temptations. He accused her too, of committing indiscriminate adultery and explaining that many of those who rejected her were murdered along with their families, accusing them before justice saying that they were the ones who had asked Messalina. Besides,to accuse him who excited by this, forced certain women of the nobility, married and unmarried, to act like prostitutes, forcing at the same time to men to participate.[9]


[1]“Messalina, the wife of Claudius Caesar, believing that she was a palm quite worthy of an empress, selected, for the purpose of deciding the question, one of the most notorious women who followed the profession of a hired prostitute ; and the Empress overcame her, after continuous intercourse, day and night, in the twenty-fifth hug. ”  http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0137%3Abook%3D10  (26/07/2020)

[2]“ The woman is wilder / When she is agitated in hatred by a feeling of shame. What advice will you give to Silio whom Claudio’s wife has determined? / Get married? He is the best and most handsome member of / Patriotic Race, but a look from Messalina attracts him / To a miserable end; she has been waiting for a while now, she / (…)If you commit sin, there will be a brief delay before / What Rome and the mob know come to Caesar’s ear. / Bow down to his orders, if it is worth spending a few days of life. / Whatever decision you consider easier or preferable, / You will still have to offer your fine white-collar sword. ”. http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Latin/JuvenalSatires10.htm#_Toc284248936 (26/07/2020)

[3] Take a look at the rivals of the gods; listen like Claudius / When his wife, Messalina, knew he was asleep, / She would go with no more than an escort maid. / The Empress dared, at night, to wear the hood of a prostitute, / And she preferred a mattress to her bed in the Palatine Palace. / Dressed in this way, with a blonde wig hiding her natural / Hair, she would enter a brothel that stank of old dirty sheets, / And make an empty room, hers; then sell himself / His golden nipples, naked, taking Lloba as his name, / Showing the belly from which you come, noble Britannicus, / He would flatter his customers on entering and take his money. / Then go to bed complacently, reveling in each blow. / Later,“. https://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Latin/JuvenalSatires6.php (26/07/2020)

[4] “Messalina not only exhibited her own debauchery, but also forced other women to be equally reckless. He caused many of them to commit adultery in the same palace while their husbands were present and watching. “. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/home.html (26/07/2020)

[5] “He later married Valeria Messalina, the daughter of his cousin. But when he learned that, in addition to other shameful and evil deeds, he had married Cayo Silio, and that a formal contract had been signed in the presence of witnesses, he killed him and testified before the assembled Praetorian Guard. that, to the extent that their marriages did. “. SUETONIO, Vdeparture of the twelve Caesars, Cátedra, Madrid, 1998, pp. 489.

[6]Attached, as an example, are two editions of two of his most important stories: Cornelio TÁCITO, Life of Julio Agrícola. Germany. Dialogue of the speakers, Akal, Madrid, 1999.

[7]She took her sentences with due coldness, not to any tenderness. by her husband, but in the face of suspicion that Silio, with no heights to climb, could despise her lover and come to appreciate in its fair value a crime punished at the hour of danger. Nevertheless, by this transcendent infamy that constitutes the last delight of the libertine, it coveted the name of wife and, waiting only until Claudius left towards Ostia to celebrate a sacrifice,celebrated the full solemnities of the marriage. “ Text found on the web https://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Tacitus/Annals/11B*.html (06/08/2020)

[8]I enclose, by way of example, an edition of each book cited: Sextus AURELIUS, Free from Caesaribus; Praecedunt, Origo Gentis Romanae Et Liber de Viris Illustribus Urbis Romae, Subsequitur Epitome de Caesaribus, Stereotypa, Rome, 1966; and Sextus AURELIUS,Sextus Aurelius Victor de viris illustribus urbis Romae, Royal, Wroclaw, 1850.

[9]and men were forced to participate. But if anyone backed away from such depravities, she would make a charge and savagely attack him and his entire family. “. Sextus AURELIUS,Book on the Emperors, Liverpool University Press, Liverpool, 1994, pp. 5.

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