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Messalina wins the debate by demonstrating that their sins were far worse than hers and suggests that they repent of their own wickedness before reproaching her as they had done.

While Messalina's wicked behavior towards others is given full emphasis, and even exaggerated in early works, her sexual activities have been treated more sympathetically.

Little is known about Messalina's life prior to her marriage in 38 to Claudius, her first cousin once removed, who was then about 48 years old.

Two children were born as a result of their union: a daughter Claudia Octavia (born 39 or 40), a future empress, stepsister and first wife to the emperor Nero; and a son, Britannicus.

Paul Getty Museum illustrated by the Master of Boucicaut, Tiberius, Messalina, and Caligula reproach one another in the midst of flames.

It recounts a dialogue that takes place in hell between the three characters from the same imperial line.

The historical figure and her fate were often used in the arts to make a moral point, but there was often as well a prurient fascination with her sexually-liberated behaviour.

The ambivalent attitude to Messalina can be seen in the late mediaeval French prose work in the J.

Her mother's brother, Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, had been the first husband of the future Empress Agrippina the Younger and the biological father of the future Emperor Nero, making Nero Messalina's first cousin despite a seventeen-year age difference.In this scene of vigorous action, a Roman soldier pulls back his arm to stab the Empress while fending off her mother.A witness in armour observes calmly from the shadows in the background.Georges Rochegrosse's painting of 1916 is a reprise of the same scene.A mourning woman dressed in black leaves with her face covered as a soldier drags back Messalina's head, watched by a courtier with the order for execution in his hand.The historians who relay such stories, principally Tacitus and Suetonius, wrote some 70 years after the events in an environment hostile to the imperial line to which Messalina had belonged. Tacitus claims to be transmitting 'what was heard and written by my elders' without naming sources other than the memoirs of Agrippina the Younger, who had arranged to displace Messalina's children in the imperial succession and was therefore particularly interested in blackening her predecessor's name.Two accounts especially have added to her notoriety.Upon hearing the news, the Emperor did not react and simply asked for another chalice of wine.The Roman Senate then ordered a damnatio memoriae so that Messalina's name would be removed from all public and private places and all statues of her would be taken down.When the Emperor Caligula was murdered in 41, the Praetorian Guard proclaimed Claudius the new emperor and Messalina became empress.With her accession to power, Messalina enters history with a reputation as ruthless, predatory and sexually insatiable.

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  3. To call a woman 'a Messalina' indicates a devious and sexually voracious personality. The historical figure and her fate were often used in the arts to make a moral.

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