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Marriage Woes

Contributed by David Verne

Claudius never had much luck with women during his life. His physical defects made engagements difficult. His first engagement was ended for political reasons and his second bride-to-be died on her way to the altar. He divorced his first wife on charges of adultery and trying to murder her sister in law, and his second marriage was to Sejanus's daughter, but Claudius divorced her quickly when Sejanus was accused of treason. His current wife was a member of Caligula's court called Valeria Messalina. The marriage worked out well, with Messalina happy to become part of the Imperial family, and Claudius was happy because she advocated for him not to be executed by the mad Caligula. She had two children, Claudia Octavia born in 39 AD, who will eventually marry Nero, and Brittanicus born in 41 AD, who was named after the recent victories in Britain. She worried about losing her newfound power because Claudius was getting older, 55, and had a history of medical problems, while the heir apparent, Brittanicus was still very young. With the help of Narcissus, she carried out a secret purge of anyone she saw as a threat, and because there were so many real assassination plots against Claudius, that whenever she brought a list of names, Claudius approved it without a second thought. [1]

My Take by David Verne
It wasn't just Claudius' age that had Messalina worried, it was also her own actions. She had multiple affairs with everyone from senators to actors, and once had a competition with a famous prostitute to see who could sleep with more men in a day. Messalina won. It seems that no one wanted to tell Claudius what was going on, and he remained the one person in the Empire who didn't know about her activities. She tries to build an power base independent of Claudius for when he eventually does find out. This will culminate in a few years with a plan so hilariously bad that I'm shocked she lived as long as she did.

See Also


  1. Duncan, Mike (July 13, 2009). Take My Wife...Please.

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