Can One Believe the Ancient Sources That Describe Messalina?

BY HISTORY OF THE ANCIENT WORLD – SEPTEMBER 29, 2012 the Ancient Sources That Describe Messalina?

Hosack, Kristen A. (Illinois Wesleyan University)

Constructing the Past: Volume 12: Issue 1, Article 7 (2011)


If readers were to believe everything the ancient sources wrote about the Empress Valeria Messalina, they might conclude that she was a conniving, sex-crazed megalomaniac who worked as a prostitute in her spare time. The historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus, the satirist Decimus Junius Juvenali (Juvenal), and the biographer Gaius Suetonius Tranquillius were Roman citizens who wrote slightly before and during the middle second century CE and are just some of the ancient authors who describe Messalina in unflattering ways. However, to what degree are these sources accurate representations of Messalina? It may be difficult to gain a coherent sense of Messalina‟s true character and behavior from the ancient sources, but it is possible to identify who she most likely was not and what she probably did not do. After all, each depiction of Messalina reflects certain personal biases and motives, such as Tacitus‟s dislike of Messalina‟s husband or Suetonius‟s tendency to gossip.

In addition, the natures of history, satire, and biography can affect accuracy, as can the sources that each author used. For example, ancient historical writing‟s primary purpose was to provide lessons in morality, while biography tended to focus on anecdotal evidence, and satirical works employed exaggeration in order to be effective. Therefore, as a result of personal and literary biases, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Juvenal most likely provide exaggerated, fabricated, or intentionally one-sided portrayals of Messalina, which subsequently reduce the accuracy of their depictions.

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Ciutats romanes a les terres de València (hasta siglo III)

València és el víncul geogràfic entre el sur i el nord de la Ibèria mediterrània, entre la vall del Betis i les illes d’Eivissa i Formentera.
La seva localització estratègica va ser la raó romantizació de Sagutum, Valentia i Illici. No n’hi havia grans ciutats o tan plenes de momuments com a la resta d’Hispania; tanmateix el seu interès enllaça el desenvolupament d’un model d’integració amb el modus vivendi romà què alhora preserva restes del passat local, com va atresorar Saguntum o en el seu epítet (Valentia Edetanorum).

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Nothing changes. No matter that the territorial division or the name of the country, no matter the economic crisis are small or almost global reach.

In the late third century AD the Mediterranean was in the hands of Emperor Diocletian. A true autocrat, an emperor-god. While in any of his palaces, usually in Nicomedia (modern Turkey), during the hearings of the subjects had to prostrate before the emperor before daring to look up to him. All that concerned the emperor received was sacred: his person was sacred, sacred words, sacred palace, sacred treasure, and so on.

To improve the governance of the vast and heterogeneous monarchy, Diocletian introduced the system of the Tetrarchy, or power of four. The government of the empire was distributed between two August with equal powers, one of whom must live in the west and one in the Eastern Empire. The two August should rule, nominally, one Roman Empire. The Empire was still one, and the appointment of two August showed that the government had already recognized the difference between the Greek East and Latin West, the simultaneous administration of which was a task that went beyond the powers of a single person. In 293, appointing two Caesars (junior emperors) to rule over further subdivisions of East and West. Each would be subordinate to their respective Augustus (senior emperor) but would act with supreme authority in his assigned lands. This will create a kind of artificial dynastic system that had rid the empire of political turbulence.

First Augustus were Diocletian and Maximian, and Galerius and Constantius, Caesars (last one future father of Constantine the Great). Diocletian reserved Egypt and the Asian provinces, centered at Nicomedia. Maximian took Italy, Spain and Africa, with its center at Mediolanum (Milan). Galerius was the Balkan Peninsula and the Danubian provinces nearby, centered at Sirmium on the Save (near present Mitrovitz). A Constantius ascribed Gaul and Britain, with centers in Augusta Trevirorum (Trier) and Eboracum (York). These four characters were considered rulers of an empire one and undivided and laws were enacted in the quad name. Despite the theoretical equality of the two August, Diocletian enjoyed, as emperor, an undisputed supremacy. The Caesars were under the jurisdiction of the August. After some time, the August should abdicate, leaving power to the Caesars.

And the economy, Diocletian also go down in history for being the first authority that made the state intervene to stop an economic crisis that hit an inflation rate of one hundred thousand. First minting new coins tried, but the failure of the measure chosen by an edict of maximum prices at 301 d. C. against inflation and speculators, with very little luck, I must say, though decreed death for those who fail to comply. We are pleased that, “said Diocletian if anyone dares to act against the provisions of this rule, be sentenced to capital punishment, and is subject to the same danger who consents to the violation of these standards by the profit motive or desire of hoarding “. He added an uncontrollable greed and immoral that our army is always in defense of the common good, not only leave villages and cities but also on the road, and with it make the food prices not only triple, sometimes reaching and cost eight times more than anything imaginable. This law will establish a measurement and an end to greed. His Edict of pretiis-Edictum rerum Maximise venalium-fixed maximum prices for over 1,300 products – meat, wheat, clothing, shoes … – and also regulate wages.

This Edict ended in complete failure and the economy of the Roman Empire collapsed in a certain chaos, economic, even worse than previously.

In the year 305 AD, Diocletian and Maximian abdicated as Augustus, from the private life of the passions of Diocletian was the cultivation of cabbages, indeed. Galerius and Constantius became then in Augustus. However, the turmoil that exploded quickly put an end to the artificial system of the Tetrarchy, which ceased to exist in the early fourth century. The economic crisis and the subsequent civil war nearly destroyed the empire.