Messalina: Empress of Rome

The Ancients

In this episode of The Ancients, host Tristan Hughes speaks with historian Honor Cargill-Martin about the notorious Empress Messalina, third wife of Emperor Claudius. A lot has been said about Messalina over two millennia: that she was a nymphomaniac who organised orgies and engaged in prostitution, even going so far as to work as a prostitute in the streets of Rome, or had sex with 25 men in 24 hours, are just a few examples. Cargill-Martin sheds light on the political and social climate of ancient Rome during Messalina’s reign and how she was a complex figure who deserves a more nuanced understanding.