MESSALLINA, VALERIA, the third wife of the Roman emperor Claudius (q.v.). She was notorious for her profligacy, avarice and ambition, a*id exercised a complete ascendancy over her weak-minded husband, with the help of his all-powerful freedmen. During the absence of Claudius from the city, Messallina forced a handsome youth named Gaius Silius to divorce his wife and go through a regular form of marriage with her. The freedman Narcissus, warned by the fate of another freedman Polybius, who had been put to death by Messallina, informed Claudius of what had taken place, and persuaded him to consent to the removal of his wife. She was executed in the gardens of Lucullus, which she had obtained on the death of Valerius Asiaticus, who through her machinations had been condemned on a charge of treason. She was only twenty-six years of age. By Claudius she was the mother of the unfortunate Britannicus, and of Octavia, wife of Nero.
See Tacitus, Annals, xi. 1-38; Dio. Cassius Ix. 14-31 ; Juvenal vi. HS-^S. x. 333, xiv. 331; Suetonius, Claudius; Merivale, Hist, of the Romans under the Empire ch. 50; A. Stahr, " Agrippina " in Bilder aus dem Alterthume, iv. (1865).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)