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Messalina, Valeria (c. 23–48)

Roman empress. Name variations: Messallina. Born in Rome c. 23 (date is speculative); executed for alleged treason in 48; dau. of M. Valerius Messalla Barbatus and Domitia Lepida, both members of the dynastic Julio-Claudian family; great-granddau. of Octavia (69 bce–11 ce); m. Claudius, c. 38, who became Roman emperor in 41; children: daughter, Octavia (c. 39–62); son, Tiberius Claudius Caesar Germanicus, later named Britannicus.

Attractive, clever, and self-involved, found herself near the center of political power in Rome; exploited every possibility to maintain her position, earning in the process a reputation for being cruel, manipulative, and sexually promiscuous; initiated scores of trials against people she wanted removed from circulation, including the seemingly loyal senator, Decimus Valerius Asiaticus; sought to undermine perceived rivals, including Agrippina the Younger and Julia Livilla; was executed for an alleged involvement in a plot to overthrow husband Emperor Claudius.

See also Women in World History.

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Messalina, Valeria (c. 23–48)

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