Milonia Caesonia from "Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum"
|Empress consort of the Roman Empire|
|Tenure||AD 39 – 24 January AD 41|
|Died||24 January AD 41
Palatine Hill, Rome
|House||Julio-Claudian Dynasty (by marriage)|
Milonia Caesonia was born between 2 and 4 June in an unknown year near the beginning of the Common Era.
Coming from modest origins, Caesonia was a daughter of Vistilia and Caesonius. Five of her six half-brothers were known by name:
- Quintus Pomponius Secundus, consul suffectus in 41;
- Publius Pomponius Secundus, consul suffectus in 44 (these Pomponii might be relatives of Gaius Pomponius Graecinus, consul suffectus in 16);
- Orfitus, father of Servius Cornelius Scipio Salvidienus Orfitus, consul in 51;
- Publius Suillius Rufus, consul in 43, and father of Marcus Suillius Nerullinus, consul in 50; and
- Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, Roman consul and general under Claudius and Nero.
Little is written of Caesonia. Suetonius says that when Caligula married her she was neither beautiful nor young, and was the mother of three daughters by another man. He describes her as a woman of reckless extravagance and wantonness, whom nevertheless Caligula loved passionately and faithfully.
Cassius Dio says that Caligula began an affair with Caesonia prior to their marriage (in either late 39 or early 40). She was pregnant when they married and gave birth to Julia Drusilla only one month later; Suetonius, on the other hand, says she gave birth on their wedding day. Cassius Dio states that the Roman public was not pleased with Caligula's marriage to Caesonia.
Suetonius states that Caligula would parade Caesonia in front of his troops and sometimes naked in front of select friends. He would jokingly threaten to torture or kill her, on occasion, as an odd form of affection.
In 41, Caligula was struck down by assassins while attending a private theatrical performance. Caesonia and her daughter Julia Drusilla were murdered just hours after Caligula's demise. According to Josephus, she died bravely. Struck with grief at her husband's death, she willingly offered her neck to the assassin and told him to kill her without hesitation.
Milonia Caesonia died on 24 January 41.
In popular culture
Caesonia has been portrayed several times on film and television over the years:
- 1937 – Leonora Corbett in the uncompleted film I, Claudius
- 1966 – Krista Keller in the TV movie Caligula
- 1968 – Barbara Murray in the TV series The Caesars
- 1975 – Yvonne Lex in the TV movie Caligula
- 1976 – Freda Dowie in the TV series I, Claudius
- 1979 – Helen Mirren in the theatrical film Caligula
- Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Caligula, 25
- Cassius Dio, Roman History 23
- Cassius Dio, Roman History 28
- Juvenal, Satires VI.615-20
- Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Caligula 33
- Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews XIX.2.4
|Empress of Rome