Marcus Valerius Messalla Messallinus

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Marcus Valerius Messalla Messallinus (also spelled as Messalinus,[1] c.36 BC – after 21) was a Roman senator who was active in the Senate.

Early life[edit]

Messallinus was born and raised in Rome. He was the oldest son of the famous Roman Senator, orator and literacy patron Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus[2][3][1] whom he resembled in character, from wife Calpurnia. Messallinus is known to have had at least one sister, Valeria Messalina who married the Roman Senator Titus Statilius Taurus.[4] From his father’s second marriage,[5] his younger paternal half-brother was the Roman Senator Marcus Aurelius Cotta Maximus Messalinus.[6] Messallinus was the great-uncle of Roman empress Lollia Paulina, the third wife of Roman emperor Caligula, and a relation to Roman empress Statilia Messalina, the third wife of Roman emperor Nero.


Tibullus mentions that Messallinus was admitted into the quindecimviri sacris faciundis, the collegia in charge of the Sibylline Books.[7] Syme notes that the date of his cooption was before the poet's death in 19 BC, and argues it was in 21 BC.[5] He served as a consul in 3 BC.[2]

In AD 6, Messallinus served as a governor in Illyricum.[2] During his time in Illyricum, he served with Tiberius with distinction in a campaign against the Pannonians and Dalmatians in the uprising of the Great Illyrian Revolt with the Legio XX Valeria Victrix.[2] Messallinus with the half-strength Legio XX Valeria Victrix, defeated the Pannonii led by Bato the Daesitiate and prevented spread of the uprising. For his defeat over Bato, Messallinus was rewarded with a triumphal decoration (ornamenta triumphalia) and a place in the procession during Tiberius’ Pannonian triumph in 12, four years after the death of his father.[8]

In the first session of the Senate after Tiberius ascended to the throne, Messallinus suggested that an oath of allegiance should be sworn to the emperor yearly. Tiberius declined this offer, then asked if this motion was his own idea; Messallinus replied it was a spontaneous suggestion, meant to show public spirit, even at risk of his safety.[9] He next appears in history six years later, in the year 20, as part of the outcome of the trial and execution of Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso. Tacitus notes that Messallinus, along with Caecina Severus, proposed a golden statue be placed in the temple of Mars the Avenger, and an altar dedicated to Vengeance, in celebration of the execution of Piso, emperor Tiberius blocked the motion, pointing out that victories over foreign powers were commemorated with such acts, but domestic conflicts should be shrouded in silent grief. Messallinus is recorded as also proposing public thanks given to Tiberius and other individuals for having avenged Germanicus; when Lucius Nonius Asprenas pointedly asked if he had intentionally omitted all mention of Claudius in his proposal, the future emperor was then added.[10] Messllinus also appears as one of seven witnesses of the Senatus consultum de Cn. Pisone patre, the Roman Senate's official act concerning the trial and punishment of Piso.[11]

The last time Tacitus mentions Messallinus is in his account of the following year, when he spoke against a motion before the Senate to forbid senators from bringing their wives with them when leaving to govern a province. Syme hints that Messallinus died not long after, noting that Tacitus provided no obituary notice for the Roman senator, and concluding, "The oration did service as a conspicuous exit."[12]


The Latin Poet Tibullus in his Elegy 2.5, celebrates the induction of Messallinus in the priestly college in charge of the Sibylline Books in 21 BC and also predicts a future triumph for the then young Messallinus as he imagines his father proudly witnessing the event (Elegy 2.5.119-20):

Then let my Messalla sponsor entertainment for the crowd.
And, as father, applaud when the chariot passes by.

In 13 BC, the Latin Poet Ovid published a three-book collection titled Epistulae ex Ponto (Letters from the Black Sea) also in elegiacs but addressed to named individuals, among them is Messallinus (1.7, 2.2). He is also addressed in Ovid’s Tristia (4.4).[1]


According to the French Historian Christian Settipani, Messallinus married the Claudia Marcella Minor, one of the nieces of the Roman emperor Augustus.[13] Marcella bore Messallinus a daughter called Valeria Messalla born ca. 10 BC, who later married the praetor of 17, Lucius Vipstanus Gallus.[13]


  1. ^ a b c Gagarin, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome: Academy Bible, p.131
  2. ^ a b c d Juster, Elgies: With parallel Latin text, p. 119
  3. ^ Paterculus, Paterculus: The Tiberian Narrative, p.66
  4. ^ Syme, Augustan Aristocracy, p. 240
  5. ^ a b Syme, Augustan Aristocracy, p. 230
  6. ^ Paterculus, The Roman History, p.127
  7. ^ Tibullus, II.5
  8. ^ Juster, Elgies: With parallel Latin text, pp. 119-120
  9. ^ Tacitus, Annales, I.8
  10. ^ Tacitus, Annales, III.18
  11. ^ CIL VI, 31689
  12. ^ Syme, Augustan Aristocracy, p. 234
  13. ^ a b Settipani, Continuité gentilice et continuité sénatoriale dans les familles sénatoriales romaines à l'époque impériale


  • Marcus Velleius Paterculus - 2.112.1-2
  • Tacitus - The Annals of Imperial Rome
  • Suetonius - The Lives of the Twelve Caesars
  • Cassius Dio, 55.30.1-5.
  • A. Tibullus, The Complete Poems of Tibullus: An En Face Bilingual Edition, University of California Press, 2012
  • A. M. Juster, Elegies: With parallel Latin text (Google eBook), Oxford University Press, 2012
  • Velleius Paterculus – Translated with Introduction and Notes by J.C. Yardley & A.A. Barrett, The Roman History, Hackett Publishing, 2011
  • M. Gagarin & E. Fantham, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome: Academy Bible, Oxford University Press, 2009
  • V. Paterculus, Paterculus: The Tiberian Narrative, Cambridge University Press, 2004
  • C. Settipani, Continuité gentilice et continuité sénatoriale dans les familles sénatoriales romaines à l'époque imperiale, 2000
  • Ronald Syme, The Augustan Aristocracy, Oxford University Press, 1989
Political offices
Preceded by
Gaius Caelius (Rufus?),
and Galus Sulpicius

as Suffect consuls
Consul of the Roman Empire
3 BC
with Lucius Cornelius Lentulus
Succeeded by
Augustus XIII,
and Marcus Plautius Silvanus

as Ordinary consuls