Messalina was Rome, and Rome was Messalina
This is a real jewel among my vast book collection. Rare, old and truly captivating. Beautifully written. Descriptions are flawless and leave the reader in awe. The Roman culture is stripped to the bone by lively stories, witty quotes, and true accounts. The city itself is considered immoral and Valeria Messalina is just a product of it. And as an Empress, she’s the most important woman in Rome. Whatever Messalina does – the Rome follows…
Messalina: A Picture of Life in Imperial Rome is not just a chronologically lined up facts and a selection of judgemental common notions about a certain period of time in human existence, like a lot of history books tend to be. It’s a more passionate, emotional and factually questionable biography. Of Messalina as Rome and Rome as Messalina. Published in 1930 it dared to speak of the unspeakable. It’s a History in it’s most luxurious form.
Without further ranting and boastfulness, I’d like to quote the opening of the book. It speaks for itself:
– Meretrix Augusta!
Thus was Messalina condemned. And since then few have heard her named without a feeling of disgust for the profligate life of a woman who in her day was accosted as “illustrious harlot”, and looked upon as a beast, a compound of lustfulness and cruelty, the symbol of depravity in all its forms.
Experienced in all the arts and dissipations of the courtesan, driven by a poisoned imagination into perpetual mischief-making, she wallowed in orgies of perversity and debauchery, gloried in triumphs of shamelessness like a fury of the passions, dragged others into the pestilential atmosphere of her excesses and was a mistress of immorality and incredible vice. She lacked all conscience. Not madness, but passion, drove this woman to atrocious deeds.
This is still the verdict of history, nearly two thousand years after her death, nor did any one ever think otherwise during her life…
by H. Stadelmann, 1930