The Emperor Claudius: Messalina, Agrippina and the shadows of a dynasty” at the Ara Pacis Museum

Finally reevaluated the figure of this emperor, mistreated by ancient historians and often represented in movies and TV series almost as a caricature.

The exhibition recounts his life and works through an original set-up, made up of images and visual and sound suggestions, highlighting his personality, his political and administrative work, the bond with Augustus and his brother Germanicus, the tragic relationship with his wives Messalina and Agrippina.

First emperor born outside Italy, in present-day Lyon, he was an unlikely candidate to lead the empire. Augustus doubted his political aptitudes, and when his uncle Emperor Tiberius died, the people and the army had chosen Caligula. With the assassination of the latter, stabbed in his own palace, Claudius became, at the age of fifty, the first emperor acclaimed by a military corps, the Praetorians.

Claudio’s relationships with his four wives are marked by conspiracies and tragic events. His third wife, Messalina, 35 years younger than him, was known for his many vices, real or presumed. The last marriage, the one with his niece Agrippina, will be fatal to him: Agrippina, after having had his two children killed, will not hesitate to get rid of him to put his own son Nero on the throne of the empire.

At last the figure of the emperor emerging from the exhibition shows a man and a ruler able to take care of his people, to promote useful economic reforms and great public works, to contribute with his legislation to the administrative development of the Empire.


Among the featured works : the Tabula Claudiana, and several portraits of the imperial family.