Milonia Caesonia

Milonia Caesonia (died AD 41) was a Roman empress, the fourth and last wife of the emperor Caligula.

Milonia Caesonia
Milonia Caesonia.jpg
Milonia Caesonia from "Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum"
Empress of the Roman Empire
Tenurecirca AD 39 – 24 January AD 41
Died24 January AD 41
Palatine Hill, Rome
SpouseInstanius Rufus (possibly)
Issue3 daughters from the first husband,
Julia Drusilla
HouseJulio-Claudian Dynasty (by marriage)
FatherCaesonius Maximus


Early lifeEdit

The daughter of Caesonius and Vistilia, Caesonia was born toward the beginning of the first century, but the year is not certain. Her birthday was celebrated between 2 June and 4 June. The gens Caesonia was of modest origin, and had only recently come to prominence. Caesonia had six half-brothers, five of whom are known, Servius Cornelius Scipio Orfitus (whose son, Servius Cornelius Scipio Salvidienus Orfitus, was consul in AD 51), Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo (consul in 39, and a distinguished general under Claudius and Nero, was the father of the empress Domitia Longina), Quintus Pomponius Secundus (consul suffectus in 41), Publius Pomponius Secundus (consul suffectus in 44) and Publius Suillius Rufus (consul in 43, and father of Marcus Suillius Nerullinus, consul in 50).

Caesonius Maximus was believed by Marco Agosti to have been her father.[1]


Caesonia was married first to a man of uncertain name, but he may have been a Rufus.[2] Marco Agosti identified him as Instanius Rufus, a patron of Martial.[1]

Suetonius says that when Caligula married her, she was neither beautiful nor young, and was already the mother of three daughters by her first marriage. He describes her as a woman of reckless extravagance and wantonness, whom Caligula nonetheless loved passionately and faithfully.[3] According to Cassius Dio, the two entered into an affair some time before their marriage, either late in AD 39 or early in 40, and that the emperor's choice of a bride was an unpopular one.[4] The satirist Juvenal suggests that Caligula's madness was the result of a love potion administered to him by Caesonia.[5]

Caesonia was pregnant at the time of the marriage, and gave birth to a daughter, Julia Drusilla, only one month later (or according to Suetonius, on her wedding day).[6][3]

In the account given by Suetonius, the emperor would parade Caesonia in front of his troops, and sometimes displayed her naked in front of select friends.[3] In an odd demonstration of affection, he would jokingly threaten to have her tortured or killed.[7]

On 24 January, AD 41, Caligula was slain by an assassin. As part of the wider conspiracy, Caesonia and her daughter Julia Drusilla were murdered just hours after Caligula's demise. Josephus reports that she died bravely: stricken with grief at her husband's death, she willingly offered her neck to the assassin, telling him to kill her without hesitation.[8]

In popular cultureEdit

Caesonia has been portrayed several times on film and television:


  1. ^ a b Valverde, Juan Fernández; Castillo, Alberto Marina; Soldevila, Rosario Moreno (2019). A Prosopography to Martial’s Epigrams. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. p. 98. ISBN 9783110624755.
  2. ^ Henriksén, Christer. A Commentary on Martial, Epigrams Book 9, Band 9. OUP Oxford. p. 171. ISBN 9780199606313.
  3. ^ a b c Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, "The Life of Caligula", 25.
  4. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History, 23.
  5. ^ Juvenal, Satires VI.615-20
  6. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History, 28.
  7. ^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, "The Life of Caligula", 33.
  8. ^ Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, xix. 2. § 4.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Royal titles
Preceded by
Lollia Paulina
Empress of Rome
AD 40–41
Succeeded by
Valeria Messalina