Messalina: Empress, Adulteress, Libertine: The Story of the Most Notorious Woman of the Roman World


Product Details

$32.00  $29.76
Pegasus Books
Publish Date
6.2 X 9.0 X 1.6 inches | 1.3 pounds
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About the Author

Honor Cargill-Martin is an author, classicist, and art historian from London. She read Classical Archeology and Ancient History at Oxford, winning a scholarship and graduating with a first-class degree in 2019. She has masters degrees in Greek and Roman history and Italian Renaissance Art. She is currently studying for a doctorate focusing on political sex scandals in Ancient Rome at Christ Church College Oxford. She has published a number of children's fiction titles. Her biography of Messalina is her first non-fiction title.


"Written with poise, flair, and acute intelligence, brimming with passion and humor, Honor Cargill-Martin's Messalina is more than just a corrective biography of a much-misunderstood woman. It is a tour de force, a captivating journey into the wild world of imperial Rome, and the most accomplished historical debut that I have read in years."--Dan Jones, New York Times bestselling author
"Brisk, fun and fascinating, this delicious debut is the perfect marriage of scholarship and wit."--Suzannah Lipscomb, host of Not Just the Tudors
"For all the tales of sexual jealousy, vicious retribution and (occasionally) genuine love, this is also a serious and substantial account of the political machinations of the Roman imperial court in the first half of the first century AD, from a very considerable scholar. It is full of personalities of whom few will have heard--Narcissus, Mnester, Silius--who play intriguing supporting roles in the story of Messalina, whose reputation as a nymphomaniac is rightly discounted, while her role as a serial murderer is persuasively underlined. It left me longing for the surely-inevitable Netflix series."--Andrew Roberts, New York Times bestselling author of Churchill: Walking with Destiny and The Last King of America
"Honor Cargill-Martin writes Messalina's story with a wonderful combination of passion and precision, in a book that reads like a thriller while delivering a nuanced examination of one woman and her many depictions. There was so much I enjoyed in this book - the sly humour, the burning sense of injustice, the colourful evocation of Pompeii's lupanar - but the most powerful element was the quiet devastation in H C-M's retelling of Messalina's end. This book will make you laugh and cry --and above all it will make you think."--Elodie Harper, author of The Wolf Den
"Classicist Cargill-Martin reexamines the life of a notorious Roman empress in this vibrant tome. Cargill-Martin does an excellent job of bringing the tumult, intrigue, and danger of the Julio-Claudian dynasty to life, mining original sources to get to the heart of who this complicated woman was in the world in which she lived."--Booklist, starred review
"The book is a lesson in ancient Rome, but more interesting is what it says about misogyny, patriarchy, and how women get written in or out of history."--New Statesman
"As a doctoral student working on political sex scandals in ancient Rome, [Cargill-Martin] can handle the sources--and their endless problems--with sophistication, while keeping it palatable for the general reader. She guides us deftly through the warren of high politics and the famously confusing Julio-Claudian family tree. Her writing achieves a rare, old-fashioned, waspish elegance."--The Sunday Telegraph
"Lively and sardonic. In Messalina, Honor Cargill-Martin looks at the limited evidence with empathy, arguing that a notorious empress was also a canny politician."--New York Times Book Review
"Honor Cargill-Martin's book throws an academic bucket of cold water over steamy male fantasy. Cargill-Martin has attempted to rediscover Messalina, her endeavour part of a wider movement to give voice to the silent women of history and myth. I am all for this enterprise and this book is an erudite and entertaining example of the form. Splendid."--The Times (London), "Book of the Week"