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Tiberius, Messalina, and Caligula Reproach One Another in the Midst of Flames
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Boucicaut Master
French, Paris, about 1415
Tempera colors, gold leaf, and gold paint on parchment
16 9/16 x 11 5/8 in.
MS. 63, FOL. 218V

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Messalina, the young wife of the aged emperor Claudius, stands between the Roman emperors Caligula and Tiberius in the flames of hell, where they discuss their sins. When Messalina joined the group, the men asked why she was there. Had she come to see her stepson Drusus, whom she poisoned, or was she there to consult with other women who shared her lustful nature?

Messalina admitted her sin of lust but blamed her libidinous nature on the astrological configuration present at her birth. She then reminded the emperors of their sins. Caligula had committed incest with his three sisters, exiled them, and had them killed. He had raped married women, poisoned people, and declared himself a god. Tiberius had killed his brothers, committed false accusations, and perpetrated sins against nature. Messalina won the debate by demonstrating that their sins were far worse than hers and reminding them to repent first, before reproaching others.