Claudius, the next emperor, was uncle to Caligula. He was of a retiring and studious disposition, but was most unfortunate in his marriage relations. Other emperors had robbed noblemen of their wives, but Claudius’s wives Messalina added a new feature to the sins of her time. She cause Caius Silius to repudiate his own beautiful and virtuous wife and compelled the emperor to sign a contract sanctioning her own union with the “divorced” man. She proceeded to a beautiful villa with her guilty lover, where, with a courtly train of youths and maidens, was enacted the mythological drama of the union of Bacchus and Ariadne, with all licentiousness. This was too much for even the degenerate morals of Rome and both Silius and Messalina were slain by the soldiers. The death of Messalina was announced to the emperor while at dinner, but he did not allow it to interrupt his gluttonous and drunken repast.
The next matrimonial venture of Claudius was the union with his niece Agrippina. She too was unfaithful to him and laid plans to secure the throne for Nero, her son by a former marriage. She took care to secure for herself the support of the army by courting popularity with the soldiers. In military spectacles she took a conspicuous part seated by the emperor’s side and she caused her face to be associated with his on the coinage. When Agrippina thought he had lived long enough she caused him to be poisoned with mushrooms, a favorite delicacy of his table. It may have been an overdose. He vomited and the drug failed to do its work. Agrippina hastily secured the services of a physician who thrust a poisoned feather down his throat under pretense of assisting him. So died Claudius.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.