Thursday, April 13, 2006

Panopticon Celebrity Smackdown V: When in Rome

I will have you know this is not a frivolous blog. We are not always about dancing sheep and lace. Oh, no.

Today, we're not only going to have an ancient history lesson, we're going to have a re-enactment. And you can help!

The Story of Empress Messalina

Valeria Messalina was the wife of Claudius, Emperor of Rome (ruled 41-54 A.D.). Unlike such female monarchs as Queen Victoria and Empress Maria Theresa, Messalina has not gone down in history as a model of royal domesticity. Instead, she is remembered as possibly the greatest slut ever to rumple the bedsheets.

Naughty EmpressThe Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius both describe her as a galloping nymphomaniac with a mercurial temper. If they are to believed, she did the horizontal bop with a fair cross-section of the male population, right under her doting husband's nose. When a potential lover denied her, or a past lover ceased to please her, she was not above mainpulating Claudius into having them executed.

This went on merrily for some quite time until she made the mistake of 1) plotting to have Claudius killed while he was out of town and 2) getting married (in public) to somebody else while this was supposed to be happening. Naughty, naughty.

Claudius, needless to say, was dreadfully annoyed. He had Messalina's co-conspirators executed, and ordered her to commit suicide. She couldn't bring herself to do it, so a helpful tribune stepped in and finished her off.

And that was the end of that.

The most notorious and picturesque of Messalina's endeavors, which is not mentioned in either Suetonius or Tacitus,* was her all-night schtupping contest against Scylla, Rome's chief prostitute. The challenge was to see who could take on the most men in a single night.

As dawn broke, Scylla gave up with the score tied at 25 to 25. Messalina, so it is said, kept on going well into the morning just for the ducks of it.

What Does This Have to Do with the Smackdown?

I'm so glad you asked. I thought it would be a hoot to stage a Messalina vs. Scylla re-match. However, as the two original participants are not available, I've secured stand-ins from the world of entertainment to take their places.

May I present, as the Empress Messalina:


Cathy

and as Scylla, Queen of the Prostitutes:



Thel, the mom from The Family Circus

One vote equals one boink. Contest ends tomorrow noon.

Who will take on the most lovers in a single night?
Cathy (Messalina)
Thel (Scylla)
Free polls from Pollhost.com

*I think it's in Pliny, but I don't have a copy and couldn't find on online confirmation. You classicists, help me out if you can.

42 comments:

Michelene said...

I wouldn't want to be man #25.

rene said...

I'm going with Messalina (again). That cross-eyed look of dizzy delight combined with the naughty daisy on her hat just says all night bonk-a-thon more than Thel's floating lips.

Although Claudius himself will always be Derek Jacobi to me.

FiberQat said...

What a hoot!! Miss Kvetch versus Perfect Mom. From a historical standpoint, I opted for the underdog (or whatever position was chosen at the time). It helped to have Thel as her representative. She's got to have plenty of stamina after raising 4 toddlers for 50 years.

David said...

Tough one. Messalina would be obssessing about how large her thighs looked and feeling unattractive, and Scyla would be constantly distracted by Billy's endless questions.

Yvonne said...

I'm going with Messalina. Thel's got 4 kids -- Billy, Dolly, Jeffy and PJ -- she's not going to have the energy for a boinkathon.

Jon said...

Definitely Cathy....she's single and single women have loose morals. LOL

Libby said...

That is my favorite scene in "I, Claudius"!! She was the coolest prostitute EVER.

"Give me something to support my back, Highness, and as they say- let the games begin!"

Or, "The difference between you and me, Greek, is that you are a snob and I am not"

pacalaga said...

Thel needs some sort of adult interaction after spending all day with those annoying kids, so I voted for her, even though I think Messalina herself probably would have won again. (I just despise Cathy so deeply that I can't support her in any way.) People who do it for the love of the game always win out over people who do it for money.
(I thought Scylla was a crushing rock near Charybdis, on the only way home from wherever Odysseus had been for those 25 years.)

Stitchy McYarnpants said...

I've always thought that Thel was a super-freak in the sack. I can very easily picture her in thigh-high patent leather boots and a spiked collar with the dad strung up in a very intricate contraption made of belts and straps and zippers and large, shiny buckles.

Does that make me weird?

Vivienne said...

Juvenal's Satire VI, approximately lines 115-135 (it's one of the more corrupt passages and I don't have a Latin text handy) describes the contest.

Lisa said...

Has Cathy ever gotten any?

Franklin said...

You rock, Vivienne.

Holly @Home said...

For once I've heard of the classical versions but not the modern counterparts so can't join in ..Mum has one question..what the heck did they do for raging thrush and cystitis in those days ? She saw this competition in "I Claudius" many moons ago and says she thought must be like being let loose in a Malteser factory ( a strange candy with honeycomb covered in chocolate)...i.e you'd be sick afterwards.

Anonymous said...

You've outdone yourself this time, Franklin. This is absolutely twisted.
-Lynn in Tucson

Carol said...

Definitely the Family Circus lady. When Dad comes in and asks "Who's that f*cking your mother?" Billy will reply, "Not Me."

Jax said...

I'm voting for the woman with real stamina. A mom of four who isn't a blubbering fool by the end of the day could easily outlast a whiner who can't make it though choosing her spring purse without collapsing in exhaustion.

LeighB in Atlanta said...

Ditto Jax and Stitchy. I doubt Cathy could even have sex with the lights on.

Bonnita said...

It has to be Thel. Ever since she had the new doo, she been feeling sexy. I bet she's a screamer too.

Anonymous said...

thel is SUCH a priss - bet ya she "lies back and thinks of england" when her spouse demands her to give it up. and she has NEVER slept around; religious girls always submit to their spouses.

now, cathy, on the other hand, has had several guys in her lifetime. true, she has trouble buying clothes and working out. but give her some chocolate and she is yours for the taking!

ditto rene, yvonne, and jon.

what does dolores have to say on this issue?

Janice in GA said...

Ya know, I didn't know the Family Circus mom's name was Thel. But I did know about Messalina and Scylla. :)

Anonymous said...

Cathy's a weenie.

But Thel, she reminds of that sickly poem about how god making mothers.

http://www.dobhran.com/greetings/GRinspire183.htm

LaurieM

Rana said...

Thel. She's _had_ those four kids, and she likes to wear tight sweaters, and she's cooped up with the kids for hours on end, with no other outlet for her pent-up emotions.

Cathy, on the other hand, dithers, whines, and scares men away with her weird obsessions, and would probably rather be eating ice cream in her yoga pants.

Nelly Olsen said...

This has absolutely nothing to do with today's post, Franklin, but did you see the reference to Dolores in the April 10 New Yorker? It's in The Talk of the Town on page 30 in the entry titled "Pinup Dept.-Whipped Again." The whipped cream must have been a bit messy.

Vivienne said...

I knew there was a reason why I spent all that money on my very own Oxford Classical Dictionary. It's just that at the time I thought it would be more to do with studying for an MA than checking references for comparative strangers on other continents.

Oh well. I don't know if I'd manage to buy it now. It was in those long-ago (3 years) days when, although I could knit (I cannot remember not being able to), I did not have or need a yarn budget.

ann said...

I believe it may be in Juvenal - or at least he calls her a whore in satire 6.

Elizabeth said...

I can't imagine either of your characters even getting through with guy number one. I can't vote. Well, the Family Circus mom at least had to have a few rounds to have those kids. I doubt if Cathy ever scored.

How about June Morgan (Rex's wife) vs. Mary Worth?

Page Fox (Foxtrot) vs. Luanne?

Leslie said...

wait a minute -- did anony say that Jon, rene and yvette will give out for chocolate? (wish I had known...)

And Jon? You have to keep up, honey -- Cathy's married to Irving now.

Franklin, I didn't know that you were old enough for Messalina to have given you her autograph ;)

I feel like Thel - so many little things needing attention.

gaile said...

ugh, i have to vote for cathy, although it's the lesser of two evils, but all I can think of is "family circus. bottom right hand corner, just waiting to suck"

Taphophile said...

Hmm, never heard of Thel and I hate Cathy. Which one knits? Obviously the knitter would win, she has stamina and focus and besides, fn men is SO much easier than fn lace.

Pawdua said...

Thel is a mom and she's got stamina and determination over Cathy's whining. I can just see the I dunno ghost/figure floating around when Daddy asks Billy where is Mommy?

Mel said...

As a relatively newlywed, Cathy is probably to wrapped up in that. Hell, she's usually too wrapped up in herself anyway. Underneath all Thel's quiet domesticity, though, beats the heart of a wild beast. It is always the quiet ones, after all.

Jean said...

My resources don't reach to the source of the story, either. Juvenal X has an amusing passage about how Messalina used to sneak out at night and serve as a Working Girl in a local brothel, but nothing that I can see about a competition. I don't have Suetonius' "Claudius" -- could the story be in there? Could it have been (plausibly) invented by the author of "I, Claudius", whose name escapes me at the moment?

The fact that there are other people among your commentators who have heard of Messalina (but not, in my case, of her competition with Scylla) and not of the cartoon characters, makes me feel much as God must have when he saved Sodom.

Love Jean

Vivienne said...

It's in "Claudius the God", by Robert Graves - but Graves specifically says in his introduction that he hasn't made anything up, and lists a selection of his sources. But Graves may or may not be telling the truth at any point, and finding a story like this in classical sources has less to do with anything Messalina and Claudius may actually have done than with characterising them as Bad Girl and Weak Emperor. (I once wrote an essay on how Suetonius' deathbed scenes effectively sum up the emperor in question. Good emperors die in bed of natural causes. Claudius was poisoned by his next wife, who was also the mother of Nero. Nuff said)

Sean said...

Cathy is too neurotic and what's that they say about still waters running deep. There's too much cals with Thel.

Helen said...

According to an online calorie counter, if we guesstimate Cathy at 145 lbs., she burns 62 calories per boink. 62 x 25 = one Chipotle Grill run.

My money is on Cathy.

marie in florida said...

i vote Thel cuz anywoman that can handle four kids, a household and a hubby can handle all nighters; plus, you know, the quiet ones run deep

Mhairi said...

Now I know why you did Classics at College!!!!!! Imagine an essay on that contest .
Too young to remember I,Claudius (sternly religious parents wouldn't watch it anyway), and have not idea who these two contestants are (my offspring have my brains now!).
But I do wish I had either ladies energy and stamina though would probably not use either for the activity those ladies opted for (not to that extent anyway!!)
Oh well back to the knitting!

paranee said...

I really think Cathy would be too much of a a worrier and a talker in bed to really do much schtupping. Thel on the other hand seems to understand the value of keeping quiet and demure as well as the improtance of keeping up certain family values, which might actually by a disguise. In bed, Thel might be quite the vocalist.

rene said...

Chocolate, eh?

I don't know about Jon and yvette, but I hadn't realized I was that cheap a date.

sahara said...

Under her doting husband's nose? The emperor?

I find it amazing that she could have screwed a good part of the male population without her husband finding out. The men didn't talk? The sensation of sex, mingled with the fear of death, must be awfully powerful.

Anonymous said...

It's quite difficult to find the sources for that story. In Juvenal, one can find that Messalina worked, on a regular basis, as a prostitute, but there's nothing about the competition with Scylla. In Pliny (10,172), the competition is narrated, but the name Scylla does not occur. So if anyone knows, where the name "Scylla" is to be found, please tell me. (struedelhund@yahoo.de). Thanks

Anonymous said...

Anonymous/struedelhund@yahoo.de, Did you ever find your answer?