Milonia Caesonia

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

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


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:

Little is written of Caesonia's life. Suetonius says that when Caligula married her, she was neither beautiful nor young, and was already the mother of three daughters by another man. He describes her as a woman of reckless extravagance and wantonness, whom Caligula nonetheless loved passionately and faithfully.[1] 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.[2] The satirist Juvenal suggests that Caligula's madness was the result of a love potion administered to him by Caesonia.[3]

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).[4][1]

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.[1] In an odd demonstration of affection, he would jokingly threaten to have her tortured or killed.[5]

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.[6]

Caesonia has been portrayed several times on film and television:


  1. Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, "The Life of Caligula", 25.
  2. Cassius Dio, Roman History, 23.
  3. Juvenal, Satires VI.615-20
  4. Cassius Dio, Roman History, 28.
  5. Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, "The Life of Caligula", 33.
  6. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, xix. 2. § 4.
Royal titles
Preceded by
Lollia Paulina
Empress of Rome
AD 40–41
Succeeded by
Valeria Messalina
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