Lollia Paulina was the third wife of the early Roman Emperor Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (Caligula) (b. A.D. 12, d. A.D. 41, emperor A.D. 37-41). Caligula represents a turning point in the early history of the Augustus Principate. Lollia was married briefly to this emperor who lived for 28 years till death by a conspiracy. The life of this emperor along with his related persons has been the most poorly documented of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Posterity remembers Gaius by the nickname ‘caliga’ due to a hob-nailed sandal called caliga, which he used to wear as a baby when he accompanied his parents on military campaigns in the north.
Lollia Paulina’s life in history is badly littered with the scandals of Caligua and her own relations of vulgarity. Outlandish stories also cluster about the insane emperor, illustrating his excessive cruelty, immoral sexual relations, or disrespect toward tradition and the Senate 1. Modern scholars have come up with a variety of explanations for such behavior of Caligaly. Some of them say that he suffered from an illness; some say he was misunderstood or corrupted by power.
Caligula married for the third time during 38 (Cal. 25.2; Dio 59.12.1; Pliny NH 9.117) to Lollia Paulina who was from a wealthy family and was noted for her beauty. Caligula having the tendency for sexual appeals was attracted by her looks. It was Lollia’s looks that led to her brief relation with Caligula. She was a corrupt woman with relations to many others. Pliny the Elder saw Lollia at a dinner party wearing emeralds interlaced with pearls that covered her head, neck and fingers. Her wealth was oozing from every corner of her body. At the time she was already married to Publius Memmius Regulus, former governor of Moesia, Macedonia and Achea since 35 (Ann. 12.22; Dio 58.27.5), a place for which Lollia apparently had no liking.
Lollia’s marriage with Regulus was not of affection but that of a compromise. Suetonius says Regulus was also called from his province to participate in Caligula’s marriage ceremony with Lollia. It is a fact that Lollia failed to develop and maintain her relations with the emperor. But this is not entirely her fault but that of the Caligula as well due to his scandals. Lollia’s life turned another corner when Caligula married his niece Julia Agrippina in 49 AD. Lollia failed to bring her connections in the empire for use against her competitor Agrippina. This failure later led her to exile and then her murder.
Suetonius and Dio claim that the divorce to Lollia took place just after the marriage was solemnized (Cal. 25.2; 59.12.1). Lollia was sterilized and thus Caligula saw no advantage of her other than the sex desires, which he could fulfill from others as well. But when he came to know of the pregnancy of Caesaonia by him then he divorced Lollia.
Lollia was sterilized and therefore it was an advantage to her later because she would not upset the succession (Ann. 12.2.2; Dio 59.23.7). Suetonius states that Caligula forbade Lollia from intercourse with a man in perpetuity, lest she should happen to conceive (Cal. 25.2). Caligula was afraid of the succession and at the same time he knew of the sexual intercourse Lollia was involved with other men. Her life like that of Caligula was filled with vulgarity. It was the poor name she had due to her relations as well as her sterilization that Lollia lost not only her marriage with Caligula but also lost her life. Her real competitor was Agrippina, niece of Caligula. Agrippina saw to it that Lollia's family lost the estate, which quickly passed to the imperial domain.
"...For a strife arose among the freedmen, who should choose a wife for Claudius, impatient as he was of a single life and submissive to the rule of wives… But the keenest competition was Between Lollia Paulina, the daughter of Marcus Lollius, an ex-consul, and Julia Agrippina, the daughter of Germanicus. Callistus favored the first, Pallas the second. Aelia Paetina however, of the family of the Tuberones, had the support of Narcissus."
Agrippina used her femininity to trap the emperor and enjoyed all the privileges of a wife.
"This advice prevailed, backed up as it was by Agrippina's charms. On the pretext of her relationship, she paid frequent visits to her uncle, and so won his heart, that she was preferred to the others, and, though not yet his wife, already possessed a wife's power."
But Caligula and Agrippina did not yet dare to celebrate the nuptials in its due form, for there was no such example as a marriage between a niece with an uncle's house. It was positively incest and they feared of its being disregarded. The competition for Caligula 's marriage between Lollia Paulina, the daughter of Marcus Lollius, an ex-consul, and Julia Agrippina, the daughter of Germanicus was the most famous one. Lollia had good relations with Callistus who favored her marriage with Caligula. Narcissus dwelt on the marriage of years gone by, on the tie of offspring, for Paetina was the mother of Antonia, and on the advantage of excluding a new element from his household, by the return of a wife to whom he was accustomed, and who would assuredly not look with a stepmother's animosity on Britannicus and Octavia, who were next in her affections to her own children. Callistus argued that it would be wise to marry Lollia because she had no children of her own. However, an advantage that Agrippina had was that she would bring with her Germanicus's grandson, who was considered a thoroughly worthy of imperial rank. Pallus with whom Lollia did not have good relations recommended the marriage with Agrippina.
Agrippina hated and detested Lollia, for having competed with her for the emperor's hand. It was she who planned an accusation, through an informer who was to tax her with having consulted astrologers and magicians and the image of the Clarian Apollo, about the imperial marriage. Claudius knew that the sister of Lucius Volusius was Lollia's mother, Cotta Messalinus her granduncle, Memmius Regulus formerly her husband. Agrippina filled Caligula with hatred towards her with a false accusation that agreed and banished Lollia from Italy. Lollia was eventually left with only five million sesterces in her exile. Agrippina's resentment did not stop here and despatched a tribune to Lollia to force her to suicide.
The Annals Book 12 - (A.D. 48-54) Annales, Book XII, Publius Cornelius Tacitus Internet ASCII text source:
Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb
The Modern Library edition of Church and Brodribb's text, published under the title of The Complete Works of Tacitus, 1942, included paragraph indexing. These were added to the Internet ASCII source, along with HTML links, to aid in cross-referencing the text.
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