Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus
Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus (64 BC - AD 8
Year 8 was a leap year starting on Sunday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Camillus and Quinctilianus...

) was a Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 general, author and patron of literature and art.


He was the son of politician Marcus Valerius Messalla Niger
Marcus Valerius Messalla Niger
Marcus Valerius Messalla Niger was a senator of the Roman Republic.He was praetor in the year of Cicero's consulship, 63 BC, and consul in 61, the year in which Publius Clodius profaned the mysteries of the Bona Dea, and Gnaeus Pompeius triumphed for his several victories over the Cilician pirates,...

 (consul 61 BC) Although, some dispute his parentage and claim another descendant of Marcus Valerius Corvus
Marcus Valerius Corvus
Marcus Valerius Corvus was a Roman general of the 4th century BC, characterized as a farmer who lived to be one hundred.-Biography:...

 to be his father.

Messalla Corvinus is believed to have been married twice. His first marriage was to a Calpurnia, possibly the daughter of Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus
Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus
Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus was a politician of the late Roman Republic.Bibulus was the son in law of Marcus Porcius Cato Uticencis. In 59 BC he was elected consul, supported by the optimates, conservative republicans in the Senate and opponents of Julius Caesar's triumvirate...

, and from this first marriage, he had two children: a daughter called Valeria Messalina, who may have been the paternal grandmother of Roman Empress Statilia Messalina
Statilia Messalina
Statilia Messalina was a Roman patrician woman, a Roman Empress and third wife to Roman Emperor Nero.The ancient sources say little of her family; however, Suetonius states that she was a great-great-granddaughter of Titus Statilius Taurus, a Roman General who won a triumph and was twice consul...

, and a son called Marcus Valerius Messalla Messallinus
Marcus Valerius Messalla Messallinus
Marcus Valerius Messalla Messallinus was the son of the Roman famous orator Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus, whom he resembled in character, and wife Calpurnia.He was a senator and consul in 3 BC and AD 3...

, who was a Roman consul in 3 BC. Messalla Corvinus' second son, Marcus Aurelius Cotta Maximus (consul 20 AD), is believed to have been born to a second unknown wife on the basis of a 23-year gap between the consulship of the elder son, Marcus Valerius Messalla Messallinus
Marcus Valerius Messalla Messallinus
Marcus Valerius Messalla Messallinus was the son of the Roman famous orator Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus, whom he resembled in character, and wife Calpurnia.He was a senator and consul in 3 BC and AD 3...

 and the consulship of the younger son, Marcus Aurelius Cotta Maximus.

Valeria, a female relative of Corvinus, perhaps a sister, married the Roman consul Quintus Pedius
Quintus Pedius
Quintus Pedius was a Roman who lived during the late Roman Republic. Pedius was the son of a Marcus or Quintus Pedius and nephew or great nephew of the Roman dictator Julius Caesar....

 (a maternal cousin to Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

). Valeria and Pedius had a son called Quintus Pedius Publicola
Quintus Pedius Publicola
Quintus Pedius Publicola or sometimes spelt as Poplicola was a Roman who came from a Roman senatorial family. Publicola was the son of consul Quintus Pedius and noblewoman Valeria....

, who was an orator. His great nephew was the deaf painter Quintus Pedius
Quintus Pedius (deaf painter)
Quintus Pedius was a Roman painter and the first deaf person in recorded history known by name. He is the first recorded deaf painter and his education is the first recorded education of a deaf child...


It is common for some historians to refer to Marcus Valerius Corvinus and attribute the triumph against the Aquitani, the victory at Messana and the epithet Corvinus to him, when in actuality they are referring to three different generations of men named Valerius Corvinus: Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus born 64BC, Manius Valerius Maximus Corvinus Messalla
Manius Valerius Maximus Corvinus Messalla
Manius Valerius Maximus Corvinus Messalla was Roman consul in 263 BC. He was the son of the distinguished Roman tribune Marcus Valerius Corvus. In 263BC, with his colleague Manius Otacilius Crassus, he gained a brilliant victory over the Carthaginians and Syracusans: more than sixty of the...

 consul 263BC (birthdate unknown), and Marcus Valerius Corvus
Marcus Valerius Corvus
Marcus Valerius Corvus was a Roman general of the 4th century BC, characterized as a farmer who lived to be one hundred.-Biography:...

 born 370BC. How and why the name changed from Corvus to Corvinus is unclear. Also, to add to the confusion, Manius is sometimes referred to as Marcus.


Messalla Corvinus was educated partly at Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, together with Horace
Quintus Horatius Flaccus , known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus.-Life:...

 and the younger Cicero
Cicero Minor
Marcus Tullius Cicero Minor , or Cicero the Younger, was born in 64 BC. He was the son of Marcus Tullius Cicero, who as a distinguished orator and consular senator was one of the leading figures of the Roman Republic during the 1st century BC. His mother was Terentia, Cicero senior’s first wife...

. In early life he became attached to republican
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 principles, which he never abandoned, although in later life he avoided offending Caesar Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

 by not mentioning them too openly.

In 43 BC he was proscribed, but managed to escape to the camp of Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus , often referred to as Brutus, was a politician of the late Roman Republic. After being adopted by his uncle he used the name Quintus Servilius Caepio Brutus, but eventually returned to using his original name...

 and Cassius
Gaius Cassius Longinus
Gaius Cassius Longinus was a Roman senator, a leading instigator of the plot to kill Julius Caesar, and the brother in-law of Marcus Junius Brutus.-Early life:...

. After the Battle of Philippi
Battle of Philippi
The Battle of Philippi was the final battle in the Wars of the Second Triumvirate between the forces of Mark Antony and Octavian and the forces of Julius Caesar's assassins Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus in 42 BC, at Philippi in Macedonia...

 (42 BC) he went over to Antony
Antony is an English language variant of Anthony. It can refer to:People* Mark Antony, Roman politician and general* Antony Flew, a contemporary British philosopher* Antony Gormley, a contemporary British sculptor...

, but subsequently transferred his support to Octavian
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...


In 31 BC Messalla was appointed consul
Roman consul
A consul served in the highest elected political office of the Roman Republic.Each year, two consuls were elected together, to serve for a one-year term. Each consul was given veto power over his colleague and the officials would alternate each month...

 in place of Antony, and took part in the battle of Actium
Battle of Actium
The Battle of Actium was the decisive confrontation of the Final War of the Roman Republic. It was fought between the forces of Octavian and the combined forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII. The battle took place on 2 September 31 BC, on the Ionian Sea near the city of Actium, at the Roman...

. He subsequently held commands in the East, and suppressed the revolted Aquitania
Aquitania may refer to:* the territory of the Aquitani, a people living in Roman times in what is now Aquitaine, France* Aquitaine, a region of France roughly between the Pyrenees, the Atlantic ocean and the Garonne, also a former kingdom and duchy...

ns; for this latter feat he celebrated a triumph
Roman triumph
The Roman triumph was a civil ceremony and religious rite of ancient Rome, held to publicly celebrate and sanctify the military achievement of an army commander who had won great military successes, or originally and traditionally, one who had successfully completed a foreign war. In Republican...

 in 27.

Messalla restored the road between Tusculum
Tusculum is a ruined Roman city in the Alban Hills, in the Latium region of Italy.-Location:Tusculum is one of the largest Roman cities in Alban Hills. The ruins of Tusculum are located on Tuscolo hill—more specifically on the northern edge of the outer crater ring of the Alban volcano...

 and Alba, and many handsome buildings were due to his initiative.

He moved that the title of pater patriae should be bestowed upon Augustus, and yet resigned the appointment of Prefect of the city
Praefectus urbi
The praefectus urbanus or praefectus urbi, in English the urban prefect, was prefect of the city of Rome, and later also of Constantinople. The office originated under the Roman kings, continued during the Republic and Empire, and held high importance in late Antiquity...

 after six days’ tenure of office in 25 BC, because it was opposed to his ideas of constitutionalism. It may have been on this occasion that he uttered the phrase "I am disgusted with power".

Patronage and writings

His influence on literature, which he encouraged after the manner of Maecenas, was considerable, and the group of literary persons whom he gathered round him—including Tibullus
Albius Tibullus was a Latin poet and writer of elegies.Little is known about his life. His first and second books of poetry are extant; many other texts attributed to Tibullus are of questionable origins. There are only a few references to him in later writers and a short Life of doubtful authority...

, Lygdamus and the poet Sulpicia
-Sulpicia I:The earlier Sulpicia is the only known woman from Ancient Rome whose poetry survives to this day. She is said to have lived in the reign of Augustus and have been probably the daughter of Servius Sulpicius Rufus and a niece of Messalla Corvinus, an important patron of literature...

--has been called "the Messalla circle." With Horace and Tibullus he was on intimate terms, and Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

 expresses his gratitude to him as the first to notice and encourage his work.’ The two panegyrics by unknown authors (one printed among the poems of Tibullus as iv. 1; the other included in the Catalepton, the collection of small poems attributed to Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

) indicate the esteem in which he was held.

Messalla was himself the author
An author is broadly defined as "the person who originates or gives existence to anything" and that authorship determines responsibility for what is created. Narrowly defined, an author is the originator of any written work.-Legal significance:...

 of various works, all of which are lost. They included Memoirs of the civil wars after the death of Caesar, used by Suetonius
Lives of the Twelve Caesars
De vita Caesarum commonly known as The Twelve Caesars, is a set of twelve biographies of Julius Caesar and the first 11 emperors of the Roman Empire written by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus.The work, written in AD 121 during the reign of the emperor Hadrian, was the most popular work of Suetonius,...

 and Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

; bucolic poems in Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

; translations of Greek speeches; occasional satirical and erotic verses; essays on the minutiae of grammar
In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics,...


As an orator, he followed Cicero instead of the Atticizing school, but his style was affected and artificial. Later critic
A critic is anyone who expresses a value judgement. Informally, criticism is a common aspect of all human expression and need not necessarily imply skilled or accurate expressions of judgement. Critical judgements, good or bad, may be positive , negative , or balanced...

s considered him superior to Cicero, and Tiberius
Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

 adopted him as a model.

Late in life he wrote a work on the great Roman families, wrongly identified with an extant poem De progenie Augusti Caesaris which bears the name of Messalla, but in fact is a 12th-century production.

Places associated with Messalla

Messalla had a house on the Palatine in Rome that used to belong to Marc Antony before Augustus presented it to Messala and Agrippa (Cass. Dio 53.27.5).

An inscription (CIL 6.29789 = ILS 5990) also records Messalla as the owner of the famed Gardens of Lucullus
Gardens of Lucullus
The Gardens of Lucullus were the setting for an ancient patrician villa on the Pincian Hill on the edge of Rome; they were laid out by Lucius Licinius Lucullus about 60 BCE...

 (Horti Luculliani) located on the Pincian Hill
Pincian Hill
The Pincian Hill is a hill in the northeast quadrant of the historical center of Rome. The hill lies to the north of the Quirinal, overlooking the Campus Martius...

 where the Villa Borghese gardens
Villa Borghese gardens
Villa Borghese is a large landscape garden in the naturalistic English manner in Rome, containing a number of buildings, museums and attractions. It is the second largest public park in Rome after that of the Villa Doria Pamphili...

 are today.

The Casale Rotondo
Casal Rotondo
Casal Rotondo is the largest tomb on the Appian Way, to the southeast of Rome, Italy. A small farmhouse has been constructed on the top.The structure is found at approximately the VIth mile of the ancient Appian Way...

, a cylindrical tomb near the sixth milestone on the Appian Way
Appian Way
The Appian Way was one of the earliest and strategically most important Roman roads of the ancient republic. It connected Rome to Brindisi, Apulia, in southeast Italy...

, is often identified as being the tomb of Messalla Corvinus, but this is debatable.

Messalla is also recorded in an inscription as being one of the three friends of Gaius Cestius responsible for erecting statues that once stood at the site of the famous Pyramid of Cestius
Pyramid of Cestius
The Pyramid of Cestius is an ancient pyramid in Rome, Italy, near the Porta San Paolo and the Protestant Cemetery. It stands at a fork between two ancient roads, the Via Ostiensis and another road that ran west to the Tiber along the approximate line of the modern Via della Marmorata...

 which is located close to the Porta San Paolo
Porta San Paolo
The Porta San Paolo is one of the southern gates in the 3rd-century Aurelian Walls of Rome, Italy. The Ostiense Museum is housed within in the gatehouse...

 in Rome.

Legendary ancestor of Hungarian Royalty

The Wallachia
Wallachia or Walachia is a historical and geographical region of Romania. It is situated north of the Danube and south of the Southern Carpathians...

n-Hungarian family of Corvin
Hunyadi may refer to:* Hunyadi family, a Hungarian noble family from the Middle Ages* John Hunyadi, a Hungarian general and Regent-Governor of the Kingdom of Hungary* Laszlo Hunyadi, a Hungarian statesman* Matthias Corvinus , King of Hungary...

, which came to prominence with Janos Hunyadi and his son, Matthias Corvinus Hunyadi, King of Hungary and Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

, claimed to be descended from Messalla.

This was based on the assertion that he became a big landowner on the Pannonia
Pannonia was an ancient province of the Roman Empire bounded north and east by the Danube, coterminous westward with Noricum and upper Italy, and southward with Dalmatia and upper Moesia....

In ancient geography, especially in Roman sources, Dacia was the land inhabited by the Dacians or Getae as they were known by the Greeks—the branch of the Thracians north of the Haemus range...

n frontiers, the future Hungary and part of Romania, that his descendants continued to live there for the following 1400 years, and that the Hunyadis were his ultimate descendants - for which there is scant if any historical evidence. The connection seems to have been made by Matthias' biographer, the Italian Antonio Bonfini
Antonio Bonfini
Antonio Bonfini was an Italian humanist and poet who spent the last years of his career as a court historian in Hungary with King Matthias Corvinus....

, who was well-versed with the classical Latin authors.

Bonfini also provided the Hunyadis with the epithet Corvinus. This was supposedly due to a case in which the tribune
Tribune was a title shared by elected officials in the Roman Republic. Tribunes had the power to convene the Plebeian Council and to act as its president, which also gave them the right to propose legislation before it. They were sacrosanct, in the sense that any assault on their person was...

, Marcus Valerius Corvus
Marcus Valerius Corvus
Marcus Valerius Corvus was a Roman general of the 4th century BC, characterized as a farmer who lived to be one hundred.-Biography:...

 in 349BC,while on the battlefield accepted a challenge to single combat
Single combat
Single combat is a fight between two single warriors which takes place in the context of a battle between two armies, with the two often considered the champions of their respective sides...

 issued to the Romans by a barbarian
Barbarian and savage are terms used to refer to a person who is perceived to be uncivilized. The word is often used either in a general reference to a member of a nation or ethnos, typically a tribal society as seen by an urban civilization either viewed as inferior, or admired as a noble savage...

 warrior of great size and strength. Suddenly, a raven flew from a trunk, perched upon his helmet, and began to attack his foe's eyes with its beak so fiercely that the barbarian was blinded, and the Roman beat him easily. In memory of this event, Valerius' agnomen
Roman naming conventions
By the Republican era and throughout the Imperial era, a name in ancient Rome for a male citizen consisted of three parts : praenomen , nomen and cognomen...

 Corvinus (from Corvus, "Raven") was interpreted as derived from this event. The Hunyadis called themselves "Corvinus" and had their coins minted displaying a "raven with a ring". This was later taken up in the coat of arms of Polish aristocratic families connected with the Hunyadis, and also led to Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus' triumph over the Aquitanians(27BC)being commemorated in the pediment of the Krasiński Palace in Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...


See also

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