Trial of Valerius Asiaticus. A.R. 796.

WAG 7730


This is one of a group of drawings by British artist and book illustrator Edward Francis Burney, depicting scenes from Greek and Roman history and mythology. One of the inscriptions on the margin, January No. 2, seems to refer to the month in a calendar for which Edward Francis Burney created this frontispiece drawing. Burney executed many headpieces of this kind for pocket calendars and memorandum books between 1796 to 1829. [See correspondence between Patricia Crown and Edward Morris, in the docket file] Valerius Asiaticus (5 BCE - 47 CE) was a respected Roman senator who was also known as an athlete. As a well-connected man of immense wealth, Asiaticus acquired the pleasure gardens of Lucius Licinius Lucullus, a famous Roman general, politician and glutton of the 1st century BCE. In 47 CE the Roman senator, Publius Suillius Rufus, brought capital charges against Asiaticus before the Roman Senate. Among the charges was adultery with Poppaea Sabina, mother of the Roman empress Poppaea Sabina - a plot by Claudius's third wife, Valeria Messalina, to seize Asiaticus's gardens. In this scene he is shown on trial for the crime. He was eventually condemned to death by Claudius through the contrivance of Messalina, but committed suicide by opening his veins.