Messalina, now grown weary of the very facility of
her adulteries, was rushing into strange excesses, when even
MESSALINA'S MARRIAGE TO SILIUS
Silius, either through
some fatal infatuation or because he imagined that, amid the dangers which
hung over him, danger itself was the best safety, urged the breaking off of
all concealment. "They were not," he said, "in such an extremity as to have
to wait for the emperor's old age. Harmless measures were for the innocent.
Crime once exposed had no refuge but in audacity. They had accomplices in
all who feared the same fate. For himself, as he had neither wife nor child,
he was ready to marry and to adopt Britannicus. Messalina would have the
same power as before, with the additional advantage of a quiet mind, if only
they took Claudius' by surprise, who, though unsuspicious of treachery, was
hasty in his wrath."
The suggestion was coldly received, not because the
lady loved her husband, but from a fear that Silius, after attaining his
highest hopes, would spurn an adulteress, and soon estimate at its true
value the crime which in the midst of peril he had approved. But she craved
the name of wife, for the sake of the monstrous infamy, that last source of
delight to the reckless. She waited only till Claudius set out for Ostia
to perform a sacrifice, and then celebrated all
the solemnities of marriage.