1. A celebrated pantomime actor in the reigns of Caligula and Claudius.
The former emperor prized Mnester's acting so highly, that he used to kiss him before the audience, and once chastised with his own hands an eques who had made some disturbance during his performance.
It was accounted among the portents of Caligula's death that on the morning of his assassination Mnester played a character which the tragedian Neoptolemus, centuries before, had acted on the day of Philip of Macedon's murder by Pausanias, B. C. 336. Under Claudius Mnester retained his popularity and his favour at court.
He was among the many lovers of Poppaea Sabina, the mother of Nero's empress, and of Messalina, the wife of Claudius. [MESSALINA.] At first, through dread of the emperor, Mnester rejected Messalina's advances.
But she had the art to persuade her imbecile husband to command the reluctant player to be compliant to her in all things; and, till supplanted by C. Silius, he remained her favourite.
That she might have his society without interruption, she compelled him to abandon the stage, and thereby nearly occasioned a serious riot at Rome, for the people resented the sacrifice of their pleasures to those of the empress.
The tumult was in some measure appeased by a foolish excuse which Claudius assigned for Mnester's absence: he told the people that " Mnester belonged to his wife-he had no power to make him act." On the triumph for the campaign in Britain, A. D. 44, the brass money issued in Caligula's reign was called in and melted down, and part of the metal cast into statues of Mnester.
He was involved in Messalina's ruin, and was put to death pleading the emperor's own order of compliance to her will. (Suet. Cal. 36
; Tac. Ann. 11.4
; Sen. Mort. Claud.
ed. Bipont. p. 256; D. C. 60.22