The First Serial Killer: Locusta of Gaul

Born around the first century C.E., Locusta grew up to become one of the preeminent poison masters in all of Rome. It is said that Empress Agrippina and Locusta conspired together to poison Claudius with a batch of poisoned mushrooms so that Agrippina’s son Nero could become the Emperor.After this Locusta came under Nero’s employ, helping to poison Britannicus, Claudius’s son by an earlier marriage. With Emperor Nero as one of her satisfied customers, Locusta enjoyed a growing reputation. The emperor lavished her with land, money, gifts, and a full pardon for all the poisonings she had been charged with over the years. There were many imperial referrals and more assignments. Locusta was very busy with her contract work in poisonings-for-hire, and even opened a school where she taught others her knowledge of herbs and toxins.

Locusta was riding high, until the Roman Senate decided to off Nero. It is said that Locusta had thoughtfully furnished Nero with a poison kit for himself when it was known that his end was near, but in the confusion of the moment, Nero left the kit behind. Before he could be brought before the Roman Senate to stand trial for his many “crimes,” Nero killed himself with his own dagger. However, this seems like a pleasant end when compared to Locusta’s own death. It is said that Locusta was publicly raped by a specially trained giraffe, then torn apart by wild animals.

I guess the Senate ran out of poison…



~ by herodotuswept on November 19, 2007.

22 Responses to “The First Serial Killer: Locusta of Gaul”

  1. Locusta deserved that death, she was one of the worst criminals of History, now Locusta is burning in hell forever.

    • Compared to Nero, she wasn’t all that bad. Nero was not a sane man, and his most famous action was singing as his people were burned alive. I think that starting a fire, then singing a jolly death song is a bit worse than killing a smaller amount of people for money. To call her one of the worst criminals in history is completely false. There are plenty of worse people out there.

      • Not to belabor the point too much, but the Roman History major in me feels compelled to point out that the whole “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” thing is not quite as simple as all that…

        Not that Nero was in any way a nice guy, but with all the other horrid stuff that he actually did do, it’s interesting that the event that he is most well known in modern times is very likely incorrect in a number of ways…

        As an aside, I completely agree that the whole “worst criminals in History” thing is just a bit much considering that I can think of a dozen who were much worse without even going to my bookshelf… hell, I likely have blog posts about them!

  2. Haha. Burning in hell you say? Smartest thing the Romans ever did was off Jesus

    • your a douche

    • Actually, it was the Jews who were behind Christ`s crucifixtion.

      • Ummm, no. The Jews in Judea at that time period did not have the ability or power (nor were like enough by the Romans) to be behind any legal death penalty.

      • It was the Jews who killed Jesus. Pontius Pilate washed his hands of the death of Jesus and passed it on the Jewish hierarchy. They accepted the responsibility and even went as far as to curse their own bloodline.

  3. Locusta sounds more like a hit man (or hit woman, if you prefer) than a serial killer.

  4. Locusta wasn’t a serial killer, she was a hitwoman. Serial killers are usually not motivated by material gain (specifically money), and when they are it isn’t for pay (as Locusta was for her killings).

    In addition, a great deal of her clients were political adversaries of those whom she was paid to kill; that is not a serial killer, it is a hitwoman.

    She was a favourite of Roman politicians; understandably so, as her methods were often much more subtle than having one’s rivals stabbed or otherwise assaulted. As such, it is understandable that she was able to avoid execution so long, even before her employment by Agrippina and later Nero.

  5. Macabre’s Corporate Death said “Locusta was one of the first serial killers recorded in history” and I’m going with him as the expert on this subject.
    but serial means serious and if your killing the high up political heads that would be pretty serial to most.
    Its like splitting hairs 🙂

    • Actually, serial does not mean serious. It means repeated. I suppose Locusta would qualify as both a hitwoman and a serial killer, but I don’t know for certain.

  6. pics or it didnt happen

  7. The part that worries me the most is that the giraffe was specially trained…

  8. The whole history must be read contextually.
    Without the cultural context (extremely complex in the ancient world, and particularly in the Roman Empire) made of flaps of different cultures with their own myths, rites and codes of justice, without the political and legal context and juridic background, any of these stories and curiosities does not have any interest!

    But what amazes me most is to observe how easily the commentators _ participate make value judgments about a human being who lived nearly two millennia ago, condemning him with the same violence with which they accuse him of having committed its crimes .

    It’s supposed to live in a world governed by higher values, more dignified, more fair, where the understanding and Christian values ​​should overlap to our animal instincts! But that’s not waht I check here!

    The old (and so current) maximum Judeo-Christian to do justice “eye for eye, tooth for tooth,” just reveals that we continue equally or worst than many past civilizations and peoples!

  9. Only Kelsey showed some ability to read about the episode and to have critical thinking.

    In fact, “serial” obviously means repeated and on a continuous basis, like a series! And “serial killer” is, in fact, a psychic notion of the twentieth century (probably because it was in that century that psychoanalysis has developed and that many serial killers appeared, with particular impact in the United States).

    That doesn’t mean that serial killers didn’t exist before in history, of course, but it’s very difficult to make a diagnosis “a posteriori”, based only on some reports and sources, mostly not accurate and tendentious!

  10. And that’s the story behind the Resident Evil 6 logo.

  11. Isn’t she more of a hitman than a serial killer?

  12. why did locusta kill people

  13. lol

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