The first serial killer Locusta of Gaul was not raped to death by a specially trained giraffe.

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Contrary to popular belief the first serial killer Locusta of Gaul was not sentenced to be raped to death by a giraffe.

Even so her life story is quite fascinating without her fabricated outlandish execution:

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  • She holds the title of history’s first recorded serial killer by poisoning thousands in mid-first century C.E.
  • She poisoned for pleasure and for gain, eventually becoming one of the most preeminent poison masters in Rome.
  • In C.E. 54 she was hired by Agrippina to supply a poisoned plate of mushrooms to murder Emperor Claudius so that her son Nero could take the throne.
  • In C.E. 55 Emperor Nero saved her from execution and pardoned her for all past murders in exchange for poisoning his step brother Britannicus.
  • For her service Nero gave her a grand villa and sent students to her to learn this deadly art.

 

After Nero’s suicide “Locusta the Sorceress” was sentenced to death by Emperor Galba in 69. According to ancient texts she was “led in chains through the whole city and then to be executed” – Cassius Dio, 63.3.

So where does this Giraffe rape story come into play? Researcher and wiki editor Stevensaylor gives us the following information:

“Regarding the “urban myth” that Locusta was sentenced to rape by giraffe, the earliest such claim I find is in The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers by Michael Newton, first edition ONLY, which states:

“As described by Apuleius a century later, Locusta’s execution was timed to coincide with one of the frequent Roman festivals – probably the Agonalia (for Janus), held on January 9. On orders from Galba, Locusta was publicly raped by a specially trained giraffe, after which she was torn apart by wild animals.”

While this highly detailed statement may “sound” factual, it is not. (And, interestingly, it does not appear in the second edition of Newton’s book.) Apuleius cannot be the source, because nowhere does Apuleius refer to Locusta; in The Golden Ass, Apuelius does tell the tale of a woman poisoner condemned to be mounted by an ass (not a giraffe), but the woman in a fictional character, not Locusta. Nor do we have any clue about the precise date of Locusta’s death.”

So that’s how these things get started. History is filled with such fallacies driven by man’s desire to spin a tall tale.

Always check your sources! ;)

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Locusta’s career is described by the ancient historians Tacitus (Annals 12.66 and 13.15), Suetonius (“Life of Nero”, 33 and 47), and Cassius Dio (61.34 and 63.3). Juvenal also mentions Locusta in Book 1, line 71 of his Satires.

Wiki Talk

Image: A Roman Emperor (Claudius). Sir Laurence Alma-Tadema OM RA (1836-1912)

8 Comments

  1. Thanks for this. I read an article, on a site today that had that little “factoid”. Like always, I take every thing they say with a grain of salt since they are first and foremost a comedy site. Anyway, I just spent a couple hours trying to find out if this was something they did back then. You saved me some mucho more time. Happy New Year!

  2. Hi Angela,

    Disturbingly enough there are stories within Roman fiction that mention forced bestiality as a punishment. (Normally a horse or donkey, never giraffe) So it may have happened to some or it may have merely been the stuff of fiction. We do however know that at least Locusta was spared this bizarre ending. Glad I could help and have a wonderful New Year!

    -Wednesday M.

  3. Fascinating. So any number of men can slaughter, execute, pillage and do so in the name of religion (In the Old Testament in the name of God) and it is not an issue. But let a woman poison for gain, then it is Evil. That’s why I love people and all their colored glasses.

    RhabbKnotte’ – there is no meaning outside of what we seek and what we expect to find!

  4. Not only was she the 1st Serial Killer, but may also have been the 1st hired Hit Woman, at least during Roman times. Very interesting article. Thanks for the info Wednesday. You’re are an amazing woman. Have a great 2014….

  5. I think for the time training such an unreasonable animal to do such a deed should have been the tale, though it is splendid to think about, I do not doubt that those in that time coming out from underneath a ruler like Nero put her to some terrible end.

  6. It would be very hard to be raped by an animal. The great Linda Lovelace stated that when Chuck Trainer wanted her raped by a dog for Hugh Hefner she would move every time the dog approached causing the dog to stop his mounting. I think horses would have the same type of issue and most male horses would be flaccid before entering the victim. It would take a whole crew of people to help rape the victim using an animal.

  7. This exact issue had been bothering me for months! I kept seeing this story about Locusta being raped by a giraffe in various secondary sources about serial killers, but could not locate a primary source (e.g. any Roman historian or even a medieval text) that contained such a story. It’s good to know that someone else was also suspicious and actually found an answer to how this story got started! Thank you!!

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