Julia Domna

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Julia Domna
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Julia Domna

Julia Domna (about 170-217), like her sister Julia Maesa, was a daughter of Julius Bassianus, priest of the sun god Heliogabalus, the patron god of Emesa in the Roman province of Syria. She was among the most important women ever to exercise power behind the throne in the Roman empire.

In the late 180s, Julia Domna married future emperor Septimius Severus. Legend says that Severus, then governor of Gallia Lugdunensis, specifically asked for her to be his bride despite the fact that he did not know either Julia or her family, due to her horoscope that promised she would be a queen. The marriage proved to be a happy one and Severus cherished his wife and her political opinions, since she was very well read and keen on philosophy. Together, they had Lucius Septimius Bassianus (Caracalla) in 188 and Publius Septimius Geta in 189.

When Severus became emperor in 193 he had a civil war waiting for him, against rivals such as Pescennius Niger and Clodius Albinus. Julia Domna accompanied him in his campaigns in the East, an uncommon event in a time when women were expected to wait in Rome for their husbands. Nevertheless, she remained with the emperor and among the several proofs of affection and favour are the minting of coins with her portrait and the title mater castrorum (mother of the camp).

Julia Domna on a silver denarius
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Julia Domna on a silver denarius

As empress, Julia was often involved in intrigues and had plenty political enemies that accused her of treason and adultery. None of this accusations was proved, Severus continued to favour his wife and insisted on her company in the campaign against the Britons that started in 208. When Severus died, in 211 in York, Julia became the mediator between their two sons. Caracalla and Geta who were to rule as joint emperors, according to their father's wishes expressed on his will. But the two young men were never fond of each other and quarrelled frequently. Geta was murdered in the same year.

Caracalla was now sole emperor, but his relations with his mother were difficult, as attested by several sources, probably due to his involvement in Geta's murder. Nevertheless, Julia Domna accompanied Caracalla in his campaign against the Parthian empire in 217. During this trip, Caracalla was assassinated and succeeded (briefly) by Macrinus. On hearing about the rebellion, Julia Domna chose to commit suicide. She was later deified.

See also: Women in RomeSeveran dynasty family treede:Julia Domna eo:Julia Domna nl:Julia Domna pl:Julia Domna sv:Julia Domna

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