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Julia Domna was the second wife of Septimius Severus and mother of Caracalla and Geta. An intelligent, talented and beautiful woman, Julia Domna exercised great influence during her husband's reign and practically administered the empire for her sons. In 217 A.D. after the assassination of Caracalla, she possibly committed suicide by starvation or she died of breast cancer.
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JULIA DOMNA, second wife of Septimius Severus, was the offsring of a plebeian family, of Emesa, in Syria. Her father was Julius Basianus (a name which was givien to Caracalla, and which he bore till Severus made him exchange it for that of Antoninus). Her mother's name was Soemias.
What Julia wanted in nobilty of birth was supplied by the planet of her nativity. Her horoscope was of such a kind, that she professed a perfect assurance of being, at some tome or other, the wife of a king. Severus hearing of this circumstance, whilst yet in a private station, and being addicted himself to astrology, through a strong ambition of sovereihnty, married her after the death of his wife Marcia. That this event cannot be fixed later than the year VC 928 (AD 175), is proved by the express assertion of Dion (lxxiv sec 3), that Faustina, the wife of Marcus Aurelius, prepared for this marriage, a nuptial couch, in the temple of Venus, which was situated near the palace. For it was in this year that Faustina Junior set out for the East, in company with her husband, and died on the journey.
Julia Domna possessed beauty, wit, learning, eloquence. Her talents and her ambition were alike remarkable; and notwithstanding her notoriously loose character, and the treasonable attempts of which she was suspected, continued always to be a favorite with Septimius Severus. After his death, Julia Domna had the grief to see her sons despise her entreaties, and remain enemies. Although treated with some degree of deference by her son Caracalla, she was forced to witness the murder of Geta by his own brother, in her very arms, and to see herself covered with the blood of one of her own sons. And, when her lametations for Geta's death became too bitter for his liking, Caracalla nearly went the length of doubling his crime in her person. Afterwards, she succeeded in dissembling her grief, to secure the good will of her surviving son, who in recompence for his condescension, bestowed upon her abundant honours, and even conferred upon her a portion of his imperial authority. Spartanus, Eutropius, and Aurelius Victor, relate an odius scandal against this celebrated but licentious woman, in reference to Caracalla. It is not mentioned, however, by contemporaneous writers; and, for honour of womanhood and especially of maternity, it is hoped there was no truth in the accusation, even though alluded to in the severe jests of the Alexandrians.
After the death of Caracalla, she stayed at Antioch; and not being able to reconcile herself to private life, she determined to put an end to existance by starvation, overwhelming Macrinus with reproaches and maledictions. But soon laying aside her assumed grief for the death of Caracalla, she took heart at finding herself courteously addressed, in the letters of the new emperor; who, however, when he discovered that she had obvious designs on the sovereignty, ordered her to quit Antioch, and go whither she pleased. Driven to desperation by this affront, Julia Domna refused all nourishment, and died AD 217. Her remains were transported to Rome; and deposited, at first, in the tomb of Caius and Lucius. Afterwards her sister Maesa coused them to be placed, together with the bones of Geta, in the mausoleum of Antoninus Pius (according to Dion, lxxviii sec 23, 24). The children of Julia Domna were Caracalla and Geta, and some daughters of no celebrity.
She is surnamed Felix and Domna; the latter is her own family appelation, and, according to Spanheim, a Syrian word; inscribed with which her coins are more prized than when they have Pia, a name given to Julia at Rome, in honour of Fulvia Pia, the mother of Severus. Her numismatic style is IVLIA AVGVSTA (with Mater Custorium or Augustornm often on the reverse). Also IVLIA PIA FELIX DOMNA AVG (with Mater Patriae on the reverse).
The brass coins minted in honour of this empress (ecept medallions and some others with the word Domna), are very common; the gold are rare; the silver of the usual size, for the most part common.
The following are amongst the rarest reverse, in each metal:
Gold Medallion, small: VENVS GENTRIX, Venus seated.
-AETERNIT IMPERI, Busts of Septimius Severus and Caracalla or with heads of Caracalla and Geta.
-DIANA LVCIFERA, standing.
-FECVNDITAS, female seated, and four children near a globe.
-HILARITAS, a female, with cornucopiae and palm branch.
-IVNO REGINA, LAETITIA, LVNA LVCIFARA, MATER AVG
-MATER AVGG, Cybele in quadriga of lions
-MATER DEVM, MAT AVGG MAT SEN M PATR
-MATRI CASTRORVM, the empress sacrificing before two military ensigns. Engraved in Mionnet (i. 303)
-SEVERVS PIVS AVG, bust of Septimius Severus.
-VESTA MATER, sacrifice by six females before a temple.
-VENER VICTR, Venus resting on a column.
-VENVS GENTRIX, aureus
-PIETATI, figure and altar.
Silver Medallion: AEQVITA PVBLICA, the three monetae.
-ANTONINVS PIVS AVG BRIT, head of Caracalla
-CERERI FRVGIF, woman seated left
-CONCORDIA FELIX, two figures
-P SEPT GETA, head of Geta
-SEVERVS AVG PARTH MAX, head of Severus
-VESTA MATER, sacrifice before a temple
-CERES, standing near an altar
-FECVDITATA AVG, woman seated with children
-AEQVITATI PVBLICAE, IVNONEM, LVNA LVCIF, MATER AVG, PIETATI AVG, PRIMI DECENNALES
-SEPTIMIVS SEVERVS, head of Severus
-VESTA MATER and VOTA PVBLICA
-VESTA, the goddess seated, Obv. IVLIA DOMNA AVG