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Roman Empress Julia Domna

Updated on December 23, 2012
Julia Domna
Julia Domna | Source

Julia Domna was a powerful empress that married emperor Septimus Severus in approximately 186 to 189 A.D. She was of Syrian descent and the daughter of a high priest for the sun god. She and her husband met before he became emperor but as he was rising as a military commander under emperor Marcus Aurelius and then Commodus. After the assassination of Commodus late in the year 192 and then the very swift assassination of the next emperor Pertinax, who only ruled for a couple months, Septimus Severus was made emperor. Over the next while he spent his time eliminating a handful of other claimants to the empire.

Julia Domna was said to have been a woman of strong morals and willfulness. She had very specific ideas when is came to politics and philosophy and had no qualms about speaking her mind which was unheard of for women, even in positions of power during the period. Apparently Julia Domna protected Roman philosophers from persecution by the public. Emperor Septimus Severus loved his wife dearly and respected her beliefs and ideas and their marriage was happy. Many times as the emperor had to travel abroad with soldiers widening the military rule of the empire Julia Domna accompanied him. During the period this was also an unusual circumstance as women would often remain in Rome while their husband conducted military campaigns. She became known by the emperors soldiers as the mother of the camp.

Julia Domna Silver Coin
Julia Domna Silver Coin | Source

In the year 188 Julia Domna and emperor Septimus Severus had their first son Lucius Septimus Bassianus also known as Caraculla. A year later they had their second son Publius Septimus Geta. During the final years of of Septimus Severus' reign he concentrated his efforts on expanding the empire in northern Britain then known as Caledonia, which is modern day Scotland. The people of Caledonia were very resistant as they had been many times when previous emperors had attempted to conquer them. The terrain was also very hazardous and he lost more than 50,000 men in the attempt. In 211 Septimus Severus died when he became very ill.

Portrait of Julia Domna and Family, Geta's face crossed out by Caraculla
Portrait of Julia Domna and Family, Geta's face crossed out by Caraculla | Source

Upon her husbands death Julia Domna became mediator between her two sons as her husbands will stated that they were to rule the empire together. The brothers had never gotten along and fought constantly as joint rulers. They wanted to divide the empire but were talked out of it by their mother. Eventually after more than one attempt Caraculla was able to assassinate his younger brother Geta and he died in Julia Domna's arms. He had Geta's image removed from every picture and busts destroyed in Rome.

Carculla was not liked by many, he identified with the army but was cruel and ruthless with everyone. His mother did accompany him on military campaigns but never forgave him for killing his brother Geta. Eventually Caraculla was murdered by one of his own men as he was urinating by the roadside on his way to battle. The assassin took one swipe with his sword killing him. When Julia Domna found out what had happened she committed suicide.

Upon her death her older sister fled Rome for Syria but returned eventually succeeding in a plan to place her grandson in power. When he became Emperor she had her sister, Julia Domna's body moved to Hadrian's tomb out of respect.


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    • terrektwo profile image

      Candle Hour 5 years ago from North America

      gail641 - I enjoyed writing as much as you enjoyed reading, I really love ancient history so this was right up my alley :)

    • gail641 profile image

      Gail Louise Stevenson 5 years ago from Mason City

      Hi, I enjoyed reading about Julia Domna, her husband, children and their lives. Very interesting history. Its nice and very educational to learn about ancient history and how people once lived. Julia Domna sounds like she was very intelligent and a forward thinker to go and travel with her husband abroad like she did. Nice hub--I voted Up. I'm glad that her husband dearly cared about her.