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THE WORSHIP OF ROMAN DIVAE: THE JULIO-CLAUDIANS TO THE
REBECCA MARIE MUCH
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF
FLORIDA INT PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
optimae meae famniliae Joe, Kathy, Joe, and Rachel Muich
I thank first and foremost my thesis committee, Dr. Gareth Schmeling, Dr.
Jennifer Rea, and especially my director, Dr. Hans-Friedrich Mueller, for their support
and direction throughout this proj ect. I am also grateful to the Department of Classics at
the University of Florida and its graduate students for providing support, motivation, and
good humor when needed. I would especially like to thank Ms. Heather Ramsey-
McLeod and Mrs. Druscilla Gurahoo for keeping me on schedule and of sound mind. I
thank my friends who have graciously and even enthusiastically encouraged me to
continue on with my academic adventures, in particular kindred spirits Jill and Matt
Barber, Danielle Ho, and Stephanie Huff. I thank my roommate and fellow journeyman
Jarrod Lux for not only sharing in my victories and defeats but also for helping me to find
the grace to keep journeying. A Ponos he may be, but he is a Ponos I would endure for a
lifetime. My family deserves nothing less than my eternal gratitude for, among other
things, helping me to remember that there are things more important in life than school,
and most importantly, for being a constant source of inspiration and unconditional love.
Finally I thank Jon Zarecki, my partner and the light of my life, for knowing when to
push and when not to. With him by my side I am not only a better student, but indeed a
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ............... ...........iii..................
AB STRAC T ......_ _.............. ............vi.. ....
INTRODUCTION ............... ...........1...................
1 LIVIA DRUSILLA ............... ...........16............. ....
1 .1 Introducti on ................... .. ....... .. ......... .. .....1
1.2 Literary Evidence of the Worship of Livia Drusilla .........._. .. ...........18
1.3 Numismatic and Sculptural Evidence of the Worship of Livia Drusilla.......24
1.4 Inscriptional Evidence of the Worship of Livia Drusilla.......... .._..........28
1.5 Conclusions ............... ............34.. .......... ....
2 THE JULIO-CLAUDIANS ............... ...........36............. ....
2. 1 Introducti on ............... ............36.. .......... ...
2.2 Julia Drusilla. ............... ........... ...........37........
2.3 Sabina Poppaea and Claudia ............... ............... ........ 43
2.4 Conclusion ............... ............46.. ...............
3 THE TRAJANIC FAMILY. ......._.._. ......_.. ....................4
3 .1 Introducti on ............... ............48.. .......... ...
3.2 Marciana ............... ............50.. ...............
3.3 Matidia ............... ...........52...................
3.4 Plotina ............... ............55.. ...............
3.5 Sabina ............... ............60.. .......... ....
3.6 Conclusion ....._ ............... ............65........
4 THE ANTONINTES ............... ...........68............. ....
4. 1 Introducti on ............... ............68.. .......... ...
4.2 Faustina Maior. ........ ........_.__. .......... .........6
4.3 Faustina Minor. ........ ........_..... .......... ...........7
4.4 Ambiguous Inscriptional Evidence ............... ......................79
4.5 Conclusion ............... ............80.. .......... ....
CONCLUSION ............... ............82.. ...............
REFERENCE S...........__ ............84......... ......
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ............... ...........88...................
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the Univeristy of Florida in
Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts
THE WORSHIP OF ROMAN DIVAE: THE JULIO-CLAUDIANS TO THE
Rebecca Marie Muich
Chair: Hans-Friedrich Mueller
Maj or Department: Classics
This study will examine and evaluate the extant evidence of diva worship in the
Roman Empire to prove that the cults of dive were used throughout the Empire as a
means of political exploitation for individuals, but also as cults of true believers. The
study will begin with Livia Drusilla, the wife of Augustus, an empress who convinced the
public that she deserved consecration. The following chapters will compare and contrast
the remaining dive from the Julio-Claudian family, the families of Traj an and Hadrian,
and the Antonine family. Literary, numismatic, sculptural, and inscriptional evidence is
considered with each diva. The intent of this study is to prove that the cults of the dive
were important, and should be included in these ongoing discussions about the Imperial
cult and Roman religion.
The difficulty in assessing the importance of the worship of dive in the Roman
Empire lies in the nature of the Imperial cult and in the nature of the extant evidence of
worship. It is easy to speculate about the motivations for deifying a Roman empress, but
to ascertain whether a woman was deified because of belief that she was indeed divine or
because it was the natural course of honors for a member of the Imperial household, one
must make assumptions about the belief systems of the Romans as individuals and as a
collective entity, as well as make assumptions about the importance or unimportance of
each individual woman to those who conferred divinity upon her and those who
purported to worship her. In addition to the necessary assumptions, there must also be
some consideration of the nature of the Imperial cult and its relationship to women as
worshippers, celebrants of ritual, and receivers of worship. This is a difficult task
because the extant evidence often recognizes a celebrant of a particular cult, but rarely
outlines her duties as a celebrant, let alone any rituals over which she may have presided.
The task is made more onerous by the lack of substantial scholarship on the place of
women in the Imperial cult. While theories on the importance of emperor worship, the
nature of emperor worship, and the origins of emperor worship abound, there are few
about the worship of imperial women.
The purpose of this study is to examine and evaluate the extant evidence of diva
worship in the Roman Empire to prove that the cults of divae were used throughout the
Empire as a means of political exploitation for individuals, but also as cults of true
believers. The actual practice of worship of dive, so far as we can tell, does not differ
greatly from the worship of divinities with faithful worshippers. The study will begin
with Livia Drusilla, the wife of Augustus, an empress who convinced the public that she
deserved consecration. The following chapters will compare and contrast the remaining
dive from the Julio-Claudian family, the families of Traj an and Hadrian, and the
Antonine family. These parameters were set because of the amount of evidence that
survived pertaining to them.
Literary, numismatic, sculptural, and inscriptional evidence are considered with
each diva. Each category of evidence has its own merits and problems. First of all,
literary evidence may not be relied upon to present a truthful picture of the life of a
Roman empress, the reasons for her consecration, and the nature of her worship. The era
of the Julio-Claudians is the least troublesome, since there is more than one source with
which to compare and contrast information. The years of the Trajanic family and the
Antonine family are depicted primarily by the Historia Augusta, a source which merits its
own thesis regarding its accuracy.l Supplementary works, though not of the historical
genre in the strictest sense, may offer a sense of the personality of the diva, or the nature
of her relationship to the emperor.
Giacosa has called coinage a "sensitive seismograph of imperial politics."2 There
is no other medium that disseminated the image of an empress or diva so completely
through the Roman Empire. Men and women of every social standing handled coins in
their lifetime, and through currency were able to own a picture of the emperor' s wife and
SSee Syme, Ronald, Historia Augusta Papers (Oxford 1983), and Emperors and Biography (Oxford 1971).
2 Giacosa (1970) 34.
to visually receive her message.3 Since not all coins were minted in Rome, the legends
on the coins of various provinces in the East and West serve as a reminder that the
worship of dive was not dictated only by the decree of the Senate, but also by the beliefs
of the people of the Empire as well. The collection of coins examined in this study is not
a complete collection of every coin pertaining to a diva, but rather a representative
collection of the types attributed to each diva.
Sculptural evidence is harder to evaluate than numismatic evidence because there
is rarely any surviving legend or inscription to identify the individual or group which may
have existed during the Empire. As a result, scholars have had to resort to a system of
dating and identifying by examining hairstyles, dress, and portrait types. While it was
true that one portrait type could be sent throughout the Empire as a template for public
art, it is not always clear to us which type belongs to which empress, especially if there
are no clear portraits of an empress on a coin. Sculpture, though, can display certain
elements attributed to a diva more clearly than can a coin. The sculptures positively
identified as dive display the women wearing the corn ears of Ceres and the infulae of
priestesses, among other things. These images make associations on a grand scale, with
greater detail than coins.
Inscriptional evidence offers the most unadulterated evidence of exploitation and
sincerity in the cults of the divae. Names and offices of the dedicators are often inscribed
along with the dedication, as well as the type of sacrifice offered, and even the reason for
the offering. Collections of inscriptions can report the locations of each inscription and
the material on which it was written. Inscriptions are not without their detractions,
however. First of all, they are often incomplete, and we must rely on the editors of
3 Keltanen (2002)106.
collections to reconstruct them. Secondly, some inscriptions do not give the above stated
information. The entire inscription can consist of the name of the dedicatee, leaving the
researcher to wonder to what image or building the inscription was attached. Finally, it is
not always clear to whom an inscription is addressed. Diva Matidia, the niece of Traj an,
had a daughter named Matidia who was quite wealthy and earned many dedications on
her own.4 The inclusion of her name on inscriptions with her grandmother, mother, and
sister, who were all divae, can lead to confusion about her divine status, and even about
her identity. Faustina Maior and Faustina Minor present a similar problem. The mother
and daughter were both deified, but most inscriptions do not add "Maior" or "Minor" or
even "II" after their names to distinguish between them. Usually the names of their
husbands are included with theirs on inscriptions, which can dispel the mystery, but for
the inscriptions that only name the dedicatee, there is no help. Most of the inscriptions in
this study come from the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum. The collection is by no
means complete, and very few of the important Greek inscriptions are considered, but the
cited inscriptions offer an overview of the various types of dedications and reasons for
Simon Price wrote that "religion should be treated not as an emotional but as an
intellectual enterprise which attempts to provide a way of interpreting and ordering
reality."' In the early Empire, the reality the Roman people faced was a government
increasingly controlled by one man and an empire that encompassed many cultures with
many different ways of "ordering reality." The idea of the Imperial cult as a way of
interpreting the power of the emperor was not a Roman origination. The Greeks had
4 Boatwright (1991) 522, 524.
SPrice (1980) 29.
already been establishing cults to the living emperor since Alexander the Great.6 For the
Greeks, equating their ruler with divine powers was an acceptable way of honoring him.
The emperor was like a god in that he was the source of "unpredictable power and
For the Romans in the Late Republic, this was not so. The establishment of an
Imperial cult was one of the results of the changes in Roman religion from the Republic
to the early Empire. One man became the focus of many realms of Roman culture;
politics, the military and religion were identified more and more with only one man. The
establishment of the Imperial cult, then, walked a line between the traditional religious
rituals and the new experience of autocratic rule." The idea of identifying men with gods
was not foreign in Rome: Julius Caesar himself and Octavian after him claimed divine
ancestry even before they were deified.9 The belief that a dead man became a god,
however, is more difficult to extrapolate from the sources, but there does seem to be a
belief that Julius Caesar was a god, and Augustus' popularity suggests that even if the
populace was not convinced he was divine, they were comfortable with calling him so.
Nevertheless, the honor was not something which could be given freely to whomever
happened to be ruling, and in fact, those ruling were careful to avoid such honors while
alive, as will be discussed below.
6 Fox (1987) 40.
7Fox (1987) 40.
SBeard, North, and Price (1998) 169.
9 For Caesar: Suet. Caes., 88: stella crinita per septem continues dies fulsit exoriens circa undecimam
horam, creditumque est animam usse Caesaris in caelum recepti. For Octavian, Suet. Aug, 94.4: Augustum
natum esse mense decimo et ob hocApollinis filium existimatem. Dio Cass., 45.1:
* ALog zs Ka*** tt *Azz~a isw* S *up*(Smo *RK zo* *A7* ALaLvog a* t* v KEKxonxvat, tt Kami~ap-
8o* oa worsE *V va* *u ro**8~p* KV1I Cov**rvt~ a.V FLvo~u *v*~ l ptos *6t* *ro VoCL *** voop Xp* V* **-
Zsys. Beard, North, and Price (1998) 145; Flory (1995) 128.
Though it will probably always be unclear how the Romans related their divi and
dive to dei and deae,lo it is clear that there was a system of worship in place, and the
institution was an important part of the bureaucracy of the Empire. Taylor interprets the
Imperial cult mainly as a political tool, as it created new offices of state-sanctioned
religion.ll Fox suggests that the Imperial cult institution was exploited for the
opportunities of service and stature it offered.12 Gordon interprets the acquisition of a
priestly position as a system of patronage. No real power was conferred upon the priest,
but the appointment initiated a relationship of "dependence, gratitude, and respect."13
Alfoildy asserts that there were social, political, and economic advantages to being a part
of the Imperial cult system.14 Even liberti and slaves could be involved in the Imperial
cult: liberti were the magistri of the cult of the Compitales for the worship of the Genius
of Augustus, while slaves could be the ministry of the shrines." Whether the rewards
were tangible or symbolic, the priests of the Imperial cult were respected and took great
care to include their other public offices, duties, and wealth to any record of offering.
There were a few classes of priests and priestesses who celebrated rituals for the
Imperial cult. In Rome the priest was called a flamnen, and his wife the flamninica, who
'o The OLD makes the following distinctions: A d'ea is always a goddess, and a d'eus is defined as a god,
though there some examples of using d'eus with mortals: parentum suum Caesar ... fecit d'eum, Vell.
2.126.1; edictum domini deique nostri, Mart. 5.8.1 (referring to Domitian, who was to be addressed as "our
lord and god"); Vae, inquit, puto deus fio, Suet. Vesp., 23.4 (this is Vespasian's estimation, not the general
public's). Diva and divus can be used to define the gods and goddesses: divae Veneris nurus, Verg. Aen.,
2.787, hominum divorumque voluptas, Luc., 1.1; they are also the titles applied to deified members of the
11 Taylor (1931) 219.
12 Fox (1987) 40.
13 Gordon (1996) 233.
14 Alfijldy (1996) 255.
'5Zanker (1988) 129, 131.
was often in charge of the cults of divae. In the provinces, the priests were called
sacerdotes, perhaps as a way to distinguish between Roman and provincial cult systems.
Other groups of priests were involved with the Imperial cult: the Vestal Virgins, for
example, became increasingly important to the imperial family in the early Empire. They
were present at military triumphs, at the dedication of the Ara Pacis, and they were put in
charge of the cult of the diva Liva.16
The Arval Brethren were also important players in the institution of the Imperial
cult. The Arval Brethren were a sodality of priests who were active in the Republic,
though they can be found nowhere in the annals of the period." They were revived in 29
B.C. by Octavian, and their earliest extant document dates to 21 B.C.ls The Arval
Brethren seemed to originally be concerned with the worship of the Dea Dia, and
supposedly held their meetings and rituals in a grove outside the city, though many of the
sacrifices took place within the city, on the Capitol or in the temple of divus Augustus.19
The Acta of the Arval Brethren were inscribed on marble near their sacred grove,20 and
their records are detailed enough to give a good indication of the social strata of the
members and the intricacies of their rituals. Syme's study of the Arval Brethren reveals
that it was Augustus' intent in reviving the Arval Brethren "to honor and reward the
already illustrious."21 He notes that the Brothers, throughout their traceable history, were
16 Beard, North, and Price 1998) 194.
17 Syme (1980) 2. Only Varro mentions them in On the Latin Language.
1s Syme (1980) 2.
19 Beard, North, and Price (1998) 195.
20 Syme (1980) v.
21 Syme (1980) v.
made up of the middle ranks of the Senate, men who most likely would not be appointed
to priesthoods or consulates.22 Syme suggests that Augustus wanted the Arval Brethren
to be "dignified and decorative,"23 an institution in which notable civil servants would be
visible in the worship of Imperial divi and dive, but one in which actual power and
duties were limited. The Arval Brethren, in this respect, are an example of the ways
Augustus and the political powers of the time could manipulate the institution of the
Imperial cult to their advantage.
Beard, North, and Simon point out that there was no such thing as one Imperial
cult, but rather a series of different cults sharing an emphasis on the worship of the
emperor, his family or predecessors.24 This was nowhere more apparent than in the
Roman colonies and municipalities which assimilated emperor worship into their own
native cults. The Imperial cult came to the provinces in many ways. One was through
the military, which kept a calendar marking the dates of celebrations of birthdays of divi
and divae, which was in step with the records of the Arval Brethren back in Rome.25
Systems of Imperial worship could be set by the Roman government, which Wardman
interprets as a means of Romanization acceptable to the provinces.26 Each community in
the provinces, however, could set up their own cults by their own accord as well.27
22 Syme (1980) 77.
23 Syme (1980) 100.
24 Beard, North, and Simon (1998) 318.
25 Beard, North, and Simon (1998) 325.
26 Wardman (1982) 88.
27 Beard, North, and Simon (1998) 349.
Implementing the Imperial cult was a different task in the East and in the West.
In the East, the Imperial cult was established "from above," that is to say, by the imperial
government. The Greek east was already quite comfortable with this concept of emperor
worship, as mentioned above, and therefore it was an accepted part of the community. In
the West, however, the cult was established "from below," meaning there was no
systematized state religion at hand.28 The territories of Britain, Gaul, and the regions of
the Danube and the Rhine were relatively untouched by Roman culture, but Narbonensis,
Africa, and Hispania were settled by Roman immigrants.29 There was therefore a
situation where parts of the west were already establishing the Roman cults to which the
Roman immigrants were accustomed, while others were integrating Roman customs into
their own cultural mainstays.
The provincial cult also had a means of distinguishing their priesthoods from
those of Rome. Flamnines were priests of the official state deities, and sacerdotes the
priests for imported deities. Fishwick suggests that the titles may also have had
something to do with the means of worship: a flamnen served a cult based in a temple,
while a sacerdos served a cult based around an altar.30 Grether postulates that a flamninica
was more common for a priestess of the living empress, and a sacerdos more common for
a priestess of a dead empress.31 Service to the Imperial cult was one way to assert
importance and influence in the provinces, and one way in which a wealthy citizen could
28Fishwick (1987) 93.
29 Fishwick (1987) 93.
30Fishwick (1987) 93.
31 Grether (1946) 249-250.
distinguish himself or herself.32 In the west the cult was served by slaves and freedmen
who had a part of the worship of the Lares and Genius at the crossroads.33 The Imperial
cult became important in these regions because it offered new offices that could be held
by freedmen or local aristocracy.34 It offered a new opportunity for the breakdown of
social stratifieation not available at Rome.
The imperial family was worshipped in many ways. Often emperors or empresses
were honored when a territory took on the name of the emperor who founded it, such as
Julia Cirta,35 Or when cities were renamed in their honor, such as Juliopolis in Bithynia,
Trajanopolis on Phrygia, or Hadrianopolis in Thrace.36 Then there were the more active
forms of worship, such as sacrifices of animals, incense, ritual cakes, and lamps, as well
as public festivals.37 The rituals of the Arval Brethren included animal sacrifice, usually
ox to men, cows to women, and occasionally a bull to the Genius of the emperor. They
also burned incense, rubbed oil on the cult statues, and lit candles as part of their ritual.38
In addition there were countless images of the deified Imperial family erected in their
honor across the empire, from statues and busts to portraits on coins.
Price has questioned who or what exactly is being worshipped in many of these
rituals. Because there is little extant evidence describing the duties of flamnines and
sacerdotes, the language left behind in inscriptions and in the Acta of the Arval Brethren
32Taylor (1931) 212.
33Taylor (1931) 214.
34Taylor (1931) 219.
35Butcher (1988) 47.
36 Butcher (1988) 46.
r7 Price (1980) 29, 30, 32.
38MacMullen (1981) 45.
becomes of utmost importance in determining the recipient of worship. In many
instances, especially in the east, sacrifices were not made directly to the emperor, but
rather on behalf of the emperor, perhaps for his health, safety, or in thanksgiving to him
as a benefactor.39 This practice is also found in the Acta of the Arval Brethren, when, in
the reign of Augustus, they sacrificed on behalf of the Imperial family, but not to the
family as divinities. There were also sacrifices made to the genius or iuno of emperors or
empresses. Though it is not exactly clear what a genius or a iuno is, it represented some
sort of spirit of the male or female head of the family and was connected to the worship
of the Lares, Penates, and Vesta.40 Sacrifices of bulls to the Genius of the emperor, the
head of the Imperial family, were common in the reigns of Caligula and Nero.
It is also clear, though, in the Acta of the Arval Brethren, that the deified emperors
and empresses themselves were recipients of sacrifices, just as a genius or iuno or a
member of the Capitoline Triad. Price attributes this to the Roman attempt to classify the
types of divinities they worshipped: a divus or a diva was different from a deus or a dea,
but was in fact divine, and so higher than a common man.41 This left them with no
qualms about sacrificing to an emperor who was once a man.
The emperor had a role to play in the Imperial cult as well. Though it was the
Senate who consecrated a member of the Imperial family, the emperor had to ask for the
conferral from the Senate.42 The ceremony of consecration for an emperor included a
39 Price (1980) 41.
40 Rose (1923) 59; Flory (1995) 128.
41 Price (1980) 36.
42 Wardman (1982) 82.
lavish funeral capped by the release of an eagle, a symbol of his spirit rising to heaven.43
There is no evidence of a corresponding ceremony for empresses. The motivations for
deifying an emperor or empress could be endless, but Wardman points to a display of
pieta~s as a particularly compelling force. By deifying his predecessor, an emperor proves
to the public that his understands whence his power came, and he was mindful of his debt
However, as Simpson argues, consecration by the Senate was not just a matter of
honoring a predecessor. In the perception of many literate Romans, consecration actually
created deities, powers capable of hearing and answering prayers.45 This is borne out by
the rituals of the Arval Brethren, among others, but there is no real explanation as to how
a Roman made the transition in belief that the emperor was a man to the belief that the
emperor was a god.
Image and art were the most powerful tools for spreading an Imperial message
throughout the Empire. In an empire in which not everyone was literate, the association
and assimilation46 Of divine attributes on statues and coins did more to connect the
Imperial family with the divine than any decree of the Senate or any inscription of fa~sti.
Zanker calls Roman imperial art the "standardized visual language" of the Empire.47
Statues and coins allowed people in the far reaches of the Empire to know what the
43 Herodian, 4, offers a full description of the ceremony.
44 Wardman (1982) 83.
45 Simpson (1996) 67.
46 Spaeth (1996) 119. Association represents indirect identification with the divine, such as including the
images of gods or goddesses on the reverses of coins. Assimilation was more rare the attributes and titles
of divinities were applied directly to the emperor or empress.
47 Zanker (1988) 335.
Imperial family looked like: how they wore their hair, what clothing they wore, and what
their facial features were. At the same time, these same media could also impart the
values and virtues the emperor wished to propagate throughout the Empire by using
recognizable symbols in conjunction with the images of the ruling family.48
But what about the empresses? How do women fit into this system of
priesthoods, ritual, symbol and religion? Was the Imperial cult really a vehicle for the
strengthening of the emperor' s hold on the Empire, or was it really a religious cult built
on the premise that members of the Imperial family could hear and answer the prayers of
their believers? I suggest that it was both, and that the deified empresses were an integral
part of both processes of strengthening Imperial bureaucracy through rich priests and
benefactors, and of "ordering the reality" of Roman beliefs.
The actual practice of worship of dive, so far as we can tell, does not
differ greatly from the worship of divi. Roman empresses were consecrated by decree of
the Senate, just as Roman emperors. However, because the women themselves did not
run the Empire, the images attributed to them did a double duty. On the one hand, they
images associated the empress directly with the divine in her own right. On the other
hand, they associated the symbols of feminine divinity with the principate of the emperor.
The actions of the empresses and other members of the Imperial family, for good or ill,
reflected directly onto the emperor and his character. Therefore, it was of utmost
importance to portray the imperial women as models of Roman femininity, possessing
the qualities which made them most helpful to their husbands, sons, or brothers. The
association and assimilation of the attributes of Ceres with a diva, for example, suggests
two things: first of all, that the diva herself was abundantly fertile, and secondly, in an
48Zanker (1988) 336.
indirect sense, that the principate as a whole could ensure agricultural and human
fertility.49 The assimilation of attributes was most common on sculpture, where there
was enough material available to include intricate details of divinity.'o By looking at a
statue of Livia wearing ears of corn and holding sheaths of poppies, an individual could
determine, without being told, that Livia had assimilated the attributes of Ceres and was
supposed to represent fertility and plenty. The association of divine attributes was more
common on coins," where reverses could be used to conjure the image of a specific
goddess with a few identifying characteristics.
Provincial communities were the earliest worshippers of empresses not
hampered by Roman sanction, they were free to create cults and worship as they chose,
as Livia had a cult dedicated to her in her lifetime at Emerita.52 There were several
monuments to imperial women throughout Spain: busts of Livia at Segobriga and
dedications to diva Drusilla at Valeria.53 The names of cities themselves are witnesses to
the popularity of the divae: there was also a Plotinopolis in Thrace and a Marcianopolis
in Moesia.54 Of course, at Rome the worship of dive was made clear on the tablets of
the Acta of the Arval Brethren, which recorded not only the sacrifices to diva Drusilla,
diva Augusta, and dive Poppaea and Claudia, but also sacrifices to the iuno of Julia
49 Spaeth (1996) 121.
so See the art of the Ara Pacis, in particular. Also consider the inscription of the statue to Livia in Magna
Leptis with the inscription CERERI AUGUSTAE. Livia actually became Ceres in name and in image.
51Keltanen (2002) 109.
52 Fishwick (1987) 157.
53 Curchin (1996) 146.
54 Butcher (1988) 46.
Though the worship of dive has not been explored nearly as thoroughly as that of
the divi, it is part of an ongoing discussion of the nature of the Roman Imperial cult. The
basis of belief in divi and divae is not clearly understood: did mortals become divine
because the Senate made them so, or where they already divine before the decree? Is the
Imperial cult simply an elaborate system of implementing Imperial power and
complimenting the Imperial family, or is there something in the relationship of the people
with the ruling family that we do not understand? This study cannot answer these
questions and will not attempt to. The intent of this study is to prove that the cults of the
dive were important, and should be included in these ongoing discussions about the
Imperial cult and Roman religion.
The first deified woman of the Roman Empire was Julia Drusilla, the sister of the
third Roman emperor, Caligula, but it is Livia Drusilla, the wife of Augustus, who is the
paradigm to which all other empresses were compared. Livia' s record of public service
and her honored status were a part of Roman politics and society for generations, and the
history of her cult spans from the early years of Augustus' principate to the Antonine
dynasty.l Though she was not the first woman deified by the Senate, she was still the
The deifieation and worship of Livia reveal many things about the worship of
dive and the process of deification. Livia, based on the amount and the nature of
surviving inscriptions and artwork, was actually believed to be divine, perhaps more so
than any other diva. The establishment of Livia' s cult also offered more chances of
political and social advancement in Rome and in the provinces to those who administered
the cult rites. Livia's worshippers were a diverse lot: there were individuals who,
convinced by her public works that Livia merited deification, believed that she was truly
divine. There were also those individuals who used her deification as an opportunity for
political advancement, and therefore their praises and dedications to her held an ulterior
SGrether (1946) 233.
Though Livia Drusilla, the wife of Augustus, had earned the respect of the Senate
and the love of the Roman people through her patronage, she was not deified until the
reign of Claudius in A.D. 41. Livia's son Tiberius, perhaps displaying a sensitivity to the
suspicions of the Roman people that Rome was falling into the hands of a dynasty,2 was
notoriously wary of accepting divine honors for himself, and flatly refused many honors
the Senate and provincial bureaucrats offered to him. He refused the name of Pater
Patriae on many occasions, and he did not permit anything to be sworn on his deeds in
the Senate.3 He also refused to allow Farther Spain to build a temple to himself and his
mother, stating, in a speech to the Senate, that he wished to enj oy only those honors
suitable to a mortal man.4
In another petition, the people of the Greek city of Gythiums asked Tiberius'
permission to pay divine honors to Augustus, Tiberius and Livia. Tiberius replied that
Augustus should be honored as a god, that Tiberius himself wanted honors appropriate to
men, and that Livia could answer for herself. He did not allow temples, flamnines or
priests to be decreed to him, and he did not allow statues of himself to be dedicated
without permission. The images he did sanction he did so on the condition that they not
be placed among the images of the gods.6
Tiberius' rej section of the proffered honors convinced some of his awareness that
Rome was perhaps not quite ready for an imperator; but the rej section of honors for his
SWood (1999) 81.
STac. 4nn. 1.72.1.
STac. 4nn 4.37-38.
SAE 1929, no. 99-100, quoted in Lewis and Reinhold (1990) 521.
6 Suet. Tib. 26.
mother led contemporary Roman writers to believe that he was either resentful or afraid
of his mother' s power and influence in the Senate. Recent discussion suggests he may
have been struggling to find a balance between imperial extravagance and Republican
sensibility, and that he felt that high honors given to any member of the Roman family
were a sure sign of an empire. Tiberius' policy on the Imperial cult displayed pieta~s
toward his stepfather,' but led historians to question his feelings for his mother. His
general policy regarding divine honors was that he discouraged actual cults to living
persons in Italy, but outside Italy he was careful to regulate his own cult and the cult of
the domus Augusta without detracting from the cult of divus Augustus.8 Whatever
Tiberius' motives, Roman historians catalogued the slights he showed his mother in his
lifetime. He bristled at the idea of adding "son of Julia" to his name, as proposed by the
Senate, and did not allow his mother a lictor,9 which was an unprecedented honor for a
woman. He refused to allow her to be called parens patriae, though the Senate called for
it.'0 Tiberius also refused to change the name of the month of September to Tiberius, and
the month of October to Livium, for Livia.ll Because of Tiberius' persistence, Livia
went without the high honors the Senate proposed.
1.2 Literary Evidence of the Worship of Livia Drusilla
Much has been written about Livia's role in the foundation of the Empire and the
manipulation of the Julio-Claudian house. From 35 B.C. to 9 B.C. her importance was
STaylor (1929) 93.
"Grether (1946) 234.
9 Tac. Ann. 1.14.1.
10 Suet. Tib. 50.
11 Suet. Tib. 26.
not as great as it would become, since Marcellus and Agrippa were still available to
become Augustus' heirs. Tiberius and Drusus, Livia's children, held unclear roles in the
family, and so Livia herself was not as visible in the public eye.12 Though Livia was not
deified until 41 A.D., the Roman senators and people honored her extravagantly during
her lifetime and after her death. Livia's controversial and powerful position in the
imperial household is universally reported by contemporary historians. It is this
influence in the Senate and Augustus' reliance on her good counsel that led many to
believe that Livia merited deification. Though her deification followed on the heels of
Drusilla, the difference between the women could not have been greater.
Livia's power within the Senate was considerable. Many individuals were
"saved" from Senatorial scrutiny because of her intercession,13 and Dio Cassius writes
that she took part in senatorial proceedings as though she had full senatorial powers.14
Livia was also a magnanimous patron. She was, by law, allowed to inherit more money
than the original amount legislated by the lex Voconia.lS Livia was enormously wealthy
in her own right, and because she could administer her own property, she used the
opportunities to gain allies and improve public life. On a political level, Dio Cassius
suggests that she saved the lives of many senators and even helped to pay for some of
their daughters' dowries.16 She erected a temple of Concordia with her own money,"
12 Flory (1993) 298.
13 Haterius, (Tac. Ann. 1.13), Placinae, who was part of the Pisonian conspiracy, (Tac. Ann. 3.17),
Urgulania, also involved in the Pisonian conspiracy, and who was protected from the Senate twice by Livia,
(Tac. Ann 4.21).
14 Dio Cassius, 56.46.
1s Dio Cassius, 56.10.
16 Dio Cassius, 58.2.
and also used her money to support men with political ambitions the future emperor
Galba was a recipient of her generosity when she left him the significant sum of 50
million sesterces in her will.l
At Augustus' death, she inherited one third of his estate.19 She also became his
priestess, and was finally allowed a lictor only when she was performing her priestly
duties.20 Livia was allowed to sit with the Vestal Virgins in the theatre,21 She was
enrolled among mothers of three children when Drusus died,22 and Tiberius dedicated a
precinct to her on the first day of his consulship.23 Livia died at age 86,24 and Tacitus
writes that she had a modest (modicum) funeral, at which her grandson Gaius, not her son
Tiberius, gave her eulogy.25 The Senate decreed that Roman women would mourn a full
year for Livia' s death. She was buried in the Mausoleum of Augustus, and the Senate
voted to erect an arch in her honor, perhaps as a kind of substitute deification.26 This
arch, an honor never before granted to a woman, was never built. Tiberius did not allow
'7 Ovid, Fasti, 6.637-640.
's Suet., Galba, 5.
19 Suet, Aug. 161.
20 Dio Cassius, 56. 46.
21 Tac. Ann. 4.16.
22 Dio Cassius, 55.2.
23 Dio Cassius, 55.8.
24 Dio Cassius, 58.2.
25 Tac. Ann. 5.1.
26 Flory (1995) 132.
public funds to be spent on the arch, and promised that he himself would erect it with his
There is little indication among the Roman historians of Livia' s perceived divinity
while she was alive. Ovid, however, while he was in exile, wasted no words in equating
the empress to goddesses. Of course his position of a persona non grata greatly
influenced his words, but he does present a picture of personal piety which, though it may
not be sincere on his part, may indicate the role of Livia and the imperial household in
everyday life. Ovid evidently had a larariunt of the imperial family in his home while in
exile, one that contained the same images that would be found in any public gallery in
Rome.28 In his letter to Cottus, Ovid thanks him for sending the images of Caesar so that
his could join the other images in the lararium :
Redditus est nobis Caesar cunt Caesare nuper,
quos naihi naisisti, Maxinte Cotte, deos,
utque tuum naunus nunterunt quent debet haberet,
est ibi Caesaribus Livia iuncta suis. 29
He also admonishes his wife to finish the honorary rituals for the imperial household,
giving incense and unmixed wine to the gods, from which Augustus and his line came:
sed prius inspostia sanctis altaribus~ttt~~~ttt~~~ttt igni
tura fer ad nzagnos vinoque pura deos,
e quibus ante onanes Augustunt nunten adora
progenienzque plant participenzque tori. 3
Finally in a letter to Graecinus, Ovid insists that he is pious and shows the appropriate
honors to the imperial household:
27 Dio Cassius, 58.2.
28 Zanker (1998) 265.
29 Orid, Pont, 2.8. 1-4.
30 Orid, Pont. 3.161-164.
Nec pieta~s ignota mea est: videt hospital terra
in nostra sacrum Caesaris esse domo.
Stant pariter natusque pius coniunxque sacerdos,
numina iam facto non leviora deo. 31
Ovid has covered all his bases: he has mentioned Augustus, his priestly wife, and
his pious son, all standing equally with powers not unlike those of the gods. Ovid's
attentions to the imperial family were certainly meant to hasten his recall to Rome, but
they also speak of a type of devotion that was not unusual in the Empire. Whether the
divine powers of the imperial family were accepted or not, there was an accepted practice
of honoring them as numina within the home. By that point in history, imperial images
could be mass produced in cheap materials and symbols could be found everywhere:
from jewelry to utensils, from wall and ceilings to roof tiles.32 Flory interprets this
attention to the family as the starting point for the deifieation of women. It was not the
fact that Drusilla had been deified before Livia that "broke down reserve," but rather it
was the concept of the imperial family having a divine nature.33
Ovid does pay particular attention to Livia, perhaps hoping to induce her to speak
to Augustus on his behalf. In the aforementioned poem to his wife, Ovid compares
Livia's beauty with the beauty of Venus (Veneris formamn) and Livia's character with that
of Juno's (mores lunonis).34 The poet's attention to Livia does not begin and end with
flattery, however. In the Fa~sti, he surmises that the deifieation of Livia will follow close
upon the heels of her husband' s:
et penes Augustos patriae tutela manebit:
31 Ovid, Pont, 4.9.105-108.
32 Zanker (1988) 266.
33 Flory, (1995) 134.
34 Ovid, Pont. 3.1.117.
hanc fas insperii fr~ena tenere donsum.
inde nepos natusque dei, licet ipse recuset,
pondera caelesti nzente paterna feret,
utque ego perpetuis olins sacrabor in aris,
sic Augusta novum lulia nunten erit. 35
After describing the good that Augustus has done, and the continued good the son and
grandson of Augustus will do, Ovid mentions Livia's imminent nunten. Some kind of
nunten was appropriate for Livia, since she was the sacerdos divi Augusti, and was
therefore an important mediator between the god and his people.36 This is the most often
quoted evidence that Augustus wished Livia to be deified.37
Valerius Maximus also pays close attention to the connections between Livia and
the divine. In the beginning of book 6, he says that Pudicitia rests among the Augustan
household gods and in Julia's most holy bed: tu Palatii colunten augustos penates
sanctissinsunque luliae genialent torunt adsidua statione celebra~s.38 The reference to
Julia seems puzzling, since, by the reign of Tiberius, when Valerius wrote, Augustus'
daughter had already been exiled for her sexual promiscuity. Most likely, the Julia here
is Julia Augusta, or Livia. Like Ovid, Valerius praises her and the imperial family.
Where Ovid was willing to compare Livia directly to Juno and Venus, Valerius attributes
to her the quality of pudicitia. In Valerius' time it was common to offer dedications to
the iuno of Livia, as will be discussed below, and it was quite common to associate Livia
35Orid, Fasti, 1.531-536.
36 Flory (1995) 131.
38 Valerius Maximus, 6.1.init.
with the various virtues promoted by the state. It seems that Valerius, like Ovid, was
anticipating the deification of Livia.39
Livia's grandson Claudius finally deified her in 41 A.D. Claudius, since he lived
with Livia when he was a boy,40 finally brought to fruition the desires of the Senate and
the Roman people. Claudius, however, also had something to gain from this benefaction:
first of all, it indicated to the people that he had a sense of pieta~s in giving honor to his
ancestor, and secondly, it created a divine relationship for Claudius, who was not directly
related to the divus Augustus.41 In her honor Claudius held equestrian games, and set up
a statue of her in the temple of Augustus. He also gave the charge of sacrificing to her to
the Vestal Virgins, and declared that women taking oaths should swear by her name:
zu*4 zs yuvatS~v pXov z** voyla u* Y* S ots*Gout Xsks* oaS.42
1.3 Numismatic and Sculptural Evidence of the Worship of Livia Drusilla
There are not many coins bearing Livia's portrait. Before she received the honor,
few women appeared on coins. Augustus and Tiberius, as was their policy with honors
regarding Livia, were sparing in their use of her image or name on coins during their
reign. No recognizable image of Livia appeared on coins until A.D. 22 to 23, by
Augustus' order.43 A female image did appear on the coinage of Augustus and Tiberius
as Pax, but it is not clear whether this was intended to be Livia.44 She appeared on
39 Mueller (2002) 43.
o0 Dio Cassius, 60.2.
41 Wood (1999) 138.
42Dio Cassius, 60.5.
43Giacosa (1970) 23.
44Wood (1999) 104.
dupondii connected to abstracts the imperial family attributed to itself, such as Pieta~s,
lustitia, and Salus. In A.D. 22 the first coin to appear with Livia's name showed a
carpentum drawn by two mules, with the legend S.P.Q.R. IULIAE AUGUSTAE.45 Other
coins with identifiable images of Livia either connect her to an abstract divinity or to her
husband or son. On one coin, a bust of Livia adorns the obverse with the legend SALUS
AUGUSTA, with SC in the Hield of the reverse and a legend of Tiberius.46 A similar coin
from A.D. 22 to 23 has the legend IUSTITIA on the obverse with a diademed bust of
Livia.47 One dupondius showed the bust of Augustus on the obverse and a seated Livia
on the reverse.48 The coins from the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius bearing Livia' s
likeness are a hesitant beginning of using her image in imperial art. Coins were widely
distributed and would be seen by a great amount of people of diverse age, gender, and
social standing. By identifying Livia with abstract divinities, Augustus and Tiberius
accomplished two things: first they endowed Livia with the attributes of these divinities,
setting her up as a model Roman matron, and secondly, they attributed, in a small way,
perhaps, some kind of numen to Livia. This notion was not completely unfounded:
Ovid's went into exile in A.D. 8 and was already attributing some divine power to Livia
with the rest of the imperial family.49 By A.D. 22, it is possible that there was some
expectancy of divine honors for Livia.
45Grether (1946) 237.
46 Giacosa #4.
49 It is still unclear whether Orid began the Fasti before or after he was exiled. At any rate, the suggestion
that Livia would become a novum numen was made well before her image appeared on imperial coinage.
Livia's image appeared on coins in the years after her deification. Galba used the
image of Livia on his coinage. On one aureus from A.D. 68 or 69, the obverse shows the
bust of Galba and the reverse show a standing Livia.so A silver denarizes of A.D. 68 or 69
shows the bust of Galba on the obverse and Livia on the reverse, holding a patera and a
scepter, with the legend DIVA AUGUSTA.S1 Under Titus, the coins Iristitia and Pieta~s
coins of the Augustan period were revived as well.52 By the reigns of Galba and the
Flavian emperors, it was common for women to appear on coins. Livia's image appeared
on them because her cult was still worshipped.53 For the later emperors, it was a chance
to honor the memory of a woman who had done much for Rome. It was not so much
intended for worship, but rather a posthumous honor.
Recognizable images of Livia did not appear in sculpture until her deification.
Then her images were carefully distributed by the imperial family, and unofficial images
were also erected in the provinces, a practice which attests to the indefinite nature of
imperial art, as well as to the practice of "spontaneous worship" sanctioned beyond the
reach of Rome. In Rome, Tiberius fought to keep the perception of his mother as divine
under control. During the lifetime of her husband and son, the only association of Livia
with the divine in imperial-sanctioned art was found on the Ara Pacis, and some
50 Carson #70.
51 Herbert 1441. Grether suggests Galba ordered this to enhance his claim to power, but I am more of the
mind that he wished to dedicate this honor to her memory because of the money she bequeathed him in her
52Grether (1946) 251.
53 Grether (1946) 251. Grether states that the association of diva Augusta with divus Augustus allowed
Livia's cult to endure longer than many of the cults to divae which followed. The emperors were eager to
honor Augustus' memory, and therefore Livia's, since she was connected to his divinity from the beginning
as his priestess. In the case of Galba, however, I feel that he was showing the proper measure of pietas by
honoring his patroness. Though Tiberius had stalled the execution of the will, the amount of money left to
Galba was significant and no doubt helped him tremendously in his military campaigns.
sanctioned provincial works.54 Even with their concerns, the art of the Ara Pacis and
statues of the period portray Livia in every respect as a goddess of plenty and fertility or
as a priestess." Even under Caligula, Livia appeared to have a certain amount of favor.
One sculptural group from Velleia shows Livia as larger and more prominent than the
other women of the group.56 Under Claudius, it was not difficult for artists to liken Livia
to goddesses, since images of her even before her deification showed her with the
attributes of Ceres,5 Cybele5 and Venus Genetrix.59 Later images included such divine
indicators as diadems, infulae, and even spicea.60
Even before her deification, Livia was equated with the divine. One example in
particular proves this point: the statue of Ceres Augusta in Leptis Magna. The cult image
was found in a small temple, and it was dedicated by a Roman official named Rubellius
Blandus and a wealthy woman named Suphunibal. The statue was most likely dedicated
after her death, but pre-dates her deification by 6-7 years.61 Added to the following
evidence of inscriptions, it seems clear that the provinces were willing to honor Livia as a
goddess even before her deification. This "spontaneous worship," worship of a cult not
54Wood (1999) 140.
55Grether (1946) 245.
56 Wood (1999) 125.
57Grether (1946) 243-244. Paris cameo, Florentine sardonyx, cameo in the British museum.
58 Grether (1946) 243. A sardonyx in the Vienna museum showing her seated, holding a tympanum with a
lion, wearing the crown of Cybele and holding a sheaf of poppies.
59 Wood (1999) 127.
61) Wood (1999) 127, 135.
61 Wood (1999) 112.
brought in by the imperial government, indicates a popular belief in Livia's divinity, or at
least a popular belief that she deserved divine honors.
1.4 Inscriptional Evidence of the Worship of Livia Drusilla
There is no possible way to catalogue inscriptions as sincere or exploitative in a
definite way. We can only rely on the words of the inscriptions to interpret the purpose
of a dedication or ritual or the intent of the dedicator. The inscriptions of the Acta of the
Arval Brethren track the official attitude towards Livia's divinity from the rule of
Augustus until the rule of Vitellius. As a sodality dedicated almost entirely to the
worship in Rome of the Imperial cult and as a group of politically entrenched men
appointed to the sodality, the feelings of belief among the celebrants is not worth
discussing. The rituals of the Arval Brethren were not celebrated to indicate their own
personal belief but to indicate to the public that the imperial cult was not neglected by
rulers and to demonstrate the pieta~s of the emperor.
The Arval Brethren did offer prayers to Livia before her consecration during the
reign of Claudius. In A.D. 38, three years before Livia's deifieation, on the Capitoline
the Arval Brethren sacrificed an ox to Capitoline Jove for Livia's birthday.62 They
offered prayers on her birthday for two years before her death.63 Her birthday was also
celebrated in other parts of Italy: an inscription from the Forum Clodii in A.D. 18 lists her
birthday among the fasti.64 The sacrificing of the Arval Brethren was state-sactioned, but
the sacrifice for Livia's birthday, just like a sacrifice for Augustus' or Tiberius, honored
her popularity and power.
62 CIL 6.2028.
63 Flory (1995) 128.
64 CIL 11. 3303 in Grether (1946) 238.
After Livia's deifieation under Claudius, the Arval Brethren began to sacrifice to
her instead of for her. On Livia' s consecration, they offered an ox to the divus Augustus
and a cow to the diva Augusta.65 In the following years of Claudius' reign, it became
customary to include sacrifices to the divus Augustus and the diva Augusta together
among the other usual sacrifices to the Capitoline Triad. The sacrifices took place in
various places, including the temple of Concordia,66 the Palatine,67 the new temple of the
divus Augustus,68 and the Capitoline.69 In every instance, a cow was sacrificed to diva
Augusta, always accompanied by an ox sacrificed to the divus Augustus.
The worship of Livia did not end with the death of Claudius. Nero continued to
show devotion to Augustus and Livia. In A.D.58 the Arval Brethren sacrificed two oxen
to divus Augustus, two cows to diva Augusta, and two oxen to divus Claudius in the new
temple. Prayers and sacrifices were made on the same day in the Capitol for the safety of
Nero and Octavia, and sacrifices were made to the Capitoline Triad and Salus in the
Capitol as well.70 The records of the Arval Brethren in the reign of Nero mention the
specific reason for prayer and sacrifice, Nero's attempts to demonstrate his pieta~s. In
A.D. 58 in October, sacrifices were made to the divus Augustus, the diva Augusta, and
the divus Claudius because of the imperium Neronis.n1 In January A.D. 59 sacrifices of
two animals apiece were made to divus Augustus, diva Augusta, and divus Claudius pro
65 GIL 6.2032.
66 GIL 6. 2033.
67 4ntica 19.
68 4ntica 20.
69 GIL 6.2038, 4ntica 25.
"0 GL 6.2040, 4ntica 26.
G1CL 6.2041, 4ntica 27.
salute Neronis Claudii ... et Octaviae coningis eius in the new temple.72 A similar
sacrifice was made for the safety of Nero and Octavia around A.D. 61 in January, again
of two animals apiece to the divus Augustus, diva Augusta, and divus Claudius.73
A.D. 63 brought changes in the sacrifices and prayers of the Arval Brethren, due
to two new women in Nero's life: his new wife, Poppaea, and their daughter, Claudia.
These women will be discussed below. Livia continued to be worshiped in conjunction
with Augustus and Claudius. In 63 A.D., the year of Claudia' s birth and death, the Arval
Brethren sacrificed in the Capitol ob imperium Neronis. Sacrifices were made to the
Capitoline Triad and Felicita~s, and in the new temple sacrifices were made to the divus
Augustus, the diva Augusta, divus Claudius, diva Claudia, and diva Poppaea.74 In A.D.
66 sacrifices were again made on the Capitol to include the divus Augustus, diva
Augusta, divus Claudius, diva Claudia, and diva Poppaea, but also the genius of Nero.
The same year saw sacrifices made to the same deities ob laurum imperatoris Neronis
and ob Augustalia.7
The worship of Livia continued even into the reign of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius.
Under each emperor, sacrifices were made to divus Augustus, diva Augusta, and divus
Claudius, as was customary in the early reign ofNero.76 The sacrifices for Otho were
made ob vota nuncupatapro salute imperatoris, and those of Vitellius were made pro
G3CL 6.2048, 4ntica 33.
G4CL 6. 2043, 4ntica 29, II.
76 GIL 6.2051, 4ntica 40.
sahtte et reditu (Vitelli) Gernzanici insperatoris. Galba owed a particular debt of gratitude
to Livia, since she left him a large amount of money in her will.
Though Augustus and Tiberius were carefully prohibiting Livia from extravagant
honors, they could not control the inclinations and beliefs of their provincial subj ects.
Dedications were made to Livia across the Empire. The worship of Livia in the Greek
East follows the honors accorded the living emperors of the time. At Athens Livia and
Julia, Augustus' daughter, shared a priestess and a temple with Hestia.7 At Thasos, the
women were honored as E* spy mi, and Livia was honored as Os* *E* spy* ttg." Livia
was also called Os* *A~lp~a on coins from Clazomenae and Methymna.79 These honors
were all accorded to her before her official deification as was the Greek custom of
honoring the emperor and empress as divine even in their lifetimes. This worship was
not sanctioned by the Roman government, but rather was instituted by the people of the
A small marble tablet from the Forum Clodii lists a wide variety of honors done
for the imperial family in the consulships of Tiberius Caesar and Germanicus Caesar,
well before Livia's deification. The dedications were decreed by the duoviri (Cn. Acceio
Cn. f: Arnensis Rufo Lutatio, T. Petillio P. f: Quirina H viris decreta) of the province and
covered many benefactions. Most notable is the money that the duoviri spend to honor
the Imperial cult: aran nuntini Augusto pecunia nostra facien~~dd~~ddd ant~~dd curavintus; hidos ex
idibus Augustis diebus sex pecunia nostafaciendos curavintus. Livia's birthday appears
next on the list: natali Augustae naulsunt et crustlunt (sic) naulieribus vicanis ad bona~n
77CL4 3, 316 in Grether (1946) 230.
78I.G. 12, 7 in Grether (1946) 231.
79 Grether (1946) 232.
dean pecunia nostra dedintus; item dedication statuarun Caesarunt et Augustae
naulsunt et crustla (sic) pecunia nostra decurionibus et populo dedintus, perpetuoque eius
die dedicationis daturos nos testati sunsus.so The duoviri certainly have demonstrated
their peity, and they also had the money to inscribe their pieta~s on a stone, which also
recorded the amounts of their own money they spent on the rituals and in giving
opportunities of worship to the decuriones and the people. Livia' s birthday was one
more occasion for them to display their pieta~s in an ostentatious manner. An inscription
from El-Lehs in Africa offers a sacrum to the iuno of Livia. The reason is not inscribed,
only: L Pa~ssieno Rufo Insperatore Afr~ica~n obtinente Cn Cornelius Cn F Cor Rufus et
Maria C F Galla Cn conservati vota LM 2solvont. 8 It seems as though the dedicators
were "saved" from something when Rufus took command of Africa, and therefore they
fulfilled the vows they promised. This sacrum was dedicated before Livia was deified,
and indicates again that her spirit was petitioned for help. Whether the intention of the
dedicators was for Livia herself, as a mortal, to actually put Rufus into power or whether
the dedicators intended her spirit to move someone into action, it is not clear. But the
dedication goes to her divine spirit, her iuno, not the woman herself.
There are some inscriptions dedicated by freed slaves. One inscription in Rome
was dedicated to the household gods of the imperial family and to diva Augusta by the
freedman Bathyllus quod est in palatiunt inanunis et honoratus.82 In another inscription,
Gelos, a freedman from Cisalpine Gaul dedicated an inscription to Julia, Augustus'
daughter and to diva Augusta, since it was through her will that he become free (hdliae
so GIL 11.3303.
si GIL 8.16456.
d'ivai Augustae liberate matri ex testamen~ttt~~ttto fierit~~t iussit).83 There is no mention of money,
since both men probably have little, and there is not mention of sacrifices. These are
simply inscriptions of thanks from men who have no political power or money to display
the extent of their pietas.
There are dedications of unidentified sacra all over the Empire, dedications which
only supply the name of the dedicator and the name of the dedicatee. These most likely
were the bases of statues or stood near a monument. These are useful in that they can
show the extent of Livia' s worship throughout the Empire. M. Livius erected a
monument to her in Urbini,84 and L Mammius Maximus, who probably lived under
Claudius, set up some monument to her in Herculaneum.85 Another inscription from
Falerio was dedicated to genio Augusti et Ti. Caesaris iunoni Liviae.86
The dedications of men and women throughout the Empire are more powerful
testimonies to the worship of Livia: they were flamnines, flamninicae, and sacerdotes of her
cults. Julia was the sacerdos in Baetica in Further Spain,s Albinus the son of Albui was
the flamen of divus Augustus and diva Augusta in Lusitania, a province in Iberia.8
Sabina was the flamninca of d'iva Augusta in Albingavinum,89 Paulla the daughter of
83 AE 1975, 0289.
84 CIL 6.3879.
86 CIL 11.3076.
89 CIL 5.7788.
Cantia was the flamninica of diva Augusta in Ferrandus.90 Plaria was the sacerdos of
Livia's cult in Ostia,91 and Curtilia held the same office in Suasa.92 Ria served as
flamninica of diva Augusta in Cirta, in Algeria,93 a dedication was made to Septicia
Marcellina, the sacerdos of diva Augusta by the decree of the local military officers,94
and finally Julia was the sacerdos of diva Augusta in Torreparedones.95 If these
inscriptions prove anything, it is that Livia was worshipped throughout the Empire and
that her cults had priestesses to celebrate the rituals. Most of the inscriptions do not
indicate the reason for the dedication, and the social status of the priests and priestesses is
not clear, and so there are few conclusions about intent or belief to be made here.
Livia was, in reality, the first diva of Rome. Through the powers given to her by
her husband, she was able to distribute a vast amount of wealth in Rome to a variety of
causes, and was able to exert considerable influence on political matters. She was
rewarded for her service to the state and her support of her husband with honors which up
to that point had never been conferred to a woman. The conferral of divine honors upon
her was delayed because of the concerns of Augustus and Tiberius, but her divine power
seemed to be accepted by some people of Rome. Her deification and the worship of her
cult set a standard for the worship of dive in the coming generations. Her cult was the
90 CIL 9.1155.
91 CIL 14.399.
92 CIL 11.6172.
93 CIL 8.19492, CIL 8.6987.
94 IL (Vercel) 93.
95 CIL 2.5421.
recipient of both heartfelt and insincere offerings, and her image became the embodiment
of feminine power. Livia begins this study because she epitomizes the diva of the Roman
Empire. The circumstances of deification, the receptions of the people, and the cult
practices of the other dive will necessarily be compared and contrasted to Livia' s.
Though Julia Drusilla was the first deified Roman women, Livia was and will
always be the model of merited consecration. Though three other women of the Julio-
Claudian family were deified, the circumstances of their consecration and the worship of
their cults are markedly different from Livia's. The most important difference between
Livia and the other Julian-Claudian women, and indeed with all other deified Roman
women, is the belief or assumption of the Roman people that Livia deserved the honors
she was awarded. Though Julia Drusilla, Poppaea Sabina, and her daughter Claudia were
highly visible to Roman through public art, they did not live long enough nor did they
hold positions of power long enough to be of any direct importance to the public. Livia
lived to 86 Drusilla died around the age of 22, Poppaea was perhaps in her 30s, and
Claudia was four months old. They were practically unknown to the Roman people
except as symbols of the imperial family. Thus their consecrations and their cult worship
took on a different tone from Livia' s, while the system of worship remained the same.
The state-sanctioned worship of the Arval Brethren continued to worship the new dive
as they did Livia, and the same honors were accorded to the empresses as had always
been the custom in the East, but there appear to be more instances in the West of
exploiting the cult of the Julio-Claudian dive than there was for Livia. This is due to the
fact that the public in general did not seem to believe that these women merited
consecration, and thus viewed their cults as opportunities for social advancement.
2.2 Julia Drusilla
2.2.1 Literary Evidence of the Worship of Julia Drusilla
Julia Drusilla was one of three daughters of Germanicus and Agrippina the Elder,
the others being Agrippina theYounger and Julia Livilla. Her brother, Caligula,
succeeded Tiberius as ruler. Caligula made public his sentiment that his sisters should
play a visible part of his reign by means of public decrees. He ordered that all sacred
oaths should include his sisters: neque me liberosque meos cariores habebo quamn Gaium
habeo et sorores eius. He issued a similar decree for the consuls: quod bonum felixque
sit C. Caesaris sororibusque eius.l In A.D. 37 or 38 a silver sestertius was minted with
the head of Caligula on the obverse and his three sisters on the reverse, with Agrippina as
Securita~s, Drusilla as Concordia, and Julia as Fortuna.2 Caligula, as demonstrated by his
actions, initially promoted a family-based image for the imperial household. He honored
his mother and sisters and promoted their images in coin and art at least for awhile.
Caligula's sisters had the ability to influence Caligula, but had no real hopes of
power,3 until he decided to make Drusilla the heir of the Empire. Caligula favored
Drusilla above his other sisters. Suetonius tell us that he took her back from her husband
Lucius Cassius Longinus and kept her as his own wife,4 but Dio Cassius reports she was
married to Marcus Lepidus, a friend of Caligula' s.5 Wood suggests that Caligula
SSuet. Calig. 15.
2 Sutherland, #98.
3 Wood (1995) 458.
4 Suet, Calig. 24.
5 Dio Cassius, 59.11.1.
dissolved Drusilla's marriage to Longinus to force her to marry Lepidus,6 Someone he felt
he could control. Wood suggests that this move was calculated and not the result of a
depraved desire: Caligula was intent on making Drusilla the embodiment of Julian
fertility. He wanted her to produce an heir to the Empire. When Caligula fell ill in A.D.
37, he intended to bequeath the entire Empire to her and her heir.7 Lepidus, therefore,
would become emperor, and Drusilla would fulfill her duty to continue the Julian
bloodline. Her real power was in her ability to reproduce.8
However, Caligula's plans were thwarted when Drusilla died suddenly at a young
age. Upon her death, Caligula deified her and ordered all of Rome to mourn her death.
Suetonius writes that he imposed public mourning by making it an offense to laugh,
wash, or have dinner with your parents, wife, or children.9 The worship of the diva
Drusilla depended on the whim of Caligula, a private mourning for a dead relative made
public.10 Dio Cassius writes that Caligula changed her name to PantheaPPP~~~~PPP~~~PPP ordered a
golden effigy to be set up in the Sentate House, a statue built for the temple of Venus in
Rome, and dedicated twenty priests of men and women to her. There was also a festival
in Rome on her birthday, on which the Senate and the knights held a banquet." There
were games for the "New Aphrodite Drusilla" throughout the Empire.12 Dio Cassius
describes dramatic affairs Caligula produced for Drusilla's worship. He celebrated
6 Wood (1995) 459.
SWood (1999) 212.
"Wood (1995) 459.
9 Suet, Calig,. 24.
'0 Wood (1995) 482.
11 Dio Cassius, 59.11.
'2 IGRR 4, no. 145, in Lewis and Reinhold (1990) 32.
Drusilla's birthday after her death with a two-day festival. He brought her statue into the
Circus on a car drawn by two elephants, and then proceeded to produce a spectacle that
involved the deaths of bears and Libyan animals, as well as a pancratimm competition.13
The Senate then stated that Drusilla's birthday and Tiberius' birthday would be
celebrated in the same manner as Augustus'. Actors even dedicated images of Gaius and
Drusilla to the gods.14 He later named his daughter by Caesonia Drusilla, and put her into
the lap of the Jupiter on the Capitoline to show her divine favor." By this point,
Caligula's own delusions of divinity were becoming manifest.
Caligula's motives of deification may have been to repair what Wood calls a
"dynastic disaster."16 Because Drusilla could not fulfill her purported role as fertile
bearer of Julian heirs, she could become instead a kind of patron goddess for the imperial
family." By A.D. 39, a year after Drusilla's worship, Caligula' s system of family-based
propaganda fell apart. He convicted Lepidus with adultery with his sisters and treasonous
conspiracy and executed him, and he exiled his sisters from Rome.ls The worship of diva
Drusilla ended with Caligula's assassination.
2.2.2 Numismatic and Sculptural Evidence of Worship of Julia Drusilla
Though it was only Drusilla who was deified, a large amount of the images of the
imperial family disseminated throughout the Empire were group portraits of the sisters.
13 Dio Cassius, 59.13.
14 Dio Cassius, 59.13.
15 Dio Cassius, 59.28.
16 Wood (1995) 459.
17 Wood (1995) 460.
's Dio Cassius, 59.22.
Drusilla did enj oy some personal attention, through individual images and through divine
attributes on her person to mark her divinity. There was a Milesian coin with the legend
OEA APOYCIAAIA, but it' s possible that this may have been minted before her
deifieation.19 Another coin from Apamea pays homage to both the imperial family and to
diva Drusilla. The obverse is a portrait of Agrippina Maior, and the reverse depicts her
three daughters. Drusilla is a bit more pronounced in this portrait, with DIVA inscribed
below her portrait and a beaded headband on her head.20 There were also statues of the
sisters throughout the Empire during their lifetime, and Drusilla appeared in sculptural
groups with her sisters even after her consecration.21 Drusilla is usually marked as divine
by a particular headband, an infula.22 Because the images of the sisters on extant coins
do not have distinct features, it is difficult to assess which statues may be Drusilla.
2.2.3 Inscriptional Evidence of the Worship of Julia Drusilla
There is evidence of sanctioned worship of diva Drusilla. In A.D. 3 8 the Arval
Brethren gathered near the kalends of October in the new temple of the Divine Augustus
to sacrifice on the occasion of the consecration (ob consecrationem dive Drusillae) of
Drusilla.23 The tablet shows other references to dive Drusillae. In A.D. 40, 2 years
after Drusilla' s death, the Arval Brethren gathered on the Capitoline in June to sacrifice
to Jove, Juno, and Minverva ob natalem divae Drusillae.24 At the Capitoline, a cow was
19 Wood (1995) 462.
20 Wood (1995) 463.
21 Wood (1995) 465.
22 See Wood (1995) 478 for a description of the infula and its connotations.
23 CIL 6.2028, Antica 12 c.
24 CIL 6.2030, Antica 14.
sacrificed to dive Drusillae sorori Gernzanici Augusti, along with the abstracts important
to the Julio-Claudians: Salus public and Felicita~s.25 This is the only inscription in
which indicates an actual sacrifice to diva Drusilla. The others are not sacrifices made to
her, but sacrifices made to other deities on her behalf.
Beyond the prayers of the Arval Brethren, there were also sacra dedicated to
Drusilla throughout the Empire. One inscription in particular indicates how Drusilla' s
cult may be used to honor another member of her family. Tiberius, before Drusilla's
deification, dedicated a sacrum both to her and her father Germanicus: luliae Drusillae
German Caesar F. Tiberius parenti nuntinis honore delato posuit.26 It was not Drusilla
who was important, but Germanicus, her famous father. Other inscriptions note that a
sacrum was dedicated to diva Drusilla, sorori C. Caesaris Augusti Gernzanici, one in
Caere, and one dive Drusillaelllll~~~~~~11111 Gernzanici Caesaris f in Veleia.27 These inscriptions
refer to the diva as the daughter of a famous Roman hero and the sister of the emperor.
They are honored through her honor it is not Drusilla alone on whom her deification
The worship of Drusilla also gave a number of individuals the opportunity to
inscribe their names, their wealth, and their political positions on stone. C. Rubellius
Blandus, a quaestor under Augustus, dedicated some sacred obj ect (only a marble tablet
survives) to Drusilla which stood in Tibur. A flock of abbreviations follow his name:
TR, PL, PR COS, PRO COS, PONTIF.28 Blandus was obviously an important man in
26 GIL 12.1026.
G7CL 11.3598, GIL 11.1168.
Tibur, and he used his dedication to Drusilla to reinforce that. At Avaricum Bithurigum
C. Agileius, a man with a flock of initials after his name (VIRAVGCCRDSPD) offered a
sacrum to divae Drusilla and to Minerva pro salute Caesarum.29 Here we see Drusilla
petitioned as the patron goddess Caligula intended her to be, but the image that lingers in
the mind, the last thing read, was the string of initials after Agileius' name, telling all
who pass of his importance. An inscription from Alpes Cottiae suggests that Drusilla had
a cult, since her flaminica, Secunda, gave a fishpond (piscinam) to her municipality.30
This inscription relates that Drusilla did in actuality have cults around the Empire with
priestesses, and also indicates that these priestesses could be relatively wealthy. This is a
common characteristic of the priestesses of the various dive around the Empire, which
will be discussed below.
Finally, a fasti inscription from Ostia indicates that the people there worshipped
Drusilla, since they celebrated her death: IIIIldus lun. Drusilla excessit.31 The
celebration of dates of births and deaths of members of the imperial family was not
uncommon, as the army carried calendars of births and deaths with them and various
cities had their own calendars of fa~sti posted in public places.
Since there are not many extant examples of the worship of diva Drusilla, it is
difficult to assess her importance in the Empire. We do know that the Arval Brethren do
not mention her again after Caligula's death, and that she is not worshipped in
conjunction with any other members of the imperial family. It seems likely that all
vestiges of cult worship of diva Drusilla ended with Caligula. In the Apocolocyntosis,
29 CIL 13.1194.
30 CIL 5.7345.
31 CIL 14.4535.
written during Nero' s reign, the man who supposedly "witnessed" Drusilla' s apotheosis
at her funeral is ridiculed by Seneca. In trying to Eind a way to legitimize Claudius' it is
decided that his apotheosis must be witnessed: Tamnen si necesse fuerit auctorem
producer, quaerito ab co qui Drusillllllam euntem in caelum vidit: idem Claudium vidisse
se dicet iter facientem 'non pa~ssibus aequis.'32 The whole situation is made light of, and
the man who witnessed Drusilla's apotheosis was asked to repeat his services. This is a
good indication of how Seneca felt about deifieation in general, but also indicates that
Drusilla was no longer revered by the time he wrote.33
2.3 Sabina Poppaea and Claudia
2.3.1 Literary Evidence of the Worship of Poppaea and Claudia
Nero, as mentioned above, deified his second wife Poppaea and their daughter
Claudia. Claudia only lived to be four months old, and Poppaea was actually deified in
63, two years before her death by a swift kick from Nero in 65. Nero's enforcement of
public rej oicing and mourning to suit his own personal desires were reminiscent of
Caligula's extravagancies after Drusilla' s death. His relationship with Poppaea was not
popular, and she was not well-liked by the senate or the people. The people's reaction to
Nero's divorce of Octavia and marriage to Poppaea was violent and emphatic: effigies
Poppaeae prorunt, Octaviae imagines gustant umeris, spargunt floribus foroque ac
templis stabunt.34 Though unpopular, Poppaea's influence over her impressionable
husband was considerable. Dio Cassius writes that many were critical of Octavia because
32 Seneca, Apoc. 1.
33 Wood (1995) 465 n. 44.
34 Tac. Ann. 14.61.
of her "toadying" to Poppaea.35 Her greatest achievement, however, was the birth of
Claudia. The Senate commended her womb to the gods and offered public prayers upon
Claudia's birth.36 They also dedicated a temple to fertility, a competition was ordered
after the example of the Actian rites, and golden statues of the Fortunes were place on the
throne of Jupiter Capitoline.37 CiTCUS games were then held at Bouvillae for the Julian
family, and Antium for the Claudian and Domitian families.38 Claudia died at four
months, and Nero was devastated. He plunged the country into a national state of
mourning, as Caligula had for Drusilla, and deified his daughter, according her a divine
couch, temple, and priest.39 Nero killed Poppaea not long after, though it is unclear
whether or not it was intentional. Tacitus states that Nero wanted children and was very
open in his love of Poppaea,40 and Dio Cassius simply states that Nero' s intention was
unclear. Poppaea, according to Tacitus, was not cremated in the Roman custom, but was
embalmed and taken into the tomb of the Julians. Nero himself praised her from the
Rostra.41 However, he was not present when the deum honors were voted to Poppaea by
35Dio Cassius, 62.13.
36 Tac. 4nn. 15.23.
37Tac. 4nn. 15.23.
38Tac. 4nn. 15.23.
39 Tac. 4nn. 16.6.
42 Tac. 4nn. 16.21.
2.3.2 Numismatic Evidence of Worship of Poppaea and Claudia
The only image of Poppaea in official Roman art comes from coins of the official
Roman mint. Other images appear on coins throughout the Empire, most notably from
the East. One Alexandrian coin has a picture of Poppaea under the legend
HOHH~AIA CEBACTH, meaning "Poppaea Augusta."43 Another coin, struck in a
province of Asia Minor after A.D. 63 shows the bust of Nero on the obverse and the bust
of Poppaea on the reverse, both with Greek legends. There are no images of diva Claudia
on coins. There were images of Poppaea in Rome, as Tacitus relates,44 but they were
either made of flimsy material or she was so unpopular that none survived.
2.3.3 Inscriptional Evidence of Worship of Poppaea and Claudia
The Arval Brethren included Poppaea and Claudia in their sacrifices in A.D. 63
made ob adventum Neronis Claudi Caesaris Augusti Germanici et Pappaeae Augusti et
Claudiae Augustae.45 This particular sacrifice stands out, though, since, in addition to the
Capitoline Triad, Salus public, Felicitas, and Spes, there was a sacrifice of a cow to
iunoni Poppaeae Augustae and iunoni Claudiae Augustae. The same fragment records
sacrifices made to dive Poppaeae and dive Claudiae virgini, as Claudia is hereafter
called in the prayers of the Arval Brethren. The same inscription shows sacrifices made
in October ob iperium imperatoris Neronis. In the phrasing of the sacrifice records,
Claudia and Poppaea were always grouped with Augustus, Livia, and Claudius, and they
actually receive sacrifices as divinities.
43 Wood (1999) 313.
44 See above.
45 CIL 6.2043.
The records of the Arval Brethren show evidence of worship of the dive Claudia
and Poppaea until A.D. 66, at which point it stops completely. There is extremely little
inscriptional evidence of worship of diva Poppaea or diva Claudia. There were few
dedications made to diva. Poppaea, one in Rome that was possibly the base of a statue,46
and two in Luna, both by L. Titinius L. F. Galeria Glaucus Lucretianus, who held many
official titles at Rome (FLAM ROMAE ET AUG II VIR IV P CS L VIR EQ R CURIO
PRALF FADR COS TR MILIT L LG XXII PRIMIG PRALF) among them flamnen,
patron of the colony, tribune of a legion, and praefect for the embassy of the Baliae
Islands. The description of his honors alone take up half the dedication. One inscription
of his was on two large marble tablets dedicated to diva Poppaea Augusta and Imperator
Nero Caesar,47 and the other was a smaller marble tablet that may have added divae
Claudiae Neronis Augusti filiae virgini at a later date.48 His dedications were not about
the dive so much as his own accomplishments. Dedicating a sacrum to a beloved diva
of the emperor was a way to ensure your name would be engraved into stone forever.
Though the names of Poppaea and Nero were on the tablets, it is clear that the person
being honored was L. Titinius. There is no inscriptional evidence of either Claudia or
Poppaea having any priests or priestesses dedicated to their cult.
Livia Drusilla exercised considerable power for the duration of her life as an
empress and an empress-mother. Her prestige was gained through her own merit; that
Augustus trusted her and asked her advice certainly earned her respect among powerful
46 GIL 6.40419.
Romans, but her patronage and visibility as an inspiring Roman matron earned her the
respect of the masses. Of the other deified Julio-Claudian women, only Poppaea could
claim to have the kind of influence that Livia did, though her power was based on her
ability to manipulate the emperor, not on her individual influence. Drusilla and Claudia
were dearly beloved to emperors, and the love of the most powerful man was forced upon
the masses. The contrast between the efforts of the emperors to worship their women
relates to the contrast in the longevity of the worship: the forced adoration and
extravagant adulation of Drusilla, Claudia, and Poppaea, about whom the Roman people
new very little, resulted in the loss of interest in any form of worship upon the death of
the emperor. Livia' s record of public service, and the calculated actions of Augustus and
Tiberius remained in the memories of the Roman people, and her divinity was
worshipped decades after her death. People believed that the power she had in life
transferred to her death. The cults of Drusilla, Poppaea and Claudia are not only less
enduring, as evidenced by their lack of inscriptions, but are more susceptible to
exploitation. It is clear that those who were involved with their cults or inclined to
dedicate to them did so only for the public recognition it would bring them, or for the
favor they felt they would gain from the emperor by remember their beloved family
members. There was a suspension of belief not noted with Livia' s cult deification for
the Julio-Claudian men, with the exception of Livia, was an exercise in public mourning
for private passions.
THE TRAJANIC FAMILY
Traj an and Hadrian honored four women with deification between A.D. 98 and
138. The system of worship of these dive is not considerably different from that of the
Julio-Claudians, yet it is clear that the role of the empress was changing. No woman in
the House of Traj an or Hadrian possessed the kind of political power that Livia did, but
their power was in something more abstract: the bonds of family. It was not the women
themselves who were powerful in a political sense.l There was more general acceptance
of women as dive, since dynastic rule had governed Rome for two generations before
Traj an took power. There was no need to straddle a fence between republic and
principate as there was for Augustus and Tiberius, and the imagery of the imperial family
reflected that change. Boatwright suggests that the women of Traj an and Hadrian were
more subservient than women of previous families.2 There are no records of their
political dealings or public works, and very little about their actual relationships with the
emperor. There is also very little gossip about their sexuality, which suggests that they
were very unconcerned with imperial power. Their importance was found in the image
of concordia in the imperial family they could proj ect to the Empire.
SBoatwright (1991) 515.
SBoatwright (1991) 513.
There were three things Roman women needed to have any kind of say in political
issues: lineage, high connections, and money.3 There is little evidence that these women
had any money of their own. They did not restore buildings or help needy families.
There are no inscriptions thanking them for public works, or for money bequeathed upon
their deaths. They simply did not demonstrate the kind of service to the state that Livia
did generations ago. As for their families, the women were not Roman by birth. They
came from northern Italy, France, and Spain.4 They did not come from a powerful
Roman family, as Livia did, nor did they have the built-in connections with the
aristocratic class that Livia enjoyed. They were foreign women brought in by the foreign
generals who became emperors. This may also have somewhat tied their hands.
The worship of the Traj anic women had an emphasis on family. There are many
dedications throughout the Empire that bear the names of three dive, mother, daughter,
and granddaughter. Since Traj an did not leave a son to inherit his throne, his family was
immortalized through its women, not its men. Trajan's successor, Hadrian, gained his
Empire through the machinations of his adopted mother, and maintained the air of family
legitimacy by marrying and making Trajan's grandniece, Sabina, the empress. The
women were the glue that held this dynasty together, not the men. That was their
contribution to the Empire. They were the models of what a Roman woman should be at
the time: possibly foreign, as the Empire marked its largest boundary under Traj an and
Hadrian, and quietly supportive. Every literary reference that is not gossip is a reference
to the diva as a good wife, mother, or sister. Each knew her place in the family.
3 Boatwright (1991) 515.
4 Boatwright (1991) 518.
3.2.1 Literary and Inscriptional Evidence of Worship of Marciana
While Traj an did not deify his wife, he did confer such honors on his sister,
Marciana, in 1 12 A.D. Marciana is a bit of a mystery. No Roman historian mentions
her; only Pliny the Younger mentions her in the Panegyric, but does not call her by name,
only tua soror. Pliny praises her through Trajan, saying that she possesses his
simplicita~s, verita~s, and candor.5 It' s possible that she was married to a senator from
Viceta, but she was a widow by the time Traj an took power.6 Mariciana does not receive
any sacrifices from the Arval Brethren, and there is no inscriptional evidence of any cult
dedicated to her. There are dedications of sacra to Marciana throughout the Empire.
One inscription found in Azuaga emphasizes Traj an' s lineage: Divae Marcianae
Augustae Imp Caes Divi Nervae F. Nervae Traini Optimi Aug Germ Dacici ParthiciPPP~~~~PPP~~~PPP
Sorori.7 Another found in Torreparedones simply calls her the sorori Augusti,s and a
base found in the Municipium Gigthense simply calls her Divae Ma'~riciane Augustae.9
The emphasis of the inscriptions is her relationship to Traj an they offer no other
information about the woman herself, her proposed powers as a diva, or even a reason for
the dedication. Marciana' s value is wrapped up in Traj an' s ability to use her as an
example for Roman matrons. One look at a particularly grand dedication made at
Ancona, dated at A.D. 115 indicates who was important in the imperial family, diva or
SPlin. Pane. 84.
6 Boatwright (1991) 517.
G CL 2.2340.
G CL 2.7892.
9 GIL 8.25.
no.l0 There an are that one time held a golden equestrian statue honored the restoration
of the port of Ancona, a port town important because of its proximity to Dalmatia, which
Traj an funded with his own money. On the arc, the names Plotinae Aug Coniugi Aug and
Dive Marcianae Aug Sorori Aug, small 4 and 5 word dedications are inscribed on either
side of a huge inscription to Imp Caesari Divi Nervae F. Nerve Traiano Optimo Aug
Germanic Dacico, explaining his good deed and thanking him for the use of his own
money.ll The women are merely side ornaments.
3.2.2 Numismatic Evidence of Worship of Marciana
Marciana' s importance as a deified woman is manifested in her coins, since the
legend CONSECRATIO first appears on her coinsl2 Struck in all metals.13 One coin
struck under Traj an between A.D. 1 12 and 1 13, before Marciana' s deification, depict her
wearing a diadem.14 COins struck in 113, however, bear CONSECRATIO on the reverse.
An aureus from A.D. 1 13 has the diademed bust of Marciana on the obverse, and depicts
the carpentum drawn by mules on the reverse.l5 A silver denarius from the same year
depicts the diademed Marciana on the obverse under the legend DIVA AUGUSTA
MARCIANA, with an eagle on the reverse.16 A third coin struck between A.D. 114 and
117 again depicts a diademed Marciana on the obverse, with an eagle, on the reverse, this
'o OCD, 87.
11 CIL 9.5894.
12 Stevenson (1982) 537.
13 Bickerman (1974) 366.
14 Carson, fig. 139.
1s Carson, fig. 140.
16 Herbert, fig. 778. The eagle was a common figure on consecration reverses for both men and women,
but peacocks, the divine attribute of Juno, appears only on the reverses of women. Stevenson (1982) 250.
time with wings spread open, holding a scepter in his claws." The images on Marciana' s
coins offer no sense of Marciana' s identity beyond her portrait. She is not equated to any
abstract deities, and is not armed with any attributes of goddesses it was her deification
that was important to Traj an, not her representation on coins. Traj an proved his own
pieta~s by deifying the woman who was such an honor to him, as Pliny pointed out.
3.3.1 Literary and Inscriptional Evidence of Worship of Matidia
Marciana is also featured on coins of her daughter, Matidia, Traj an' s niece.
Matidia died in 119, two years after Hadrian became emperor, and was deified that same
year.x" Like Mariciana, Matidia is largely ignored by contemporary Roman historians.
The Historia Augusta mentions her familial piety: she, along with Plotina and Attianus,
escorted Traj an' s ashes from Antioch to Rome.19 It also mentions that Hadrian held
games to honor his mother-in-law. In 119 A.D. he held gladiatorial games,20 and he also
gave aromatica to the people in her honor.21 It's possible that Matidia was married
twice, once to L. Mindius, with whom she had Mindia Matidia, commonly called Matidia
Minor, and once to L. Vibius Sabinus, with who she had Vibia Sabina, who later married
17 Giacosa, fig. 23.
1s OCD, 937.
19 H1.A., Had. 5.9.
20 H.A., Had. 9.9.
21 H1.A., Had. 19.5.
22Boatwright (1991) 517.
Inscriptional evidence of the worship of Matidia is scarce. Matidia's consecration
under Hadrian was celebrated by the Arval Brethren in A.D. 120 in January in
consecrationent Matidiae Augustae, socrus Insperatoris Caesaris Trainini Hadriani
Augusti, unguenti pondo duo nontine college fratrunt arvaliun.23 This is the only
mention of any of the Traj anic women in the Acta of the Arval Brethren. She was not
sacrificed to, but rather two measurements of oil were offered on her behalf. There are
not many dedications of sacra extant, though one from Rome does call her the felicita~s
auctor.24 More common are inscriptions to the fla~ninicae and sacerdotes of her cult.
One Caesia was her nzaxinta sacerdos in Ager Mediolaniensis,25 and an inscription
honoring Lepida, the sacerdos of diva Augusta and of diva Matidia at Ariminum suggests
that perhaps one woman could serve two cults at once.26 It also states that she paid for
the inscription with her own money. One last inscription honors Clodia, the sacerdos of
diva Matidia, but the patrons are unexpected: the collegia fabrorunt et centonariorunt, the
colleges of firefighters and craftsmen.27 During the reigns of Traj an and Hadrian there is
a marked increase of dedications paid for by local guilds and colleges. The decuriones,
military officers, are noted most often. Finally there were the sculptural and buildings
dedicated in her honor. A medallion of Hadrian shows a temple, regarded as the temple
of Matidia, flanked by two smaller buildings, the basilicae of Marciana and Matidia.28
26 GIL 11.415.
27Suplt 8, Br 003 bis.
28Keltanen (2002), 114 n. 55 For the temple, cf. Platner (1929) 331, for basilicae, cf. Platner (1929) 81.
There was also an altar mentioned in an inscription from Rome, but it is otherwise
The evidence of worship of Matidia is so scarce that there is little to glean about
her cult. We know that she did have a cult with priestesses, and we know that there was
most likely a cult to her in Rome in her own temple. But beyond that it is difficult to say
what her cult was like, what kind of people worshipped her, or how important she was.
The lack of evidence suggests that there were not many dedications made to her
throughout the Empire, and so her cult may not have been that active.
3.3.2. Numismatic Evidence of Worship of Matidia
Matidia's divinity was most often legitimized through her mother. Early coins
capitalize on her relationship to her Marciana, who was already deified by Traj an
himself. One aureus struck between A.D. 115 and 117 depicts a diademed Matidia under
the legend MATIDIA AUG DIVAE MARCIANAE F. The reverse depicts Matidia as
Pieta~s, standing between two small children, perhaps Matidia the Younger and Sabina,
Matidia's children.30 A silver denarius features the same obverse and reverse, with
Pieta~s standing under the legend PIETAS AUGUST.31 Matidia, like Marciana, was
depicted in her family role: she was the pious guardian of Traj an' s ashes, and she was the
chaste and faithful mother of two children. Her fertility allowed Trajan's line to
continue, and produced another diva.
29 Richardson (1992) 54. Inscription is CIL 6. 31893.
30 Carson, fig. 141, Giacosa, fig. 24.
31 Herbert, fig. 780.
3.4.1 Literary Evidence of Worship of Plotina
Plotina, the wife of Traj an, was deified by her adopted son Hadrian in A.D. 123,
six years after the Traj an' s death. Plotina was a controversial figure in Roman literature,
though the attention paid to her manipulations does not approach that paid to Livia' s, and
leans toward the scandalous. The Historia Augusta paints her as a woman with moral
flexibility, but one loyal to her adopted son. Dio Cassius also relates sensational stories
about her rule, creating a lovestruck, incredibly clever woman. Dio Cassius states
outright that Plotina was in love with Hadrian, and therefore used all her influence to
make sure he was adopted by Traj an and became emperor.32 Hadrian enjoyed her favor
early in his political career. Due to her influence, he was designated a legate at the time
of the Parthian expedition,33 and she also helped him to become consul a second time
while Trajan was still alive.34 Most incredibly, Plotina orchestrated the adoption of
Hadrian. Supposedly she had a man with a weak voice impersonate Trajan and name
Hadrian as heir when Traj an decided to choose another,35 and that she also signed
Traj an' s letters herself.36 Plotina, unlike Traj an' s sister and niece, seemed to have some
32 Dio Cassius, 69.1.
33 H1.A, Had, 4.
34 H1.A., Had. 4.4.
35 H1.A., Had. 4.10.
36 Dio Cassius, 69.4.
semblance of influence over the emperors, even though it was represented in a less than
Because of her support of him, Hadrian conferred divine honors upon Plotina.
Traj an seemed to have little regard for her, preferring to honor in public his sister and
niece before his wife. When she died, Dio Cassius reports that Hadrian wore black for
nine days, dedicated a temple to her, and composed hymns to her.38 The temple Hadrian
erected in Plotina' s honor was a basilica at Nemausus, Plotina's hometown, one that was
made with exceptional skill, around A.D. 122-123.39 Hadrian recognized the value of a
strong feminine public figure, and therefore encouraged images and honors for Plotina to
be places around the Empire.
3.4.2 Inscriptional Evidence of Worship of Plotina
Besides the reports of contemporary Roman historians, there is evidence that
Plotina had cults throughout the Empire. There are no dedications of buildings or sacra
to her, but rather to her priestesses. Collegia around the Empire also play a strong role in
her worship by financing many of the sacra. To Aemilia, a sacerdos of diva Plotina in
Cisalpine Gaul, the collegium of firemen set up a monument.40 Likewise the military
officers set up a monument for Valerius Ennius Marcellinus, a flamnen of the diva
Plotina.41 Other inscriptions are monuments to the priestesses of diva Plotina without a
collegial donor: a dedication to Cantia, the colonial flamninica of diva Plotina was found
37 Boatwright (1991) 532.
38 Dio Cassius, 69.10.
39 H.A., Had. 9.9.
40 CIL 5.4387.
41 ITIScrlT 9.1.129.
under a triumphal arc in the forum Sempronius in Ariminum.42 The priestesses were
either wealthy themselves and paid for their own dedications, or were influential enough
to induce a collegium to put up a dedication to them. It is worth noting that the
dedications are made to the priestesses and not the diva the position of flamninica or
sacerdos must have held considerable influence in the provinces.
One monument at Pollentia is a little ambiguous regarding its dedicatees. It is
extraordinary at any rate because of its dedication to both diva Plotina and diva Faustina
Maior: Sacerd'oti divae Plotinae Pollentiae divae Faustinae Taurinis divae Faustinae
Maioris Concordiae coll den dr polll LDD D. The inscription suggests that there was
one sacerdos to diva Plotina at Pollentia, and to diva Faustina and to the Concordia of
diva Faustina Maior at Taurus.43 Faustina Maior was not deified until her death in A.D.
141, nearly 20 years after Plotina' s deification. Does this mean that the worship of
Plotina was still going on twenty years after her deification, or that the same individual
was the sacerdos of both, and that she became the sacerdos of Faustina Maior after her
services were no longer need with Plotina? There is no other reference to a cult of
Concordia, though the abstract is immensely important to Faustina Maior, as will be
In one last inscription from the Colonia Julia Karpis indicates that Plotina did
have another shrine of some kind in the Empire: an aedem quam Cassia Maximula
flamninica divae Plotinae caelesti deae voverat. Two men, a sacerd'os and a flamnen
dedicated suo sumptu a solo aedi~icatamtttt~~~~~~tttt D D marmoribus et museis et statua Pudicitae
42 CIL 11.407.
43 CIL 5.7617.
Aug et thorace Caelestis Augustae ornaverunt et die dedicationis decurionibus sportula~s
dederunt.44 Plotina was honored with marble (presumably statues) and statue of
Pudicitia Augusta, a corselet, and little baskets of sacrifices. The statue ofPudicitia
Augusta, Augustan Chastity, must have been meant to highlight Plotina' s own chastity, a
valuable trait in an empress. This is one of the rare inscriptions which actually describes
the ritual of a cult. There is no petition of any kind, but the goddess is offered gifts from
the celebrants as well as the local collegium of military officers, and her shrine or temple
was vowed by a woman, who obviously had some power. There is some emphasis on the
money that the celebrants spent on these gifts, and such a presentation would have
certainly stuck out in the minds of those who read the inscriptions.
3.4.3 Numismatic Evidence of Worship of Plotina
There is no mention of Plotina in the records of the Arval Brethren, but her image
is found on many coins from the reign of Traj an to Hadrian. Two coins struck during
Traj an' s reign bearing Plotina' s image depict her wearing a diadem, though she was not
yet deified. One silver denarius, struck in A.D. 1 12 to 1 15, depicts the Ara Pudicitiae on
the reverse of a Plotina coin,45 while another aureus, struck between A.D. 113 and 1 17
shows Vesta on the reverse, seated with the palladium and long scepter.46 Vesta was the
only reverse type of Plotina during Hadrian' s reign, usually seated and holding the
pallllllllllllllllladium .4 Vesta was the most important symbol of Rome' s aeternita~s, the keeper of
44 CIL 8.993.
45 Carson, fig. 138.
46 Giacosa, fig. 22.
47 Keltanen (2002) 110.
the everlasting flame, and Hadrian associates Plotina with the same trait.48 Plotina's
coins are also "firsts" in other categories: hers is the first to use the legend PUDICITIA
on her coins, which began somewhere around 112, and she is also the first to use the
legend FIDES AUGUSTA. In addition, she is one of only four empresses who used
Minerva as a reverse type.49
Two coins struck under Hadrian, after Plotina' s deification, depict her with
Traj an. One attreus from A.D. 122 has Hadrian on the obverse with Traj an and Plotina
facing each other on the reverse, indicating the importance of both of his adopted parents
to Hadrian.so A second aureus, struck between A.D. 134 and 138 shows the bust of
Hadrian on the obverse, and Traj an and Plotina facing each other on the reverse, with
stars above their heads, with the legend DIVIS PARENTIBUS.S
The coinage of Plotina sets a standard for the future dive. There was a large
number of types, and her association with one particular goddess, Vesta, recalled the
association of Livia with Ceres. Hadrian especially placed an importance on the imagery
of the empresses. While this is not borne out in Matidia, his mother-in-law, it is in
Plotina, his patroness and great-aunt, and also in Sabina, his wife. Whatever the
condition of their marriage, Hadrian recognized the importance of making her image as
accessible as possible throughout the Empire. Coins were handled by many classes of
people everyday, and their images would be staring at the handlers constantly. Thus, the
coinage of Sabina, and the Faustinae after her, began her honor her as an Augusta and
48Keltanen (2002) 111.
49 Keltanen (2002) 112.
"0 Carson, fig. 160.
51Giacosa, fig. 25.
then as a diva, making her a symbol of Roman femininity throughout the stages of her
3.5.1 Literary Evidence of the Worship of Sabina
Sabina, daughter of Matidia and grand-niece of Traj an, was the last woman to be
deified from her family. Sabina was the glue that connected Hadrian to Traj an' s family,
for although Hadrian was adopted by Traj an, the circumstances of the adoption were
dubious. A marriage to Sabina lent an air of legitimacy to Hadrian's rule. The Historia
Augusta and the Epitome de Caesaribus are the only Roman literary sources to consider
Sabina, and both are of dubious repute. The author or the Historia Augusta writes that
Hadrian married her with the support of Plotina, but that Traj an had little interest in the
match.52 The history also relates that Hadrian ordered Septicius Clarus and Suetonius
Tranquillanus, the historian, to be removed from office because they were treating Sabina
a little too casually.53 In its last mention of Sabina, the Historia Augusta reports that
there was a rumor when she died that Hadrian had poisoned her.54 Nothing is written
about her deifieation or her worship, but the inscriptional and numismatic evidence is
3.5.2 Inscriptional Evidence of Worship of Sabina
Compared to her predecessors, there is much more inscriptional evidence that
Sabina was worshipped as a diva. Most inscriptions are simply dedications of sacra to
her, but there are two inscriptions to flamninicae of diva Sabina. One, from Navaria in
52 H1.A., Had. 2.10.
53 H1.A., Had. 11.3.
54 H1.A., Had. 23.9.
Italy, suggests that Albucia may have been the flamninica of more than one Imperial cult:
et Albuciae M~F candidate JIaninicae dive Juliae NovJar7antinic dive Sabinae T icini,
perhaps a situation similar to that of the sacerdos of Plotina and Faustina. Another
inscription from Ariminum includes a referee to a flamninica of diva Sabina.56 There is
also a base in Saldae,5 and one in Thamugadi,58 a colony of military veterans in the
province of Numidia founded under Traj an in A.D. 100,59 both dedicated to Divae
Sabinae Aug. There is only one structure dedicated to Sabina: an altar. She has no
temple in any location of the Empire. Not much is known about the altar itself, just that it
is shown on coins of Hadrian and that it possibly stood where Sabina' s pyre stood in
Rome.60 There is not much to be derived from these inscriptions except that Sabina had
cults throughout the Empire. There are no long descriptions of offerings and money, as
was the case with Plotina.
Of two inscriptions found in Rome issued by Hadrian himself, one seems to have
a dubious connection to the Colonia Julia Augusta,61 and the other seems to be from
Africa, with a dedication of divae Sabinae Augustae .6ubi athemes~l~ ex Afr~ica. The
settlement of Sabratha earned colonial status in the 2nd century A.D., so it is possible that
56 CIL 11.408.
59 OCD, 1491-2.
61) Richardson (1992) 338.
61 CIL 6.40528.
this monument celebrates that occasion.62 The second inscription also involved men
besides Hadrian: the place of the dedication was adsignatus a Vaerio Urbico et Aemilio
Papo curatioribus operum locorum publicorum. These men garnered the favor of the
emperor himself by assigning the location of the sacrum. Hadrian stands out as the only
emperor up to that point to actually be recorded as having commissioned a sacrum to his
deified wife. Though the literary evidence of the previous chapters indicates that the
emperors commissioned statues or gave festivals, there are no surviving inscriptions
describing their role in the process. By including his name on the inscription, Hadrian
demonstrates his pietas and tries to quell any rumors that he and his wife may have
experienced any marital discord. This is evidences by another inscription: Imperatori
Hadriano Olympio et lunoni Coniugali Sabinae.63 Benario states that he found no other
instance of coniugalis in conjunction with Sabina in his research. The marriage of
Hadrian and Sabina is also considered in her coinage, discussed below.
3.5.3 Numismatic Evidence of Worship of Sabina
There is a large amount of extant coins of Sabina, many struck before her
deification. These coins show Sabina on the obverse, wearing a diadem, the sign of
power. Most of the legends read SABINA AUGUSTA, though some add HADRIANI
AUG PP. The images on the reverse, however, are varied. There are quite of few of
Concordia on the reverse, seated, holding a patera and a cornucopia.64 These, in
conjunction with the inscription with coniugali and Hadrian's dedications, are indications
62 OCD, 1342.
63 A.E. 1939, 190, in Benario (1980) 37.
64 Giacosa fig. 27, Herbert fig. 889, 891, 896.
that perhaps the public did not believe their marriage to be a happy one, and that Hadrian
was trying to convince them otherwise.65 Pieta~s is another common image associated
with Sabina. One coin shows Pietas with her hands on the heads of a young boy and girl,
reminiscent of the coin of Matidia standing between her two daughters.66 Another coin
features a seated Pieta~s, holding the patera and the scepter.67 Pudicitia also appears on
the reverse, with her seated holding her hand to her lips on one sestertius,68 and raising
her veil on the reverse of a denarius.69 Sabina is not only associated with virtues before
her deification, but also Olympian goddesses. One sestertius shows Ceres seated holding
ears of corn and a torch.70 Vesta sits holding a palllllllllIllllllladium and a scepter on the reverse of
a denarius.n1 Even Juno, the queen, holding a patera and a scepter, adorns the reverse of
a denarius.72 One tetradrachm from 128 or 130 shows a very worn Cybele on the
reverse, but the origin of the coin is unknown.73 This is the first Roman coin struck with
the image of Cybele on it, though provincial coins had already been using her image in
association with the goddess.74
65 Benario (1980) 39.
66 Giacosa fig. 26.
67 Herbert fig. 996.
68 Herbert, fig. 944.
69 Herbert, fig. 897.
"0 Herbert, fig. 993.
71 Herbert, fig. 898.
72Herbert, fig. 892.
73Carson, fig. 168.
74Keltanen (2002) 123.
The goddess most associated with Sabina in her extant coinage is Venus. The
reverse of one denarius bears the legend VENERI GENETRICI.7 The reverse of another
denarius shows Venus Genetrix, holding an apple, drawing up her robe.76 A sestertius
also shows Venus Genetrix in a field with an apple." This seems a bit strange, because
Sabina and Hadrian had no children, another fact that may have initiated gossip about the
status of their marriage. It is likely, though, that Hadrian was trying to spark the
connection between Venus and the emperors in the minds of the Roman people. He did,
in fact, revive the cult of Venus during his reign.'
An aureus from A.D. 128 may be hinting at Sabina' s deification by depicting
Juno standing near a bird, probably a peacock and holding a staff on the reverse.79
Sabina' s consecration coin was struck in A.D. 136. The obverse shows a veiled bust of
Sabina, a strange departure from the bold diadem to the demure veil, and the reverse
shows Sabina seated on an eagle under the legend CONSECRATIO.so A copper
sestertius struck after her deification depicts DIVA AUGUSTA SABINA veiled and
wearing a wreath of grain ears on the obverse, while the reverse shows an eagle standing
on a scepter in a field under the legend SC.8
The coinage of Sabina demonstrates more than any other medium Hadrian's
understanding of the importance of imagery. The coinage of Plotina and Sabina, both of
75Herbert, fig. 896.
76 Herbert, fig. 894.
77Herbert, fig. 995.
78Keltanen (2002) 120.
79 C8TSon, fig. 161.
so Carson, fig. 162.
st Herbert, fig. 997.
which were under the control of Hadrian at some point, uses association with goddesses
and virtues more than the coinage of Mariciana and Matidia. Hadrian knew that coins
were a reliable and enduring way to insinuate image associations into the minds of the
The Traj anic women are confounding because we possess little information of
them. It is hard to analyze any political power they may have had since the primary
literary sources are not the most reliable. This also makes it difficult to analyze their
inscriptions we don't know if they were patrons of collegia around the Empire, or if
they were involved with the founding of a colony. We do know from the Historia
Augusta that they traveled with the emperors, and were thus visible to the citizens and
inhabitants of the Empire. However, the lack of concrete information may be a result of
the perceived role of the women of the Trajanic family. Pliny the Younger, in his
Panegyric to Traj an, praises the modesty of Plotina and Marciana:
Obtulerat illis senatus cognonsen Augustarunt, quod certatint deprecatae sunt,
qua~n diu appellationent patris patriae tu recusa~sses, seu quod plus esse in eo
iudicabant, si uxor et soror tua qua~n si Augustae dicerentur. Sed, quaecunzque
illis ratio tantanttttt~~~~~~ttttttt noderatia~n sua~sit, hoc nzagis dignae sunt, quae in aninzis
nostris et sint et habeantur augustae, quia non vocantur.82
The senate had offered the cognomen of Augusta to them, which they certainly
avoided, as long as you refused the title of "pater patriae", perhaps because they
judged there to be more to it, if they were called your wife or sister rather than
"Augusta." But, whatever rationale brought on such great moderation, they are
more worthy for this, who in our minds both are and are held "Augustae", because
they are not so called.
82Plin. Pane. 84.
To Pliny, the deference of the imperial women to Traj an was their most laudable quality.
Because they were humble and did not make any pretenses of power, they were an asset
to Traj an' s imperial family and proved that they knew their place.83 Unlike Drusilla, for
example, reproduction was not a concern of these women, because adoption was so
common.84 Thus there were no images of fertility, no symbols of plenty they were
unnecessary. Dio Cassius and the Historia Augusta describe Plotina' s maneuvers to
make Hadrian emperor, but they do not allude to any political aspirations that she may
have held on her own. The other women of the imperial family are mentioned by the
Roman historians as minor players, women who supported their husbands, brother, and
son-in-law, but not women who actively sought any kind of recognition for themselves.
They were the perfect exemplars of the Roman matron.
Within a few generations, the concept of deifieation changed dramatically.
Because Livia was widely believed to have merited her consecration, the deifieations of
the other Julio-Claudian women were met with lukewarm and even ridiculing responses.
By the time the line of Trajan took power, merit no longer seemed necessary for
deifieation. If the Julio-Claudian women were deified because of the love of their
husbands (and father), the Traj anic women were deified because of their power as
symbols. There can be no other possibility with the exception of Plotina, and even her
role is not exactly clear, the women were not involved in politics or philanthropy. The
emperors did not seem to be extraordinarily fond of them. They were simply good
women who stayed out of trouble, and were rewarded for their modesty. The worship of
these divae reflects this mood: the dedications are not made for any particular reason, and
83Boatwright (1991) 535.
84Boatwright (1991) 536.
the coins present the symbols of femininity the emperors wished to associate with their
reign. Veneration had become commonplace, an honor accorded to a member of the
imperial family simply because of their status in the Empire.
The Antonine family deified only two of its women, Annia Galeria Faustina,
known as Faustina Maior, the wife of Antoninus Pius, and Annia Faustina, known as
Faustina Minor, the daughter of the Faustina Maior and the wife of Marcus Aurelius.
The Antonine Emperors enjoyed a great amount of popularity and adoration, and the
public extended those feelings to the empresses as well. Faustina Maior was especially
loved and adored, and the images of her that survive emphasize her importance in the
imperial household. Adoration of Antonine women extended to the reaches of the
Empire, bringing to fruition a trend that began in the family of Traj an and Hadrian: the
tightening of the grip of Rome and Roman culture on the provinces. The system of
adoption had produced four sound emperors, and the Roman people were eager to praise
their imperial family. The same system also lessened the importance of reproduction and
fertility, as witnessed in the Trajanic family. The Faustinae, however, had no problems
conceiving, and it is the fecundity of Faustina Minor that returned the system of
succession to family dynasties (with disastrous results). The Faustinae were portrayed in
the Historia Augusta, the source from which most information about their lives comes.
Both women were accused of adultery, and both enjoyed the trust and adoration of their
husbands. The charges of adultery are somewhat dubious, considering the source and the
sensational means of reporting, and the worship of the Faustinae throughout the Empire
suggests either that the reports were not true or that they did not matter to the public.
4.2 Faustina Maior
4.2.1 Literary Evidence of Worship of Faustina Maior
The Faustinae were not prayed to by the Arval Brethren, though Faustina Minor was
prayed for by the Arval Brethren sometime between A.D. 169 and 177: servaveris salvum
incolumemque cum Faustina Augusta et Commodo Caesare ceterisque omnibus domus
Augustae eventumque bonum.l However, there are many sacra dedicated to them
throughout the Empire. Keltanen suggests that after the reign of Sabina and the shrewd
usage of imagery by Hadrian, the figure of the empress was incorporated into
monumental art and the number of coins with their images increased.2 Faustina Maior
died three years into her husband Antoninus Pius' reign, but throughout her reign, her
image was never out of sight of Roman citizens everywhere.
Roman historians relate Antoninus' love and esteem for his wife, though rumors
abounded about her loose morals. The Historia Augusta states that the honors Faustina
received were instituted mainly by the Senate: she was called Augusta by them,3 and that
they consecrated her upon her death.4 After her consecration, Faustina was awarded a
temple and flamninincae, statues made of gold and silver, and her image was placed in all
the circuses. The temple was dedicated to her alone until the death of Antoninus Pius in
A.D. 161, when the temple became dedicated to them both.' The Senate also attempted
CIL 6.2093, Antica 85.
2 Keltanen (2002) 141.
3 H1.A., A.P, 5.2.
4 H.A., A.P. 6.7.
SPlatner (1929) 13.
to change the name of September and October to Antoninus and Faustina, much as they
had suggested to Tiberius, but Antoninus refused the honor.6 Antoninus Pius also
honored her with his own decrees, as Hadrian had done with Sabina: he decided that a
statue of her would be put in the Senate house,7 and in Faustina' s honor he also
established a program to take care of poor girls, and he called them the Faustinianae.8
4.2.2 Inscriptional Evidence of Worship of Faustina Maior
Even before her deification, dedications were made to Faustina Maior. One
marble tablet in Rome was offered pro salute Imperatoris Caesaris Titi Aeli Hadriani
Antonini Augusti Pii, patris patriae, et Faustinae Augustae.9 Much like the formula of
the Arval Brethren, the inscription offers a prayer for the safety of the emperor, with a
focus on his grand lineage, and includes the wife of the emperor in the prayers for well-
The inscriptional evidence of dedication to and worship of diva Faustina Maior is
scattered around the Empire. There are dedications of sacra found in the forum of
Aeclanum,lo Tarraco,"l Sassina,12 Voleini,13 and Lactoria.14 These inscriptions do not
indicate who paid for the sacra or for what occasion they were dedicated. There was also
6 H.A., A.P., 10.1.
SH.A., A.P., 8.2.
9 CIL 6.40541.
10 CIL 9.1113.
" CIL 2.4096.
12 CIL 9.6500.
13 CIL 11.7279.
14 CIL 13.527.
an altar of Diva Faustina Maior placed possibly where her pyre stood, but there is little
known about it. There were inscriptions, however, with clear intent of worship: in
Falerio, Antonia, the colonial sacerdos of diva Faustina was able, with a generous
donation from the local division of decuriones, to erect statues in the theatre qua~s ad
exornandum theatrum.16 The involvement of collegia around the Empire continued as it
had under Traj an and Hadrian. While the dedication of named individuals do not cease
completely, it became more and more common to see P D D, or D D on the last line of
inscriptions, indicating that the dedication was placed by decree of the decuriones or
erected by their decree. Individual power seemed to be replaced in importance by the
power of groups, at least in dedications to divae.
One inscription from Mantissa near Ostia describes a dedication to Antoninus
Pius and diva Faustina Maior by the decree of the decuriones ob insignem eorum
concordiamn utique in ara virgines quae in colonia Ostiensi nubent item mariti earum
supplicent.l7 The personified marital harmony between the diva and her husband could
now look over the young women and their bridegrooms in the colony, perhaps as statues
in a shrine dedicated to them, though it is not clear from the inscription. The concordia
between Antoninus Pius and Faustina Maior was an important propaganda theme during
Antoninus' reign, even after Faustina' s death. This inscription more than those
mentioned above indicate a kind of belief in the power of the concordia between Faustina
and Antoninus. It is as though the emperor and empress are giving their blessing to the
maidens and their bridegrooms as they make their prayers concerning their marriage.
1s Richardson (1992) 338.
16 CIL 9.5428.
17 CIL 14.5326.
Another evidence of their concordia was the relief of their j oint apotheosis on the
Column of Antoninus Pius. The column was erected by Marcus Aurelius and Lucius
Verus, Antoninus' heirs, and depicted the apotheosis of the couple together on the figure
of a winged Genius, flanked by eagles. Roma watches the ascension from the lower left,
while a personification of the Campus Martius reclines and watches from the lower
right. Even in death, the couple was together they were depicted as enjoying the
rewards of their pious life together. Where the images and hints dropped about the
concordia between Sabina and Hadrian seemed forced, the concordia between Antoninus
and Faustina was evident to all, a fortunate virtue in any marriage, and was considered a
part of their combined divine nature.
4.2.3 Numismatic Evidence of Worship of Faustina Maior
The images of the Faustinae, especially of Faustina Maior, were best preserved in
the coins of the period, in which the portrayal of the empress as a powerful entity was of
utmost importance. There is very little coinage of Faustina Maior because she died three
years after her husband became emperor,19 but her deification remained a very hallowed
event through his reign. A coin dating before her death with her image on the obverse
shows Concordia on the reverse, holding a patera and a double cornucopia.20 Another
coin just before her deification indicates her importance to the Empire: the obverse is
simply the bust of Faustina under the legend FAUSTINTA AUGUSTA, but the reverse
shows Juno seated on a throne with a peacock near at hand, the bird that often appeared
1s Richardson (1992) 95.
19 Keltanen (2002) 125.
20 Herbert, fig. 1027.
on the consecration coins of other divae.21 Again, concordia appears as an important
virtue to Faustina and her husband indeed the empress herself is associated with the
Faustina's consecration and diva coins are much more common, as they were
minted throughout the reign of Antoninus Pius. A consecration coin of copper, minted in
A.D. 141 was particularly detailed. The obverse bore the legend DIVA FAUSTINA,
while the reverse bore an image of Vesta in a field, sacrificing over a lighted altar,
holding a patera and a torch, under the legend CONSECRATIO.22 Sometimes an eagle
or a winged Victory depicted the apotheosis of Faustina into the heavens.23 Vesta
appears on the reverse of another diva coin, again holding a torch and the pallllllllIllllllllladim2
and yet another, this time standing on the obverse.25 Her association with Vesta recalls
Plotina' s association with the goddess: Faustina, now a goddess, was a guardian of the
aeternita~s of Rome. An aureus struck under Antoninus Pius shows a diademed and
veiled Faustina on the obverse, with Ceres on the reverse, wearing a veil, and holding a
scepter and a torch, under the legend AUGUSTA.26 A copper sestertius dated to A.D.
141 bears the legend DIVA FAUSTINA on the obverse, and AETERNITAS on the
reverse, depicting a Faustina seated in a biga drawn by two elephants with drivers.27 An
aureus from A.D. 141 shows the diva Faustina on the obverse, but the reverse depicts
21 Carson, fig. 175.
22 Herbert, fig. 1029.
23 Keltanen (2002) 127.
24 Giacosa, fig. 29.
25 Carson, fig. 179.
26 Giacosa, fig. 28.
27 Herbert, fig. 1028.
three small children under the legend PUELLAE FAUSTINIANAE.28 Finally, the
legend FECUNDITAS appears for the first time on Faustina Maior' s coinage, holding a
scepter in her hands and a baby in her arms.29 The coins associated the goddesses of
plenty, fertility, and aeternitas with Faustina: she was the first empress since Vespasian's
wife Domitilla to produce a direct heir to the Empire.30
4.3 Faustina Minor
4.3.1 Literary Evidence of the Worship of Faustina Minor
Faustina Minor, like her mother, was very popular. The daughter of Antoninus
Pius and Faustina Maior, she, like the women of the Traj anic family, carried the imperial
blood, along with her cousin Marcus Aurelius, into the next generation of rulers.
Faustina lived much longer than her mother, and there is more information about her and
her life related in the works of contemporary Roman historians. Like her mother, there
were rumors that Faustina was unfaithful, and that Marcus Aurelius overlooked her
escapades. The Historia Augusta suggests that their son, Commodus, had such a love of
gladiatorial games because Faustina had an affair with a gladiator, though she later
confessed to her husband.31 Though Faustina was supposedly unfaithful, Aurelius was
reportedly aware of Faustina' s importance to the Empire. When Aurelius refused to
28Carson, fig. 178.
29 Keltanen (2002) 131.
30Matidia's daughter, Sabina, did become empress, but Matidia was never an empress she was the niece
of the emperor Trajan and the mother-in-law of the emperor Hadrian. The empress Faustina's child,
Faustina minor, would become empress herself when she married her cousin Marcus Aurelius, another
blood relative of Faustina Maior- the son of her brother by Domitia Lucilla.
31 H1.A., AL4A., 19.2.
punish his wife even though he found out about her affairs, he said: si uxorent dinzittintus,
redda~nus et dotent.32 The dowry, of course, was the Empire.
Faustina's alleged crimes went beyond those of passion: there were rumors that
she was in league with Cassius, who attempted to overthrow the Empire. The Historia
Augusta reports that correspondence from the time acquitted Faustina of the charges, and
that she actually petitioned her husband for lenient treatment of the offenders.33 Dio
Cassius, however, reports the opposite, that Cassius and Faustina actually had plans to
marry after Marcus Aurelius' death so that they could rule, since Commodus would be
too young to assume the throne.34 Dio Cassius also suggests that Faustina may have died
from her own hand to escape punishment for her actions, but concedes that she may also
have died from the gout.35 The Historia Augusta reports that Faustina died in the hills of
mount Taurus in the village of Halala, from a sudden sickness caught while on military
campaign with Marcus Aurelius.36
If there is one pattern that endures through the representation of imperial women
in the writings of Roman contemporaries, it is that the more political power they are
perceived to have, the more they are represented as sexually promiscuous or morally
corrupt. Faustina Maior was relatively protected because of her early death, but Faustina
Minor, because she lived so long and enjoyed the love of her husband, garnered such
attention in spades. The truth of her actions can never be ascertained, but her reputation
3H.A., M. 19.7.
3H.A., 4vidus Cassius, 11.1.
34Dio Cassius, 72.22.
35Dio Cassius, 72.29.
36 H.A., 1A4., 26.4.
among the people, evidence by their dedications, suggests that even if she was unfaithful
and treasonous, the people loved her anyway. It seems unlikely that a society would pay
such honors to an individual who threatened to overturn an extremely popular ruler.
Many honors were conferred upon Faustina Minor at her death. The senate
consecrated her and conferred a temple to her. Dio Cassius relates that the Senate also
did not put to death anyone involved with Cassius,37 and that silver images of Marcus and
Faustina were erected in the temple of Venus at Rome, where an altar was erected for
brides and bridegrooms to offer sacrifices, similar perhaps to the one erected in Ostia for
their parents. Marcus Aurelius also honored his wife: he instituted another program of
Faustinianae, as his father-in-law did for his mother-in-law. Since Faustina died while on
military campaign, he called her the mater castrorum.38 The village where she died
Aurelius made a colony and erected a temple to her there.39 Golden statues of Faustina
were also carried into the theatre on a chair during public festivals.40 In an odd turn of
events, a later emperor, Caracalla, revoked the temple of Faustina and her divine name.
The son of Elagabalus later made it a temple to himself or to Syrian Jove or the Sun.41
4.3.2 Inscriptional Evidence of Worship of Faustina Minor
There is some inscriptional evidence of Faustina' s divinity, but the evidence can
be easily confused with evidence for Faustina Maior, since there is rarely any
differentiation made in inscriptions between the two divae Faustinae. The sacra that
37Dio Cassius, 72.30.
38This title came into importance with Julia Domna.
39 H.A., 4. C. 19.4.
40 Dio Cassius, 72.31.
41 H.A., 4. C., 11.6-7.
definitely belong to Faustina Minor were dedicated to her at Piso by decree of the
decuriones.42 An inscription is found in Rome, probably in a theatre at Tibur, a resort
town, reading diva Faustina phsaltria Procha f Tibert Serot.43 The meaning is not
entirely clear, but it seems a harpist named Procha may have been involved in some kind
of honorary performance to Faustina Minor. An inscription with nearly identical wording
was found in Mutina as well.44 Like her mother, there was also an altar to diva Faustina
Minor, but the specifics are unknown. It is proj ected that it stood where her funeral pyre
stood in the city.4
Two marble bases were found in Rome on which the inscription described two
statues dedicated to diva Faustina, the wife of Antoninus Pius, Faustina the Younger, and
Commodus. One statue was a man in military garb erected in the forum, and another in
civilian garb in the pronaos of the temple of the divus Antoninus Pius.46 This inscription
seems to follow the pattern of older inscriptions of the Julio-Claudian period, when a list
of powerful men was inscribed along with the actual dedication. The main dedicator in
this inscription was Titus Pomponius, who was a friend of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius
Verus. A long list of titles and names follows, capped with the actual dedication of the
statues. This kind of inscription, with the names of all the Augusti from Marcus Aurelius
to Commodus, was erected not necessarily as a tribute to them, but a tribute to the his
relationship with them and his high standing.
42 CIL 11.6323.
43 CIL 6.10139.
44 CIL 11.870.
45 Richardson (1992) 338.
46 CIL 6.41145.
4.3.3 Numismatic Evidence of Worship of Faustina Minor
The images on Faustina' s coinage, more so that that of her mother' s, indicate the
values that were assigned to her as the empress: namely fertility and chastity. Faustina
Minor lived through most of the reign of her husband, Marcus Aurelius, and produced 12
to 13 kids, seven of which were boys, though most of them died as children.47 Her role in
the imperial family was more earthly than her mother's: Faustina Maior lived on as a
deified, idealized woman throughout Antoninus' reign, but Faustina Minor lived as flesh
and blood and mind during Marcus' Aurelius' reign, and her actions were thus able to be
scrutinized by the public. Therefore the imperial family dictated how her role should be
interpreted: as a wife and mother.
Faustina Minor first appeared on coins during her father' s reign, under the legend
FAUSTINA AUG PII AUG FIL. One such aureus bore an image of a dove on the
reverse, under the legend CONCORDIA.48 A similar coin, a sestertius, bore Pudicitia on
the reverse, seated demurely with a veil covering her face.49 Another aureus from
Antoninus' reign shows Venus Genetrix on the reverse, holding a long scepter in her left
hand.'o A denarius from the same time period shows Venus on the reverse, holding an
apple and a rudder with a dolphin coiled around it." When Faustina became Faustina
Augusta and was no longer only referred to as the daughter of Antoninus, the fertility
imagery became more prominent. The reverse of a silver denarius, under the legend
47Keltanen (2002) 136.
48Giacosa, fig. 32.
49 Herbert, fig. 1031.
50Giacosa, fig. 30.
51 Herbert, fig. 1018.
FECUND AUGUSTAE depicts Fecundita~s holding two babies in her arms while
standing between two small girls.52 An aureus struck under Aurelius, depicts Felicita~s on
the reverse, holding two children and standing between four more.53 Finally an aureus
from the reign of Marcus Aurelius shows Cybele between two lions, holding a
tympanum, under the legend MATRI MAGNAE.54 Faustina Minor' s role was extremely
clear: to produce as many heirs as possible.
Faustina Minor' s consecration coins were not as popular as her mother' s,55 but
they held their own distinctions. When Faustina was deified in A.D. 176, one sestertius
in particular bears a strange legend. The obverse is a bust of diva Faustina, but the
reverse depicts Faustina in a biga, under the legend SIDERIBUS RECEPTA, a legend
found on no other woman' s coin.56 An aureus from the same year shows a veiled diva
Faustina on the obverse, and Faustina sitting in front of the standards on the reverse,
under the legend MATRI CASTRORUM,5 the first woman to bear the title.
4.4 Ambiguous Inscriptional Evidence
The inscriptions that do not make distinctions between Faustina Maior and Minor
are mostly sacra dedicated throughout the Empire with no more the inscription than
dive Faustinae or divae Faustinae Augustae. One inscription from Vibo suggests a cult
to diva Faustina, since the military officers there helped paid Quinta, the sacerdos, to pay
52 Herbert, fig. 1041.
53 Carson, fig. 190.
54 Giacosa, fig. 31.
55Mattingly (1948) 149.
56 Carson, fig. 201. I have found no other such coin in my research.
57Carson, fig. 176.
for a dedication.' In Ceccano, the military officers confer a bronze (aes) upon Saesina,
the sacerdos of diva Faustina, ob merits eius.59 Lastly, a silver statue of a man in
gladiatorial outfit (veste gladiat) was erected by the allector college, or the officer in
charge of collecting dues, to diva Faustina. It is not clear what collegium paid for the
statue. It may have been dedicated, though, to Faustina Minor, since she supposedly had
a great love of the games.60
The Faustinae were adored by their husbands and the public alike, and so the
charges of adultery, if true, hardly seem important. The adoration of their husbands
propelled them to divinity, and also made them benefactresses after their death. The
information surviving them does not accord them much by was of personality, but the
identity created for them by the imperial family makes obvious their intended perception:
fertile women who were good mothers and who were faithful to their husbands. Again,
the "truth" of the Historia Augusta was not really revealed in the public image presented
to the Empire: the Faustinae were deified and remembered for the love they had for their
families, just as the imperial family had intended.
The ritual of deification evolves in the Antonine Age from an expected veneration
to one that, while probably anticipated, was welcomed by the Roman people. While the
women of Traj an and Hadrian were worshipped, the amount of inscriptions to them is
considerable only when considering them together. For the Faustinae, though some
inscriptions were ambiguous, there was certainly a good amount between the two women.
59 GIL 10.5656.
61) GL 6.3756.
The deification ofFaustina Maior, in particular, seemed to have some resonance among
the Roman people: perhaps it was the concordia between her and her husband, and the
fact that he never remarried, but the love he had for her manifested itself in the adoration
of the Roman people.
Mattingly suggests that the Imperial cult was becoming "personal religion,"l
based on the feelings of the emperors themselves. It seems, though, especially in light of
the deifications of Drsilla, Poppaea, and Claudia, that the Imperial cult always subsisted
of some kind of personal emotion, pushed upon the Roman public whether or not the
sentiment was shared.
The honor of consecration became an expected honor for the emperor and
empress. Although Livia Drusilla seemed to deserve her consecration, the honor was a
long time coming. By the time of Traj an, the Senate was conferring honors upon women
who seemed to do nothing to merit their deification except remain above public reproach.
The change in attitude towards the honor of consecration was possibly due to the
regularity of its conferral, but also possibly due to the evolving role of women in the
domus Augusta. Livia will always be the quintessential diva. She was the epitome of a
wealthy, well-connected woman in the early principate, and she was the template of
feminine political involvement the other Julio-Claudian women followed. After Livia,
the other Julio-Claudian women were concerned mostly with the preservation of the
Julio-Claudian bloodline, as the principate was concerned with concretizing the wealth
and power of Rome. When the adoptive emperors came to power, the face of the Roman
citizen had changed, due to the expansion of Rome's borders. As men with foreign blood
came to rule Rome, women with foreign blood came to symbolize the height of
femininity in the Empire. Thus, when the Antonines came to power, the importance of
SMattingly (1948) 150.
fecundity and chastity accompanied their rise, together with new hopes of dynasty. The
women of the emperors were used throughout the generations to promote the character
and virtues of the emperor and the principate.
The deification of these women goes beyond "personal religion." The Imperial
cult was a systematized method of connecting the ruling family to the religious and
cultural heritage of the Roman Empire. The imperial women were deified not only to
gratify their mourning husbands, sons, or brothers, but also to present to Rome, along
with the deified emperors, the numina of their Roman identity. The imperial house was a
microcosm of the Roman Empire, and its divine nature made its power and excellence
accessible to worshippers across the globe.
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Rebecca Marie Muich was born on 15 January 1980 to Joseph and Kathryn Muich
in Mobile, AL. She grew up in Fenton, MO, with her brother Joseph and her sister
Rachel. She attended Cor Jesu Academy in St. Louis before moving to Cincinnati, OH,
to attend Xavier University. There she earned an Honor Bachelor of Arts degree and
majored in classics and history. She continued her studies in classics at the University of
Florida, where she will receive her Master of Arts degree in classics in May 2004.