Julia Domna


Julia Domna was the Syrian wife of Septimius Severus, and the mother of Caracalla and Geta. During the reign of her husband, she achieved great influence in Rome due to her intelligence and political instincts. Her sister Julia Maesa resided with her in Rome during most of her reign as empress, and also achieved great influence at court.

In the rivalry between her sons Caracalla and Geta, Julia Domna tried as far as possible to be neutral, but favored Geta. Caracalla treacherously played upon her trust to arrange a private meeting at which he murdered Geta with his own hand, leaving his brother to die in his mother's arms. In spite of this outrage, Julia managed to survive the ensuing purge of Geta's supporters, and retained her rank at court throughout Caracalla's reign. She killed herself by starvation soon after he was assassinated in 217 A.D.

Julia Domna was the first and foremost of the four Severan Julias, that held great sway during the entire Severan dynasty, which lasted from the accession of Septimus Severus in 193 A.D. to the death of Alexander Severus in 235 A.D. The other three were Julia Maesa, sister of Julia Domna, and her two daughters Julia Soaemias, the mother of Emperor Elagabalus (218-222 A.D.), and Julia Mamea, mother of Alexander Severus (222-235 A.D.). From Caracalla on, all of the Severan Emperors were very young men, much under the sway of their mothers and aunts. The Severan dynasty was largely a dynasty of these remarkable Syrian women. Although the reign of Elagabalus was fairly wretched, due to the young man's notable vices, the reign of his cousin Alexander Severus, was fairly exemplary, and a credit to his mother Julia Mamea.

Key events during the life of julia3:

Married Septimius Severus.
Birth of Caracalla.
Birth of Geta.
Elevation of Severus to imperial throne.
  Gained great influence in Rome, during long absences of Severus.
Downfall and death of Plautianus, her rival for power.
Death of Severus. Elevation of Caracalla and Geta.
Caracalla murders Geta; Julia Domna is forbidden to grieve.
Domna's sister, Julia Maesa, returns to Syria with daughters.
Caracalla is assassinated. Julia Domna commits suicide.
Julia Maesa conspires to place grandson Elagabulus on imperial throne.
Daughters of Julia Maesa arrange for Alexander Severus to succeed Elagabulus.

Short Biography
Septimus Severus Seized Imperial throne after the death of Commodus. Put down many rebellions.
Caracalla Brutal and iron-fisted emperor. Murdered brother Geta. Built "Baths of Caracalla."
Geta Son of Julia Domna. Murdered by Caracalla.
Plautianus Commander of praetorians. Administered empire when Severus was in East.
Julia Maesa Sister of Julia Domna, grandmother of Emperors Elagabalus and Alexander Severus.
Julia Soaemias Niece of Julia Domna; mother of Elagabalus, and power behind the throne.
Julia Mamaea Niece of Julia Domna; mother of Alexander Severus, and power behind the throne.