Aquilia Severa

Iulia Aquilia Severa, on this coin celebrating Concordia.

Iulia Aquilia Severa was the second and fourth wife of Emperor Elagabalus. She was the daughter of Quintus Aquilius, twice consul under Caracalla. The praenomen of Julia was given to her after becoming an empress.

Severa was a Vestal Virgin and, as such, her marriage to Elagabalus in late 220 was the cause of enormous controversy traditionally, the punishment for breaking the thirty-year vow of celibacy was death by being buried alive.[1] Elagabalus is believed to have had religious reasons for marrying Severa he himself was a follower of the eastern sun god El-Gabal, and when marrying himself to Severa, he also conducted a symbolic marriage of his god to Vesta.[2]

Both these marriages were revoked shortly afterwards, however. This was possibly on the urging of Julia Maesa, the grandmother who had engineered Elagabalus' rise to the imperial throne. Elagabalus then married Annia Faustina, a more generally acceptable choice to the senatorial elite. Within a short time, however, Elagabalus had divorced Faustina and returned to living with Severa, claiming that the original divorce was invalid. It is believed that Severa remained with Elagabalus until his assassination in 222. The two are not believed to have had any children.

Severa's own opinions about the entire affair are not very well recorded. Some sources state that she was forced to marry against her will, and others go further, alleging rape. It is claimed by some historians, however, that many stories about Elagabalus have been exaggerated by his enemies, and so there is no certainty about what actually happened. It is unclear whether Elagabalus had any real feelings towards Severa, or whether he was more concerned with the symbolism of the marriage. Elagabalus also had relationships with men, and the historian Cassius Dio claims that Elagabalus had a more stable relationship with his chariot driver, Hierocles, than with any of his wives.

External links

Media related to Aquilia Severa at Wikimedia Commons


  1. Plutarch, Parallel Lives, Life of Numa Pompilius, 10
  2. Cassius Dio, Roman History LXXX.9
Royal titles
Preceded by
Julia Cornelia Paula
Empress of Rome
Succeeded by
Annia Faustina
Preceded by
Annia Faustina
Succeeded by
Sallustia Orbiana
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