Julia Avita Mamaea

Julia Avita Mamaea (14 or 29 August after 180–235) was a Syrian noble woman and a Roman regent of the Severan dynasty. She was the mother of Roman Emperor Alexander Severus and served as regent of Rome during his minority, de facto during his reign and even became a partner in his rule at the end of his reign. Mamaea herself was the one of the few ancient Roman women in Roman history to equally share the power of running the entire empire with Roman Emperor legally and enjoyed equal honors with the emperor.

Julia Mamaea
Julia Avita Mamaea Louvre Ma3552.jpg
Bust of Julia Mamaea, Louvre
BornAfter 180 AD
Emesa, Syria
Died235 AD
Germania Superior
IssueAlexander Severus
Full name
Julia Avita Mamaea
Regnal name
Julia Avita Mamaea Augusta
FatherGaius Julius Avitus Alexianus
MotherJulia Maesa


Antoninianus of Julia Maesa
Antoninianus of Julia Mamaea

Julia Avita Mamaea was the second daughter of Julia Maesa, a powerful Roman woman of Syrian origin, and Syrian noble Gaius Julius Avitus Alexianus. She was a niece of empress Julia Domna, emperor Lucius Septimius Severus, and sister of Julia Soaemias Bassiana. She was born and raised in Emesa (modern Homs, Syria).

Julia's first husband was a former consul (whose name is unknown) who died. Julia married as her second husband Syrian Promagistrate Marcus Julius Gessius Marcianus.[1] Julia bore two children during her marriage to Marcianus, a daughter Theoclia and a son, Marcus Julius Gessius Bassianus Alexianus, later emperor Alexander Severus. Perhaps she may have had an elder son called Marcus Julius Gessius Bassianus.[2] Unlike her sister, Julia was described as virtuous and reportedly never involved in scandals. Julia was attentive to the education of her son, Alexander, whom she prepared adequately for becoming emperor of Rome. Alexander thought much of his mother's advice and followed what she told him to do.[3]

Regency of AlexanderEdit

Bust of Julia Mamaea, Pushkin Museum

As a member of the Imperial Roman family, she watched closely the death of her cousin Caracalla and the ascent to power of her nephew Elagabalus, the oldest grandson of Julia Maesa and her choice to the throne. Eventually Elagabalus and his mother Julia Soaemias proved incompetent rulers and favor fell on Alexander, Julia's son. He became emperor in 222, following Elagabalus' murder by the Praetorian Guard. Julia and her mother became regents in the name of Alexander, then 14 years old. He never managed to escape her maternal domination, but at first Julia ruled very effectively. She reversed all Elagabalus' scandalous policies, chose 16 distinguished senators as advisers and relied heavily on the famous Lawyer Ulpian, who was also from Syria. Ulpian was made head of the Praetorian Guard. However, he was unable to control the Praetorians and was murdered by them in 228. Upon adulthood, Alexander confirmed his esteem for his mother and named her consors imperii (imperial consort or Partner in rule). It was in this condition that she accompanied her son in his campaigns: a honor and custom started with Julia Domna, Like her aunt, she also held many positions, including: Augusta, mater Augusti nostri et castrorum et senatus et patriae (empress, mother of our Lord, the emperor, the camp, the senate and the country) All these official titles and honors allowed her to utilise the imperial powers like her aunt and mother.

Meanwhile, Julia had become jealous of her son's wife, Barbia Orbiana, whom Alexander married in 225, and whose father had been made Caesar or co-ruler. Julia had Barbia expelled from the palace and had her father executed. Julia called on Origen, the Alexandrian Christian leader, to provide her with instructions in Christian doctrine.[4]


After an inconclusive expedition to repel a Persian invasion in 232, mother and son went north to deal with a German attack. Alexander so alienated the Rhine legions by his lack of military prowess and his inflexibility towards pay demands that the troops proclaimed Maximinus Thrax as emperor in 235.[5] Troops sent to kill Alexander found him clinging to his mother in a tent. Mother and son were butchered together, ending the Severan dynasty.[6]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Birley, Anthony Richard (1999). Septimius Severus: the African emperor. Routledge. p. 222. ISBN 978-0-415-16591-4. Retrieved 2010-01-18.
  2. ^ Birley, Septimius Severus: The African Emperor, p.217&222
  3. ^ A Cyclopedia of Female Biography, Julia Mamea, Henry Gardiner Adams, editor, Kessinger Publishing, 2007, Pg. 426.
  4. ^ The Emergence of Christianity, Cynthia White, Greenwood Press, 2007, Pg. 14.
  5. ^ Herodian, 6:8
  6. ^ Herodian, 6:9

External linksEdit