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Lucius Julius Ursus Servianus

Lucius Julius Ursus Servianus (45–136) was an Iberian Roman politician. He was a prominent public figure in the reigns of Roman emperors Nerva, Trajan and Hadrian. He was the last private citizen to receive a third consulship; such honors came to be reserved for members of the emperor's family.[1]

According to an inscription found, his full name is Gaius Julius Servilius Ursus Servianus, however in Augustan History, he is known as Lucius Julius Ursus Servianus.


Little is known on his origins. Ronald Syme has argued that he was originally named Servius Julius Servianus, suffect consul in 90, and that Lucius Julius Ursus adopted him after that year, leading to a name change; no scholar has spoken against this identification, and it has been considered accepted by all.[2] Before the accession of Trajan in 98, Servianus had married Aelia Domitia Paulina, the elder sister of Hadrian, who was thirty years younger than he was. During Trajan's reign (98-117), Paulina and Servianus had a daughter called Julia Serviana Paulina.

When Nerva died on January 27 98, Hadrian travelled to Germany to find Trajan, to announce the death of Nerva. Servianus tried unsuccessfully to stop Hadrian's travel to Germany, because he was jealous of the favor shown Hadrian by Trajan. However, Servianus and Hadrian reconciled and were for a long time on good terms.

Servianus served twice as consul under Trajan, and once as consul under Hadrian in 134. As a senator he was a very influential and powerful man. Trajan appointed him governor of Germania Inferior for 97-99,[3] and immediately afterwards made him Governor of Pannonia for 99-100,[4] granting him important military commands against Dacia.

Servianus was a friend to the Senator and historian Pliny the Younger; two of Pliny's surviving letters is addressed to him, and Pliny mentions him in two more.[5] Through Servianus' influence, Trajan granted Pliny immunities only usually granted to a father of three, the jus trium liberorum. Before Pliny’s death around 111, Servianus and Paulina had arranged and married their daughter Julia to Gnaeus Pedanius Fuscus Salinator, a man from Iberia who was ordinary consul in 118 as the colleague of emperor Hadrian.[6] Pliny the Younger sent him and his wife a letter of congratulations about their daughter’s wedding.

When Trajan died on August 8, 117, his cousin and adopted son Hadrian became emperor. As Emperor, Hadrian treated Servianus with distinguished honor, considering him to be his first successor. When Paulina died in 130, Hadrian and Servianus shared a private ceremony for her.

For a long time, the emperor Hadrian had considered Servianus as his unofficial successor. As Hadrian's reign drew to a close, however, he changed his mind. Although the emperor certainly thought Servianus capable of ruling as an emperor after Hadrian's own death, Servianus, by now in his nineties, was clearly too old for the position. Hadrian's attentions turned to Servianus' grandson, who was also named Gnaeus Pedanius Fuscus Salinator like his father. Hadrian promoted the young Salinator, his great-nephew, gave him special status in his court, and groomed him as his heir. Servianus, who always cherished the idea that his youthful grandson would one day succeed his brother-in-law, was overjoyed.

However, in 136, Hadrian changed his mind and decided to adopt Lucius Aelius Caesar as his son and heir. Servianus and the younger Salinator were very angry at Hadrian and wanted to challenge him over the adoption. It is possible Salinator went so far as to attempt a coup against Hadrian in which Servianus was implicated. In order to avoid any potential conflict in the succession, Hadrian ordered the deaths of Salinator and Servianus.[7] Ironically, Aelius died before Hadrian in 138, leaving Hadrian to adopt Antoninus Pius.

Nerva–Antonine family treeEdit



  1. ^ Caillan Davenport, "Iterated Consulships and the Government of Severus Alexander", Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, 177 (2011), p. 288
  2. ^ Olli Salomies, Adoptive and Polyonymous Nomenclature in the Roman Empire (Helsinki: Societas Scientiarum Fennica, 1992), p. 51
  3. ^ Werner Eck, "Jahres- und Provinzialfasten der senatorischen Statthalter von 69/70 bis 138/139", Chiron, 12 (1982), pp. 328-330
  4. ^ Eck, "Jahres- und Provinzialfasten", pp. 332-334
  5. ^ Pliny, Epistulae 3.17 and VI.26 are addressed to Servianus; he is mentioned in VII.6.9 and X.2.1
  6. ^ Ronald Syme, "A Dozen Early Priesthoods", Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, 77 (1989), pp. 248-250
  7. ^ Anthony Birley, Hadrian the Restless Emperor, pp. 291-292.
Political offices
Preceded by
Lucius Cornelius Pusio Annius Messala,
and Marcus Cocceius Nerva II

as Ordinary consuls
Suffect consul of the Roman Empire
with Lucius Antistius Rusticus
Succeeded by
Quintus Accaeus Rufus,
and Gaius Caristanius Fronto

as Suffect consuls
Preceded by
Lucius Arruntius Stella,
and Lucius Julius Marinus Caecilius Simplex

as Suffect consuls
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Lucius Licinius Sura II,
followed by Lucius Fabius Justus
Succeeded by
Titus Didius Secundus,
and Lucius Publilius Celsus

as Suffect consuls
Preceded by
Tiberius Claudius Atticus Herodes,
and Publius Sufenas Verus

as Suffect consuls
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Titus Vibius Varus
Succeeded by
Titus Haterius Nepos
as Suffect consul