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Marcia Otacilia Severa or Otacilia Severa was the Empress of Rome and wife of Emperor Marcus Julius Philippus or Philip the Arab, who reigned over the Roman Empire from 244 to 249. She was a member of the ancient gens Otacilia, of consular and senatorial rank. Her father was Otacilius Severus or Severianus, who served as Roman Governor of Macedonia and Moesia, while her mother was a member of gens Marcia or was related to the gens. According to sources she had a brother called Severianus, who served as Roman Governor of Lower Moesia in 246–247.

Marcia Otacilia Severa
Otacilia Severa Musei Capitolini MC2765.jpg
Marble sculpture of Otacilia Severa.
Empress of the Roman Empire
SuccessorHerennia Etruscilla
SpouseEmperor Marcus Julius Philippus
  • Philippus II
  • Iulia Severa (or Severina)
  • Quintus Philippus Severus
Full name
Marcia Otacilia Severa
Regnal name
Marcia Otacilia Severa Augusta
FatherGovernor Otacilius Severus
ReligionUncertain, possibly Christian



In 234, Severa married Philip who at that time probably served in the Praetorian Guard under Emperor Alexander Severus and they had three children:[citation needed]

  • Marcus Iulius Philippus Severus or Philippus II (born in 238);
  • Iulia Severa or Severina who is known from numismatic evidence but is never mentioned by the ancient Roman written sources;
  • Quintus Philippus Severus (born in 247).

In February 244, the emperor Gordianus died in Mesopotamia, it is suspected in the sources that he was murdered, and there is a possibility that Severa was involved in the conspiracy. Her husband Philip became the new emperor and he gave his young predecessor a proper funeral and his ashes were returned to Rome for burial.

Philip gave Severa the honorific title of Augusta and had their son made heir of the purple.

Severa and Philip are sometimes considered as the first Christian imperial couple, because during their reign the persecutions of Christians had ceased and the couple had become tolerant towards Christianity but their beliefs have not been proven. It was through her intervention, for instance, that Bishop and Saint Babylas of Antioch was saved from persecution.

In 249, the Danubian armies proclaimed Decius Augustus and in August, Philip died in battle near Verona and Decius became the sole emperor. Severa was in Rome at that time and when the news of her husband’s death arrived, their son was murdered by the Praetorian Guard still in her arms. Severa survived her husband and son and lived later in obscurity.

Silver Antoninianus of Octalia Severa.
On a tetradrachm of Antioch, Syria, struck AD 247.

It is mentioned in the Roan scripts of Malta V.118 of the museum of Valletta that she had set sail to the land of Aliya Shamsan to live in the birthplace of Phillip.[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  • "Otacilia Severa". Antoninianus Presentation. Et Tu Antiquities. 24 February 2010.
  • Sermarini, Joseph T. (15 February 2006). "Otacilia Severa". NumisWiki, The Collaborative Numismatics Project. Forum Ancient Coins.
  • "Otacilia Severa". Forum Ancient Coins. Forum Ancient Coins.
  • Lendering, Jona (24 April 2007). "Otacilia Severa". Livius.Org.
  • "Roman Imperial Coinage of Otacilia Severa". Wildwinds.

Further readingEdit

  • (in French) Minaud, Gérard, Les vies de 12 femmes d’empereur romain - Devoirs, Intrigues & Voluptés , Paris, L’Harmattan, 2012, ch. 10, La vie de Marcia Otacilia Sévéra, femme de Philippe l’Arabe, p. 243-262
Royal titles
Preceded by
Empress of Rome
Succeeded by
Herennia Etruscilla