Plancia Magna

Plancia Magna (Greek: Πλανκία Μαγνά) was a prominent woman of Perga in the Roman province of Lycia et Pamphylia who lived in the 1st and 2nd centuries. During her life she was not only a high priestess, but a member of the decurio and a benefactress to the city, funding the restoration of the main city gates between the years AD 119 and 120.

Statue of Plancia Magna

Ancestry, family, and early lifeEdit

Plancia Magna was the daughter of the Roman Senator Marcus Plancius Varus and the Herodian Princess Julia, daughter of king Tigranes VI of Armenia.[1] Her mother became a priestess and served in the temple of the Ancient Greek Goddess Artemis in Perga.

Magna married the Roman Senator Gaius Julius Cornutus Tertullus, suffect consul in 100 with his friend Pliny the Younger. Magna bore Tertullus a son, Gaius Julius Plancius Varus Cornutus.[2]

Activity in PergaEdit

Plancia Magna is an example of a successful and influential woman from Anatolia. From surviving inscriptions mentioning her and her family, it is understood that they were wealthy and influential citizens in Perga. Due to the generosity of Magna, her father and her brother, they were accepted as the second founders of Perga. They each were given the honorific title of Ktistes or "Founder".

In the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian, Plancia Magna funded major civic improvements in Perga.[3] These improvements included restoration of the Hellenistic Gates at Perga, a magnificent structure that was the entrance to the city; a horseshoe-shaped courtyard adorned with a number of statues depicting various members of the imperial family and various Greek and Roman deities. These statues were annotated by a series of inscriptions indicating these were her donations; because Plotina is not referred to as diva these inscriptions should be dated before her death in 122 and after that of Salonia Matidia in 119.[4]

Translated from Latin [first two lines]:

to the genius of the city
Plancia Magna daughter of Marcus

Translated from Greek [last two lines]:

to the fortune of the city
Plancia Magna[5]

Magna held the title of high-priestess of the temple of the ancient Greek Goddess Artemis in Perga, as well as the high-priestess of the imperial cult and the high-priestess for life of the mother of the gods.

Magna was honored by the Boule, Demos and Gerousia of Perga with the honorific title of Demiourgos. The name of person who held this annual title was used to identify the year. Demiourgos was the highest civil servant position in the government of Perga. This title was usually reserved for men and through this title she had sponsored the local games held in Perga.

A surviving inscription on a base from a statue erected by the community of Perga, reveals her position in the city:

Plancia Magna
Daughter of Marcus Plancius Varus
and daughter of the city.
Priestess of Artemis
and both first and sole public priestess
of the mother of the gods
for the duration of her life
pious and patriotic.

When Magna died she was buried in a tomb which is located to the right of the Hellenistic Gates.


  1. ^ Grainger, John D. (2003). Nerva and the Roman succession Crisis AD 96–99. London, New York: Routledge. p. 81. ISBN 0-415-28917-3. OCLC 52012210.
  2. ^ Shelagh Jameson, "Cornutus Tertullus and the Plancii of Perge", Journal of Roman Studies, 55 (1965), pp. 55f
  3. ^ Discussed at length in Barbara F. Caceres-Cerda, "The Exceptional Case of Plancia Magna: (Re)analyzing the Role of a Roman Benefactress" (2018), Master's Thesis (Graduate Center, CUNY)
  4. ^ Jameson, "Cornutus Tertullus", p. 55
  5. ^ AE 1965, 210 = IK-54 90

Further readingEdit

  • Sheila Dillon (2010). The Female Portrait Statue in the Greek World. Cambridge University Press, pp. 155–161. ISBN 978-0-521-76450-6
  • Elaine Fantham, Helene Peet Foley, Natalie Boymel Kampen, Sarah B. Pomeroy & H. Alan Shapiro (1995). Women in the Classical World: Image and Text, Oxford University Press, pp. 363, 364f. ISBN 9780195098624
  • Charles Gates (2003). Ancient Cities: the Archaeology of Urban Life in the Ancient Near East and Egypt, Greece and Rome, Routledge. ISBN 0415121825

External linksEdit