Matriarchal Marketing: The Emperor, The Empress, and The Army

The Mater Castrorum: The Conundrum of Women and the Military

§1.1 With barbarian invasions closing in on all sides and an economic collapse looming overhead, the once mighty Roman military turned its swords against itself during the political turmoil and confusion of the third century CE. In a span of 50 years (235-285), 50 emperors would rise and fall, all of them struggling to piece the empire back together and consolidate their rules. Searching for a way to communicate their desire for political stability, the Roman military spontaneously began to advertise certain Roman empresses as the “Mothers of the Camp.” Before this “Crisis of the Third Century” as some scholars have called the period, the title “Mater Castrorum” was nearly exclusively used by civilians and the imperial administrations, but hardly at all by military units or individual soldiers. Recent scholarship posits that emperors who were promoting their sons to the throne used these titles to advertise the family’s close connection to the military and thus discourage any attempts at a coup d’etat. By doing this, the emperors paved the way for their sons to rule after them, thus creating a stable transfer of power. The fashioning of propagandistic messages to a particular audience implies a far more nuanced method of communication between the emperors and their subjects than scholars had previously imagined (Langford 2013).

§1.2 Building upon previous work, this research investigates uses of the Mater Castrorum title after emperor Septimius Severus’ death. After examining the coinage and inscriptions mentioning this title, I found that the imperial administration seldom employed the title after Julia Domna. Civilian and military populations used it often in their dedicatory and milestone inscriptions. My findings suggest that the nature of ideological negotiations between the imperial administration and various populations shifted dramatically during this period. In this time of “crisis,” the civilians and the military might have been using the title as a means by which to tell the emperors that they wanted a stable, long term ruling family. A long-lasting imperial dynasty could have perhaps been a sign of improvement and recovery to the Emperor’s subjects. Also, the fact that the empire’s subjects were talking back to those on top is a sign of political and social tensions. The Roman empire was more or less a monarchy; It was a top-to-bottom system in which lower classes had very few means by which to talk back to the ruling family. This would make the Mater Castrorum title a means of discourse between the imperial administration and the lower levels of Roman society. I propose that by coopting this title, the military and civilian populations were telling the emperors of the third century CE that they wanted a long-term, stable imperial family, and in return they would give them their support and validate their claims to the empire. This research therefore sheds light on a time period during the later Roman Empire that is not well documented in current scholarship.

§1.3 The Historia Augusta tells us that the emperor Marcus Aurelius lost his wife Faustina the Younger to a sudden illness while in the village of Halala at the foothills of Mount Taurus (HA. Marc., 26.4). The Emperor asked that the Senate deify her and build a temple in her honor, and Aurelius further called her Mater Castrorum because she had accompanied him on military campaigns (HA. Marc., 26.4). This made Faustina the Younger the first empress to receive the title Mater Castrorum and an analysis of previous scholarship and on her must be done.

§1.4 Traditionally, the Romans didn’t have very positive opinions of a woman’s interaction with the army or being on campaign with her husband. Women were expected to stay in the domestic, private sphere while men partook in the public, political sphere: in this dichotomy the army and military functions were definitely in the public sphere. As Boatwright says, women were thought to pollute soldiers and weaken their disciplina militaris with the feminine weaknesses and a love of luxury (2003, 259). The army was a realm solely for men, as soldiers needed to possess virtus, which women could not possess except under extraordinary circumstances (Williams 1991, 133). Virtus, derived from the Roman word for ‘man’, vir, encompasses “a variety of moral traits considered admirable in men” (Williams 1991, 132). Women, on the other hand, have a softness, or mollitia, to them (Williams 1991, 133). Romans feared that if women became involved in with military, their vices would infect the soldiers and effeminize them. Since Roman men possessed virtus, they were destined to exert their imperium over others, but the presence of “womanly vices” women could have prevented this (Williams 1991, 135). When women did get involved with the military, ancient authors expressed their aversion to women’s involvement with the military by turning the women into villains and wicked women.

§1.5 Despite the anxiety and fears of Roman authors, imperial women did find themselves mixing with the military. Agrippina the Elder was a prime example. She was so beloved by the army that just the sight of her fleeing the camp with her children caused the seditious soldiers to wail and lament their deeds (Tac. Ann., 1.40-41). Still, Agrippina’s power over the military also inspired resentment in emperor Tiberius. Also, in the first and second centuries CE there were court cases and law proposals in which senators tried to remove women from the army’s presence (Boatwright 2003, 262-264). To drive the point further home, although ranking soldiers and emperors were allowed to bring their wives on campaign, it wasn’t until the reign of emperor Septimius Severus that legionaries and auxiliaries were even allowed to marry while serving in the military (Boatwright 2003, 265).

§1.6 Faustina the Younger, however, was a Nerva-Antonine woman. The Nerva-Antonine women were important placeholders by whom the imperial line could be traced, as the emperors of this dynasty were adopted and not born to the purple. These women were also advertised more so for their domestic personae than for their public actions (Boatwright 2003, 264). As Boatwright explains, the empresses and imperial women of the early Second Century were “personally retiring and submissive although surrounded by public respect,” in stark contrast to earlier Julio-Claudian women (1991, 537). The emphasis was placed on their subservience to their husbands and their successful performances of the traditional female role (Boatwright 1991, 536-539). If Boatwright’s ideas are kept in mind, however, then what is to be thought of Faustina being called Mater Castrorum?

§1.7 Boatwright sees the granting of the Mater Castrorum to Faustina as a means by which to highlight her maternal and domestic importance to her husband Marcus Aurelius (2003, 253). As the daughter of previous emperor Antoninus Pius, Faustina was important in legitimizing her husband’s claim to the Principate. As Marcus Aurelius’ wife, she produced a biological heir for him, the future emperor Commodus. Langford examined imperial coinage and inscriptions and found no evidence that the title was used by the military, or that it was marketed to it, and was only used sparingly by the Imperial administration (2013, 20). She concludes that the Nerva-Antonine propaganda created the idea that the imperial household and military were closely connected in order to convince the civilian population and any contenders for the throne that such a connection existed. This also would have discouraged any sort of dissent from those against inherited succession or Commodus (2013, 20).

§1.8 Looking more closely to the title itself, some scholars have seen it as evidence of increased militarization in the period of the late second and third centuries CE (Wallinger 1990, 60-61). Levick claims that the reasoning behind the title is that the military had the protection of the empress, showing the connection between the imperial household and the military (2007, 43). Langford’s claims that the imperial administration was using the title to convince the general populace that the imperial family had the military’s support holds up fairly well in the case of Faustina the Younger (2013, 20). This also holds true in Langford’s research on Julia Domna, the next empress to be called Mater Castrorum .

§1.9 Julia Domna was the wife of emperor L. Septimius Severus, a Roman from North Africa. She was prominent for not only being the wife of the emperor but also for being the mother of emperors Caracalla and his brother Geta. Langford found from an analysis of fifty-seven coin hoards from around the Mediterranean that Julia Domna’s coins featuring the title Mater Castrorum are not frequently found in military zones and that the title is found on only very few inscriptions erected by the military (2013, 2, 22). Langford also examined the over seven hundred inscriptions that describe Julia Domna as Mater Castrorum and found that only around 6 percent were erected by the military (2013, 2). Also, less than 1 percent of these are dedicated to her alone; most of them mention her in association with her family (domus) (Langford 2013, 2). In an earlier survey, Kettenhofen found that from a survey of around 450 inscriptions attributed to Julia Domna, the Mater Castrorum title is the second most commonly used title, behind Augusta. He suggested that the title was conventional, echoing imperial propaganda as very few of the inscriptions were erected by the military (Kettenhofen 1979, 79-80). With this information, Langford concluded that instead of being conventional, the civilian populations used the title because they were the target audience of the Mater Castrorum propaganda (2013, 23). Thus, similarly to how the title was used with Faustina the Younger, Septimius Severus was marketing Julia Domna in order to convince the civilian population (or any potential rivals) to support him because he had the military’s backing (2013, 23).

Matres Nummorum—Mothers of the Coins

§2.1 After Julia Domna’s death in 217 CE, the title Mater Castrorum continued to be bestowed to imperial women, albeit in a different political environment. Historians traditionally refer to the period between 235 and 384 CE, as the “Crisis of the Third Century.” Inflation and a lack of precious metals for coinage were crippling the economy and trade was declining. The army was also under-manned, and the principate was changing hands incredibly quickly with some of the so-called “soldier emperors” even making their own splinter empires (Southern 2001, 14-78, 81-102). There wouldn’t be a firm hand controlling Rome until Diocletian became emperor in 284.

§2.2 These “soldier emperors” gained the principate through having the support of the military and in order to keep it, they emphasized their military prowess and their connections to divinities (Smith 2007, 174-175). With this emphasis on military support, the emperors of the third century stopped focusing on gaining the support of the senatorial class; they were no longer the civilis princeps (first among the people) but absolute rulers (Smith 2007, 175).[.1] Some of these emperors emphasized their families, both living and dead, to “demonstrate the potential of longevity and security in [their] reign[s] ,”on coinage (Horster 2007, 297). They also emphasized the virtues and the prosperity of the imperial household through terms such as pudicitia and fecunditas (Horster 2007, 299). Horster adds that these terms also indicated that women had a share in the character of the imperial family, as they were usually paired on coins with imperial women (2007, 299). The title princeps iuventis, leader of the youth, was also used on coins and showed off an heir to the principate (Horster 2007, 299). Horster, however, notes that after Philip the Arab and his son, this title was used in reference to adults (2007, 304).

§2.3 With this context in mind, an examination of the third century empresses, imperial women, and the Mater Castrorum title can begin. Of the 20 imperial women after Julia Domna, Keinast notes that 11 received the Mater Castrorum title (1996, 162-269). Due to the scarcity of literary sources for this period, we know little of these women except for their names. My research was conducted on these empresses that followed Julia Domna. During the third century, evidence suggests that the imperial administration ceased to use the title; instead, civilian and military populations adopted it. This adoption of the title could be a response to the increased militarization and the political and economic instability of the period. This makes the title a means of discourse between the imperial administration and the people of the empire: the military and civilian populations were relating to their rulers what it was they wanted out of the Principate in return for supporting their claims for the Empire.

§2.4 An examination of imperial coinage in the Roman Imperial Coinage (RIC) was conducted in volumes four and five, which feature the rulers of the third century. Coinage was an important medium for Roman imperial propaganda. As Manders notes, because coins were minted uninterruptedly from the third century BCE until the collapse of the Roman Empire, they “are valuable for interpreting the image of imperial power during the course of the third century” (282-283). Manders notes that the imperial iconography on the coinage from this period (which numismatists call “types”) can be divided into four different categories: ‘military representation’, ‘divine association’, ‘ saeculum aureum’ , and ‘virtues’ (2006, 285). Manders determined that 22.5% of the coins, the largest percentage, dealt with ‘military representation’, followed closely by ‘divine association’ with 21.8%. Manders concluded that the political chaos of the period was reflected in the coinage since the emperors often celebrated their military prowess and an association with the divine in order to validate their rule (2006, 285). Manders’ research focused solely on coins featuring the emperors; other members of the imperial family and so called ‘usurper’ emperors were left out of her assessment (Manders 2006, 284).[.2] Thus the imperial women whom we are examining were not included.

§2.5 With Manders’ finding that a majority third century coins featured the theme of ‘military representation’, we might expect that the Mater Castrorum title would appear prominently on coinage since its connotation implies the imperial family’s supposed bond with the military. This turns not to be the case. Surprisingly, only Julia Mamaea, mother of the last Severan emperor Severus Alexander, was identified as Mater Castrorum on imperial coinage. This finding suggests that after Julia Domna and Faustina the Younger, imperial administrations ceased to employ the title even among the civilian populations. With the exception of Julia Mamea, we have no numismatic evidence that the imperial administration was using the title in regards to imperial women. Who then was using the title? Why? And to what target audiences?

Inscriptions from third century CE Rome

§3.1 With the lack of numismatic evidence regarding the Mater Castrorum title and the lack of literary sources from the period, inscriptions give us information we most likely cannot find in either the former or the latter. Keppie says that “Inscriptions…provide details of events not reported at all by Roman historians…[and] cover a wide..socio-economic spectrum of the community, bringing before us a vast number of people who have no place as individuals in the pages of the Roman historians” (1991, 9). The inscriptions themselves can also come in a variety of forms, ranging from marble statue bases to bronze tablets, or even a simple milestone (Keppie 1991, 10).

§3.2 The inscriptions examined in this project were initially found on the Clauss-Slaby Epigraphik-Datenbank ( and were further researched in later publications, such as the l’Anneé Epigraphique. The inscriptions located are specifically ones in Latin, as the Greek inscriptions will be examined at a later date. My investigation located a total of 71 inscriptions featuring the Mater Castrorum title. Of these inscriptions, near 85 percent were found outside of Italy, with concentrations in Africa Proconsularis, Pannonia Superior, and Numidia. Of the 11 third century imperial women who received the Mater Castrorum title, I was only able to find seven with any extant inscriptions. Nearly half of the inscriptions were in honor of the empress Marcia Otacilia Severa, wife of Philip the Arab (figure 1). She will serve as a case study to determine who was using the Mater Castrorum title and under what circumstances it was being used.

Philippus Arabs and Otacilia Severa—Who were they?

§4.1 Otacilia Severa was the wife of Philippus Arabs, or Philip the Arab (figure 2), who became Emperor in 244 CE, after the three Gordians. The Historia Augusta tells us the following about his rise to the purple following the death of Gordian III:

But when he reflected that the Roman people and senate, the whole of Africa and Syria, and indeed the whole Roman world, felt for Gordian, because he was nobly born and the son and grandson of emperors and had delivered the whole state from grievous wars, it was posited, if the soldiers ever changed their minds, that the throne might be given back to Gordian if he asked for it again, and when he reflected also that the violence of the soldiers’ anger against Gordian was due to hunger, he had him carried, shouting protests, out of their sight and then despoiled and slain. At first his orders were delayed, but afterwards it was done as he had bidden. And in this unholy and illegal manner Philip became emperor.

HA. Gord., 30-30.8

Although the Historia Augusta offered biographies for many of the emperors, it only spoke of Philip within the biography of the three Gordians. Even then he was presented as a scheming, immoral man who incited the military into disposing the ‘rightful’ emperor, and then into appointing him as the new one. Later authors do give us more information, but writings on Philip tended to be hostile. Many however, do speak of him as a Christian. Zonaras tells us that “he joined Christians in prayers in a church and there gladly admitted all his sins” (Zonar, 12.19). This, coupled with the facts that Eusebius related that the emperor and his wife received letters from the Theologian Origen and that Philip didn’t persecute Christians, has led to some debate among modern historians as to whether or not Philip and his family were in fact Christians.[.3] However, instead of focusing on this it would be more beneficial to sum up what facts are known about Philip and his family.

§4.2 Eutropius related that Philip reigned during the Ludi Saeculares, or secular games, which took place in 248 CE on the thousandth anniversary of Rome’s founding. This is supported by commemorative coins minted that year (RIC., 4c, [55]). We know that he and Otacilia Severa had a son, Philius II, who would die after the defeat of his father. Philip also made a peace treaty with his Persian enemy Shapur I, an act many Romans and even Shapur himself deemed cowardly (Peachin 1991, 331-332). In the end, Philip and his son died in 249 trying to hold off Trajan Decius, a claimant to the principate, after ruling for only five years.

§4.3 Even less information is known of Philip’s wife, Otacilia Severa. Her year of birth is unknown, but she is known to have a brother Severianus, who was put in charge of troops in Moesia and Macedonia (Zos., 1.19.2). She married Philip the Arab in 238 CE and received the titles Augusta, Mater Castrorum et Senatus et Patriae, and Mater Caesaris sometime after Philip’s rise to the principate in 244 (Keinast 1990, 201). Strangely enough, despite the harsh criticism her husband receives in some sources, Otacilia is barely even mentioned. This is also true in the later sources that supported Philip; she is presented as neither a matrona nor a wicked woman. It appears that following the prominent women of the Severan dynasty, Otacilia Severa had faded into the background and became a “subservient and impotent” woman like those of the Nerva-Antonine dynasty (Boatwright 1991, 513). It also isn’t very clear whether she survived her husband and son’s death after their defeat by Decius (Varner 2001, 52).

§4.4 In regards to imperial propaganda, we do know that Otacilia Severa was often celebrated in a family setting and was lauded for being the mother of Philip’s heir (Varner 2001, 52). She is often paired with her son and husband on coins, and in one particular coin the Concordia Augustorum is praised on the reverse of a coins featuring all three (RIC 102, 261) This emphasis on the imperial family and succession is also seen on coinage. Horster notes that the use of the princeps iuventutis title for Philip’s son Philip II may be a way of “representing a general code for dynasty and security” (2007, 304-305). This title is also found in inscriptions referring to Otacilia Severa as Mater Castrorum.

§4.5 Philip, his son, and Otacilia Severa would all undergo a damnatio memoriae upon their defeat in 249 CE (Keinast 1990, 198-200). Varner notes that this may have been officially sanctioned (2001, 52). The damnatio memoriae is found in some of Otacilia Severa’s Mater Castrorum inscriptions examined for this paper. With the damnationes memoriae, coinage, inscriptions, and imperial portraits were intentionally defaced. In regards to Otacilia Severa, her damnatio memoriae is a “collateral damnation,” in which an imperial woman is condemned because of the condemnation of a close male relative (Varner 2001, 44). A collateral damnatio “confirm[s] the pivotal roles that women played in determining the dynamics of Roman imperial power” (Varner 2001, 86).

Otacilia Severa—A new kind of Mater Castrorum

§5.1 The majority of the inscriptions for Otacilia Severa are found outside of Italy in the provinces, with most of them found in North Africa and the eastern European provinces (figure 3). Otacilia Severa’s inscriptions can be divided into two groups: milestones and honorary inscriptions. A majority of the inscriptions are dedicated to the imperial domus; to Otacilia Severa, her husband Philip the Arab, and their son, Philip II. This puts emphasis on the imperial family instead of solely on Otacilia Severa and suggests that it was the imperial family being revered, not just the empress.

§5.2 Nearly half of the inscriptions appear to be milestones (see figure 4 for example). Milestones are cylindrical columns that were placed along Roman roads at every 1000 paces, or 1481m (4920ft) (Keppie 1991, 65). Milestones also usually feature the name of the builder or the restorer of the road in the nominative case or in the dative case if the milestone is a dedication by a civitates (a city) (Chevallier 1976, 41). Since Keppie notes that in the provinces, road construction was undertaken by the military, it can be assumed that the inscriptions on milestones were erected under the guidance of the emperor (1991, 68). Peachin in his examination of Philip the Arab’s travels from Mesopotamia to Rome posits that milestone inscriptions that feature the emperor’s name in the nominative case “may indicate [his] direct responsibility for the initiation…of roadwork” (1991, 335).[.4] Since a greater part of the inscriptions refer to Otacilia and her family in the dative case, it would mean that these inscriptions were not erected by the imperial administration. This means that whoever was erecting the milestones, it was not the imperial administration referring to her as Mater Castrorum but a different population.

§5.3 It could be that the milestones were being set up by the curatores viarum of provincial cities. Staccioli noted that although the imperial administration and the emperor were responsible for the construction for roads, a curator would be appointed for an indeterminate period of time to undertake maintenance on their assigned roads (2003, 58-59). However, according to Tilburg the curatores viarum only had control over roads in Italy, and that proconsuls, praetors, and legates were in charge of road maintenance in the provinces (2007, 34, 36). Chevallier, though, says that public roads, or viae publicae, were paid for by funds the curators received from the aerarium (1976, 65). Furthermore, the governor of the province was responsible for checking up on the construction or maintenance of the road (Chevallier, 1976, 65). Whoever monitored what was written on milestones, it doesn’t seem likely that the imperial administration would have tight control over what ended up inscribed on milestones.[.5] This seems especially true when taking into consideration the economic and military disturbances of the third century. It would have been hard for an emperor concerned with economic decline, warfare, and securing his own rule to have had time to closely monitor milestone creation and restoration.

§5.4 The use of the dative case in reference to the imperial family is also seen in the honorary inscriptions (see figure 5 for example). The honorary inscriptions pertain to a variety of different things, such as this one from Moesia Superior:

pro salute] / Marciae Otaci/liae Severae / sanctissimae Aug(ustae) / coniugis d(omini) n(ostri) / Phillip(p)i Aug(usti) et / matris Philippi / nobilissimi Caes(aris) / et castrorum / domum suam et baln(eum) / refecit et paravit / Tib(erius) Cl(audius) Marcellinus / eq(ues) R(omanus) Dec. IIID [3] / MAVRVN[3] / DEC V[

For the wellbeing of Marcia Otacilia Severa most holy Augusta wife of our master Philippus Augustus and mother of Philippus the most noble Caesar and of the camp Tiberius Claudius Marcellinus a Roman equestrian remade and prepared his home and bath Dec IIID? [3] MAVRVN [3] DEC V[

CIL 03, 08113 = IMS-02, 00060

What is interesting about this specific inscription is its sheer triviality. This isn’t a case of a freedman honoring his former masters and benefactors; this was an eques, or an equestrian. The fact that it was commemorating the equestrian’s remodeling of his house also doesn’t make this an honorary inscription venerating the creation of a public work such as a bathhouse. It may be a mark of the reduced economic and social circumstances of the elite: they may not have had the funds to dedicate large public works to the imperial family.[.6] We may never know why this man dedicated his own home to Otacilia Severa and Philip the Arab, but it does show that civilian populations had adopted the Mater Castrorum title and were in a way showing the imperial administration how they viewed the empress or how they wanted her to be.

§5.5 There is also an inscription from Pannonia Inferior that warrants a closer look.

Imp(eratori) Caes(ari) / M(arco) Iul(io) Philippo / P(io) F(elici) Invicto Aug(usto) / pont(ifici) maximo / Parthico maximo / trib(unicia) potest(ate) co(n)s(uli) / p(atri) p(atriae) proco(n)s(uli) et / M(arco) Iul(io) Ph[il]i[pp] o / nobilis[si]mo ca[es(ari)] / [et M]ar[ciae] Otaci[l]iae / Severae sanctissimae Aug(ustae) / coniugi Aug(usti) n(ostri) matri / castrorum et exercitus / leg(io) II Adi(utrix) [P(ia)] F(idelis) / Philippiana devota / num[ini m]aiestati/[que eorum] (Lupa 09732)

To Imperator Caesar Marcus Iulius Philippus Pius Felix Augustus Pontifex Maximus Parthicus Maximus with Tribunica Potestas, Consul, Pater Patriae, Proconsul, and Marcus Iulius Philippus Noblissimus Caesar and Marcia Otacilia Severa most holy Augusta wife of our Augustus and Mother of the Camp and the Armies. The Second Legion Adiutrix Pia Felix Philippiana erected this, devoted to their godly power.

Lupa 09732

In this inscription we have an honorary inscription to the imperial family dedicated by the military legion Adiutrix Pia Felix Philippiana. This inscription found near Budapest in Pannonia Inferior is one of three inscriptions mentioning this particular legion that call Otacilia Severa Mater Castrorum. One of the others is a milestone measuring the distance from the city of Aquincum, and the other is another honorary inscription. The fact that the military erected an honorary inscription is a significant break in how the title was used under Faustina the Younger and Julia Domna. The military employed this title despite the fact that the title was not marketed to them when it was first used. Considering the close relationship it implied between the imperial family and the military, it could represent the military’s actual support and desire for a long-term dynasty. Still, if you don’t attribute the milestones to the military, the number of inscriptions erected by the military that refer to Otacilia Severa as Mater Castrorum are less than 1 percent of the 32 total inscriptions found for her. So while there is evidence of the military calling her by the title, it does not seem that it was a very common thing for them to do. If, however, it was the military who erected the milestones, then the military did in fact commonly refer to her as Mater Castrorum. Here is another honorary inscription, this one being dedicated by Porolissum, a city in Dacia. This inscription differs from the others in that it was erected by a city, not just by an individual or a military unit.

[[Marciae Otaci]]/[[liae Severae]] / sanctissimae / Augustae n(ostrae) / [[matri M(arci) Iul(i)]] / [[Philippi]] nobi/lissimi Caesaris / n(ostri) et castror(u)m / res publica / munic(ipii) Septimi / Porol(issensium) ( ILD 00671 = AE 1944, 00054)

To Marcia Otacilia Severa our most holy Augusta mother of Marcius Iulius Philippus most noble Caesar and of the camp. The city of Porolissum, municipium of Septimius (made this)

This inscription, and the others from cities and towns, helps to complete the picture of the different types of honorary inscriptions with the Mater Castrorum for Otacilia Severa; there were many different populations referring to her as Mater Castrorum, not just one. It is important that we find inscriptions from different segments of society as it helps us to compare Otacilia Severa with the earlier empresses who received the Mater Castrorum title. In the cases of Faustina the Younger and Julia Domna, the imperial administration was calling them Mater Castrorum on coinage, but with Otacilia Severa we don’t see the involvement of the imperial administration in calling her by the title. It is being used solely by civilians and the military.

Summarizing the Findings

§6.1 For Otacilia Severa, the majority of the inscriptions referring to her as the Mater Castrorum are found in provinces outside of Italy, specifically in Eastern Europe and North Africa. This may be explained by the fact that during the third century CE many of the so-called “soldier emperors” gained support from legions stationed at the ends of the Roman Empire. This is seen in the rise of Philip the Arab to the principate. He was declared emperor by the Roman troops in North Africa, which could explain why a large percentage of inscriptions are found there (Southern 2001, 71). Philip also fought against the Carpi, Quadi, and the usurper Pacantius in the area around the Danube, so his presence there with his legions could also explain the handful of inscriptions found in Eastern Europe (Southern 2001, 72-73).

§6.2 Otacilia Severa’s inscriptions were dedicated by various groups. Regardless of whether or not the imperial administration kept firm control over inscriptions on milestones, the existence of inscriptions from the military, private citizens, and cities and towns does show that the use of the Mater Castrorum changed from its earlier uses. Instead of the top-down relationship in which the imperial administration used the Mater Castrorum title on coins to be marketed to common Romans, in the third century CE there appears to be much more of a back-and-forth discourse happening. Since the title is found on none of Otacilia Severa’s coinage, it does not seem to have been used by the imperial administration any more. Instead, the title was found solely on inscriptions dedicated by a variety of populations. I posited here that the military and civilian populations are adopting the title in order to relay their desires to the imperial administration. With the empire in a state of economic distress and no long-term imperial dynasty to bring back order, calling the empress the Mater Castrorum may be the way in which the military and civilians expressed their desire for a long term, stable dynasty. It shows the support certain populations had for the current emperor by validating his wife’s dynastic importance, and the anticipation of the younger Philip’s ascension.

Ancient Sources

Modern Sources


Cicero. Pro Caelio. Translated by C.D. Yonge. London: George Bell &Sons, 1891. Accessed February 10, 2013

Cassius Dio. Roman History. Translated by Ian Scott-Kilvert. London: Penguin Group, 1987.

Eutroprius. Breviarium. Translated by H.W. Bird. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1993.

Historia Augusta. Translated by David Magie. Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1921.

Plutarch. Life of Marc Antony. Translated by Ian Scott-Kilvert. London: Penguin Group, 1965.

Suetonius. The Twelve Caesars. Translated by Robert Graves. London: Penguin Group, 2007.

Tacitus Annals of Imperial Rome. Translated by Michael Grant. London: Penguin Grooup, 1996.

Unknown. “Laudatio Turiae.” In As the Romans Did, edited by Jo-Ann Shelton. Oxford:Oxford University Press. 292-294 (1998).

Valerius Maximus. Factorum et Dictorum Memorabilium. Accessed April 21, 2013*.html.

Zonaras. Epitome of Histories. Translated by Thomas M. Banchich and Eugene N. Lane. London: Routledge, 2009.

Zosimus. Historia Nova. Translated by James J. Buchanan and Harold T. Davis. San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1967.

Ando, Clifford Imperial Ideology and Provincial Loyalty in the Roman Empire (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000).

Bauman, Richard A. Women and Politics in Ancient Rome (London: Routledge, 1992).

Bickerman, E.J “Diva Augusta Marciana” AJP 95 (1974): 362-367.

Boatwright, Mary T “The Imperial Women of the Early Second Century A.C.” AJP 112(1991): 513-540.

Boatwright, M. T. “Faustina the Younger: ‘Mater Castrorum’.” In Les femmes antiques entre sphere privee et sphere publique: Actes du diplome d’Etudes avancees, 249–268. Universites de Lausanne et Neuchatel: Peter Lang (2003).

Calabria, P. 1989. “La leggenda ‘Mater Castrorum’ sulla monetazione imperiale.” Miscellanea Graeca e Romana 14: 225–233.

Chevallier, Raymond Roman Roads (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976).

Clark, Gillian “Roman Women” G&R 28(1981): 193-212.

Clark, Gillian “Silence and Roman Women in Greece and Rome” G&R 50 (2003): 132-134.

Dmitriev, Sviatoslav “”Good Emperors” and Emperors of the Third Century” Hermes 132 (2004): 211-224.

Freisenbruch Annelise, Caesars’ Wives: Sex, Power, and Politics in the Roman Empire (London and New York: Free Press, 2010).

Fischler, S. “Social Stereotypes and Historical Analysis: The Case of the Imperial Women at Rome.” In Women in Ancient Societies, edited by L. Archer and S. Fischler, 115–133. New York: Routledge, 1989.

Flory, M. B. “Livia and the History of Public Honorific Statues for Women in Rome.” TAPA 123 (1993): 287–308.

Geer, Russel Mortimer. “Second Thoughts on the Imperial Succession from Nerva to Commodus” TAPA 67 (1936): 47-54.

Greene, Ellen. “Gendered Domains: Public and Private in Catullus” The Erotics of Domination: Male Desire in Latin Love Poetry Edited by Ellen Greene. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. 18-36. Print.

Harvey, Brian K. “Two Bases of Marcus Aurelius Caesar and the Roman Imperial Succession” Historia 53 (2004):46-60.

Hillard, Tom. “On the Stage, Behind the Curtain: Images of Politically Active Women in the Late Republic” in Stereotypes of Women in Power: Historical Perspectives and Revisionist Views, edited by B. Garlick, S. Dixon et. Al, 37-64. New York: Greenwood Press, 1992.

Horster, Mariette. “The Emperor’s Family on Coins (third century): Ideology of Stability in Times of Unrest” in Impact of Empire edited by O. Hekster, G. de Kleijn, D. Slootjes, 291-311. Boston: Brill., 2007.

Keppie, Lawrence. Understanding Roman Inscriptions (Baltimore: American Journal of Philolgy, 1991).

Kampen, Natalie Boyme. “Biographical Narration and Roman Funerary Art” AJA 85 (1981): 47-58.

MacMullen, Ramsay. “Women in Public in the Roman Empire” HZ 29 (1980):208-218.

Levick, B. M. Julia Domna. Syrian Empress (London: Routledge, 2007).

Langford, J. Maternal Megalomania: Julia Domna and the Imperial Politics of Motherhood. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013).

Manders, Erika, “Mapping the Representation of Roman Imperial Power in Times of Crisis” in Impact of Empire, ed. O. Hekster, G. de Kleijn, D. Slootjes, 275-291. Leiden: Brill, 2007.

Matheson, Susan B. “A Woman of Consequence” YaleBull (1992): 86-93.

Mattingly, Harold “The Consecration of Faustina the Elder and her daughter” HTR 41 (1948): 147-151.

Milnor, K. “A Domestic Disturbance: Talking About the Triumvirs in the Early Empire.” In Gender, Domesticity, and the Age of Augustus, 186–238. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Norena, Carlos F “Hadrian’s chastity” Classical Association of Canada Language 61 (2007): 296-317

Oliver, James H. “The Divi of the Hadrianic Period” HTR 42 (1949): 35-40.

Paterson, J. “Friends in High Places: The Creation of the Court of the Roman Emperor.” In The Court and Court Society in Ancient Monarchies, edited by A. J. S. Spawforth, 121–156. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Peachin, Michael. “Philip’s Progress: From Mesopotamia to Rome in A.D. 244.” Historia 40 (3) (1991): 331–342.

Pohlsander, Hans A. “Did Decius Kill the Philippi?” Historia 31 (1982): 214-222.

Pohlsander, Hans A. “Philip the Arab and Christianity” Historia 29, no.4 (1980):463-473.

Roche, P.A. “The Public Image of Trajan’s Family” CP 97 (2002): 41-60.

Smith, Rowland. “The Imperial Court of the Late Roman Empire. C. AD300-c.AD450” in The Court and Court Society in Ancient Monarchies edited by Spawforth, A.J.S., 157-232. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Southern, Pat. The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine (London, Routledge: 2001).

Staccioli, Romolo Augusto. The Roads of the Romans (Los Angeles, Getty Publishing: 2003).

Van Tilburg, C.R. Traffic and Congestion in the Roman Empire (New York, Routledge: 2007).

Varner, Eric R. “Portraits, Plots and Politics: “Damnatio Memoriae” and the Images of Imperial Women” AAR 46 (2001):41-49.

Wallinger, E. Die Frauen in der Historia Augusta. OGA 2 (1990).

Williams, Craig A. Roman Homosexuality: Ideologies of Masculinity in Classical Antiquity (Oxford, Oxford University Press: 1991).

Wood, Susan. “Subject and Artist: Studies in Roman Portraiture of the Third Century” AJA 85 (1981): 59-68.

Wood, Susan. “A Too-Successful Damnatio Memoriae: Problems in the Third Century Roman Portraiture” AJA 87 (1983): 489-496.

Wood, Susan. “Who was Diva Domitilla? Some Thoughts on the Public Images of the Flavian Women” AJA 114 (2010): 45-57.

York, John M. 1972. “The Image of Philip the Arab.” Historia 21 (2) (1972): 320–332.

Leave a Comment