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Oct 11, 2012

Aquilia Severa: the vestal who married an emperor.

Aquilia married the emperor Elagabalus in 220. Her father Quintus Aquilius was twice consul under Caracalla. The marriage was a sacrilege since she was a Vestal Virgin and the punishment for breaking the vow of celibacy was death (guilty Vestals were buried alive).
Elagabalus might have conceived the marriage for religious reasons: as a follower of the eastern cult of the Sun god El- Gabal he desired a symbolic union to Vesta.
Severa was repudiated only one year after the marriage probably for the lack of a heir. The emperor remarried (Annia Faustina who descended from Marcus Aurelius). But this marriage lasted less than one year. He returned to Severa claiming their divorce was not valid. It is believed she remained with Elagabalus till his assassination in 222.
Some literary sources state she was obliged to marry him, other go further alleging rape. Probably many stories about Elagabalus may have been exaggerated by his enemies. We don’t know whether Elagabalus had any feelings towards Severa. He appears to have been either homosexual or bisexual: the historian Cassius Dio claims that Elagabalus had a more stable relationship with his chariot driver Hierocles than with any of his wives.
Between 219 and 222 Elagabalus married and divorced four times!

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