Judith Weingarten at her blog, Zenobia: Empress of the East, has an interesting post on four Roman women who were proclaimed goddesses by the emperors Trajan and Hadrian. The deification of these imperial women reflects the influence and the social prestige some women enjoyed in Roman society.
Below is a brief excerpt from Judith’s post:
In the early second century CE, the emperors Trajan (r. 98-117) and Hadrian (r. 117-138) made four extraordinary deifications of their imperial women. Trajan started the ball rolling by deifying his beloved sister, Ulpia Marciana (left) immediately after she died in 112. Hadrian, when it was his turn, became a serial deifier. In 119, he made a goddess of Marciana’s daughter, Matidia (who was the mother of his wife), in what must have been, even then, a very rare tribute to a mother-in-law. Next in line for goddess rank was Pompeia Plotina, the dowager empress of the emperor Trajan, raised to the heavens soon after her death in 123. And, some years later, he gave goddess-hood to his own recently deceased wife, Vibia Sabina who died in 136 or 137 — a little more than a year before her husband.
None of these women is much remembered in historical records. In fact, you’d be hard put to find a more obscure group of imperial Roman women in any equivalent period when sources are so (relatively) rich.
Does that mean that they became goddesses despite having done nothing of note?
I enjoyed reading about the role these four interesting women played in Roman society. You can read Judith’s post in its entirety by visiting her blog here.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary