Avidia Plautia

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Anonymous. Portrait of Avidia Plautia. Ca. 136-138. New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University Art Gallery.

Avidia Plautia Nigrini or most commonly known as Avidia Plautia (flourished 2nd century), was a well-connected noble Roman woman. She is among the lesser known members of the ruling Nerva–Antonine dynasty of the Roman Empire.

Plautia was the daughter of the well-connected Roman Senator Gaius Avidius Nigrinus and the unattested Roman noble woman Ignota Plautia. She was born and raised in Faventia (modern Faenza, Italy). Her family was distinguished, wealthy and well-connected.

Her family was friends to the Greek Historian Plutarch, Roman Senator Pliny the Younger, Roman Emperor Trajan and his family. Her family had strong links to Greece, her paternal grandfather an elder Gaius Avidius Nigrinus had served at an unknown date during the reign of Roman Emperor Domitian (81-96) as Proconsul of Achaea. Her paternal uncle Titus Avidius Quietus and her paternal great uncle Tiberius Avidius Quietus had also served as Proconsuls of Achaea. Her family may have been related to the consul Gaius Petronius Pontius Nigrinus, who had served his consulship at the time that the Roman Emperor Tiberius had died in 37. She had two known cousins: a paternal first cousin a younger Titus Avidius Quietus who served as suffect consul in 111 and had a paternal second cousin a younger Tiberius Avidius Quietus, who also served as suffect consul in 111 and later served as Proconsul in two Roman Provinces.

Plautia’s father was executed in 118, on orders from the Roman Senate because he was one of four senators involved in a failed plot to overthrow the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Sometime after her father’s execution, there is a possibility that her mother, Ignota Plautia may have married another Roman Senator.

Before 130 Plautia married the powerful Roman Senator Lucius Aelius Caesar. Aelius was adopted by Roman Emperor Hadrian in 136 as his first heir. Plautia bore Aelius two sons and two daughters who were:

  • Lucius Verus – born as Lucius Ceionius Commodus. He would rule as co-Roman Emperor with Marcus Aurelius from 161 until his death in 169. Lucius Verus would marry Lucilla, the second daughter of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina the Younger.
  • Gaius Avidius Ceionius Commodus – he is known from an inscription found in Rome.
  • Ceionia Fabia – she was 136 engaged to Marcus Aurelius. In 138, when Marcus Aurelius was adopted by Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, Aurelius ended his engagement to Fabia. Aurelius became engaged to Antoninus Pius’ daughter Faustina the Younger, whom he later married.
  • Ceionia Plautia

In early 138, Aelius had died; Hadrian had adopted Antoninus Pius as his second son and heir. On the condition that Antoninus Pius was adopted by Hadrian, Antoninus had to adopt Lucius Verus and Marcus Aurelius as his adopted sons. If Aelius lived long enough to succeed Hadrian and rule as Emperor, Plautia could have been an Empress of Rome.

After the death of Aelius, it is unknown whether if Plautia had remarried. In 136-138, when Aelius was the first adopted heir of Hadrian, three portrait busts were created of her that have survived. These three portrait busts have been identified as Avidia Plautia because of her similar physical similarities to the portrait busts of her son Lucius Verus.

When her son reigned as co-Roman Emperor with Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus had dedicated two honorific inscriptions to his mother. These inscriptions have been found in Rome. The inscriptions honor her as the daughter of Gaius Avidius Nigrinus and the mother of Roman Emperor Lucius Verus. It is unknown whether Plautia lived long enough to see her son co-rule as Emperor.

Nerva–Antonine family tree[edit]

  • (1) = 1st spouse
  • (2) = 2nd spouse (not shown)
  • (3) = 3rd spouse
  • Darker purple indicates Emperor of the Nerva-Antonine dynasty; lighter purple indicates designated imperial heir of said dynasty who never reigned
  • dashed lines indicate adoption; dotted lines indicate love affairs/unmarried relationships
  • small caps = posthumously deified (Augusti, Augustae, or other)


Q. Marcius Barea Soranus Q. Marcius Barea Sura Antonia Furnilla M. Cocceius Nerva Sergia Plautilla P. Aelius Hadrianus
Titus
(r. 79-81)
Marcia Furnilla Marcia Trajanus Pater Nerva
(r. 96–98)
Ulpia Aelius Hadrianus Marullinus
Julia Flavia Marciana G. Salonius Matidius Trajan
(r. 98–117)
Plotina P. Acilius Attianus P. Aelius Afer Paulina Major L. Julius Ursus Servianus
Lucius Mindius
(2)
Libo Rupilius Frugi
(3)
Matidia L. Vibius Sabinus
(1)
Antinous Hadrian (r. 117–138) Paulina
Minor
Matidia Minor Suetonius Sabina
M.
Annius Verus
G. Fuscus Salinator I Julia Serviana Paulina
Rupilia Faustina Boionia Procilla G. Arrius Antoninus
L. Caesennius Paetus L. Ceionius Commodus Appia Severa G. Fuscus Salinator II
Arria Antonia Arria Fadilla T. Aurelius Fulvus
L. Caesennius Antoninus Lucius
Commodus
Fundania Plautia Ignota Plautia G. Avidius
Nigrinus
Antoninus Pius
(r. 138–161)
M. Annius Verus Domitia Lucilla Fundania M. Annius Libo FAUSTINA Lucius Aelius
Caesar
Avidia Plautia
Cornificia MARCUS AURELIUS
(r. 161–180)
FAUSTINA Minor G. Avidius Cassius Aurelia Fadilla LUCIUS VERUS
(r. 161–169)
(1)
Ceionia Fabia Plautius Quintillus Q. Servilius Pudens Ceionia Plautia
Cornificia Minor M. Petronius Sura COMMODUS
(r. 177–192)
Fadilla M. Annius Verus Caesar T. Claudius Pompeianus (2) Lucilla M. Plautius Quintillus Junius Licinius Balbus Servilia Ceionia
Petronius Antoninus L. Aurelius Agaclytus
(2)
Aurelia Sabina L. Antistius Burrus
(1)
Plautius Quintillus Plautia Servilla G. Furius Sabinus Timesitheus Antonia Gordiana Junius Licinius Balbus
Furia Sabina Tranquillina GORDIAN III
(r. 238-244)


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