Fabia was the first-born daughter to the Roman Senator Lucius Aelius Caesar and Avidia Plautia. Her father from 136-138, was the first adopted heir and successor of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (117-138). Fabia had three siblings: a sister Ceionia Plautia and two brothers: the Roman Emperor Lucius Verus who co-ruled with Marcus Aurelius from 161-169 and Gaius Avidius Ceionius Commodus. Her cognomen Fabia reveals that her father was related to the gens Fabius. However, whom she was named after from the gens Fabius is unknown. Fabia was born and raised in Rome.
Her maternal grandparents were the Roman Senator Gaius Avidius Nigrinus and the unattested noblewoman Ignota Plautia. Although her adoptive paternal grandparents were the Roman Emperor Hadrian and Roman Empress Vibia Sabina, her biological paternal grandparents were the consul Lucius Ceionius Commodus and noblewoman Aelia or Fundania Plautia.
Sometime in 136 after Hadrian announced that her father was to be the Emperor’s official heir, on the wishes of Hadrian, the emperor betrothed Fabia to Hadrian’s great-nephew Marcus Aurelius. Although Fabia and Aurelius became engaged, the engagement did not survive Hadrian; immediately after the emperor's death, Antoninus Pius, Hadrian's second adopted son and the new emperor, approached Marcus and requested that his marriage arrangements be amended: Marcus' betrothal to Ceionia Fabia would be annulled, and he would be betrothed to Faustina, Antoninus' daughter, instead. Faustina's betrothal to Ceionia's brother Lucius Commodus would also have to be annulled. Marcus consented to Antoninus' proposal.
Fabia later married the nobleman Plautius Quintillus who came from a family of consular rank. During the reign of Antoninus Pius (138-161), Quintillus served as an ordinary consul in 159. Fabia bore Quintillus a son called Marcus Peducaeus Plautius Quintillus who later married Annia Aurelia Fadilla, one of the daughters of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina the Younger.
Throughout the Roman Empire, various honorific inscriptions have survived being dedicated to Fabia and her family. These inscriptions honor Fabia as the mother of Marcus Peducaeus Plautius Quintillus; the sister of Roman Emperor Lucius Verus and the sister-in-law of Empress Lucilla (the second daughter of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina the Younger, who was one of the sisters of Fadilla). According to an inscription found at Ephesus, Fabia was present when Lucius Verus married Lucilla.
It appears by 175 her husband had died. When Faustina the Younger had died in 175, Fabia was said to have attempted to interest Marcus Aurelius in a second marriage. However, Marcus Aurelius preferred to take a mistress, who was a daughter of one of Faustina’s procurators.
Nerva–Antonine family tree
- (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)
- From Tiberius to the Antonines: a history of the Roman Empire AD 14-192, by Albino Garzetti, 1974
- Cassio Dione e l'impero romano da Nerva ad Antonino Pio: alla luce dei nuovi by Guido Migliorati, 2003 – Italian Historical Secondary Source
- The Cambridge ancient history, Volume 11 By Alan K. Bowman, Peter Garnsey, Dominic Rathbone Limited preview - Edition: 2 - Item notes: v. 11 – 2000
- Marcus Aurelius, by Anthony Richard Birley, Routledge, 2000
- HA Marcus 6.2; Verus 2.3–4; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 53–54.