Pompeia Paulina was the wife of the statesman, philosopher, and orator Lucius Annaeus Seneca, and she was part of a circle of educated Romans who sought to lead a principled life under the emperor Nero. Her husband was the emperor's tutor and later became his political adviser and minister. In 65 CE Nero demanded that Seneca commit suicide, having accused Seneca of taking part in the Pisonian conspiracy against him.
As Pompeia was wife of Seneca, Nero's tutor, it would be expected that she also wanted to die, and she did plan to kill herself. Seneca cut veins in his arms and legs, and Pompeia also slit her wrists, much to Seneca's dismay, though he did not entirely disapprove. Upon learning that she was trying to kill herself, Nero ordered that Pompeia not die, more to save face than to save her life. He sent several soldiers to ensure that her slaves and freedmen bandaged her. Servants then made a tourniquet, her arms were wrapped, and she survived.
After much reconsideration, she decided to follow her dead husband's advice and continue with life, and served as caretaker to her husband's ceremony. However, after the suicide attempt, she was said to have been very frail, with an unusually pale face. She never remarried, and died a few years later. She was therefore always known as "Seneca's wife" because of her devotion to her husband.
- Pompeia Paulina is one of the 106 famous women described by Giovanni Boccaccio as biography XCIV.
- W. Smith, art. Paulina or Paullina (3), in W. Smith (ed.), A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, I, Boston, 1867, p. 141.
- Annals by Tacitus Book XV Chapter 60: The conspiracy of Piso. Death of Seneca
- Annals by Tacitus Book XV Chapter 61: Death of Seneca
- M. Lightman - B. Lightman, art. Pompeia Paulina, in M. Lightman - B. Lightman (edd.), Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Greek and Roman Women: Notable Women from Sappho to Helena, New York, 2000, p. 190.
- Annals by Tacitus, Book XV Chapter 63: Death of Seneca
- Annals by Tacitus Book XV Chapter 64: Death of Seneca
- M. Bunson, art. Paulina, Pompeia, in M. Bunson, Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire, New York, 1994, p. 316.
- Brown, Virginia translation of Giovanni Boccaccio’s Famous Women, pages 196-198; Harvard University Press, 2001; ISBN 0-674-01130-9
- Zaccaria, V., ed., De mulieribus claris (# 94), Studi sul Boccaccio (Milan, 1963)
- Zaccaria, V., ed., De mulieribus claris with Italian translation of biography xciv (Milan, 1967 and 1970)
- Guarino, G. A., Boccaccio, Concerning Famous Women number ninety-four (New Brunswick, N.J., 1963)