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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
- (1) = 1st spouse
- (2) = 2nd spouse
- (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)
- 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
- Plutarch's Sertorius: A Historical Commentary. C. Konrad Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994
- Marcus Aurelius, by Anthony Richard Birley, Routledge, 2000
- A dictionary of the Roman Empire By Matthew Bunson – 1995