Julius Avitus

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Julius Avitus[1][2] also known by his full name Gaius Julius Avitus Alexianus[3] (died 217[3]) was a Syrian nobleman who had an impressive Roman military and political career.

Background and career[edit]

Although Alexianus was a Roman citizen who was born and raised in Emesa (modern Homs, Syria), little is known on his origins. It has been assumed that Alexianus was born in c. 155.[4] What is known about him is from surviving inscriptional and Roman historical evidence. Through marriage he was a relation to the Royal family of Emesa and the ruling Severan dynasty of the Roman Empire.

He was an Equestrian officer[5][3] serving as a Prefect and Tribune in the Roman military. Alexianus after served as a Procurator of the food supply in Rome, being stationed in Ostia.[4]

Later he was promoted to the Senate by the Emperor Septimius Severus, his brother-in-law.[3] Having entered the Senate with the rank of Praetor in 194,[4] Alexianus was made Legatus in the Legio IV Flavia Felix[5] and later served as Proconsul of Raetia,[3] which may be dated to 196/197.[4] During his proconsulship of Raetia, he dedicated an altar to the Emesene God Elagabalus.[5] The altar and its inscription, still intact, mentions him as a priest of the deified Emperor Titus.[4]

Alexianus served as consul in 200,[5] even perhaps as early as 198 or 199.[4] After his consulship, Alexianus was not appointed to further military or political positions, probably due to the enmity of the Praetorian prefect Gaius Fulvius Plautianus.[5] After the death of Plautianus in 205, Alexianus took part in Septimius Severus’ expedition in Britain where he acted as a Comes (Companion) to the emperor[3] from 208 until 211.[5]

Under Septimius Severus’ successor Caracalla, for two years Alexianus served as a Prefect of the Italian orphanages.[4] He served as a Legatus in Dalmatia in c. 214[5] and later as a Proconsul in Asia[3] and in Mesopotamia.[2] In 216–217, Alexianus became a comes to Caracalla on his campaign against the Sassanid Empire.[5] He died from old age on his way to Cyprus, sent there by Caracalla in early 217 to act as an advisor to the Governor.[4]

Marriage and issue[edit]

Alexianus married the Syrian noblewoman Julia Maesa,[5] the first daughter of Gaius Julius Bassianus, a high priest of the Temple of the Sun. The temple was dedicated to the Syrian Aramaic Sun God El-Gebal (counterpart to the Phoenician Baal) in Emesa. The younger sister of Maesa was Septimius Severus' empress Julia Domna,[3] who was the mother of the emperors Caracalla and Publius Septimius Geta.

Maesa bore two distinguished daughters[3] to Alexianus who were born and raised in Syria:

Among his grandchildren were the emperors Elagabalus (born as Sextus Varius Avitus Bassianus) and Alexander Severus (born as Marcus Julius Gessius Bassianus Alexianus).[2]


  1. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History, 78(79).30.2
  2. ^ a b c Julius Avitus’ article at ancient library Archived 2011-08-05 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hazel, Who's who in the Roman World, p. 34
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Gaius Julius Avitus Alexianus’ article at Livius.org
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Birley, Septimius Severus: The African Emperor, p. 223


External links[edit]