Publius Acilius Attianus

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Publius Acilius Attianus
Allegiance Roman Empire
Years of service ??–119
Rank Praetorian prefect
Commands held Praetorian Guard

Publius Acilius Attianus (1st – 2nd century AD) was a powerful Roman official who played a significant, though obscured, role in the transfer of power from Trajan to Hadrian.


He was born in Italica, Hispania Baetica, which was also the birthplace of Publius Aelius Hadrianus Afer, the emperor Hadrian’s father. When Afer died about 86, Attianus and the future Emperor Trajan (another native of Italica) became the ten-year-old Hadrian’s guardians. Otherwise nothing is known of Attianus’s early career, but towards the end of Trajan’s reign he was joint Praetorian Prefect with Servius Sulpicius Similis for colleague. While Similis remained at Rome, Attianus accompanied the Emperor on campaign in the East.

On the death of Trajan[edit]

It is rumoured that Attianus and the Empress Plotina had been lovers, with both being mutually fond of Hadrian their ward, and that this was part of how Hadrian became Emperor: Attianus and Plotina were both present at Trajan’s deathbed at Selinus in Cilicia in August 117, and the two helped secure Hadrian's succession by forging Trajan’s will.[1] Along with Plotina and Matidia, Attianus accompanied Trajan’s body to Seleucia and his ashes to Rome.

During Hadrian's reign[edit]

Early in Hadrian's reign, Attianus counselled the emperor on his accession against various possible opponents, and, according to Hadrian’s lost autobiography, was responsible for the murder of the ‘four consulars’ whose deaths were an early stain on his reign. However, the new emperor resented Attianus’s power, and, in 119, induced him to request to be relieved of the post of Praetorian Prefect. Attianus was given senatorial rank and the ornamenta consularia on his retirement, but nothing more is heard of him past that point.

Nerva–Antonine family tree[edit]

  • (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)

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


  1. ^ Simon Hornblower and Anthony Spawforth-E.A. (edd.), Oxford Classical Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 2003, p. 1214.