Vibia Sabina

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Vibia Sabina
Vibia Sabina (Villa Adriana) 01.jpg
Statue of Vibia Sabina (Villa Adriana, Tivoli)
Empress of the Roman Empire
Reign117 - 136/137
Rome, Roman Empire
Full name
Vibia Sabina
Regnal name
Vibia Sabina Augusta
FatherLucius Vibius Sabinus
MotherSalonia Matidia
Bust of Vibia Sabina (Prado, Madrid)
Roman imperial dynasties
Nerva–Antonine dynasty (AD 96–192)
Nerva 96–98
Trajan 98–117
Hadrian 117–138
Antoninus Pius 138–161
Lucius Verus 161–169
Marcus Aurelius 161–180
Commodus 177–192
Preceded by
Flavian dynasty
Followed by
Year of the Five Emperors

Vibia Sabina (83–136/137) was a Roman Empress, wife and second cousin once removed to Roman Emperor Hadrian. She was the daughter of Matidia (niece of Roman Emperor Trajan) and suffect consul Lucius Vibius Sabinus.

Early life[edit]

After her father's death in 84, Sabina, along with her half-sister Matidia Minor, went to live with their mother's mother, Marciana. They were raised in the household of Trajan and his wife Plotina.

Sabina married Hadrian in 100, at the empress Plotina's request. Hadrian succeeded her great uncle in 117. Sabina's mother Matidia (Hadrian's second cousin) was also fond of Hadrian and allowed him to marry her daughter.


Sabina accumulated more public honors in Rome and the provinces than any imperial woman had enjoyed since the first empress, Augustus’ wife Livia. Indeed, Sabina is the first woman whose image features on a regular and continuous series of coins minted at Rome. She was the most traveled and visible empress to date.[1] In 128, she was awarded the title of Augusta.

Sabina is described in the poetry of Julia Balbilla, her companion, in a series of epigrams on the occasion of Hadrian's visit to Egypt in November of 130. In the poems, Balbilla refers to Sabina as "beautiful" and "lovely."


Sabina is rumored to have had an affair with Suetonius, a historian who was Hadrian's secretary, in the year 119,[2] which resulted in his dismissal as the Emperor's secretary.[3] Meanwhile, her husband was thought to be more sexually interested in his favourite Antinous and other male lovers, and he and Sabina had no children.


Vibia Sabina died before her husband, some time in 136 or early 137.[4] There is a strong ancient tradition that Hadrian treated his wife little better than a slave, and may have driven her to suicide.[1] Hadrian's stone elegy for his wife "depicts the apotheosis, or divine ascent of Sabina in accordance with her posthumous deification on the order of Hadrian."[5]

See also[edit]

Nerva–Antonine family tree[edit]


  1. ^ a b Brennan, Corey (2018). Sabina Augusta. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190250997.
  2. ^ Historia Augusta 11.3
  3. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Suetonius Tranquillus, Gaius" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  4. ^ Opper, Thorsten. Hadrian: Empire and Conflict, Harvard University Press, 2008, p. 205. ISBN 0-674-03095-8
  5. ^ Annelise Freisenbruch, Caesars’ Wives: Sex, Power, and Politics in the Roman Empire (London and New York: Free Press, 2010), 170.

Further reading[edit]

  • (in French) L’Harmattan, La vie de Sabine, femme d’Hadrien, in Minaud, Gérard, Les vies de 12 femmes d’empereur romain – Devoirs, Intrigues & Voluptés , Paris, 2012, pp. 169–188.
  • Brennan, Corey T., Sabina Augusta: An Imperial Journey, Oxford, 2018, ISBN 978-0190250997

External links[edit]

Royal titles
Preceded by
Pompeia Plotina
Empress of Rome
Succeeded by
Annia Galeria Faustina