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This Week In History

Domitia Longina – February 11, 50-55 AD

Domitia Longina was born on February 11, but in which year is unclear – sources place it between 50-55 AD. Although not much is documented about her before her marriage to the Roman emperor, Domitian, in 71, her lineage is well connected. Domitia was the youngest daughter of Nero’s most renowned general, Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo and his wife, Cassia Longina. She was also the direct descendant of Augustus through her mother’s side, as a great-great-great-great-granddaughter. As such, she was one of the last living members of the Julian line.

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Domitia Longina

Domitia’s father was not only an accomplished general, he was also a senator and consul under Caligula. During the reigns of Claudius and Nero, Corbulo conducted military campaigns in Parthia and Germania. However, black clouds formed over the family name when it was connected with the Pisonian Conspiracy in 65, against then emperor Nero. Corbula was forced to commit suicide in 66 as a result. Fortunately for Domitia, she still had her mother’s side going for her and sometime before 70, she was married to senator Lucius Lamia Aemilianus.

Nero committed suicide on June 9, 68 and the Roman Empire would then try to survive through a civil war over the next year, which would see four more emperors claim the throne, eventually with Vespasian the victor. Vespasian had two sons, Titus and Domitian. Titus was already married to Marcia Furnilla, but Domitian was single when their family came to power. Vespasian wanted to establish the new Flavian Dynasty, showing a clean break from the Julio-Claudian predecessors. Vespasian intended for Domitian to marry his niece, Julia Titi, but Domitian had already met and fallen in love with the still-married Domitia Longina. Domitian convinced Aemilianus to divorce Domitia and he married her while in his late teens in 70.

Domitian and Domitia remained married for about 13 years, during which two children were born. Since Domitia was declared Augusta in 82, the daughter was most likely born in that year and the son in the following. Neither child lived very long and their names are both unknown. The son, however, was deified and appears on some issues of coins. Domitian divorce and had Domitia exiled around 83 over an affair she was having with an actor named Paris (a different Paris than the actor executed by Nero). Although the affairs of Domitia were widely rumored, supposedly to have included Titus himself, Domitian wasn’t exactly faithful, despite having four of the six Vestal Virgins executed for incest and affairs. At the time, Domitian was openly associated with his niece, Julia Titi, and after the divorce moved in with her. Titus died in 81, leaving Domitian the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. Although technically a common-law marriage, and the couple acted as husband and wife, they were never actually married. Soon after Julia Titi died in 90 or 91 (sources vary) during a botched abortion (very likely a child of Domitian), Domitian recalled Domitia from exile to the palace and they renewed their relationship. This action would prove to be his downfall, as Domitia allegedly would be part of the plot in 96 in which Domitian was murdered. Domitia would go on, quite wealthy, to live to be around 90 years old, when she finally died around 140 AD, during the reign of Antoninus Pius.

 

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