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Vibia Sabina and Hadrian – fictitious marriage?

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Vibia Sabina
Vibia Sabina | Photo: Flickr: Vibia. By Iessi, October 10, 2006.

Some say that Vibia Sabina was a wife who could follow Hadrian into the fire. Others hypothesize that she deliberately terminated her pregnancy so as not to bear the child of a man who preferred men.

She was born around 83 CE. It is known that Sabina’s mother Matidia was related to emperor Trajan, and her father Lucius Vibius Sabinus was a high-ranking senator. She was also a distant cousin of her future husband, Hadrian. She grew up at the imperial court.

Around the year 100, she became the official consort of the emperor, at the request of his adoptive mother, Empress Plotina. She soon found out that she would not stay in the emperor’s heart for long. She lost the fight for his affection for Hadrian’s lover, Antinous. Due to the emperor’s homosexual inclinations, the marriage with Sabina remained childless.

She went down in history as one of the most engaged women in the affairs of the state. She loved to travel. Together with the emperor, she literally traveled the empire: from Britain to the eastern territories. Some historians believe that this is a sign of great attachment to the spouse, and perhaps even affection. She was also the most honored empress since Livia, wife of Augustus.

Her image was preserved in poems from this period, and the mention of the historian Suetonius deserves attention. He was reportedly relieved of his duties as imperial secretary because of his close relationship with the empress. But these are just rumors.

Sabina died before her husband, probably around 136 CE. Posthumously, at the request of Hadrian, the senators included her among the gods, giving her the title of Diva Augusta, which is visible on later coins from the period of his reign.

To this day, Hadrian and Sabina are considered one of the most exemplary couples of the Empire, although there are many supporters of the theory that it was a fictitious marriage, created for the needs of the image of the Empire.

Author: Joanna Morgan (translated from Polish: Jakub Jasiński)
  • A. Krawczuk, Poczet cesarzowych Rzymu

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