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Marble statue of Lucilla depicted as Ceres, 150–200 AD (Bardo National Museum, Tunisia)
Empress consort of the Roman Empire
Tenure 164 – 169
(alongside Faustina the Younger)
until executed by Commodus for treason
Born March 7, between 148 and 150
Rome, Roman Empire
Died 182 (aged 32–34)
Capri, Roman Empire
Spouse (1) Lucius Verus
(2) Claudius Pompeianus
Issue Aurelia Lucilla, Lucilla Plautia,
Lucius Verus, Pompeianus
House Nerva–Antonine Dynasty
Father Marcus Aurelius
Mother Faustina the Younger
Roman imperial dynasties
Antonine Dynasty
Antoninus Pius
   Natural - Faustina the Younger, also one other daughter and two sons, all died before 138
   Adoptive - Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus
Marcus Aurelius with Lucius Verus
Marcus Aurelius alone
   Natural - 13, including Commodus and Lucilla

Annia Aurelia Galeria Lucilla or Lucilla (March 7, 148 or 150–182) was the second daughter and third child of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Roman Empress Faustina the Younger and an elder sister to future Roman Emperor Commodus. Commodus ordered Lucilla's execution after a failed assassination and coup attempt when she was about 33 years old.


  • Early life 1
  • Marriages and ascension to Empress 2
  • Rise of Commodus 3
  • Plot to assassinate Commodus 4
  • In popular culture 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • Nerva–Antonine family tree 9

Early life

Born and raised in Rome into an influential political family, Lucilla was a younger twin with her elder brother Gemellus Lucillae, who died around 150. Lucilla’s maternal grandparents were Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius and Roman Empress Faustina the Elder and her paternal grandparents were Domitia Lucilla and praetor Marcus Annius Verus.

Marriages and ascension to Empress

In 161, when she was between 11 and 13 years old, Lucilla's father arranged a marriage for her with his co-ruler Lucius Verus.[1] Verus, 18 years her senior, became her husband three years later in Ephesus in 164. At this marriage she received her title of Augusta and became a Roman Empress.[2] At the same time, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus were fighting a Parthian war in Syria.

Lucilla and Lucius Verus had three children:

  • Aurelia Lucilla was born in 165 in Antioch
  • Lucilla Plautia
  • Lucius Verus

Aurelia and the boy died young.[3]

Lucilla was an influential and respectable woman and she enjoyed her status. She spent much time in Rome, while Verus was away from Rome much of the time, fulfilling his duties as a co-ruler. Lucius Verus died around 168/169 while returning from the war theater in the Danube region, and as a result, Lucilla lost her status as Empress.[2]

Lucilla depicted as Venus, 166-169 CE

As an unattached link to Emperor Aurelius and to the late co-Emperor Verus and because of her royal-born offspring, Lucilla was not destined for a long widowhood, and thus, a short time later, in 169, her father arranged a second marriage for her with Tiberius Claudius Pompeianus Quintianus from Antioch. He was a Syrian Roman who was twice consul and a political ally to her father, but Lucilla and her mother were against the marriage as a less than ideal match, partly because Quintianus was at least twice Lucilla's age, but also because he was not of her own Roman nobilis social rank though he was descended from rulers in the East.[2] They married nonetheless and, about a year later, in 170, Lucilla bore him a son named Pompeianus.

Rise of Commodus

In 172, Lucilla and Quintianus accompanied Marcus Aurelius to Vindobona (now Vienna) in support of the Danube military campaign and were with him in March 17, 180, when Aurelius died and Commodus became the new emperor. The change meant that any hope of Lucilla becoming Empress again was lost and she and Quintianus returned to Rome.

Lucilla was not happy living the quiet life of a private citizen in Rome, and hated her sister-in-law Bruttia Crispina. Over time, Lucilla became very concerned with her brother Commodus' erratic behaviour and its resulting effect on the stability of the empire.[2]

Plot to assassinate Commodus

In light of her brother's unstable rule, in 182 Lucilla became involved in a plot to assassinate Commodus and replace him with her husband and herself as the new rulers of Rome.[2] Her co-conspirators included Tarrutenius Paternus, the head of the Imperial Guard, her daughter Plautia from her first marriage, a nephew of Quintianus also called Quintianus, and her paternal cousins, the former consul Marcus Ummidius Quadratus Annianus and his sister Ummidia Cornificia Faustina.[4]

Quintianus’ nephew, brandishing a dagger or sword, bungled the assassination attempt trying to kill Commodus. As he burst forth from his hiding place to commit the deed, he boasted to Commodus "Here is what the Senate sends to you", giving away his intentions before he had the chance to act. Commodus's guards were faster than Quintianus and the would-be assassin was overpowered and disarmed without injuring the emperor.[1][4][5]

Commodus ordered the deaths of Quintianus’ nephew and of Marcus Ummidius Quadratus Annianus, and banished Lucilla, her daughter and Ummidia Cornificia Faustina to the Italian island of Capri. He sent a centurion there to execute them later that year.[4] Her son Pompeianus was later murdered by Caracalla.[2]

Dupondius depicting Lucilla Augusta (obverse) and Juno Regina with a peacock (reverse)

In popular culture

See also


  1. ^ a b Cassius Dio, Roman History, 71.1, 3; 73.4.4–5.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Lightman, Marjorie and Lightman, Benjamin, A to Z of Ancient Greek and Roman Women, Infobase Publishing, 2008. ISBN 978-1438107943.
  3. ^ Peacock, Phoebe B., Library of Congress, Lucius Verus (161–169 A.D.), Accessed 2012-5-29.
  4. ^ a b c Lucius Aurelius Commodus (AD 161 – AD 192), Accessed 2012-5-29.
  5. ^ Gibbon, Edward, The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, Vol. 1, Chap. 4, Part I.

Further reading

  • Balsdon, J.P.V.D., Roman Women, Barnes & Noble Inc, 1998. ISBN 978-0760708620.
  • D'Ambra, Eve, Roman Women, Cambridge University Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0521521581.
  • Fraschetti, Augusto, (Ed.), Lappin Linda (Transl.), Roman Women, University Of Chicago Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0226260945.
  • Freisenbruch, Annelise, Caesars’ Wives: Sex, Power, and Politics in the Roman Empire, Free Press, 2011. ISBN 978-1416583059.
  • Gardner, Jane F., Women in Roman Law and Society, Indiana University Press, 1991. ISBN 978-0253206350.
  • Peck, Harry Thurston, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1898.

Nerva–Antonine family tree

Royal titles
Preceded by
Annia Galeria Faustina Minor
Empress of Rome
with Annia Galeria Faustina Minor (164–169)
Succeeded by
Annia Galeria Faustina Minor
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