Tag Archives: Rome

Fab Female Friday: Julia Domna

Julia Domna: Wife. Mother. Philosopher. Political mover & shaker.

The astrologer’s prediction proved correct!

Married in her teens to a 40-something widower Roman commander named Septimus Severus—soon to become the first African Roman emperor—Julia & Septimus became a formidable “power couple.” Septimus knew Julia was the one for him when  an astrologer predicted the she would one day be queen.

All accounts say their marriage—despite the age differences–was happy and loving.

Julia, daughter of a high priest from Syria, was extremely intelligent, courageous and didn’t   take s*** from anyone. She quickly learned the art of politics, and was soon involved in all sorts of  intrigues, strategies, and political machinations. She was also an avid reader and loved to talk philosophy.


During those times, women were expected to stay home and wait for their emperor husbands while they fought wars for territorial domination–but not Julia! No way! She went with her hubby–his confidant and steadfast companion. Later on, when he did leave her  home on his campaigns,  he left Julia in charge, knowing she would manage and administer the wily affairs of state with all the smoothness of a  consummate politico.

She bore two sons—who didn’t much like each other, especially when it came time to decide who would take Dad’s place as Emperor of Rome.

In an attempt to reconcile her feuding adult sons, she begged for a meeting—minus their armed guards. The youngest son was murdered in her arms—almost certainly by hit men hired by the jealous older son.

Horrible, yes? Roman politics was ever so much nastier than politics today (well, on second thought…)Try as she might, this powerful mom could not persuade her eldest son to be a better Emperor (a petty, mean-tempered, wacko ruler), although she did her best to keep the Severo reign going.

When her Emperor son was murdered, the new Emperor exiled the still politically connected Julia. Did she go? Or no. The now frail and cancer-plagued Julia, stayed put in her home and starved herself to death. She was 47 years old.

Julia Domna: smooth operator, political  pundit, philosophical activist, and  patron of the arts!




A profession to kill for

flowerProfessional Poisoner!! Can you believe it? Professional poisoner was a career option for women back in ancient Rome. Evidently, many people required the services of a skilled toxic-ologist.  

During Nero’s reign (he was blamed for burning Rome), Locasta was the woman to summon if you needed a rival, nasty husband,ex- lover, or wealthy relative to die.

In ancient times, if a poisoner completed the job discreetly, she was put on retainer by  local royalty. Note: A poisoner was considered first-rate if they actually killed the person, not just made them  sick.

Locusta was an accomplished pro—if the mushrooms didn’t work—the  ol’ poisoned feather did! Her coup de grâce came when she murdered Nero’s stepbrother during an elegant dinner party—she even fooled the official food-tester.

A savvy business woman, Locusta understood the benefits of diversification—she opened up the first school for poisoners (and you thought women didn’t have any career options back then—sheesh).

After Nero committed suicide and the next emperor donned the laurel crown, the femme fatale fell into disfavor, and was believed executed along with other notorious scoundrels belonging to Nero’s posse.

Luscious Locusta: First mass murderer and pretty potent poisoner—her ads claim she killed over 10,000 people!

OK—so maybe Locusta wasn’t really fabulous—but she certainly was a cheeky chick!

The subject of my next historical fiction
Photos collected while researching are available on my Pinterest page.
3rd draft sneak peek
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Opening paragraph:

Letter written during Imperial Roman Empire: 64 AD

My Dearest,

Monster. Enchantress. Executioner. These are the names I have been given. All false. Do not believe the lies.

I was merely a woman with few choices, and one must often do the unthinkable to survive. Women’s options are limited in this world of men with their carnal and corrupt desires.

Such cruel realities did not always taint my life.

Long ago, unfettered by responsibility, I enjoyed the indulged childhood of the elite. Playing in terraced gardens, splashing in marble fountains, riding ponies, reading Ovid and Cicero, my thoughts fixed only on tomorrow’s amusements.

This pampered life ended when I was introduced to my betrothed, a man of wealth and position. Three years later, I found love with another. For a young woman of esteemed birthright he was most unsuitable.

A year later, a family complication resulted in my leaving our tranquil countryside to travel into the Den of Hungry Lions.


In this city of greed, politics, lust, and power the gods cursed me with an infamous occupation.

Murder by poison.

My herbal potions hastened corrupt politicians, vengeful brothers, wicked sisters, ailing elders, faithless wives, and abusive husbands to their funeral pyres.

And lovers. Quite a few lovers. Lovers, apparently, are expendable vanities for the wealthy.

Most were evil incarnate. Cold-blooded senators plotting against the Empire. Heartless miscreants impatient to benefit from their spouse’s death. Depraved lovers extracting justice for a fleshly wrong.

The others did not deserve such an early end. I mourned their deaths and my burnt offerings at the temples were feeble attempts to assuage my guilt.

I was not present during every untimely death, but oftentimes I was commanded to confirm their demise. A few perished in rapturous delight as their life force ebbed away. Others melted away in a daze of dreams.

Some died while gasping for air, others expelling liquid excrement. Their vomit and convulsions remain a horrid memory. Their anguished faces continue to haunt my dreams, and their tormented cries for help are forever a lance upon my heart.

My victims’ deaths came at the capricious command of a ruthless emperor. A sadistic, suspicious, jealous emperor.

Nero. My guardian, erstwhile lover, and patron.

Novel update: With agent.