Roman Empire, Julia Paula, 219-220, AE Sestertius (218/220)
Obv.Bust with diadem r.
Rev.Concordia with cornucopiae and patera seated l.
Julia Paula was the first wife of the Roman Emperor Elagabal.
Little is known about Iulia Paula. Presumably she came from a rich and very distinguished family, as the historian Herodian (Herodian 5,6,1.) reports.
Elagabal became emperor of Syria in 218. In 219 he married Iulia Paula in Rome in the summer and she was elevated to Augusta. Elagabal was then only fifteen years old and a stranger in Rome. Presumably his grandmother Julia Maesa arranged the marriage to give her grandson support in the capital's ruling class. The marriage was immediately annulled a year later and Elagabal married Aquilia Severa, who also came from a noble family. However, since this marriage was regarded as a scandal among the Romans, the young emperor's reputation was severely damaged and the hasty divorce from Iulia Paula and the scandalous marriage to Aquilia Severa probably contributed to his downfall in 222.
The circumstances of the divorce throw a bright light on the sharp, irreconcilable cultural and religious antagonism between Elagabal the Syrian and the noble society of Rome. The reason for divorce given by Elagabal was a physical blemish on Iulia, according to Cassius Dio 80 (79),9,3. In Roman sensibilities, a divorce because of a body mark was tyrannical arbitrariness. From the emperor's point of view, on the other hand, the dissolution of the marriage was a religious necessity, since he was the priest of the Syrian deity Elagabal and his wife, as the priest's wife, also had to meet cultic requirements; in his religion this presupposed physical immaculateness.
Iulia Paula withdrew into private life after the divorce. Nothing is known of her further fate.
Iulia Paula's appearance can only be inferred from her coin portraits. No round sculptural portrait can be attributed to her with certainty or at least a high degree of probability.
(For sources see Wikipedia)