I have been prompted to do the entry which follows here by a dream I had early on Sunday, in which a certain recently recognized heroine appeared to me, which I have taken as a prompting to have some visibility in the present series far earlier than perhaps initially expected. I will give the particular triad featuring her as the last in this present entry, but the one which will have the most illustration and the greatest elaboration.
As I hope my series on Goddesses and Antinous demonstrated amply last month, one cannot go very far in the historical Antinoan cultus and its associated mythologies without encountering a great number of goddesses, feminine deified abstractions, Sanctae, Divae, and other important women–nor, might I add, would one want to do so. Thus, the following seven Triads of Antinous highlight several of these groups. There is a great deal of crossover in the composition of the first six, thus the elaborations on them will not be as extensive.
#3. The Sabinian Triad: Julia Balbilla Sancta, Diva Vibia Sabina Augusta, Diva Salonia Matidia Augusta.
The Sabinian Triad represents the three most important once-mortal women in the reckoning of the Ekklesía Antínoou, and the triad of women about which the most has been written thus far in our own theological context. The first is one of our Sanctae, Julia Balbilla, the second is the divine empress, Diva Sabina, and the third is Hadrian’s mother-in-law, Diva Matidia. If any group of divine women reckoned by the Ekklesía Antínoou can be reckoned as corresponding to the “maiden, mother, crone” concept of the “triple goddess” in Wicca and other forms of paganism, it is this group–and yet, they do not fit the pattern at all. The “maiden” in this case, Julia Balbilla, may well have been about the same age as the mother, and though we know she was married she did not have children, and may have even been romantically involved with the empress Sabina. The “mother” is Sabina, who had no children herself, and was the daughter of Matidia; and Matidia, the “crone,” died at a young age. And yet, all three are extremely important to our practices, representing the great virtues of Poetry, Fidelity, and Philosophy/Liberty (which may be dealt with in future triads). They are celebrated on a number of days: March 21 for the Apotheosis of Sabina, November 19-21 for the visit to the Colossoi of Memnon (involving both Julia Balbilla’s only surviving poetry and much praise for Sabina), and both July 4 and August 29 for Matidia. Much has been written on this by Erynn Rowan Laurie, a Mystes Antínoou and Luperca Secunda in the Ekklesía Antínoou, in an article called “His Mother’s Whole Body Heals: Gender and Ritual in the Ekklesía Antínoou” in Women’s Voices in Magic, ed. Brandy Williams (Megalithica, 2009), pp. 167-173, which I highly suggest consulting.
#4. The Spanish Divae: Diva Plotina, Diva Marciana, Diva Matidia.
Trajan and Hadrian were from families that originated in Roman Spain, and so these three Divae represent the senior generation of women coming from that context: Diva Plotina, the wife of Trajan; Diva Marciana, the sister of Trajan; and Diva Matidia, the daughter of Marciana and mother-in-law of Hadrian.
#5. The Three Generations: Diva Marciana, Diva Matidia, Diva Sabina.
Further, these three women represent three generations of divine women connecting the imperial lines of Trajan and Hadrian: Trajan’s sister Marciana, her daughter Matidia, and Matidia’s daughter Sabina who married Hadrian.
#6. Three Mothers of Hadrian: Domitia Paulina, Diva Plotina, Germana Sancta.
In certain respects, it could be said that Hadrian had three mothers: his actual mother, Domitia Paulina, who died in 86 CE (about the same time as Hadrian’s father), who was from a distinguished senatorial family from Spain; Diva Plotina, his adoptive mother and the wife of the emperor Trajan; and Germana, the wet-nurse slave who eventually outlived him.
#7. Three August Women of Hadrian: Diva Plotina, Diva Matidia, Diva Sabina.
The three women who were closest to Hadrian, and whose deifications he carried out with all duty and appropriate honor, were those of his adoptive mother Diva Plotina (c. 121-122), his mother-in-law Diva Matidia (c. 119), and his wife Diva Sabina (c. 136).
#8. Three Divine Sisters: Diva Marciana, Diva Paulina, Matidia Minor.
Three sisters who became renowned due to their relationships with imperial personages were Trajan’s sister Diva Marciana, Hadrian’s elder sister Diva Paulina, and Diva Sabina’s younger sister Matidia Minor or Mindia Matidia. Matidia Minor accompanied her elder sister on her travels, outlived all of her imperial relatives, and remained close to the imperial family through both the reigns of Antoninus Pius and even into the early reign of Marcus Aurelius, dying at some point after 161 CE at the age of nearly eighty. She was wealthy, influential, cultured, respected, and remained unmarried and childless. The town of Matigge in Italy is named after her, from the Insula Matidiae villa that Trajan gave to her; she also restored the theatre of Sessa Aurunca after an earthquake during Antoninus Pius’ reign, where a statue of her was installed in commemoration of her generosity. She was never given the title of Augusta nor deified, but she should be remembered nonetheless.
#9. The Heroines of Herodes Attikos: Appia Annia Regilla, Elpinike, Athenais.
Finally, we come to the three women who were heroized by Herodes Attikos after their deaths, who were his wife and two of his daughters: Appia Annia Regilla (who appeared in my dream the other day), Elpinike, and Athenais. The three of them were commemorated in the Nymphaeum of Regilla, near Olympia, which Regilla had built to provide water for the location, and where her and various other members of the imperial families were enshrined with statues.
The statuary program at the site included many notables, including Hadrian, Faustina the Elder, Marcus Aurelius, and other members of their families. The only statue of Marcia Annia Claudia Alcia Athenais Gavidia Latiaria, Regilla’s younger daughter (c. 143/4-161 CE), is from this site, and shows her as an adolescent, even though she was only about ten years old when it was built.
There are also several headless female statues from the site, one of which depicts Regilla herself (shown below), and another of which shows her elder daughter, Appia Annia Claudia Atilia Regilla Elpinike Agrippina Atria Polla (c. 142-165 CE). A badly damaged head may depict Regilla, but I have not been able to find an image of it online.
Elpinike had further statues dedicated to her at Akraiphia (in Boeitia) in the sanctuary of Apollon, in Delphi, Eleusis, and Kephisia; and Athenais had further statues at Athens (two of them, including one in the Asklepieion) and at Delphi. The Delphic statues in both cases were set up by Herodes himself, but the ones of Athenais in Athens were donated by former students of Herodes. If the Trophimoi of Herodes Attikos are to receive honor in the Ekklesía Antínoou, then surely the heroines of his own family should as well.
A number of these women have not yet been added to the list of Sancti of the Ekklesía Antínoou, but they will most certainly be added in the future.
Therefore, these many divine women were important in the larger context of the immediate imperial context out of which Antinous’ cultus emerged, and thus deserve our attention to their active memory and devotion. The Sabinian Triad–including members of the Spanish Divae, the Three Generations, the Three Mothers of Hadrian, the Three Divine Sisters, and the Three August Women of Hadrian–and the Three Heroines of Herodes Attikos…may they all be praised and remembered!