Several years before his death (which was in 117 CE), Divus Traianus made his niece, Matidia, an Augusta. While it was up to Trajan’s successor Hadrian to deify many of the women whom Trajan made Augustae, he was himself responsible for making his wife Plotina, his sister Marciana, and his niece Matidia the precursors for apotheosis by giving them the Imperial title of Augusta, even though only one of them (Plotina) was ever a sitting/ruling Empress, so to speak.
Of all the Divae associated with Hadrian and his extended adopted family, we seem to know more about the life and birth of Diva Matidia than any other, which is entirely due to accidents of survival. We do not know her exact date of death, though we have most of her funeral oration by Hadrian; but, we do know her date of birth, and the date on which she was given the title of Augusta. That is far more than we know about Diva Marciana Augusta, Diva Plotina Augusta, or Diva Sabina Augusta. While this relative wealth of exact temporal information is due entirely to the whims of chance, at the same time it allows for a more engaging and personal portrait of a remarkable woman to whom Hadrian was very close and of whom he was very fond indeed. She was in roughly the same age cohort as Hadrian, and they seemed to share many philosophical interests, which he likewise shared with his adoptive mother, Diva Plotina.
Today is also the birthdate of Diva Ulpia Marciana Augusta, the previously mentioned sister of Divus Traianus. We know little enough about her, other than she held a beloved place in her brother’s heart, and was no doubt highly honored by her daughter and granddaughter, Diva Matidia and Diva Sabina.
In the Imperial Cult Calendar from Doura-Europos, the Divi are usually offered an ox; however, the Divae are generally offered a supplicatio, a day of public prayer. This is most certainly true of both Diva Marciana and Diva Matidia, so below is my humble attempt at giving them exactly that.
For Diva Matidia and Diva Marciana, A Supplicatio
Sing out this day, on highways and on by-ways,
in the public squares and on the rows of market stalls,
in the halls of the Senate and in every temple’s portico
the praises of the Divae under Trajan and Hadrian.
An Emperor has never been blessed with a finer sister,
nor daughters with better mothers than the two Divine Women;
lacking in heirs, Trajan could hope for none more fit
than his niece and grand-niece to secure his legacy.
Roma gives them a crown of laurels for their heads;
Venus showers them with the petals of roses;
Minerva anoints their feet with olive oil;
and Ceres gives her grain in plentiful measures to them.
Celestial Juno, great goddess over the heavens,
feed them honey in equal parts to their virtue–
a thousand times a thousand swarms of divine bees
cannot make ambrosial nectar sufficient for it!
The goddesses of other lands will welcome them
and dance with them upon holy dancing-grounds;
the gods of the nations will be jealous at their sight,
so graced are they with refinement and character.
May we build a temple district for them in words,
altars of song, piled offerings of praises,
and sanctuaries full of our good regards for them,
now in this time of scarcity and impiety.
Sing, you heralds at the mount of Olympus,
and make them welcome, porters at the Blessed Isles,
for true holiness now approaches you
on the footsteps of Marciana and Matidia Augusta!
Ave Diva Ulpia Marciana Augusta!
Ave Diva Salonia Matidia Augusta!