Hotel Eden Roma_Porticus Octavia
Art and culture

Rome’s empowered Imperial women

November 19, 2021

Discover the lives of the powerful women of Ancient Rome. From Octavia, wife of Mark Antony, who raised Cleopatra's children; to Saint Helena, who changed the entire course of western history. Here we follow in their footsteps across the Eternal City.

Saint Helena

The original ‘influencer’ and mother to the first Christian emperor, Constantine I, Saint Helena (AD c. 248 – c. 330) was the power behind the throne. Following a dramatic conversion, she made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, building churches and allegedly discovering Christ’s true cross. The deified Saint Helena’s mausoleum can be seen in an ancient building in Rome built by her son, on the Via Casilina. Seek out her relaxed, reclining statue in the Musei Capitolini in Piazza del Campidoglio, among other portraits of Roman emperors and imperial family members.

Musei Capitolini, Piazza del Campidoglio,1

Marble seated statue of Helena at the Capitoline museum in Rome
Image © Jebulon
marble burst Julia Domna at Museo Chiaramonti, Vatican
Image © Daderot

Julia Domna

 Syrian princess-turned-empress Julia Domna, the second wife of Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, is today renowned as an unsung heroine of the era, despite being bestowed with titles such as ‘Mother of the Army Camps.’ Her adoring eldest son Caracella made her Dame of Correspondence and, unusually, gave her control over administration. View a bust of Domna on display at the Museo Chiaramonti, in the Vatican Museums, set on a loggia joining the high Renaissance pontifical palaces. This impressive collection of Roman portrait busts brings to life a dynasty renowned for its culture, infamy and bloodshed.

Museo Chiaramonti, Città del Vaticano


Octavia, the daughter of Gaius Octavius, was married to charismatic Roman General Mark Antony, who ruled as part of a triumvirate 43 – 30 BC. Octavia played a crucial role in the leadership and even raised Cleopatra’s three offspring with her husband as her own. The Porticus of Octavia is today the sole surviving part of an ancient piazza, first built by her brother Caesar Augustus. It was later used as a fish market during the medieval period until the 19th century.

Porticus Octaviae, Via del Portico d’Ottavia, 29

Hotel Eden Roma_Porticus Octaviae c Shutterstock
Close up shot on a woman bust in the Roman Museum in Cologne, Germany
Image © Calidius

Livia Drusilla

The very first Roman Empress, Livia Drusilla (also known as Julia Augusta) was perhaps the only person to dominate her famously fractious husband Caesar Augustus, and had a fiery reputation for eliminating her son’s rivals. Drusilla is immortalised in a marble bust at the Museo Gregoriano Profano, part of the Vatican Museums. Spend a morning at the collection and delve into its extraordinary classical works, from Ancient Greece through to the late Imperial Age of Rome.

Casa di Livia, Via dei Cerchi, 81

Julia Maesa

Syrian-born princess Julia Maesa wielded great power in the Empire, having helped to make two of her grandsons emperors. Following the murder of grandson Caracalla, she fled back to Syria, hatching a plan to place another grandson, Elagabalus, on the throne. Wander among the Hall of the Emperors at the Musei Capitolini and gaze upon her bust, which depicts her wearing a gloriously detailed shawl draped across the shoulders. After marvelling at the museum’s collection of ancient treasures, take a stroll with a gelato around Piazza del Campidoglio, designed by Michelangelo and bordered by the spectacular trio of Palazzo Senatorio, Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo.

Musei Capitolini, Piazza del Campidoglio, 1

Marco Aurelius Status on Piazza del Campidoglio, Rome

Hotel Eden is alive with the stories of the legendary city of Rome and makes the perfect base to explore its history. Don’t forget to discover Rome’s most magnificent fountains as well as its famous movie locations.

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