Born in Syria in AD 170, Julia Domna was the daughter of Julius Bassianus, high priest of the Emesan sun-god Elah-Gabal. Gifted with an auspicious horoscope at birth, she moved to Rome at a young age and married Septimius Severus, then governor of Gallia Lugdunesis, with whom she had two sons: Septimius Bassianus (future emperor Caracalla) and P. Septimius Geta. Following Septimius Severus’ ascent to the throne, Julia received the title of Augusta, hence the right of coinage in her name. Comparable to few empresses in terms of political and social influence, Julia was also awarded the title of ‘Mater Castrorum’ in recognition of her active interest in the Empire’s military. After the death of her husband, her coinage continued to be issued under her son Caracalla with the new obverse’s inscription ‘IVLIA PIA FELIX AVG’ reflecting her change in status, but also her increasing influence of the imperial court.
Vesta was the Roman goddess of the hearth and home, a leading deity in the Roman pantheon whose cult expressed and guaranteed Rome’s permanence. According to tradition, the worship of Vesta can be traced back to the founding of Rome, as it was believed to have been introduced and established by Romulus or Numa Pompilius. Her temple was located in the Roman Forum and entry to it was reserved to the goddess’ priestesses, the Vestals, who tended to the sacred fire placed within it. They committed to the priestesshood before puberty and sworn to celibacy for a period of 30 years, with the punishment of being flogged and buried alive should they fail to maintain their purity. Regarded as the protector of the Roman people, Vesta’s festival, the Vestalia, run from the 7th to the 15th of June and were considered one of the most important holidays in Ancient Rome.