The curious case of Domitian/Domitia and Julia.
The charge by the likes of Dio Cassius and Suetonius is that Domitian banished his wife Domitia for adultery then seduced his niece Julia, continuing the affair openly when Domitia returned.
Julia it is said to have died from an abortion forced upon her by her uncle
This all appears to me highly suspect.
Domitian falls for Domitia in 70 AD and they marry the same year. What would be interesting to know is at what point in 70 AD they wed because Vespasian doesn’t reach Rome till October
Did Domitian marry without his father’s permission?
Domitia is a good choice in many ways. She was the daughter of Nero’s celebrated general Corbulo. Corbulo was executed by a jealous Nero. Marrying her was a good way to distance this new Flavian dynasty from the previous one.
However Julia would have been the better match. Yes she was his niece but this was not unheard of in ancient Rome. Claudius had married his niece Agrippina.
And we know that the match was suggested as it is mentioned by all our sources. Also mentioned is the reason why it never happened, Domitian’s stated passion for Domitia.
It would be fascinating to know whether this pressure to marry Julia was applied to Domitian pre or post his marriage to Domitia.
Whatever the truth Domitian held firm.
From which I think we can conclude there was genuine affection between Domitia and Domitian. This is born out by the fact that he doesn’t divorce her after her alleged adultery but rather eventually brings her back under the pretext that the people demand it. Did they really? Or was he merely missing his wife?
If Domitian was as obsessed by Julia as the sources claim why didn’t he marry her and thus possess her entirely?
He had the perfect cause to divorce Domitia. Julia was married true but that was no impediment to an emperor.
And if there was an affair and she fell pregnant why didn’t he marry her then? Domitian had no heir and this would have been the perfect Flavian via both parents.
Both Juvenal and Pliny who were contemporaries of Domitian mention the affair and the abortion death of Julia. But importantly after Domitian was safely dead.
Martial wrote an epigram shortly after Julia’s death in which he expresses hope that Domitia wI’ll produce a son named Julius after his aunt and protected by her spirit.
If Domitian had geniunely impregnated his niece and then forced an abortion on her this is a near suicidal poem by Martial.
So no I don’t believe it. It’s significant that post Domitian’s assassination despite the blackening of his name Domitia continues to call herself his widow.