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Sestia Vaticana

Sestia Vaticana

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33 | 2 March 42CE | Senatore | Senatore | Bisexual | Canon | Nathalie Emmanuel




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Sestia grew up in the shadow of the strong personality of her father. A gruff, heavy drinking soldier and rough and ready politician, Gaius Sestius Vaticanus did not make any distinction between the treatment of his soldiers and subordinates in the military castra and with his family at home. The relationship between her father and mother were strained, leading to great fights and her witnessing some elements of domestic abuse (albeit few) between her father and mother when she was young. Her father, who carried a chip on his shoulder against the blue-bloods of the Senate and finding no joy in the aesthetic refinements of the capital, preferred when possible to live elsewhere and, if he could not, then took to drinking heavily. Finding a lack of affection and a degree of instinctive fear for her father, she drew closer to her elder brother, Gnaeus, who she came to look up to and idolize as she matured. Her brother was the very antithesis of her father – much to her father’s disgust – and she hated seeing how much pressure he placed on her brother. Determined to be the opposite of her father, Sestia came to love the finer things in life: the pleasures of the City, art, music, theatre, games, parties, clothes, spending (spending, spending!) and so forth! Whilst she ideally likes to conform with the traditional virtuous image of Roman senatorial motherhood, she does let the veneer slip every now and again.






Sestia is always well presented and wearing the best and latest fashions. Through her father's ancestors she has Punic blood from the old Carthaginians of North Africa. Her paternal ancestors, jumping ship at the right time, gained Roman citizenship and became prominent members of the local nobility in the new Roman province of Africa before later of their number, their fortunes made, were enrolled in the ranks of the Senate and moved their primary residence to Italy. She has a good figure which is relatively remarkable considering that she has carried two children. Her hair betrays her Punic roots. Always a sucker for novelty, she has her own team of hairdressing slaves, including a particularly talented girl from Parthia who is skilled in straightening her hair as well as crafting it into all manner of outlandish and novel styles.  






Father: Gaius Sestius Vaticanus, Proconsul in Africa Proconsularis, General and Friend of Caesar.


Mother: Clodia Tertia


Siblings: Gneaus Sestius Vaticanus


Sister in Law: Rufia Flavia


Nephew: Gnaeus Sestius Vaticanus Minor


Niece: Sestia Lucilla


Niece: Sestia Honoria


Niece: Sestia Saturnina


Spouse: Lucius Afinius Gallus, deceased (2BC – 63CE)


Son (1): Lucius Afinius Gallus (60CE - )


Son(2): Gaius Afinius Vaticanianus (62CE - )






Sestia Vaticana was born into the senatorial family of the Sestii Vaticani in 42CE, the only daughter of Gaius Sestius Vaticanus and Clodia Tertia, who already had a son, Gnaeus. Sestia’s childhood conformed to the very model of that of a senatorial daughter. Her education was far more limited than that of her brother. Whilst she was taught to read and write, as well as the basics of mathematics (with a view towards household stewardship skills), a classical and liberal education ceased at this point. Whereas her brother continued, alongside physical education, to learn history and the arts, Sestia was expected to content herself with “gentler” subjects like weaving and shadowing her mother in the running of the family household. Where her childhood stemmed off from the traditional was in the fact that her father, a gruff, heavy-drinking disciplinarian, expected everyone in his household not only to follow his orders to the letter but also expected of them to somehow enjoin in his own misanthropism. Her father did not have time for niceties. Tact was unknown to him. Art, a waste of time. Pleasure, well, that came from the sword or in the bed of a mistress. Her mother, a more refined woman, did not get along well with her husband. Often, in the midst of his drinking bouts, the house was fall to shouting as the pair laid in to one another. Sometimes it came to blows. There was only ever one victor – her father.


It was in this environment that she drew closer to her older brother who she would ultimately come to idolise. When her father was away on campaigns, the household was able to breathe again and Sestia began to enjoy what would come to be a love of the finer things her father’s brutishness deprived her of: fine clothes, parties, friendships, trips out. Whenever he returned, all her fancy things had to be hidden away and she returned to the image of a demure daughter.


When she was 16 (in 58CE) the shock announcement (at least to her, anyway) was made that she would be married to Lucius Afinius Gallus – a man she had never met and who was already 60 years old. Gallus was a venerable member of the Senate, with extensive lands in Umbria, as well as further afield in Syria and Africa Proconsularis. He had a passing affinity with her father in his capacity as a backbench member of the Senate but other than extensive property holdings and an august career, he had nothing to offer him favourably in her mind as a candidate for a husband. Not that that mattered as she had no choice but to break to her father’s will. Her mother and brother were more comforting but the deal was done, the dowry paid. The marriage went ahead.


Gallus, already beginning to suffer from ill health, did not so much require a wife as a nurse to tend to him as he enjoyed a comfortable retirement in his rural estates. Deprived of the excitement of the city and with no one for company, Sestia found the time stultifyingly boring. She even tried her hand at poetry to pass the hours. Although her husband was advanced in years, he still summoned up the vigour to get Sestia pregnant twice – producing on both occasions son: Lucius Afinius Gallus Minor (in 60CE) and Gaius Afinius Vaticanianus (in 62CE). Motherhood finally gave Sestia an outlet for her energies.


Her husband died in 63CE. Her father, in his capacity as the executor of Gallus’ will, immediately summoned Sestia and her children to him and took over the administration of Gallus’ estates (through his own freedmen), claiming the right to do so until Gallus Minor came of age (which he will in 76CE). When her father was given the Proconsular governorship of Africa, Sestia and her children were forced to move with him to Carthage which was, to her, a form of exile. It was only in the winter of 74CE that Sestia was able to finally win the lengthy battle with her father to be allowed to leave, threatening him with the prospect of a legal challenge against his administration of her late husband’s will once her eldest son came of age. Bowing to family pressure (and often too drunk to care), her father allowed her to take residence in the Vaticanus family house on the Esquiline in Rome and authorised her to have authority over his freedmen to manage her late husband’s estate with him (as co-executor) for the interests of her children.


This was – in all respects – freedom! Financial and personal. She and her sons returned to Rome in January 75CE. Her first act was to sever the first tie on her freedom of movement by refusing to take residence in the Vaticanus family domus but instead reopen her late husband’s home in the capital, also on the Esquiline – a spacious urban townhouse that she has begun to redecorate in her own style with gusto. She ensures her sons are given the best education money can buy and has high hopes for their future careers, not least on account of her brother’s proximity to the Imperial house. Now back in Rome, she is keen to engage herself with her extended family.


Moreover, now she is free and able to choose her own destiny, she is looking for the next step to take. Unmarried, wealthy and still able to bear children, she ought to be a contender in the marriage market and this time she can choose her own spouse.







Edited by Lauren

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