Background and career
Although Alexianus was a Roman citizen who was born and raised in Emesa (modern Homs, Syria), little is known on his origins. It has been assumed that Alexianus was born in c. 155. What is known about him is from surviving inscriptional and Roman historical evidence. Through marriage he was a relation to the Royal family of Emesa and the ruling Severan dynasty of the Roman Empire.
Later he was promoted to the Senate by the Emperor Septimius Severus, his brother-in-law. Having entered the Senate with the rank of Praetor in 194, Alexianus was made Legatus in the Legio IV Flavia Felix and later served as governor of Raetia, which may be dated to 196/197. During his proconsulship of Raetia, he dedicated an altar to the Emesene God Elagabalus. The altar and its inscription, still intact, mentions him as a priest of the deified Emperor Titus.
Alexianus served as consul in 200, even perhaps as early as 198 or 199. After his consulship, Alexianus was not appointed to further military or political positions, probably due to the enmity of the Praetorian prefect Gaius Fulvius Plautianus. After the death of Plautianus in 205, Alexianus took part in Septimius Severus’ expedition in Britain where he acted as a Comes (Companion) to the emperor from 208 until 211.
Under Septimius Severus’ successor Caracalla, for two years Alexianus served as a Prefect of the Italian orphanages. He served as a Legatus in Dalmatia in c. 214 and later as a Proconsul in Asia and in Mesopotamia. In 216–217, Alexianus became a comes to Caracalla on his campaign against the Sassanid Empire. He died from old age on his way to Cyprus, sent there by Caracalla in early 217 to act as an advisor to the Governor.
Marriage and issue
Alexianus married the Syrian noblewoman Julia Maesa, the first daughter of Gaius Julius Bassianus, a high priest of the Temple of the Sun. The temple was dedicated to the Syrian Aramaic Sun God El-Gebal (counterpart to the Phoenician Baal) in Emesa. The younger sister of Maesa was Septimius Severus' empress Julia Domna, who was the mother of the emperors Caracalla and Publius Septimius Geta.
Maesa bore two distinguished daughters to Alexianus who were born and raised in Syria:
- A.R. Birley, Septimius Severus: The African Emperor, Routledge, 2002
- J. Hazel, Who's who in the Roman World, Psychology Press, 2002
- Julius Avitus’ article at ancient library
- Gaius Julius Avitus Alexianus’ article at Livius.org
- Julia Maesa’s article at Livius.org