the daughter of Julia Maesa, the niece of Septimius Severus, the first cousin of Caracalla, the aunt of Elagabalus, the wife of Gessius Marcianus, the mother of Alexander Severus. [See genealogical table prefixed to CARACALLA.] She was a native of Emesa in Syria, and seems, after the accession of Septimius Severus, to have lived at Rome, under the protection of her aunt Julia Domna.
At all events it is clear that she must have been at court in A. D. 204, otherwise the report, which at one time gained general credit, that Alexander as well as Elagabalus was in reality the son of Caracalla, could never have been circulated. We know nothing of her subsequent history, until the period when she accompanied Elagabalus to Rome. From that time forward she became remarkable on account of the diligence with which she protected the person of her son from the treachery of his cousin, and the exemplary zeal with which she guarded the purity of his mind in the midst of a very hot-bed of vice and debauchery.
The high principles which she instilled were fully developed after his elevation to the throne, and proved a blessing to mankind during his short reign.
But the character of Mamaea was not without serious defects. Extreme pride, and a jealousy of power which could brook no rival, led her to treat with great harshness and indignity one, at least, of her daughters-in-law. Her counsels, swayed by an inordinate desire to accumulate money, induced Severus to adopt a system of ill-judged parsimony towards his soldiers, and thus gave rise to the mutiny which proved fatal both to herself and to her son, who is said to have upbraided her with his dying breath as the cause of his destruction. Their death took place in Gaul, early in the year A. D. 235. (For authorities, see CARACALLA; ELAGABALUS; SEVERUS.)