Ancestry, Family and Early Life
Plancia Magna came from a distinguished family. She was the daughter of Roman Senator, Proconsul Marcus Plancius Varus and a princess called Julia. Her mother became a priestess and served in the temple of the Ancient Greek Goddess Artemis in Perga. Artemis was the most important Goddess in Perga. Magna's brother and only sibling was Roman Senator and Consul Gaius Plancius Varus. Magna was born and raised in Perga, the capital of the Roman province of Pamphylia. Her cognomen Magna, is either from her maternal or paternal grandmother.
From her father's family Magna had Roman ancestry. Her maternal grandfather was Armenian King Julius Tigranes and her maternal uncle was prince Gaius Julius Alexander. Through her mother, Magna had Persian, Greek, Jewish, Nabataean and Edomite ancestry. Magna's maternal ancestors were King Archelaus of Cappadocia, King of Judea Herod the Great and Queen Mariamne I. Magna, her brother, her son, along with her maternal cousins Gaius Julius Agrippa and Gaius Julius Alexander Berenicianus were among the last known descendants of the Herodian Dynasty. She appears to an Apostasy to Judaism. It is unlikely that she attempted to exert influence on Judean Politics.
Magna married a man of Roman Senatorial rank called Gaius Julius Cornutus Tertullus, who was the son of a Proconsul and Suffect Consul. Her husband was a local citizen of Perga and his family originated from Pamphylia. Magna bore Tertullus a son and only child, Gaius Julius Plancius Varus Cornutus.
Activity in Perga
Plancia Magna is an example of one of the most successful, influential, and highly respectful women from Anatolia. From surviving inscriptions dedicated to her and her family, it is understood that Magna, her father and brother were wealthy and influential citizens in Perga. Due to the goodness and generosity of Magna, her father and her brother, they were accepted as the second founders of Perga. They each were given the honorific title of "Ktistes" or "Founder".
She was a matron, civic minded and a charitable woman. Magna dedicated her life and wealth to beautification and development of Perga, which contributed to the prosperity of the city. She was a great benefactress and patron of Perga. Magna inherited and took charged of her late father's large family estates in Galatia and became the head of her family.
In the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian 117-138, she undertook large remodelling projects in Perga. She elevated to the rank of tutelary divinity of the city. In 120, Magna erected a number of statues depicting various members of the imperial family at Perga. Between 120-122, she undertook to magnificently beautify the Hellenistic Gate.
at Perga, the city's most magnificent structure that was the entrance to the city.
The sides of the towers of the Hellenistic Gate and the horse-shoed courtyard was restored. The courtyard had marble facing with decorative architectural elements and statuary, providing 2-tiered triumphal arch that had 3 entrances and decorated statues.
The decorated statues were of various Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses. These deities included the Roman Emperors and the wives from the reigns of Nerva to Hadrian. The gate had a number of Greek and Latin inscriptions. Among these inscriptions, were two surviving inscriptions resting north of the Hellenistic Gate. This inscriptions resting north were probably supported by a statue donated by Magna.
Translated from Latin [first two lines]
to the genius of the city
Plancia Magna daughter of Marcus
Translated from Greek [last 2 lines]
to the fortune of the city
Magna held the title of high-priestess of the temple of the ancient Greek Goddess Artemis in Perga. Artemis was the most important goddess in the city. She also was the high-priestess of the imperial cult and the high-priestess for life of the mother of the gods.
Magna was honored by the Boule, Demos and Gerousia of Perga with the honorific title of "Demiourgos. The person who held this yearly title, their name was used to identify the year. Demiourgos was the highest civil servant position in the government of Perga. This title was usually reserved for men and through this title she had sponsored the local games held in Perga.
A surviving inscription on a base from a statue erected by the community of Perga, reveals her position in the city :
Daughter of Marcus Plancius Varus
and daughter of the city.
Priestess of Artemis
and both first and sole public priestess
of the mother of the gods
for the duration of her life
pious and patriotic.
When Magna died she was buried in a tomb which of located right of the Hellenistic Gate.
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