Julia Domna - Roman Empress Wife of Emperor Septimius Severus
193-211 A.D. -
Bronze 25mm (9.97 grams) of Thessalonica in Macedonia.
ΙΟΥΛΙΑ ΔOMNA AVΓO - Draped bust right.
OЄCCAΛΩN, Three-horse chariot right.
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The city was founded around
315 BC by the
Cassander of Macedon, on or near the site of the ancient town of
twenty-six other local villages. He named it after his wife
Thessalonike, a half-sister of
Alexander the Great. She gained her name ("victory of Thessalians": Gk
nikē "victory") from her father,
Philip II, to commemorate her birth on the day of his gaining a victory over
Phocians, who were defeated with the help of
Thessalian horsemen, the best in Greece at that time. Thessaloniki developed
rapidly and as early as the
century BC the first walls were built, forming a large square. It was an
autonomous part of the Kingdom of
Macedon, with its own parliament where the King was represented and could
interfere in the city's domestic affairs.
After the fall of the kingdom of Macedon in
Thessalonica became a city of the
Roman Republic. It grew to be an important trade-hub located on the
Roman road connecting
facilitating trade between Europe and Asia. The city became the capital of one
of the four Roman districts of Macedonia; it kept its privileges but was ruled
and had a Roman garrison, while for a short time in the
century BC, all the Greek provinces came under Thessalonica (the Latin form
of the name). Due to the city's key commercial importance, a spacious harbour
was built by the Romans, the famous Burrowed Harbour (Σκαπτός Λιμήν) that
accommodated the town's trade up to the eighteenth century; later, with the help
of silt deposits from the river
Axios, it was
reclaimed as land and the port built beyond it. Remnants of the old harbour's
docks can be found in the present day under Odos Frangon Street, near the
located in the northern hills, was built in
55 BC after
Thracian raids in the city's outskirts, for security reasons.
The city had a
Jewish colony, established during the
century, and was to be an early centre of
Christianity. On his second missionary journey,
of Tarsus, born a Hellenized Israelite, preached in the city's synagogue,
the chief synagogue of the Jews in that part of Thessaloniki, and laid the
foundations of a church. Other Jews opposed to Paul drove him from the city, and
he fled to
Veroia. Paul wrote two of his
epistles to the Christian community at Thessalonica, the
First Epistle to the Thessalonians and the
Second Epistle to the Thessalonians.
Thessaloníki acquired a patron saint,
St. Demetrius, in 306. He is credited with a number of miracles that saved
the city, and was the Roman
of Greece under the anti-Christian emperor
later martyred at a Roman prison where today lies the
Church of St. Demetrius, first built by the Roman sub-prefect of
Illyricum Leontios in 463. Other important remains from this period include
Arch and Tomb of Galerius, located near the centre of the modern city.
Domna (unknown date–217)
was a member of the
Severan dynasty of the
Empire. Empress and wife of
Septimius Severus and mother of Emperors
Caracalla, Julia was among the most important women ever to exercise power
behind the throne in the Roman Empire.
Julia was of Syrian origin from the ancient city of
ancestors were Kings Priest of the famous temple of
Baal. The family
lost its kingdom to Rome but continued domination of the temple of Baal. The
family had an enormous wealth and was promoted to Roman senatorial aristocracy.
She was the youngest daughter of high-priest Gaius
Julius Bassianus and her eldest sister was
In the late 180s, Julia married future Emperor
Septimius Severus who himself was in part of
Punic background. The marriage proved to be a happy one and Severus
cherished his wife and her political opinions, since she was very well read and
keen on philosophy. Together, they had two sons, Lucius Septimius Bassianus (Caracalla)
in 186 and
Publius Septimius Geta in 189.
When Severus became emperor in 193 he had a civil war waiting
for him, against rivals such as
Pescennius Niger and
Clodius Albinus. Julia accompanied him in his campaigns in the East, an
uncommon event in a time when women were expected to wait in Rome for their
husbands. Nevertheless, she remained with the emperor and among the several
proofs of affection and favour are the minting of coins with her portrait and
the title mater castrorum (mother of the camp).
Julia now had complete power and ruled behind the Roman
Empire. Many early Romans disliked the fact of her ruling over the throne when
Septimius Severus was at war.
and transition of power
As empress, Julia was often involved in intrigues and had
plenty of political enemies who accused her of treason and adultery. None of
these accusations were proven, Severus continued to favour his wife and insisted
on her company in the campaign against the
Britons that started in 208. When Severus died, in 211 in
York, Julia became
the mediator between their two sons.
Geta who were to rule as joint emperors, according to their father's wishes
expressed on his will. But the two young men were never fond of each other and
quarrelled frequently. Geta was murdered by Caracalla's soldiers in the same
Caracalla was now sole emperor, but his relations with his
mother were difficult, as attested by several sources, probably due to his
involvement in Geta's murder. Nevertheless, Julia accompanied Caracalla in his
campaign against the
Parthian empire in 217. During this trip, Caracalla was assassinated and
succeeded (briefly) by
On hearing about the rebellion, Julia chose to commit suicide. Her body was
brought to Rome and placed in the Sepulcrum C. et L. Caesaris (perhaps a
separate chamber in the
Mausoleum of Augustus). Later, however, both her bones and those of Geta
were transferred by her sister
Maesa to the
Mausoleum of Hadrian.
She was later deified.