Coins of Julia Domna

Roman Empress (AD 193-217)

Julia Domna was born in AD 170 to an extremely wealthy Syrian family whose ancestors were priests of Baal. Her family had been awarded Roman citizenship and elevated to the senatorial level. Julia married the future emperor Septimius Severus in 180. She bore him two children, Caracalla and Geta.

Julia and Severus were devoted to each other and shared many intellectual pursuits. Julia is said to have been a patron of scholars such as the renowned physician Galen. She also accompanied her husband on his military campaigns after his accession to the throne; for this, she gained the title mater castrorum (“mother of the camp”).

However, Julia was not universally liked. She was a powerful and political woman, and this garnered her much enmity. Despite her enemies, she functioned as the Empire’s administrator while Severus focused on his many wars. After Severus’ death in AD 211, she attempted to broker peace between their sons, who preferred sole rule instead of the co-emperorship their parents had envisioned. Caracalla had Geta murdered in 212. Despite the obvious strain this put on their relationship, Julia accompanied her remaining son on his campaigns, as she had done for his father. After Caracalla’s assassination in 217, she committed suicide.

AR Denarius, Rome
AD 196-202 or later

Bust of Julia Domna, draped, head bare, facing r. Hair waved vertically and fastened into large bun on back of head. IVLIA AVGVSTA

Isis wearing polos on head, draped, standing front, head r., left knee on prow of ship. With r. hand baring breast and holding infant Horus on l. arm. Rudder to l. SAECVLI FELICITAS