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Maternal Megalomania

Julia Domna and the Imperial Politics of Motherhood

Julie Langford

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How the maternal image of the empress Julia Domna helped the Roman empire rule.

Ancient authors emphasize dramatic moments in the life of Julia Domna, wife of Roman emperor Septimius Severus (193–211). They accuse her of ambition unforgivable in a woman, of instigating civil war to place her sons on the throne, and of resorting to incest to maintain her hold on power. In imperial propaganda, however, Julia Domna was honored with unprecedented titles that celebrated her maternity, whether it was in the role of mother to her two sons (both future emperors) or as the metaphorical mother to the...

How the maternal image of the empress Julia Domna helped the Roman empire rule.

Ancient authors emphasize dramatic moments in the life of Julia Domna, wife of Roman emperor Septimius Severus (193–211). They accuse her of ambition unforgivable in a woman, of instigating civil war to place her sons on the throne, and of resorting to incest to maintain her hold on power. In imperial propaganda, however, Julia Domna was honored with unprecedented titles that celebrated her maternity, whether it was in the role of mother to her two sons (both future emperors) or as the metaphorical mother to the empire. Imperial propaganda even equated her to the great mother goddess, Cybele, endowing her with a public prominence well beyond that of earlier imperial women. Her visage could be found gracing everything from state-commissioned art to privately owned ivory dolls.

In Maternal Megalomania, Julie Langford unmasks the maternal titles and honors of Julia Domna as a campaign on the part of the administration to garner support for Severus and his sons. Langford looks to numismatic, literary, and archaeological evidence to reconstruct the propaganda surrounding the empress. She explores how her image was tailored toward different populations, including the military, the Senate, and the people of Rome, and how these populations responded to propaganda about the empress. She employs Julia Domna as a case study to explore the creation of ideology between the emperor and its subjects.

Reviews

Reviews

Using contemporary and later literary sources and artifacts such as imperial coins and monument inscriptions produced during the Severan dynasty, Langford questions Empress Julia Domna's power and influence in Severan politics.

Provocative and original... Langford's conclusions are daring and... mark out significant new territory in the study of the political culture of the High Empire.

In just 123 pages, Langford adds a new dimension to the proliferation of texts about Rome's first third-century empress.

Langford successfully uses an extremely important methodology to illuminate facts about not only what happened but also how events and policies were advertised to the subjects of the Empire. She does an excellent job of presenting Julia Domna as a case study of how this communication worked during a tumultuous time—just as the new Severan dynasty was being founded.

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Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
232
ISBN
9781421408477
Illustration Description
30 b&w illus.
Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction
Julia Domna Who?
Carving Out a Niche
Severan Dynastic Propaganda and Julia Domna
1. Not Your Momma
Problematizing Julia Domna as the Mater Castrorum
Women and the Military
Faustina the

Preface
Introduction
Julia Domna Who?
Carving Out a Niche
Severan Dynastic Propaganda and Julia Domna
1. Not Your Momma
Problematizing Julia Domna as the Mater Castrorum
Women and the Military
Faustina the Younger: The Mother of All Mothers of the Camp
The Military and the Domus Augusta: All in the Family?
Severus and the Mater Castrorum Title
Severus, the Military, and Julia Domna
About Face!
Conclusion
2. Romancing the Romans
Julia Domna and the Populus Romanus
The Nature of the Sources
The Princeps and the Plebs
The Roman Populace, Public Demonstrations, and Divine Inspiration
Severan Propaganda and the Urban Plebs
Roman Matrona, Mother, and Protectress
Severus, the Populus Romanus, and the Collegia
And Julia Domna?
But What Does It All Mean?
3. Mater Senatus, Mater Patriae
Julia Domna as Senatorial Savior
Natural Rivals: Imperial Women and the Senate
Severus's Senate
Creating Consensus in the Senate: Wooing, Marginalizing, and Exterminating
Negotiating Dynasty: Maternal Megalomania and Senatorial Subversions
Julia Domna in Cassius Dio
Moderating Maternal Megalomania
Conclusion
Ideological Crisis
On the Dangers of Taking Ideology Too Seriously
Appendix A: Hoard Details of the Severan Hoard Analysis Database by Clare Rowan
Appendix B: Frequency of Julia Domna Coin Types in Hoards around the Mediterranean
Appendix C: Dating the Mater Senatus, Mater Patriae Titles
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Julie Langford
Featured Contributor

Julie Langford

Julie Langford is an associate professor of history at the University of South Florida.