An Eastern Empress remembered in the North

Making pots in the form of a moulded human head was a unique Romano-British fashion in the 3rd century. This example in the Great North Museum seems to have the face of the Roman empress Julia Domna, one of the most powerful women in the ancient world.

Julia Domna pot - Copy (364x500)

Julia Domna came from a prominent Syrian family and married the future emperor Septimius Severus, who was born in what is now Libya. She was a patron of writers and philosophers at Rome, and travelled to Britain with the imperial family in AD 208.  She probably lived in York while the army campaigned north of Hadrian’s Wall. They left Britain after Septimius Severus died in York in AD 211. Her sons Caracalla and Geta became co-emperors, but Caracalla soon murdered his brother and ruled alone. Julia Domna remained at the centre of power, managing all imperial correspondence until Caracalla was killed by a bodyguard in AD 217.

Was this pot a souvenir made to commemorate Julia Domna’s time in Britain? What memories would people have had of this remarkable empress when they saw it? What memories does it still hold? We will explore these ideas in free workshops at the Great North Museum in Newcastle on 9 and 10 May. Come along on one of the days or email us in advance to book a place: rememberingromans@gmail.com

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