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Riccardo Bertolazzi


Graduate Fellow 2016-17


Riccardo Bertolazzi is a PhD candidate specializing in Roman history and epigraphy in the Department of Classics and Religion at the University of Calgary. He received both his MA and BA from the University of Verona in Italy.

Research Activities: 

Julia Domna: Public Image and Private Influence During the Reigns of Septimius Severus and Caracalla

‘He possessed the craftiness of his mother and the Syrians, to which race she belonged.’ Thus Cassius Dio, a Roman senator and historian who lived between the second and the third centuries CE, referred to the cunning of Caracalla, a quality that this emperor inherited from his mother Julia Domna, the wife of Septimius Severus and the first Augusta who came from the Eastern provinces of the empire. She maintained the role of ‘first lady’ for twenty years, a period covering the reigns of two emperors, Severus (193-211 CE) and Caracalla (211-217 CE). Despite this, her role in both the establishing and strengthening the Severan dynasty is only barley traceable in the historical accounts concerning this period. These are the epitome of Cassius Dio’s Roman History, the biographies of the Historia Augusta and the History of Herodian. Their reliability and accuracy, however, are still debated. Both the epigraphic evidence and her coinage, on the other hand, attests to the fact that she was the most honoured imperial woman in the course of the Principate, with ca. 600 inscriptions bearing her name and coin types portraying her together with Severus and Caracalla. She appears consequently to be a key figure of this period. This is the interdisciplinary discussion to which my investigation contributes, by combining the examination of literary sources and material culture to provide new insights concerning the agency of this imperial woman. I have also published several articles related to the study of Roman inscriptions, with particular focus on social and military matters concerning the first three centuries of Roman imperial history. Among these, a study on the benefactions by priestesses of the imperial cult in the North African city of Thugga, an investigation on the deities worshipped by soldiers serving in the so-called ‘national numeri’ stationed in the Danubian provinces, and some considerations on a group of military epitaphs from Lambaesis, in North Africa.


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