Died 217 c.e.
Syrian Roots. Julia Domna, the daughter of a Syrian priest, was born in Emesa. In 187 C.E. she married the North African Septimus Severus, who was appointed governor of Pannonia Superior in 191. In 193 he was proclaimed emperor, and they became the first rulers of the Severan dynasty. During their rule Severus fought off domestic rivals and was successful in battle in Parthia and Britian. He lavished honors and posts on their two sons, Caracella and Geta, but after his death in 211, a sibling rivalry resulted in the assassination of Geta in 212. Domna supported her son and even ruled in his absence.
An International Family. The empress was interested in intellectual matters and reportedly sponsored a circle of writers and thinkers with whom she discussed matters of philosophy and history. She was a patron of Flavius Philostratus and commissioned him to write The Life of Apollonius (circa 220), possibly as a counter to the growing influence of Christians in the empire. A literate woman herself, while working for Caracalla, Julia Domna oversaw his correspondence. After her death in 217, her sister and nieces from Syria became just as active as she had been in public life and imperial administration.
Graham Anderson, Philostratus: Biography and Belles Lettres in the Third Century A.D. (London & Dover, N.H.: Croom Helm, 1986).
Anthony R. Birley, “lulia Domna,” in The Oxford Classical Dictionary, edited by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 777.
Birley, Septimus Severus: The African Emperor (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1971).