Bust of Emperor Septimius Severus


Bust of Emperor Septimius Severus


200-210 CE






height: 30 5/16 in.

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Gift of Thomas T. Solley, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University


Ancient, Asian, and Islamic Art Gallery, Henry Radford Hope Wing, 2nd Floor

Septimius Severus, Rome's seventeenth emperor, was from North Africa (born in Leptis Magna, in what is now Libya) and his wife, Julia Domna, was from Syria.  They were the first imperial family that was extensively multicultural, since Septimus' family is known to have both Phoenician and Italian roots and possibly Berber ancestry as well, and Julia's family was of Arab descent. Septimius and Julia promoted their Roman identity confidently and they were equally proud of their heritage. They pursued extensive building programs in Rome—and, also, in their hometowns, Leptis Magna and Emesa.  

Recognizing the various cultural and ethnic backgrounds within this imperial family is important because it reflects the many cultural and ethnic communities within the population of the Roman Empire as a whole. It allows us to gain a better understanding of society in the ancient world and can help us address aspects of our own society. Many of these complex issues, both positive and negative, will be explored in the upcoming exhibition, The Severans: Roman Art and Power in an Age of Extremes.