Perceptions of Zenobia in Ancient Rome
By Gayle Young
Ancient Rome had a longstanding history of conflict with Eastern queens beginning, before its very foundation, with Dido and most famously exemplified by Cleopatra. Literature suggests powerful women from the East were particularly feared and loathed. Yet the Palmyrene ruler Zenobia, who claimed descent from Cleopatra and briefly conquered Egypt, was reportedly admired and, once vanquished by Aurelian, was allowed to retire comfortably to a villa in Tivoli. By examining surviving historical texts of the 3rd century, and comparing them with surviving historical and literary texts from the Augustan age, this thesis will postulate why the Roman perception of Zenobia appears to have differed so radically. It will conclude that Aurelian, who was markedly sensitive to his public image, waged a propaganda campaign that emulated that of Augustus in some respects, but ultimately differed because he needed for Zenobia to be admired in order to justify his victory over a woman.
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(H/T History of the Ancient World)