Fashioning Identity: Clothing and the Image of the Syrian in the Roman Empire
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This thesis examines the role that clothing played in creating identity in Ancient Rome, with a focus on Syrian identity. The historical background which led to Syria’s becoming a Roman province necessitated that a uniquely Syrian identity be established, but when this identity was created by the Romans it often drew on stereotypes and prejudices which were inherited from earlier Greek accounts. In many cases, the Romans crafted a Syrian identity based on what they viewed as Syrian clothing. Artistic and literary depictions of Syrian and Near Eastern clothing remained remarkably consistent throughout Greek and Roman accounts, but these depictions are sometimes at odds with the surviving depictions from the Near East, as found at sites such as Palmyra. Finally, my thesis examines how these stereotypes and assumptions about Syrians, especially descriptions of clothing, influenced the biographical accounts of the Severan emperor Elagabalus.