Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Elizabeth Macaulay

Subject Categories

Ancient History, Greek and Roman through Late Antiquity | Classical Archaeology and Art History | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


Rome, Egypt, Arches, Coins, Djeser-Djeseru, Statues


This thesis analyzes how historical notions of masculinity and femininity shaped perceptions of power between the Egyptian female pharaoh Hatshepsut and Roman empress Julia Domna. Both rulers carefully created visual narratives of masculinity and femininity to leverage respect from their citizens, in accordance with what was contextually appropriate for their respective societies.

It will be shown that there are blatant disconnects between how others perceived them and how they wished to be portrayed. Hatshepsut, a rare female pharaoh, depicted herself in the regalia of a male king with a false ceremonial beard, scepters and crowns. Domna was described as the masculine counterpart to her effeminate co-ruler son Caracalla, acting as a vengeful matriarch, driven by power. She is visually portrayed, however, as the ideal matron, embodying virtues of fertility, piety and modesty.

To contextualize the disconnect, historical accounts by ancient historians (Roman History and the Historia Augusta) as well as material culture consisting of reliefs, statues, coinage and monumental arches (based on imagery of which both Hatshepsut and Domna would have approved) will be considered. Both women also leveraged their relationships to their families, predecessors and various divinities to emphasize the legitimacy of their regimes. It is within these scenes, that their unique gender expressions are particularly evident through the sheer quantity of their visual representations and the way they were portrayed.