Milena Raycheva (Sofia University)
The poster focuses on a little known brass relief of Caracalla from Philippopolis, Thrace. The emperor is depicted wearing elephant skin and facing Herakles. This peculiar image was found on a chariot decoration plate which was buried with the vehicle itself and some horses in the grave of a local individual. The unusual iconography corresponds to a popular passage in Cassius Dio (surviving through an epitome by Xiphillinus) that describes the behavior of Caracalla at the beginning of his Eastern campaigns, or the supposed imitation of Alexander and/or Dionysus. That included strange acts, such as gathering of elephants. Historians have been generally skeptical when analyzing this passage, as it finds no support in literary tradition, and it has been considered an exaggeration or a demonstration of dislike by Dio. In any case, the iconographic data from Philippopolis raises several points of discussion that go beyond the usual reading of Dio. Was the narrative based at least partly on real events? How did the relief appear in Thrace and what was the historical context behind it?