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Durham University

Department of Classics and Ancient History


Publication details for Professor Ted Kaizer

Hekster, Olivier & Kaizer, Ted (2012). An accidental tourist? Caracalla's fatal trip to the temple of the Moon at Carrhae/Harran. Ancient Society 42: 89-107.

Author(s) from Durham


The circumstances surrounding Caracalla’s death in AD 217 remain confusing. In particular the presence of the emperor near the famous temple of the Moon at Carrhae-Harran has led to much scholarly speculation. Often a preference for ‘the East’ has been put forward to explain Caracalla’s actions. This paper discusses the various possibilities why he decided to visit this specific temple, and argues that the episode ought to be understood through a combination of religious notions and individual, ‘political’ needs and conveniences which would have made it impossible for this emperor not to go to a deity whose local cult stood for total, universal power. In the process, this article also provides some clarity regarding the contradictory sources describing the events.