The Sensory Experience of Caracalla’s Supplication at the Pergamene Asclepieion


  • Ghislaine Elisabeth van der Ploeg Department of Classics and Ancient History, University of Warwick
  • Ghislaine Van der Ploeg Department of Classics and Ancient History, University of Warwick



Asclepius, Caracalla, Pergamum, Senses, Sacrifice, Medallions


An imperial visit to a city was a grand affair, from the emperor’s adventus, to sacrificing at local shrines, to the commemorative acts which followed. This article aims to examine the multi-sensory impact of an imperial visit to a sanctuary and the lasting effects of these supplications via the case study of Caracalla’s worship of Asclepius in Pergamum in AD 213-14. This visit was commemorated on a series of medallions struck shortly after the event, which depict the acts of the emperor as he moved through the city to the Asclepieion and from secular to sacred space.

This article will bring new depth to the study of imperial and divine relations as well as address the issue that often events such as these were not as neat and as clean-cut as is sometimes imagined nowadays. This article will address the following questions: How does our understanding of an imperial visit and supplication change when the sensory nature of such an event is examined? And for what reason are the senses manipulated in these images?


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Museum interior with classical sculpture






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