The Certamina Sacra Capitolia Oecumenica Iselastica Heliopolitana
SYRIA, Coele-Syria. Heliopolis. Gallienus.
|CNG 88, Lot: 1042. Estimate $300.
Sold for $1900. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.
AD 253-268. Æ (29mm, 16.22 g, 6h). Capitolia Oecumenica Iselastica Heliopolitana Games issue. 8th emission, AD 256/7. Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right / Three prize crowns, each containing two palm fronds, set on ground line; CERT • SACR •/CAP • OEC •/ISE • HEL • in three lines in exergue. Sawaya - (D-/R231 [unlisted obv. die]); cf. Klose & Stumpf 271 (Valerian I); De Saulcy 3; SNG München 1045. Near EF, black-green patina with earthen overtones.
Although the main Pythian Games were held at Apollo’s sanctuary at Delphi, many other cities throughout the eastern portion of the Roman Empire periodicially held smaller versions of this event. Like the Delphic original, these smaller versions included a number of athletic contests, as well as music and poetry competitions. Often such events were associated with other deities, based on the important civic cults of each city. At Heliopolis (mod. Baalbek), the site of a massive temple complex dedicated to Jupiter-Zeus-Baal-Hadad, Venus-Aphrodite-Astarte, and Bacchus-Dionysus, these games were known as the Certamina Sacra Capitolia Oecumenica Iselastica Heliopolitana. Here, celebrations were held in honor of Jupiter-Zeus-Baal-Hadad, not only associating this god with his counterpart at Rome, but also the city with the Empire as a whole. Owing to the rarity of this issue, it is possible that these games were held in the presence of Valerian himself, who was certainly in the East at this time, preparing for his war against the Sasanians. Consequently, Heliopolis could feel especially honored at its presence for this for this important moment upon the imperial stage.