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Research Coins: Electronic Auction

213, Lot: 318. Estimate $100.
Sold for $280. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

SYRIA, Seleucis and Pieria. Emesa. Julia Domna. Augusta, AD 193-217. Æ 24mm (10.33 g, 6h). Dated SE 527 (AD 215/6). Draped bust right / Lighted altar of the temple of El-Gabal set on two-tiered base; panel decorated with two sets of three arches decorated with figures; ZKΦ (date) in exergue. SNG Copenhagen -; BMC 10; Price & Trell 681. Near VF, brown surfaces, a few deposits.

Emesa was the major cult center for the deity El-Gabal, who was worshipped there in the form of a baetyl (an aniconic stone idol; in the case of El-Gabal, a large black conical stone, often interpreted as a meteorite). Just several years after this coin was struck, a teenage priest of the god, Varius Avitus Bassianus, was declared emperor and took the name Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, although he is more commonly known as Elagabalus for his devotion to El-Gabal. Elagabalus moved the baetyl to Rome upon his accession and, for a brief period, it seemed that El-Gabal might become the principle deity in the Roman pantheon. Wishing to distance himself from Elagabalus’ unpopular religious practices, his successor Severus Alexander sent the baetyl back to Emesa. The cult of El-Gabal saw a resurgence in Rome under Aurelian, who wisely promoted the worship of the deity in an iconic form more acceptable to westerners.