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Elagabalus.
Denarius, 218-219 AD, Antioch mint.
Obv: ANTONINVS PIVS FEL AVG / Laureate bust of Elagabalus.
Rev: SANCT DEO SOLI ELAGABAL / Slow quadriga bearing the conical stone of Emesa, on which is an eagle, surrounded by four parasols.
2.41 gm., 17 mm.
RIC #195.

Elagabalus was a high priest of the local ba'al of Emesa, Syria, at the time he was proclaimed emperor. This deity was named El-Gabal, and was worshiped in the form of a large, black, conical-shaped stone, which was probably a meteorite. When Elagabalus moved to Rome, he took this god with him. After a long overland journey from Emesa, Elagabalus and his entourage entered Rome in 219. The black stone was carried on a cart pulled by white horses. It was decorated with an eagle, and shaded by four parasols. Elagabalus, dressed in his priestly robes, walked backwards in front of this cart to show his reverence for his deity.

The entry of their new emperor into the city shocked the people of Rome. They soon realized that he fully intended to continue in his duties as High Priest to El-Gabal, and that his worship was to be imposed on the whole Empire. The the temple of Jupiter (Jove) in Rome was turned into the temple of El-Gabal. The religious excesses of the reign finally ended with the murder of Elagabalus. Under the new emperor, Severus Alexander, the temple was cleansed, rededicated to Jupiter, and El-Gabal sent back home to Emesa.

This coin commemorates the journey of El-Gabal to Rome and his entrance into the city. The legend on the reverse translates "Holy Sun-God Elagabal." Silver denarii with this reverse type all seem to be in the "Eastern" style so numismatists generally assign them to the mint at Antioch. It is possible, though, that they could have been minted by a mint that traveled with Elagabalus on his journey from Emesa to Rome, spending the winter of 218-219 in Nicomedia.
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Nick.vdw  [Dec 15, 2014 at 02:09 PM]
Absolutely lovely and historically interesting!