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Numism => Reading For the Advanced Collector => Topic started by: Jochen on January 02, 2019, 12:45:32 pm

Title: The Itureans
Post by: Jochen on January 02, 2019, 12:45:32 pm
Dear friends of the historical and cultural background of ancient coins!

The starting point for this article was the legend ITVR on the rev. of the following coin:

Coin #1
Syria, Caesarea ad Libanum, Severus Alexander as Caesar under Elagabal, AD 221-222
AE 21, 8.5g, 0
       Radiate head r.  
rev. [COL C - E - SA - R]IA LIB (?)
       in ex. ITVR
       Tripartite shrine of Astarte with 4 columns; in central intercolumnare under a vaulted  
       arch Astarte stg. frontal, holding standard, being wreathed by a male figur stg. beside
       her, at her feet the upper body of a river god swimming r.; at both sides outside staircases
       leading to the side wings; in the left side wing goddess with kalathos stg. between 2
       animals, in the left side wing female figure stg. frontal.
ref. BMC 110, 9; Lindgren II, 121, 2288
Rare, F/about VF, the sand patina evokes the impression that the temple is illuminated from behind.

(1) The old name of Kaisareia was Arka. Probably under Elagabal the city was raised to a Roman colonia under the name COLONIA CAESAREA LIBANI. Here Severus Alexander was born on October 1 208 AD, cousin, adoptive son and successor of Elagabal. On this coin he is at the age of about 13-14 years.

(2) Caesarea had as we know from literature a temple of Alexander the Great and an important cult for Astarte as Aphrodite Architis (= Atargatis). Wether the interesting building of the shrine as triptychon corresponds with the reality we don't know. The two statues in the side wings are not identifiable for sure. The goddess on the left side corresponds iconographically with the "Mistress of the Animals (Ποτνια θηρον)", the goddess on the right side could be possibly Aphrodite. Although the location of the city between Tripolis and Antandros at the modern Tell Arqa is identified exactly we don't know the ancient name of the river Nahr-el-Arqa that has its source in the mountains of Lebanon.

ITVR, that has catched my eye, has nothing to deal with ITVR of Latin "ire = to go", as in "Abitur" (in Germany = general qualification for university entrance), but refers to the people of Itureans, about which I have heard nothing until now. And suddenly and unexpectedly we have again the situation that by a single coin a totally new field of knowledge has opened. This is well known under collectors and something that makes collecting of coins so fascinating.
The Itureans:
The Itureans (Greek Ituraioi, Latin Ituraei) were nomadic people, probably from South Arabia (Pauly), that invaded the Bekaa Valley between Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon Mountains and settled mainly the mountainous slopes. For the older collectors the Bekaa Valley will be well-known, because in the Lebanese civil war 1975-1990, that changed the former "Switzerland of Near East" to a heap of ruins, it played an important strategic role, especially by the militias of the Druzes.

The Itureans are mentioned already in the Old Testament of the Bible. In Genesis 25, 15 and in 1st Chronic, 1, 31, Jetur, a son of Ismael, son of Abraham, is called their ancestor. Jetur generally is seen as ancestor of the Arabs (Gen. 25, 12-18) and thereby shows the narrow historical relations between Israelites and Arabs. The Itureans were too mentioned by Strabo and Cassius Dio and appear in the NT too. The Romans called them in the same breath with the Arabs" bandits" because of their raids on caravans. According to them their area of settlement was called Ituraia that probably means "land of the mountain settlers". Their main town was Chalkis that because of its location too was called Chalcis sub Libano. First it was an important buffer state of the Romans against the Parthians but not very reliable. When the Romans have given their realm to Herodes the Great they disappeared from history. That the Lebanese Druzes could be traced back to them, that you can read too, is not possible because newly researches of the mitochondrial DNA of the Druzes have shown that they have originated from a great number of different people.

The Romans regarded the Itureans highly as archers and formed a number of cohorts of their auxiliary units that were named after them. In 1982 during works on a developing area in Mainz/Germany a wooden tablet was found that mentioned an officer "Datus Ituraeus". The tablet was made in Augustan time and proves that one of these cohorts, probably from Pannonia, was deployed here. The legend ITVR on the coin of Severus Alexander points to the fact that the city was located in the territory of the Itureans or its population was a greater part of this people.

To round out my small collection of Roman client states I have added the following coin to my collection:

Coin #2
Syria, Coele-Syria, Chalcis sub Libano, Octavian, c. 32-34 BC
AE 22, 6.46g, 22,3mm
struck 27/26 BC (= year 107 of local era)
obv. L ZΠ NE - KAI (from upper left)
       Bare head of Octavian r.
rev. ZENOΔOPOV TETP - APXOV KAI APXHPEΩΣ (from upper right)
       Bare head of Zenodoros l.
ref. RPC 4775; BMC 7; SNG Copenhagen 417; SNG France 9-10; Daniel Hermann, The
        Coins of the Itureans, Type 17, in "Israel Numismatics Research 1 (2016)"
Scarce, F+, legends well readable

NE - KAI for NEOS KAISAR, the new Caesar = Augustus
It is remarkable that all the coins of the Itureans have Greek legends and depict Greek deities. This is an indication for the fact how deeply the Hellenism has penetrated even the culture of small nations.

The Principality of Chalkis:
When the influence of the Seleucids began to fade the Itureans under Ptolemaios (85-40 BC), son of Mennaios, spread out over Coele-Syria and the mountains of Lebanon, until Pompeji 66 BC they finally conquered and made them a client state of the Romans. The successor of Ptolemaios was his son Lysanias (40-36 BC). Wether this house was originally Arabic or has come with Alexander the Great into this region is uncertain. Lysanias has been executed by the Romans because of his too great affinity to the Parthians.

Zenodoros (36-23 v.Chr.) was the successor of Lysanias. Kleopatra has given to him these region that she got from Marcus Antonius 36 BC on lease. After the death of Marcus Antonius Augustus confirmed this commitment and he ruled as tetrarch and archiereus over the territories of Iturea and Trachonitis but with the payment of considerable tributes. To pay these tributes Zenodoros had to collaborate with brigand bands that even threatened Damascus, Berytos and Byblos. That couldn't be tolerated by the Romans and Augustus committed 23 BC his realm to his ally Herodes (23 BC - AD 4). The realm of the Itureans was cut into pieces. Besides the territory of Trachonitis and Galilee under Herodes there was the territory around Abilene, in the time of Tiberius under the rule of Herodes Agrippa I and Herodes Agrippa II, the territory between Heliopolis (Baalbek) and Laodikeia that Caligula bestowed a certain Soeimas, and the true heartland around Chalkis, that was ruled by the tetrarch Herodes Philippus (4-34 AD), a son of Herodes (Luk. 3, 1).

All these territories were over time incorporated to Syria, at last perhaps the region of Chalkis. The history of the principality of Chalkis shows paradigmatically that such a small state has no chance to  keep its autonomy between two great empires as it was the Roman Empire and the Empire of the Parthians.

I have added:
(1) A plan of Ituraia (outlined green) from the "Atlas antiquus" of Karl Sprunner AD 1865  
(2) A photo of the Bekaa Valley, in the background the Lake of Qaraoun

(1) Old Testament
(2) New Testament (NT)
(3) Cassius Dio, Roman history
(4) Strabon, Geographica 16.2, 10.18
(5) Cicero, Philippica 2.112
(6) Flavius Josephus, Antiquitates Judaicae
(7) Pseudo-Csar, Bellum Africanum 20
(8) Macrobius, Saturnalia

Secondary Literature:
(1) Der Kleine Pauly
(2) Daniel Hermann, The Coins of the Itureans, Type 17, in "Israel Numismatics Research 1

(1) Wikipedia

Best regards

Title: Re: The Itureans
Post by: Dominic T on January 02, 2019, 01:56:23 pm
Super interesting and instuctive Mr.Jochen. You are a walking encyclopedia !

Title: Re: The Itureans
Post by: Jochen on January 02, 2019, 02:38:11 pm
Thank you! But I have to say that I myself have the biggest benefit from this researches.