The Styrax tree
We have another interesting plant
depicted on coins, typical for Selge in Pisidia
: the Styrax tree. But in contrast to Silphion Styrax is not extincted and in use until today.
, Selge, 2nd-1st century BC
AR - triobol
, 2.40g, 15.23mmobv. Head
frontal, slightly r., wearing Styrax wreath
, lion-skin over shouldersrev.
Club on l. side
, holy Styrax tree on altar
on r. side
, between SELGEWN
in r. field
. SNG France
1959; SNG Copenhagen
256; SNG von Aulock
, about VF, obv.
is described as 'wearing oak wreath
'. But actually it is a Styrax wreath
, Selge, 2nd-1st century BC
AE 11, 2.45gobv.
, wreathed with Styrax leaves, lion-skin over shouldersrev.
Stag kneeling r., head
in l. and r. field
SE - Lref
. SNG France
1963; SG 5489
Here the Styrax wreath
Styrax tree (Storax, Styrax) is a genus of the Styrax plants with about 100 species in the tropics and subtropics (except Africa
); indeciduous or deciduous shrubs or trees, whose twigs and leaves are covered by star-shaped hairs. The blossoms are white, separate, growing from the leaf axil or in terminal grapes. Popular species are the Benjamin tree (benzoe) and the true Styrax (Styrax officinalis), the last one a small tree native in South-Europe and Asia Minor
. By carving into the bark the resin formerly Storax was obtained. Storax was the collective name for several aromatic smelling resins, consisting particularly of cinnamic acid, cinnamic acid esters, alcoholes and vanillin. The most famous was the oriental Storax, obtained from the Oriental Sweetgum (Liquidamber orientalis). It was formerly used as remedy for asthma, catarrhs and skin deseases. Today it serves for the production of ethereal oils and a resinoid which were used in perfume industry.
. 7, §3) writes: 'The Styrax is found here (in the neighbourhood of Selge) in great abundance
, a tree, not big, but grown upright. From the wood
of this tree were made spears like those made from ash trees. In the stem of Styrax a worm is breeded who munched through the wood
to the bark and in doing so ejects wooden grasps like strands or bran, a heap which accumulate at the root of the tree. Afterwards this changes to a liquid which quickly hardens to a gum-like mass. One part
of the liquid rises up and mingles with the wooden grasps at the root of the tree and with earth; another part
obtains its stability at the surface of the mass and stays pure. The part
flowing vdown on the surface of the stem is pure too. From the impure part
a mixture is made, a combination of earth and wood
dust; this mixture has a greater flavour than the pure Styrax, but is inferior to him in all other qualities. That's not generally known. It is used in vast quantities as incense due to the superstition of those who worship gods.'
Selge was situated at the southern slopes of the Tauros mountains. The valley near Selge was fruitful of wine, olives, iris and Styrax. But the most important was the Styrax industry. Several thousands of people were busy in preparing the precious balsam. Styrax was the base of Selge's wealth, prosperity and power. Styrax not only was used as remedy but like frankincense in ritual acts too. Even today it is the most important incense of the Greek-Orthodox Church
At the river Eurymedon (today Köprücay river) you find still
today Styrax shrubs from which the valuable resin is obtained. If you go along the Eurymedon sometimes the bright green of Styrax officinals glows through the darker leafage. The inhabitants of Selge hold this plant
in such high veneration that they put it on their coins. Barcley Head
Nummorum) writes; 'Coin types
are - two Styrax trees in boxes (a altar
before each), flanked by thunderbolt
and club, or by a column carrying an eagle
In the Bible too the Styrax tree is mentioned. Hosea 4, 13: They offer sacrifices on mountaintops, and they burn incense on the hills under oaks, poplars, and terebinths. They think that these trees provide good shade. "That is why your daughters become prostitutes, and your daughters-in-law commit adultery.
Poplar probably means Styrax tree. The Hebraic word livneh is used for both trees.
So Styrax was not only economical important for Selge but because of its ritual relevance too. Are there more reasons to venerate this tree and to put it on the coins?
I have added
(1) The pic of a Styrax tree
(2) The pic of Leaves, blossoms and fruits of Styrax officinalis from Leopold Dippel, Handbuch der Laubholzkunde, 1889.
Meyers Enzyklopädisches Lexikonhttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Styrax_officinalishttp://www.zum.de/stueber/dippel/band1/203.html