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Sol




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Sol, the Sun. - This glorious luminary was originally regarded and worshipped by the Pagans as being the most brilliant and the most useful object in the universe -- as constituting by his light and heat the natural source of life and health both to the animal and vegetable kingdoms, and as imparting his splendour to the other heavenly bodies, and his glory to the whole firmament. The more deeply investigations are carried into heathen mythology, the more clearly it is to be seen that almost all its principal divinities resolve themselves into an identity with the Sun, to whose predominating influence over the moon and stars the goverment and preservation of all things both in heaven and earth were ascribed. Ancient monuments represent the Sun under the form of a man, with a youthful face, the head encircled with rays: sometimes he is mounted on a chariot drawn by winged horses. A horse was sacrified to him, on account of the great swiftness of that animal, a usage especially practised by the Lacedemonians.

The Sun was called Mithras by the Persians; Osiris by the Egyptians. He was considered by some to be the same deity with Apollo; by others the same with AEsculapius. Sol and Bacchus were also one and the same according to the superstition of the Syrians; and in illustration of some Roman colonial medals, Vaillant quotes Macrobius to show that Hercules and even Jupiter were only other names under which the Sun was worshipped in the East. -- The Romans, following in this and almost all other instances the polytheism of the Greeks, paid divine honours to the Sun, and on the silver coins of the republic his figure is represented. -- A medal of the Manlia family exhibits him in a quadriga, which he is driving at full speed; on each side of him is a star. Amongst the coins of foreign die inscribed ROMANO, Eckhel notices one with the head of Apollo on one side and a horse leaping on the other; a star above him, which he regards as confirming what is asserted by old writers, that the horse was consecrated to Apollo or the Sun; and that the same animal was in many countries publicly dedicated and afterwards immolated to the honour of that deity. Thus by the Rhodians, who were especially noted for being Sun-worshippers, a quadriga of consecrated horses was cast into the sea, because, as Festus relates, the God of Day was believed to be carried round the world in such a chariot.
On a denarius of Coelius Caldus, appears the radiated head of the Sun, evidently in allusion to the name of Caldus, for Calidus. (See Morell's "Famil. Roman.")
Sol
is represented in various ways on coins of the Imperial series. A second brass of Aurelian presents the naked head of the god, with the inscription SOL DOMINVS IMPERII ROMANI (see the words); thus shewing how peculiarly he was the favourite deity of that emperor, who caused a magnificent temple to be built at Rome to his honour. -- On another coin of Aurelian, with the same remarkable inscription, the head of Sol is radiated. Sometimes he appears in his perfect stature, either standing, or in a walking attitude, or even as if running with great swiftness, and almost always with a circlet of rays diverging from the head; the right hand is open and extended upwards, the left holds a globe or a whip (flagellum), the symbol of his velocity. -- On coins of Elagabalus, a huge stone, in the form of a cone, drawn in a chariot, represents the Sun, of whose temple at Emesa, in Syria, Elagabalus was a priest, before he was raised to disgrace the throne of the Caesars. -- Different types of the Sun are more frequently seen on the coins of Roman emperors without any other inscription than that of the letters P.M. TR. P. and so forth, as in Alexander Severus; or in conjunction with the words CONSERVAT. AVG. as in Probus: also with the following legends: ORIENS AVG. or AVGVST. -- SOLI INVICTO. -- SOLI INVICTO COMITI. -- INVICTVS. These are found on many Imperial coins from the time of Hadrian to Constantine, shortly after which there is no longer a recurrence of these signs of paganism. The personification of the Sun is accompanied with the inscription INVICTVS, on coins of Victorinus, Tetricus, and Carausius.
Sol was, with the Egyptians, the symbol of eternity, because, said they, he never grows old, but flourishes in perpetual youth. Hence it is represented on some Roman coins under the figure of a naked young man, with radiated head and uplifted right hand, as an everlasting sign in the heavens. So we find Sol and Luna placed on other coins (see p. 23) in the hands of the female figure personifying eternity. Nor was the Sun adopted only as the symbol of eternity; but he was held to denote invincible fortitude; since diversity of times and seasons withdraws nothing from him, and he pursues unweariedly his ceaseless course. -- The first of the emperors who dedicated coins to the Sun, under the name of Invinctus, was Elagabalus, and he called himself Solis Sacerdos.
On a gold coin of Vespasian, given by Morell, is a rostrated column, surmounted by the image of a naked man, with radiated head, holding the hasta in his right hand, and in his left something like a parazonium. -- This is considered to represent an image dedicated by Vespasian to the Sun, and which, on account of its vast height (respecting the exact number of feet, however, historians greatly differ), and of its wondrous perfection as a work of sculpture (on which latter point all coincide), the testimonies of the old historians designate as having ennobled the government of the above-mentioned emperor. This colossus is recorded to have had its head crowned with rays. -- On the subject of this prodigy of art Eckhel quotes Martial: -- Epig. i. 71

Nec te detineat miri radiata Colossi.
Quae Rhodium moles vincere gaudet opus.

Now (says he) the image presented on this coin has also its head radiated. The time likewise corresponds accurately: for in the year V.C. 829, not before, this type was exhibited on medals. But it appears from Dion, that this famous colossus was in the year V.C. 828 placed in the Via Sacra; and, therefore, as a work of such immense bulk, it was thought fit to bestow upon it the celebrity of coins.
The gold medal of Geta, whose bust is radiated in the likeness of that under which the Sun is generally represented on coins, has already been described and explained. -- See SEVERI INVICTI AVG. PII. FIL.


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