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Sidon (Saida, Lebanon)

  Phoenician: of the Sidonian's


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     Sidon, or Zidon (now Saida, Lebanon), a maritime city, in that part of Syria called Phoenicia, renowned for its great antiquity, being celebrated in history both sacred and profane. -- Sidon has its name from the son of Canaan, mentioned in Genesis (c. x. v. 15). The equally famous city of Tyre long contended with it for primacy. But as Isaiah (c. xxiii. v. 12) calls Tyre the "daughter of
Sidon," thus confirming what Strabo says, that
Sidon only, and not Tyre, was celebrated by
Homer, the palm of antiquity must necessarily
be yielded to Sidon. Its inhabitants were early
famous for their naval power, insomuch that,
according to Diodorus, they could send out a
hundred galleys of the largest class. At length the
opulence of this grand emporium of commerce
became a prey to Persian cupidity. -- Falling afterwards under the sway of the Romans, Sidon was deprived of her long enjoyed dignity of a metropolis by Augustus. -- But Trajan, mindful of its ancient glory, reconstituted its pre-eminence in the Syrian province ; and at length this most
ancient city was restored to its metropolitan rank, and made a Roman colony by one utterly unworthy to hold the scepter of imperial Rome namely by Elagabalus, himself a Syrian by birth. -- These metropolitan rights, however, seem to have been soon abolished, for beyond the reign of Alexander Severus no coins assign that title to
her. -- That Sidon was constituted a colony, with
the distinctive appellation of Aurelia Pia, by
Elagabalus is shown by the numerous coins struck in honor of himself and wives, of his mother and aunts. -- The autonomous coins of this place, many of which have Phoenician legends, bear the heads of Syrian kings from Antiochus IV. to Demetrius III. Its imperial medals, with Greek legends, are from Augustus to Hadrian. The colonial are inscribed to Elagabalus, Julia Paula, Annia Faustina, and Julia Maesa, and also to Alexander Severus. These all have Latin legends, such as COL. MET. AVR. PIA. SIDON. Colonia Metropolis Aurelia Pia Sidon ; and on their reverses the features of the Greek and Roman are singularly mingled with those of the Syrian and oriental superstition.
     The following are the types found on coins
of this colony, as given by Vaillant, whose work
is rich in Latin medals of Sidon, and no less so
in explanatory animadversions on the subjects
to which the different types refer : --

     Astarte. -- Among the numerous numismatic
dedications made by the Sidonians to the Syrian
Elagabalus and to members of his house, are
first and second brass, bearing the legend of
COL. AVR. PIA. METR. SID. (Colonia Aurelia Pia
Metropolis Sidon
), and exhibiting the effigy of
their favorite goddess, standing with her right
hand placed on a trophy, and with her left
holding a wand. A figure of Victory, placed on
a column, extends to her a crown, and at the
feet of Astarte is the figure of Silenus. -- On
another first brass, inscribed to the same emperor, the same deity appears, and the same Victoriola, within a temple supported by four columns, but without the trophy. This type also appears on coins of Julia Paula.
    [The Sidonians, like their Tyrian neighbors
and rivals paid supreme adoration to Astarte
(see the word) ; and their city contained a
temple erected to her honor. The goddess
lays her hand on a trophy, in the same way as
will be seen on the Tyrian money, and seemingly
for the same purpose -- namely, to point at
the various colonies established far and wide
from Phoenicia, and in which trophies had been
placed as tokens of conquest ; for which reason,
perhaps, the small figure of Victory is made to
offer a crown to Astarte, who holds the scipio,
or a scepter, her appropriate symbol, as queen
of the place, loci regina.]
         [Sidon, after having experience many changes of fortune, was at length made a colony, and the metropolis of Phoenicia, by Elagabalus.
And he, having invested Alexander Severus with
the title and rank of Caesar, had this medal
dedicated to him, in congratulation of the event,
and especially in in remembrance of Alexander's
victory over the Persian invaders of Syria. The
Sidonians, therefore, adopted the deified hero as
a type on their coins, perhaps in flattery to
Alexander himself, as if he were another conqueror of the eastern world.]
     Colonus agens boves. -- On the first brass of
Elagabalus, the colonial priest drives his plough team of oxen, by whose side stands a vexillum, on which is inscribed LEG. III. PAR. -- Legio Tertia Parthica. -- On a similar reverse of Annia Faustina, the colonist extends his right hand, which holds a staff over the oxen.
     [The third legion had its appellation of
Parthian conferred upon it by Sept. Severus ;
and the military standard here inscribed with
its name denotes that old soldiers from that
legion were sent as a reinforcement to the
Roman population of this colony. -- It appears
that in order to supply the place of the many
veterans who had fallen in the civil contests
between him and Pescennius and Albinus,
and also to fulfill his determination of waging
war against the Parthians, Sept. Severus established three new legions, which, that he might give them a character for valor, as if they had already gained victories over the enemy, he
called Parthicae. But having brought the war
to a successful conclusion, he ordered the first
and third of these newly formed legions to
winter in Mesopotamia for the protection of
that province. Subsequently, as many of the
soldiers had completed their term of service,
they were ordered by Elagabalus to be stationed
in this colony of his own founding, not far
remote from the place of their winter quarters.

     Europa, riding on the back of a bull, holds
with both hands a veil, which floats above her

head ; on a second brass of Elagabalus and of
Annia Faustina, his third wife, the legend of
this coin is C. A. PI. MET. SID., Colonia Aurelia
Pia Metropolis Sidon
     [Vaillant observes that this elegant type, representing the rape of Europa by Jupiter under
the form of a bull, refers to the antiquity of
Sidon. Bimard (ad Jobert. ii. 261) views it in
the same light, in opposition to the conjecture
of some writers, who contend that the young
woman and the bull simply designate the
united beauty and strength of the Sidonians,
qualities for which they were by no means
remarkable. -- The same learned annotator judiciously adds that "Sidon, at the period when
its Roman authorities caused these medals to be
struck, was inhabited not only by Phoenicians,
but also by Greeks, the latter of whom had
established themselves there from Alexander
the Great's time. And the Greeks, adopting on
their part the worship of Astarte (the most
ancient divinity of the Sidonians), imparted
in their turn to the Sidonians, the worship of
Europa." Thus, the figure of Astarte and of
Europa, with their respective attributes and
indications, were alternately engraved on the
colonial-imperial coins of Sidon, whose inhabitants, like the rest of Phoenicia, had eventually become composed of people, who paid adoration equally to each of these deifications.]

     Emperor Sacrificing. -- On a coin of Sidon,
struck under Elagabalus. -- The emperor, in the
garb of a pontiff, stands before an altar with
patera in right hand ; star in field. -- Pl. xix. 10,
p. 203.

     Modius. -- On a first brass of Elagabalus,
struck at Sidon, appears the modius, or bushel
measure, filled with ears of corn, and at the
bottom of the coin is AETERNV. BENEFI.
Aeternum Beneficium.
     [Allusive to the donations of corn which,
after the custom of Rome (see Annona), were
made by Elagabalus to the Sidonians. This
type seems to have been borrowed from a celebrated coin of Nerva, struck by order of the
senate, with the epigraph Plebei Urbanae Frumento Constituto.]
     The epigraph is singular, but still in keeping
with the monstrous exaggerations and fulsome
flattering of a hideous reign.

     Signa Militaria. -- There is a first brass of
Sidon, struck under the same Emperor, which
exhibits three military ensigns, whose tops are
surmounted by small eagles. These refer to the
veterans of the Third Parthian legion sent by
Elagabalus as colonists to Sidon, and on which
remarks have already been made in describing
the type of Colonus boves agens ; see above.
     On small brass, dedicated by this colony
respectively to Julia Soaemias, the mother, and to Julia Maesa, the grandmother of Elagabalus, are three military standards, but without the eagles.

     Tables and Urns. -- A coin of Sidon, inscribed
to Elagabalus, has a table with two urns upon

it, each urn having a palm branch. Around is
inscribed COL. METRO. AVR. PIA. SID. ; or COL.
AVR. PIA., etc., as in the example here given.
Below are a vase, apples, and the epigraph CER.
or CERT. PER. ISEL. OECVM. (Periodonica,
Iselastica, OEcumenica
). In the coin engraved
above it must read, CE. PE. OEC. IS.
     [Vaillant considers CER. or CERT. PER. to
signify Certamina Periodonica. but Bimard,
who rejects Periodonicum as an unknown and
even barbarous word, and who equally rejects
the explanation offered by Hardouin of Certamen
, adopts the opinion of Iselin, that
by CER. PER. is to be understood Certamen
, that is to say, public games, in
which all the different kinds of combats and
contests were united, as was the custom at the
four great games of Greece. Compare with
Vaillant "Num. Imp. in Coloniis Percussa,"
vol. ii. p. 90.
     On a very rare first brass coin of this colony,
struck under the same emperor, and on a second
brass of Annia Faustina, his wife, appears a
laurel crown, within which is read CERT.
SAC. PER. OECVME. ISELA., the whole surrounded
by COLonia AVRelia PIA. METRopolis
SIDON. -- alluding to the celebration by the
Sidonians of the same certamen periodicum.

     Triremis or Galley. -- On a rare second brass
of Elagabalus, bearing the usual legend of this
colony, are two galleys, in the right hand one of
which a male figure stands with hands extended
towards two figures (one of them a female), in
the other galley. At the top of the coin is the
ear of Astarte, and in the lower part is a
     [This naval group is supposed to refer to the
story of Dido's flight from Sidon.]
     On another Sidonian medal of Elagabalus
a half naked woman is seen standing on the
prow of a galley, with right hand extended, and
left hand holding a wand transversely.
     [Some regard this type as alluding to the
flight of Dido ; others as merely representing

     Woman, with turreted head, standing, clothed
in the stola, holds her right hand over an altar,
opposite to which is a legionary eagle placed on
the prow of a ship. -- On a first brass of Elagabalus.
     [This figure represents the genius of Sidon.
She wears a crown of towers, as a Metropolis ;
she is dressed in the garb of a Roman matron,
as a colony ; she holds a patera over the altar,
as in the act of sacrificing for the emperor. The
legionary eagle refers to the veterans with which
the colony was peopled ; it is placed on a ship's
prow, either to show the site of the place
(Sidon, till its capture by the Persians, being,
according to Mela, the greatest and most opulent
of maritime cities), or to demonstrate the naval
power of the place.]

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