Seleucid Coinage and Eternal Ties of Seleucids

  May 22, 2021   Read time 1 min
Seleucid Coinage and Eternal Ties of Seleucids
Coinage is one of the tangible sides of the ancient civilizations. Coins convey key information of an unknown past that can be unearthed through precise deliberations. Seleucid coins are significant in understanding the historical relevance of this ancient kingdom.

Based on contemporary Seleucid coinage, it is totally feasible to argue that Seleucus’ connection to Heracles and Dionysus – with whom Heracles is often associated in myth and cult – is better understood in the context of Seleucus’ Indian campaign, although, in my view, Seleucus did not necessarily need a particular historical occasion for associating the two sons of Zeus, whose salvific aspects coincided widely. Apparently, all successors had employed divine attributes in their iconography for some time before their cult appeared, and Seleucus probably did the same in the famous coins issued around 305–295 BCE, where he is depicted with a helmet decorated with panther skin, bull’s ears and horns. Heraclean imagery has been also utilized on the obverse of Seleucus’ victory coinage from Susa that shows a horned warrior bust. The warrior wears an Attic helmet rendered so as to represent the skin of a panther or leopard while two legs of a similar animal are wrapped around his shoulders and tied at the front, recalling the lion skin cowl of Herakles on the Alexander-type silver coinage. The figure on the coins is said to be Seleucus, whose iconography is derived from ANE models, a point also corroborated by the choice of Antiochus to advocate his father’s apotheosis by commissioning horned portraits of him. Importantly Antiochus I issued coins which featured Heracles resting after his labours206 – kingship had been successfully reclaimed and the latest Heraclids had been vindicated. Heracles’ syncretism with ANE deities anticipates his Underworld adventures, as already discussed in connection with some of his labours, and puts renewed emphasis on the association of kingship with death ideology during the Hellenistic period. For example, one of the gods identified with Heracles was Nergal, who was at times worshipped under the title Mešlamta-eda (= Warrior who comes forth from the Underworld). Nergal was described as a gruesome warrior who could, nevertheless, be engaged by kings as a powerful ally. As we saw, the Sumerian Ninurta was also associated with Heracles mainly because of his profile as protector of kingship and civilization.

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