Lucius Aurelius Commodus Caesar Augusti Filius
Reign: Marcus Aurelius
Magistrate: Ti. Ail. Loukios
Mint: Dioshieron, Lydia
Date: 175/177 AD
Reference: RPC IV.2 1239
Reference: BMC 14
Reference: Hochard 409
Reference: GPRC Lydia 44 corr. (obv. legend)
RPC Online: https://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/coins/4/1239
Rare: Specimens 8 (2 in the core collections)
Provenance: Roma Numismatics London, Great Britain (Auction 108, Lot 741)
Obverse: Bare-headed bust of Commodus (youthful) wearing paludamentum, right; seen from centre
Inscription: Λ ΑΥΡ Κο[ΜοΔοϹ ΚΑΙϹΑΡ]
Translation: Lucios Aurelios Komodos Kaisaros
Translation: Lucius Aurelius Commodus Caesar
Reverse: Asclepius standing, facing, head, left, feeding erect serpent, resting arm on hip
Translation: City of Dioshieron
Comment: Dioshieron (or Dios Hieron; Diospolis; later also Christoupolis) was a city in ancient Lydia in the upper valley of the river Kaystros (little Meander). Today’s modern Birgi is located about 9km northeast of Ödemiş near İzmir in the Aegean region of western Turkey. The village of Birgi has had various names throughout its history. The oldest known name of the predecessor settlement of the recent village of Birgi was Dioshieron. According to Greek morphological language determinations, the name “Dioshieron” consists exclusively of ancient Greek words. The word “Dios” is the genitive form of the proper name “Zeus”, the highest god of the Greek pantheon. The word “Hieron” is the nominative of the ancient Greek word for “holy place, temple, sanctuary”. Derived from the combination of the words, Dioshieron thus means “holy place of Zeus”. The Greek name “∆ιοσιερόν” probably became the corresponding spelling “Dioshieron” in Roman times. A change of name occurred with the transition to Christianity from Dioshieron to “Christoupolis”. Here, too, the name “Christoupolis” consisted exclusively of ancient Greek words. The word “Christou” is the genitive of the proper name Christos (the anointed one). The word “Polis” is the nominative of the ancient Greek word “city / community”.
Judging from written sources and archaeological evidence, there were only scattered village communities in the fertile plain of Kaystros (Küçük Menderes) of the ancient Lydian region of western Asia Minor from the late Chalcolithic to the Roman period. In antiquity, the Küçük Menderes Plain, as a fertile river and basin landscape, had a rich agricultural economy and also suitable settlement sites where “Kaystrosians” lived in the central part and “Kilbosians” in the east in dense settlements. According to this, the founding area of the city of Dioshieron, and thus possibly the place itself, had been continuously settled for centuries before it was possible to mint coins there under its own name in the 1st century AD. Apart from the coins that have been found, there is so far no other source, no clear indication that the city already existed during the Lydian Kingdom and the Persian Empire. One thing, however, is definitely known: The site of Dioshieron had originated in Hellenistic times within the “temple landscape” of the Pergamene Empire, just like Hierapolis (Pamukkale) and Hierakome (Beyoba), as a village next to a temple (or altar), and was gradually urbanised over time into a Greek polis by founding its own civil society as an important religious centre. These communities minted their own community coins even before the Roman period, but they did not have cities at first. The first urbanisation in the Kaystros Plain was by the rural tribes of the Kaystrosians after the 1st century BC. The first town founded after Veli Sevin was Hypaipa, 4-5 km northeast of Ödemiş. The second city founded by the Kaystrosians was Dioshieron. A few years after the archaeologist Veli Sevin, Recep Meriç (also an archaeologist), in a study in 1988, a summary of his habilitation thesis, established with the help of both written sources and archaeological data that the phenomenon of urbanisation in the Menderes Plain dates back to the Hellenistic Age. However, the site was not mentioned as a city until the 1st century AD, as pointed out by the philologist and epigraphist Karl Buresch, who was one of the few modern scholars to research it.
The region, and with it the place of Dioshieron, had become part of the Roman Empire after the battle of Magnesia (Manisa) in 190 BC and then of the Roman province of Asia in 133 BC, governed by a governor under the authority of a consul (from 129 BC). Later, it gradually developed in the religious ancient world into a “sacred place of Zeus”, Dioshieron with its own coinage in the 1st century AD. On the basis of the British Museum’s catalogue of Dioshieron coins, compiled by Barclay Vincent Head, it can be reconstructed that the ancient city of Dioshieron was continuously a city from the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus until the end of the period of the soldier emperor Marcus Antonius Gordianus (Gordian III), i.e. between 27 BC and 244 AD. People minted their own coins there with different motifs, each fitting the period. Barclay Vincent Head compiled this catalogue at the beginning of the 20th century in order to explain the political, social, cultural and religious aspects of the life of the people in the region of Lydia at that time. In this context, various gods and goddesses are immortalised on the coins minted in the city during the Roman imperial period: First is Zeus, who gave the city its name, followed by Hera, wife and at the same time sister of Zeus, Asclepius (god of healing), Hygieia (patron saint of apothecaries), the goddess of fate Tyche and Kaystros (the river god of the Küçük Menderes Nehri, Little Meander).
Dioshieron had become the second largest city and administrative centre of the Lydian region behind Hypaipa during the Roman imperial period. However, there is almost no information about the oldest dates and foundations of Dioshieron. It is not without reason that Sevin’s article on the early cities in the area of the Middle Kaystros Plain translates as “Study on the history of Hypaipa, a little-known ancient city of western Anatolia”. Strabo, Pliny, Tacitus and Ovid mentioned Hypaipa in their works in relation to its geographical location, but did not give any further details about the ancient city of Dioshieron. We obtain the most important information about Dioshieron from the dates of coins minted in the Roman imperial period: Dioshieron is mentioned as a large settlement that could be called a city and that minted coins under the name Dioshieron. This, however, says nothing about the real age of the place. When Christianity was recognised as the official religion of Rome in the 4th century AD, Christian clergymen changed the name of the city to “Χριστού̟ολις” (Christoupolis = City of Jesus). In this context, under Byzantine rule, the city first became a bishopric of the Metropolis (ecclesiastical province) of Ephesus and then the centre of an archbishopric. At that time, the name of the city was “Pyrgion”, which means “castle or bastion” in Greek.
Asclepius is the god of healing in Greek and Roman mythology. The serpent coiled around Asclepius’ staff in most depictions assigns him to the chthonic or earth deities. According to Homeric tradition, Asclepius was a heros and physician in Thessaly who received his veneration as the god of medicine after death. Asclepius is said to be the son of Apollo and Koronis, the daughter of King Phlegyas. When Koronis was already pregnant by the god Apollo, she became involved with Ischys, a mortal. As punishment, she was killed by Apollo’s twin sister Artemis or by Apollo himself. As her body was being burned at the stake, Hermes approached and cut the unborn Asclepius from her womb. Apollo brought him to Cheiron, a Centaur with a knowledge of healing, who took in the child and instructed him in the art of healing, which he had once learned from Apollo himself. With this mythological origin, Asclepius is seen as an incomparable master of the medical healing art, including veterinary medicine. With the help of magical healing powers of the blood of the Gorgon Medusa, which Athena brought him, he had even succeeded in bringing a dead person back to life. Furthermore, Asclepius is also mentioned in the Iliad, where Homer sees him as an “incomparable physician” whose son Machaon performs his service at the gates of embattled Troy. By raising a dead man, Asclepius had probably exceeded his authority; in any case, Hades complained vigorously about him to his brother Zeus. The latter, too, feared that soon no human being would die because of the success of the healing artist. He then hurled a thunderbolt at Asclepius and killed him. After his death he was accepted among the gods.
Asclepius possessed many names depending on the region, some of which were: Aglaopes, Apaleriacus, Archgetas, Aulonius, Causius, Coronides, Cotylaeus, Demenaetus, Epidaurius, Gortynius, Hagnitas, Pergameuns and Tricaecus. Asclepius is usually depicted as a bearded, serious man adorned with laurel and leaning on a staff. This staff, which is clasped by a snake (viper), into whose form he once transformed himself in order to put an end to a plague or serious epidemic that had existed in Rome since about 290 BC according to Titus Livius, the so-called staff of Asclepius, became the symbol of healing. The cock, the owl, the snake and the cypress were sacred to him. Asclepius was depicted on statues, reliefs, vessels and coin backs, the latter especially on the bronze coins in the Roman provinces of Asia Minor.