Imperator Caesar Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus Augustus
Reign: Marcus Aurelius
Mint: Gerasa, Syria
Date: 176/180 AD
Reference: RPC IV.3 6611 (#8 this coin)
Reference: Kindler Bostra 19
Reference: Sofaer 29 var. (same)
Reference: Rosenberger 30 var. (same)
Reference: Spijkerman 24 var. (obv. legend)
RPC Online: https://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/coins/4/6611
Rare: Specimens 8 (2 in the core collections)
Provenance: CNG Classical Numismatic Group Lancaster, USA (Auction 536, Lot 368)
Obverse: Laureate-headed bust of Commodus wearing cuirass and paludamentum, right
Inscription: ΑV Κ ΚΟΜο
Translation: Autokrator Kaisaros Komodos
Translation: Imperator Caesar Commodus
Reverse: Draped bust of Artemis-Tyche, right; having quiver at shoulder
Inscription: ΑΡΤ ΤVΧ ΓƐ
Translation: Ártemis Týchē Geráza
Translation: Deity Artemis-Tyche, City of Gerasa
Comment: Gerasa or Jerash is located in the north of Jordan and about 40 kilometres north of Amman. The ancient city of Gerasa was part of the so-called Decapolis. The first traces of human settlement in Gerasa date back to the 6th millennium BC. Bronze Age and Iron Age traces have been preserved. The name Gerasa also comes from these times. The place probably belonged later to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The city, which was insignificant until the 1st century AD, experienced a rapid rise under Roman rule and under the Roman peace. It became part of the province of Syria and a member of the Decapolis in 64 BC and increasingly rivalled the older Petra as a trading city. Its inhabitants extracted ore from the nearby Adschlun Mountains. From the middle of the first century, this boom led to lively building activity and a rich abundance of architectural monuments that is still impressive today. In 106 AD, Gerasa became part of the new Roman province of Arabia Petraea. In the following decades, the Roman wars of expansion in the Near East led to a further increase in importance; well-developed roads were built to Pella, Philadelphia, Dion and the provincial capital Bos(t)ra. Emperor Hadrian paid a visit to the city in the winter of AD 129/130. In late antiquity, the political situation in the region changed fundamentally and the city lost importance. Nevertheless, the upper class remained prosperous. This period also saw the establishment of Christianity and the construction of many churches in the city. Gerasa had its own bishop – it is still a titular bishopric today -; Bishop Placcus (or Plancus) took part in the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD.
Decapolis (“ten-city”) refers to ten ancient cities east and south of the Sea of Galilee, between Damascus in the north and Philadelphia (now Amman) in the south. These cities had been founded or recast on the Greek model after the conquest of the area by Alexander the Great and under his Seleucid successors. They were located in the region known as Koilesyria during the Diadochic period, which was long disputed between Seleucids and Ptolemies. The emergence of the Decapolis as a political-geographical unit is dated to the first century B.C. According to earlier opinion, the political changes in the course of the Roman invasion (Pompey in 64 BC) shaped this structure. According to Robert Wenning, on the other hand, in order to preserve their internal autonomy and to avoid subjugation and administration by the expansive Herodian-ruled Jewish state, these cities voluntarily subordinated themselves to the northern Roman province of Syria from 37 AD. This tactic was successful. After protracted battles between the Jewish ruling dynasty of the Herodians and the Nabataeans, the Herodians were able to occupy a territory east of the Jordan called Peraea, which stretched from the Dead Sea to the Decapolis. In the 2nd century AD, the advantages of autonomy led more and more cities in the region to declare themselves as belonging to the Decapolis. The Decapolis was thus not a foundation of Pompey, but a later consequence of his conquest of Syria and the creation of the Roman province located there. The Decapolis is mentioned in various ancient writings such as the New Testament (Mk 5:20 EU, Mk 7:31 EU, Mt 4:25 EU). The oldest enumeration is found in the Natural History of Pliny the Elder. According to this, the cities are: Damascus, Gadara (Umm Qais), Hippos (Susita), Dion, Pella, Raphana, Kanatha (El-Qanawat), Philadelphia (today Amman), Scythopolis (Bet She’an) and Gerasa (Jerash).
The city of Gerasa has impressive monuments from ancient times, such as the Arch of Hadrian. The arch monument was built in the winter of 129/130 in honour of the Emperor Hadrian, who was visiting the city at the time. It was located outside ancient Gerasa. Originally, the arch was perhaps intended to serve as a new city gate, for according to an inscription, Hadrian wanted to found an entire city quarter on this site. However, this building project apparently fell victim to an economic crisis. The oval forum lies at the foot of the Temple of Jupiter. Its dimensions are 90 × 80 metres. The oval is lined with colonnades. The site was chosen strategically – it covers a natural depression. To compensate for this, the forum was built on 6 to 8 metre high foundations. The pear-shaped outline is untypical for a Roman forum, as the Romans preferred more regular shapes. According to many archaeologists, the forum is oval in order to connect the Temple of Zeus with the Roman part of the city on a north-south axis. However, the purpose of the oval marketplace remains controversial: either it was a trading place, or a sacrificial place.
The Temple of Jupiter was built above the oval forum on a massive barrel vault. The entire slope was artificially shaped so that the temple of Jupiter could be built on this spot. Its site had already served as a sanctuary for various deities. Most likely, a temple of Zeus had been built on the site in Hellenistic times. One indication of this is that the Temple of Jupiter does not fit into a typical Roman city plan in terms of its location. The ruins that can still be seen today date from the 2nd century AD. The temple walls, parts of which are still standing today, are about 10 metres high. The temple building itself rested on a platform 41 metres long and 28 metres wide. Following the Syro-Nabataean style of construction, a staircase led up to the roof of the cella. Originally, the Holy of Holies was surrounded by 38 columns, three of which are still standing today. Other columns were rebuilt as part of the restoration programme of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities.
The magnificent, 22-metre-wide Nymphaeum also dates from the 2nd century. Dedicated to the water nymphs, the two-storey sanctuary is one of the best-preserved buildings of ancient Gerasa. The lower floor of the nymphaeum was covered with marble. The upper one was decorated with frescoes, some of which are still recognisable. The roof construction is striking – a half-dome with a blasted gable arching over a large splendid fountain. The façade of the fountain was divided into niches containing statues. Some statues held large containers from which water poured into the basin of the magnificent fountain. A complex system of pipes brought the water from the surrounding area. The South Theatre was built around 90 to 92 AD. It had 32 rows of seats that could accommodate up to 5000 spectators. The theatre is built into the hillside to the west of the Temple of Jupiter, the upper tier was built over barrel vaults. The stage has a classical Roman design with two arched side doors and three scenery entrances. The audience was not blinded by sunlight because the theatre faced north.
Dating from the 2nd century AD, the Temple of Artemis was particularly imposing with the dimensions of its enclosing wall of 160 × 120 metres and was certainly one of the most important buildings in the city. Pilgrims approached the temple via a processional road and stairs leading up from the city. Eleven of the temple’s once 32 columns remain standing, nine of which still bear their Corinthian capitals and thus tower 13 metres high. The cella itself measured 23 × 40 metres. There is no record of when the Artemis sanctuary was built. A dedicatory inscription on the western propylon on the Cardo gives the year 150 AD for its completion. In view of the enormous effort involved, the planning and the start of construction must be estimated to have been much earlier. Artemis coins on the occasion of Emperor Hadrian’s visit to Gerasa in 129/30 AD may have been minted in relation to such a building project. Several inscriptions (the oldest from the late 1st century AD) indicate that an Artemis cult site existed in Gerasa before the construction of the great sanctuary, but there is no evidence of its location. It was most likely not the site where the temple that has survived to the present day was built around the middle of the 2nd century, for there had previously been a necropolis there. An earlier cult of Artemis is attested by the minting of coins, which began in Gerasa in 67/68 AD and according to which Artemis seems to have been the most important deity in the city. Artemis-Tyche was a syncretic deity with attributes of Artemis/Diana and Tyche. The Artemis of Gerasa is probably the Greek interpretation of a Semitic goddess.
As the patron goddess of Gerasa, Artemis merges with the Greek goddess of fate Tyche (often depicted with a mural crown on her head), who is explicitly worshipped elsewhere as the protector of a city. There is ample evidence that the Artemis at Gerasa was the interpretatio Graeca (Greek translation) of an older Semitic goddess, apparently the Phoenician Astarte or the Syrian Atargatis. Like Astarte, Artemis is interpreted as a moon goddess and is depicted on coins in Gerasa with the crescent moon. Thus, the martial fertility goddess Astarte could be found again in the Artemis of Gerasa via her lunar aspect. Artemis, like Astarte, combined a martial aspect and the aspect of fertility. Further indications of an imprint of the Gerasen Artemis by the Atargatis cult are the many Late Hellenistic and Imperial lion sculptures and the griffin sculpture found in Gerasa, which show companion animals of the goddess. They may have been placed in the sanctuary of Artemis. Furthermore, an imperial-period bust of a goddess carved out of a pillar or altar, growing out of a leaf goblet with an ear of grain, wearing a chiton and flanked by two lions, as well as an oil lamp type, preserved in three copies, on which Atargatis is enthroned between two animals and holds objects that cannot be determined, can be cited. As for Atargatis, there was also a water festival for Artemis in Gerasa and the water reservoir under the podium of the temple probably served cultic purposes (Information from A. Lichtenberger: Cults and Culture of the Decapolis, pp. 202 – 208).