Elagabalus - Roman Emperor, 218-222 A.D.
Bronze (19mm, 3.03 gm.) of Philippopolis in Thrace, 219 A.D.
AVT K M AVP ANTΩNEINOC, Laureate head right.
ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟΠΟΛΕΙΤΩΝ ΝΕΩΚΟΡΩΝ, Telesphorus, son of Asclepius, standing facing, wearing hooded cloak.
* Numismatic Note: This coin celebrates neocorate (ΝΕΩΚΟΡΩΝ)
status of the city of Philippopolis and heralds public Olympic-style games that
such status called for.
CERTIFIED AUTHENTIC TIC
by Sergey Nechayev, PhD -
Neocorus was a Greek title which
designated the individual who had charge of the interior of a temple and looked
out for the temple's needs. In Roman times, provincial Greek cities often styled
themselves as the neocori of the imperial cult. This was an obvious form of
flattery, which insinuated the godliness of the emperor and indicated the city's
devotion and loyalty. The neocorate of a city was a great and coveted honor, and
not one which was presumed arbitrarily. The emperor allowed the bestowing of
this right only to cities which had earned the status. Consequently, cities were
eager to announce this consideration and usually did so on their coinage. The
proclamation of a neocorate on coins was often accompanied by a depiction of the
Originally, it was imperial policy that only one neocorate would be allowed in a
city. This rule was later relaxed, and several cities were allowed two or more
neocorates. The subsequent awards were depicted on coins by showing two or three
temples along with an appropriate inscription. The first neocorate of a city was
usually mentioned in the inscription simply as NEΩKOPΩN. The second appeared as
B NEΩKOPΩN, the third as F NEΩKOPΩN (e.g. Pergamum).
The approval of neocorate was usually accompanied by games and festivals. The
coins struck for these events often displayed a combination of neocorate and
agonistic imagery. Like the number of temples depicted, there also seems to be a
correlation between the imagery and the award on some of the "games" issues.
Although this may be coincidental, coins bearing the single NEOKOPOC often have
a singular agonistic crown or urn, which is in the center field between the
temples. Those indicating a second or subsequent neocorate have two or more
The iconography of neocorate and agonistic references is very complex and not
fully understood by most numismatists. It is, however, a wonderful area for
study, research and discovery. You may learn more about the interrelationships
between these aspects of religion, civic administration and public events, and
then we will undoubtedly be able to unravel some of the underlying symbology.
Greek mythology, Telesphorus (or Telesphoros;
Τελεσφόρος) was a son of
He frequently accompanied his sister,
whose head was always covered with a
He symbolized recovery from illness, as his name means "the accomplisher" or
"bringer of completion" in Greek. Representations of him are found mainly in
and along the
Telesphorus is assumed to have been a
Celtic god in origin, who was taken to Anatolia by the
the 3rd century BC, where he would have become associated with the Greek god of
medicine, Asclepius, perhaps in
an Asclepian cult center. and spread again to the West due to the rise of the
Roman Empire, in
particular during the 2nd century AD, from the reign of
Epidaurus, the main center of the cult of Asclepius, had adopted him.
the second-largest city in
Bulgaria with a population of 380,683.
Plovdiv's history spans some 6,000 years, with traces of a Neolithic settlement
dating to roughly 4000 BC. It is the administrative center of
Plovdiv Province in southern Bulgaria and three
Rodopi) and Bulgaria's
Yuzhen tsentralen planning region (NUTS II), as
well as the largest and most important city in
Northern Thrace and the wider international
historical region of
Thrace. The city is an important economic,
transport, cultural and educational center.
Known in the West for most of its history by the
Greek name Philippopolis, it was originally a
Thracian settlement before becoming a major
Roman city. In the Middle Ages, it retained its
strategic regional importance, changing hands between the
Bulgarian Empires. It came under
Ottoman rule in the 14th century. In 1878,
Plovdiv was made the capital of the autonomous Ottoman region of
Eastern Rumelia; in 1885, it became part of
Bulgaria with the
unification of that region and the
Principality of Bulgaria.
Plovdiv is situated in the southern part of the Plovdiv Plain on the two
banks of the
Maritsa River. The city has historically
developed on seven
syenite hills, some of which are 250 m high.
Because of these seven hills, Plovdiv is often referred to in Bulgaria as "The
City of the Seven Hills".
There are many remains preserved from
Antiquity such as the
Ancient amphitheatre, Roman odeon,
Roman Stadium, the archaeological complex
Eirene and others.
Plovdiv was given various names throughout its long history. It was
Thracian settlement by the name of Eumolpias.
Philip II of Macedon conquered the area in
342-341 BC and renamed the city Philippoupolis (Greek:
Φιλιππούπολις), of which the later Thracian
name for the city, Pulpu-deva, is a reconstructed translation. After the Romans
took control of the area, the city was named
meaning the Three Hills. During the Middle Ages the city was known as
Byzantine Greek and Paldin (Пълдин) or Plavdiv
Old Bulgarian, variations of the town's earlier
Thracian name. The city was known as
Philippopolis in Western Europe well into the early 20th century. The city was
known as Filibe in
Turkish during the
Plovdiv has settlement traces dating from the Neolithic, roughly 4000 BC.
Archaeologists have discovered fine pottery and other objects of everyday life
from as early as the Neolithic Age, showing that in the end of the 4th
millennium B.C. there already was an established settlement there. According to
Ammianus Marcellinus, Plovdiv's written
post-Bronze Age history lists it as a
Thracian fortified settlement named Eumolpias.
In 4th century BC the city was a centre of a trade fair (called panegyreis). In
342 BC, it was conquered by
Philip II of Macedon, the father of
Alexander the Great, who renamed it "Φιλιππόπολις",
Philippopolis or "the city of Philip" in his own honour. Later, it was
reconquered by the
Thracians who called it Pulpudeva (a
reconstructed translation of Philipopolis)
In 72 AD it was seized by the Roman general Terentius Varo Lukulus and was
incorporated into the
Roman Empire, where it was called Trimontium
(City of Three Hills) and served as metropolis (capital) of the province of
Thrace. It gained a city status in late 1st
century. Trimontium was an important crossroad for the Roman Empire and was
called "The largest and most beautiful of all cities" by
Lucian. Although it was not the capital of the
Province of Thrace, the city was the largest and most important centre in the
province. In those times, the
Via Militaris (or Via Diagonalis), the most
important military road in the
Balkans, passed through the city.
Elagabalus (pronounced El-uh-GAB-uh-lus, c.
203 – March 11, 222), also known as Heliogabalus or Marcus
Antoninus, was a
Roman Emperor of the
Severan dynasty who reigned from 218 to 222.
Born Varius Avitus Bassianus, he was
Syrian on his mother's side, the son of
Julia Soaemias and
Sextus Varius Marcellus, and in his early youth
he served as a priest of the god
El-Gabal at his hometown,
Emesa. Upon becoming emperor he took the name
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus, and was called Elagabalus only a long time
after his death.
In 217, the emperor
Caracalla was murdered and replaced by his
Praetorian prefect, Marcus Opellius
Macrinus. Caracalla's maternal aunt,
Julia Maesa, successfully instigated a revolt
Third Legion to have her eldest grandson,
Elagabalus, declared as emperor in his place. Macrinus was defeated on June 8,
218, at the
Battle of Antioch, upon which Elagabalus,
barely fourteen years old, ascended to the imperial power and began a reign that
was marred by infamous controversies, to put it mildly.
During his rule, Elagabalus showed a disregard for Roman
religious traditions and sexual taboos. He was married as many as five times and
is reported to have prostituted himself in the imperial palace. Elagabalus
Jupiter, head of the
Roman pantheon, with a new god,
Deus Sol Invictus, and forced leading members
of Rome's government to participate in religious rites celebrating this deity,
which he personally led.
Amidst growing opposition, Elagabalus, only 18 years old, was
assassinated and replaced by his cousin
Alexander Severus on March 11, 222, in a plot
formed by his grandmother, Julia Maesa, and members of the
Praetorian Guard. Elagabalus developed a
reputation among his contemporaries for eccentricity, decadence, and zealotry
which was likely exaggerated by his successors and political rivals. This
propaganda was passed on and, as a result, he was one of the most reviled Roman
emperors to early historians. For example,
Edward Gibbon wrote that Elagabalus "abandoned
himself to the grossest pleasures and ungoverned fury." "The name Elagabalus is
branded in history above all others" because of his "unspeakably disgusting