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City of the Sun

Veterans Day honors active and former US service members and is celebrated, in the US, today, November 11th. My coin today comes from a Roman colony, Heliopolis, that was established after civil war for succession that followed the murder of emperor Commodus. Colonies were often populated by veterans.

"In Berytus, veterans of V Macedonica and VIII Gallica legions founded the colony (Jones Hall 2004, 46). Severan veterans could settle in Tyre and Heliopolis. Veterans of III Legion Gallica seem to have settled in Sidon and Tyre."
-Land of Fertility III, The Southeast Mediterranean from the Bronze Age to the Muslim Conquest, Editor: Maciej Wacławik, 2019, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, ISBN: 9781527532991.

The Emperor Commodus was murdered on December 31, 192, and the Empire faced a civil war. His murderers put foward Pertinax, governor of Syria, as emperor. The Praetorian guard murders Pertinax and Didius Julianus buys the throne. Didius Julianus is quickly dispatched by Septimius Severus, who then faces Pescennius Niger as rival for emperor. Herodian describes in January of 194, the confrontation between these two rivals in January of AD 194, and near this time in Syria the towns of Laodicea and Tyre turning to the side of Septimius.

While these things were happening in Cappadocia, where mutual jealousy and enmity were general, the Laodiceans in Syria revolted from Niger because they hated the people of Antioch, and the people of Tyre in Phoenicia revolted because they hated the people of Berytus. When they learned that Niger was in headlong flight, the people of these two cities decided to risk stripping him of his honors and publicly proclaimed their support of Severus."
-Herodian, History of the Roman Empire since the Death of Marcus Aurelius, 3.3.3 

Niger punishes the towns of Laodicea and Tyre, by sending his "Moorish javelin men" (Herodian 3.3.4) to loot and destroy both cities. A winter storm turned events in favor of Severus' troops in the Taurus mountains, destroying fortifications and clearing the way for Severus' armies to advance into Cilicia. Alexandria ad Issum was the location of the last major battle between Niger and Severus in March of AD 194. Niger fled the battle scene for Antioch and is found hiding in the outskirts and beheaded by pursuing cavalrymen.

Although this was the end of Niger, Severus still had a potential rival in Clodius Albinus who was allied to Severus as his Caesar. In February 197, Severus' troops beheaded Albinus after capturing Lugdunum in Gaul (Lyon, France).

After the civil war that ended with Septimius Severus as sole emperor, Syria was divided into two parts: Syria Coele to the north, with Laodicea as its capital,

Phoenician Syria to the south. Antioch which had been capital of Syria was deprived of its title as punishment for supporting Niger. This reduced the risk of a powerful Syrian governor rising in the region.

Severus rewarded the cities that supported him and punished those that supported his rivals. As punishment, Berytos (modern Beirut) lost part of its territory and Heliopolis, "The City of the Sun" became an independent colony.

The "Great Court" of Roman Heliopolis's temple complex, Photo © Guillaume Piolle /

CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Ulpian, Gnaeus Domitius Annius Ulpianus (c. 170 – 223 or 228) was a Roman Jurist who lived during the time of Septimius Severus and documented the granting of Italian Law (ius Italicum) to cities loyal to Septimius after the civil war.

[] There is also the colony of Laodicea, in Coele Syria, to which also the divine Severus granted the Italian Law on account of its services in the Civil War. 
-Ulpian, Justinian's Digests,

This coin from Laodicea ad Mare which was also in Coele Syria in the region of Seleucis and Pieria. This large 12g coin of Septimius is an uncommon coin with less than 12 in ACSearch.

Roman Provincial Coins, Seleucis and Pieria, Laodicea ad Mare. Septimius Severus (193-211). AE (26mm, 12g).

Obv: [ΛΥΤ ΚΛΙ ϹЄΠ ϹЄΟ]ΥΗΡΟϹ, Laureate head right.

Rev: IOVΛ / ΛAOΔI / CЄOVH MH / TPOΠOΛ / ЄωC, in wreath

Ref: SNG Copenhagen 361.

Coins for Heliopolis (Colonia Julia Augusta Felix Heliopolitana) do not appear until the reign of Septimius Severus, although there is some conflicting evidence and the colony may have already been established in some form by Augustus. This coin also from Berytus (Colonia Iulia Augusta Felix Berytus established in 14 BC)?

"The city of Heliopolis also received the title of an Italian colony from the divine Severus, on account of services rendered during the Civil War."
-Ulpian, On Taxes, 

Heliopolis, continued to mint coins to deified Septimius Severus after his death. This coin drew my attention with the attractive portraits of Septimius Severus and Tyche of Heliopolis.

Syria, Coele-Syria, Heliopolis, Septimius Severus, 193-211, Diassarion (Bronze, 23 mm, 11.03g)

Obv: IMP L SEP SEV PERT AVG Radiate, draped and cuirassed bust of Septimius Severus to right, seen from behind

Rev: COL HEL, veiled and draped bust of Tyche to left, wearing mural crown; to left, palm frond and cornucopiae

Obv: BMC 1, Sawaya D24/R30 Pl. 44 Emission 2, Denomination 3, Series 6 AD 196?-198 and most like catalog #92 for obverse and catalog #70 for reverse.

Tyche of Heliopolis appears on many of the coins of Septimius Severus from Heliopolis.

This coin from about 50 years later under Valerian and Gallienus:

Syria, Coele-Syria, Heliopolis, Gallienus, AD 253-268, Æ (22.8mm, 9.72 g, 6h), 8th emission of Valerian I, AD 256/7

Obv: Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, seen from the front

Rev: Winged caduceus between two crossed cornucopias.

Ref: Sawaya series 78, coins 773-776 (dies D109/R280)

Where is Heliopolis?

The Roman colony of Heliopolis is today Baalbek in Lebanon, 85 kilometers east of



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