Monday, 17 April 2017

Odenathus, the "lion" of Palmyra

I have just been reading a paper in BCEN 2015 on new adventus and profectio types from the mint of Antioch during the sole reign of Gallienus by Charles Euston. In the paper they question whether the control of the Antioch mint was under the control of Odenathus, ruler of Palmyra and Roman ally for some time after the recapture of the mint after the usurpation of Macrianus and Quietus. He doubts the hypothesis of J._M Doyen that aurei and medallions were struck by Odenathus at Antioch to celebrate his own victories.

I recalled a passage in the Sybilline Books that may actually lend support to the Doyen theory of Odenathus promoting his campaign successes. A coin reverse type in the antoninianus series from Antioch features a walking lion, either holding a thunderbolt or, on some types, a bull’s head. The 13th Sybilline book, dealing with this period of Roman history, states from line 210:

The very mighty Romans, one of whom
Shall have the number seventy, and the other
The number three, even then the stately bull,
That digs the earth with his hoofs and stirs up
The dust with his horns, shall many ills
Upon a dark skinned serpent perpetrate
That draws a trail with his scales; and besides,
Himself shall perish. And yet after him
Again shall come another fair-horned stag,
Hungry upon the mountains, striving hard
To feed upon the venom-shedding beasts.
Sent from the sun and breathing forth much flame.
And then too by his shameless recklessness
Shall he destroy the well-horned rapid stag

The general commentary accepts that the lion referred to is Odenathus and I just wonder (without wanting to over read the ambition of the die cutter’s intention) whether the lion of the Antioch coin type is a reference to Odenathus.