Personification of River Gods in Coinage of Roman Province of Asia

Keywords: personification, river gods, Roman province of Asia, coinage


Coins are an excellent source for studying various aspects of the history and culture of antiquity. The limited area of the metal disk did not affect the sense load of the image laid by the issuer. Coins, besides being a means of payment, played a very important role in perpetuating important and topical social changes and cultural and religious phenomena. For the cities of the former kingdom of Pergamum, the establishing of the Roman province of Asia was a great challenge, because, through the types of coins, Greek officials continued to preserve their identity. One of such tasks was to preserve traditional religious beliefs.

The personifications of river gods, symbolizing the major rivers of western Asia Minor, are analyzed in the paper. First of all, the Meander, Kaystros, Hermus, and their numerous tributaries are mentioned. These mighty rivers played not only a transport role and were a source of drinking water and food, but they also played the role of natural boundaries between the historical regions of Asia Minor. However, in everyday culture, their importance has not been emphasized for some time. But the population watched the rivers, and, for example, it was the regime of the Meander that gave the name to the symbol that is still used under this name. The relationship between the inhabitants of the valley and the Meander was so dynamic and unpredictable that the river was even sued.

Until a certain time, the personification of the largest river in the region on the coins of the river valley cities was observed in the form of a meander symbol. Coinage with personifications makes it possible to recreate the hydrographic situation in the region and the role of those rivers in the economy, because at present some waterways have changed their course or have just disappeared.

The paper also raises the question of the need to reconsider certain interpretations of the symbols, including urns with running out water or the cane in the hands of the river god.

Analysis of numismatic sources indicates that a unified way of river gods personification was quickly formed in the province, but the widespread use of river gods images began to be used in the coinage of provincial cities in the second half of the 2nd – first half of the 3rd century CE. Moreover, such emissions were of both autonomous and semi-autonomous character. Images of river gods also appeared on the coins with porters of emperors or women from imperial families among which whom Julia Domna, Julia Mammeia, Faustina II, etc.

An interesting feature is also pointed out when cities within easy reach of rivers did not give preference to the use of personifications, and the determining factor was the importance of the city in the provincial market and the need for money of exchange circulation. The analysis of legends also gives the opportunity to find out certain epithets and local features of all-Greek deities.


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How to Cite
BaukovaA. (2021). Personification of River Gods in Coinage of Roman Province of Asia. Eminak: Scientific Quarterly Journal, (1(33), 268-280.
Iron Age