The “Marsyas of the Forum” image on Roman city coins of the Southern Levant


  • Ronit Palistrant Shaick Tel Aviv University


Marsyas of the Forum, City coins, Southern Levant, Ius Italicum, Roman colony, Septimius Severus, Elagabalus, Liber Pater, Provincial Coinage, Roman provinces, Tyche, Laodicea, Tyre, Sidon, Berytus, Heliopolis, Neapolis, Akko Ptolemais, Bostra, Damascus


This article assembles all ‘Marsyas of the Forum’ depictions appearing on city-coins from the Southern Levant (particularly in the region between Antioch and Alexandria) and examines the reasons for and the importance of their inclusion on the coins. Marsyas was meant to manifest the city’s status as a Roman colonia, its Romanitas, and, as I suggest, the wealth the city enjoyed under Roman rule. Of all the colonies in the region, eleven chose to portray Marsyas, with no necessary correlation between Marsyas and ius Italicum. It emerges that the image was immensely popular and diversely represented. Marsyas was shown in a clear civic context: either standing next to Tyche, or before the city’s symbols, or within a central structure of the city. These three types of Marsyas’s depictions were originated in the region, mainly in Tyre’s mint. They indicated the cities’ aspiration to publicize themselves as Roman colonies from the east maintaining their local identity. All Marsyas’s representations in the region are dated from the time of Septimius Severus onward, even those of colonies granted colonial status prior to the Severan period, including, as I suggest, the coins of Berytus (without the emperor head). The motif was prevalent mostly on coins of emperors who had deep familial bonds in this region.