The sanctuary of Zeus and Herakles at Selge
Los 708
PISIDIA. Selge. Antoninus Pius, 138-161. Diassarion (Bronze, 25 mm, 7.90 g, 6 h). AYTO KAICAP ANTΩNЄINOC Laureate head of Antoninus Pius to right. Rev. CЄΛΓЄΩN The Sanctuary of Zeus and Herakles: platform with stairway in front holding two dead cypresses in enclosures with two lighted altars before; to left, thunderbolt; to right, club. BMC -. RPC IV online 4962. SNG von Aulock 5301. Rare. Slightly rough, otherwise, about extremely fine.


Scholars have long debated the nature of the unusual sanctuary of Zeus and Herakles shown on the Roman Provincial Coinage of Selge. While early numismatists such as Mionnet interpreted the structure as showing an altar surmounted by obelisks, later commentators have noticed that the platform actually holds two sacred trees. Modern cataloguers now mostly follow Imhoof-Blumer, who identified the plants as styrax trees, the source of the famous styrax balsam mentioned by Strabo as one of the great natural resources of Selge (Strabo XII, 7,3). Nollé, however, rightfully pointed out that the trees on the coins do not resemble styrax plants and that Imhoof-Blumer did not explain why the sanctuary would hold dead trees rather than living ones (J. Nollé: Selge, Türkei. Eine Stadt in den pisidischen Bergen, in: DAI.publications, issue 3, 2014, p. 120-126). He suggests that these are actually cypresses that died by lightning strikes, an example of which he saw during a visit in the area in 2013. This interesting observation not only explains the unusual silhouettes of the trees on the coins, which closely resemble the dead cypress Nollé saw in Selge, but also why the Selgeans worshipped them in the first place: in their view, the cypresses that had died by lightning strikes gave testimony to the power of Zeus, while the hero Herakles was believed to have used a spiky cypress as his famous club.
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