The Early Seleucids, their gods and their coins
This thesis argues that the iconography on Seleucid coins was created in order to appeal to the various ethnic groups within the empire and thereby reinforced the legitimacy of the dynasty. It first examines the iconography of Seleucus I and argues that as Seleucus became more secure in his rule he began to develop a new iconography that was a blend of Alexander’s and his own. This pattern changed under Antiochus I. He replaced the Zeus of Alexander and of Seleucus with Apollo-on-the-omphalos. At approximately the same time, a dynastic myth of descent from Apollo was created and promulgated. It is argued that in addition to the traditional view that Apollo was readily identifiable to the Greco-Macedonians within the empire he was also accessible to the Babylonians through the god Nabû and to the Persians as a Greek (or Macedonian) version of the reigning king. This ambiguity made Apollo an ideal figure to represent the multi-ethnic ruling house. This also explains the dynasty’s reluctance to deviate from the iconography established by Antiochus I. This thesis continues to explore the role of Apollo and other gods in creating an iconography which represented Seleucid power ending with the reign of Antiochus III. This thesis also incorporates the numismatic representations of the king as divine into the debate on ruler cult. This evidence suggests that the Seleucids may have had some form of ruler cult before the reign of Antiochus III.
Doctor of Philosophy in Classics and Ancient History, University of Exeter, December (2009)