Religious Life in Ancient Damascus: A Study Through Coins



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Damascus is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Due to a lack of textual sources that deal specifically with the city during the Hellenistic-Roman Republic period, it can be difficult to form an accurate picture of what religious life might have been like in the city. However, examining the coins that were minted during this period in Damascus and other prominent Syrian cities opens one window into local gods and belief systems. Both royal and civic authorities minted coins with images of Greek and Levantine deities. These choices in design reflect the governments’ beliefs, as well as those of the wider public using the coins as money. How the different authorities chose to present the gods can be compared and contrasted among the coins as well as to other Hellenistic art of the period. Finally, the precise ruling authorities (primarily Seleucid rulers) are examined to provide historical context behind the use of specific images of deities, particularly those of a Levantine origin. Thus, the evidence depicts a religious society in Damascus that had connections to the original pantheons of the Levant but is heavily influenced by the Hellenistic syncretism of their Seleucid rulers.