Neapolis

Neapolis the name of many ancient cities. Most famously, it was the original Greek name of Naples, Italy and the ancient name of Nablus, West Bank, Israel.

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NEAPOLIS, the name of many ancient cities; that which, on account of its Latin coins alone, comes within our province to notice, is Neapolis, in Samaria, situate at the base of Mount Garizim, and called Sichem in our Savior's time. Its modern name is Naplouse or Napulosa.

It was near “Sichem, in the plain of Morch,” that (Genesis 12) the Patriarch Abraham dwelt, and built and altar to the Lord, as did also his descendant Jacob. (Genesis 33). Of this place there are Imperial coins with Greek legends, from Titus and Domitian to Antoninus Pius, M. Aurelius, Commodus, Caracalla, Elagabalus and Maximinus. It was, as is believed, made a Roman colony by Philip senior, for the first coins struck by the Samarian Neapolis, in its colonial quality, have the head of that Emperor, and from his reign to that of Volusian, its coins bear Latin as well as Greek inscriptions. The former run COL. NEAPOL.; or COL. SERG. NEAPOL.; or COL NEAPOL. NEOCORO.

The following are the types which appear on coins of this colony, on every one of which (besides the particular subject) appears a mount with a temple upon it, pointing to the site of Neapolis Samariae, in the immediate vicinity of Mount Garizim.:-

Colonist ploughing with oxen. – On a middle brass of Neapolis Samaria dedicated to Otacilia, wife of Philip, appears this customary symbol of a Roman colony, above which is a temple on a mountain.

Cybele, seated between two lions, a patera in her right hand, a cymbalum in her left; above her is a mount with a temple upon it, with the legend of COL. NEAPOL. Colonia Neapolis, or Neapolitana. –On a second brass of Philip senior. The goddess is represented on this medal as having been worshipped at Neapolis.

Aesculapius and Hygeia. – On a second brass of the same Emperor, the God of Medicine, seated, extends his right hand towards the Goddess of Health, who is standing opposite him; both are respectively distinguished by their usual attributes. –The legend of this coin is COL. SERG. NEAPOL. Colonia Sergia Neapolis. At the upper part of this medal is a temple on a rock.

SERGia or Sergiana or Sergiapolitana, is placed on this coin instead of its former appellation of Flavia, which it bore in honour of Vespasian and his family, under whom it first began to strike money. But why Neapolis should have adopted this word, after Philip had made it a colony, is difficult to comprehend. Vaillant ingeniously conjectures that the colonists selected and sent by the last named Emperor belonged to the tribe called Sergia at Rome and hence the appellation on Philip's coin. Esculapius and Hygeia were deities of the colony, and their images were perhaps struck onto the above medal, in commemoration of sacrifices performed by the Neapolitians of Samaria for Philip the founder.

Silenus. - On two medals of this colony inscribed to the same Emperor, Silenus stands in the usual manner; before him is a temple on a rock. One of these medals (of which the rarity is very great) an eagle stands at the foot of Silenus with legend COL. SERG. NEAPO. – On the obverse of the same coin appear the laureated heads of the two Philips, father and son, with the inscription D.D. N.N. PHILIPPIS AVGG. Dominis Nostris Philippis Augustis.

The example selected for illustration is taken from a brass coin in the British Museum. It is explained by the description given of the preceding varieties.

The image of the associate of Bacchus warrants the inference that as one of the minor deities the Pagan conquerors of Samaria worshipped him. On Mount Garizim (figures on this and all other coins of Neapolis), a temple had been built in honour of Jupiter, as is shown by a passage in Josephus (lib. 12, cap. 7), stating that the Garizitanean temple was formerly dedicated to the Most High (and only true) God; but that the Samaritans sent ambassadors to Antiochus Epiphanes, petitioning him that as the temple had not hitherto the title of any God, it might thenceforth be called that of Jupiter Graecanicus, which request was granted. --The eagle with wings spread is regarded by some as an ensign of the Romans, whilst others think it refers to Jupiter, to whom the temple on Mount Garizim was dedicated.

Triumphal Quadriga. – The following singular type, on a first brass of this colony struck under Philippus senior is given in Pellerin's Melange, i. Pl. xxi. No.2 p.316.

Rev. – NEAPOLI. NEOCOR. On a car drawn by four horses, abreast the figure of a man is represented standing, facing the front, having the right hand extended, and holding a spear in his left. Two other male figures, one at his right, the other at his left hand, hold each a spear in the left hand; on the right hand side extends his right hand; and he on the left side raises his right hand over the center figure, as if in the act of crowning him. In the upper part of the medal is seen Mount Garizim and a temple on its summit.

Wolf with Twin Children. –This type (the accustomed symbol of Roman Colonies) also appears on first and second brass of Philip senior with a temple on Mount Garizim at the top of the coin. The Legend of the reverse is COL. NEAPOLI NEOKORO. Colonia Neapolitana Necroros.

The Neapolitan colony of Syria Palestina, after the manner of the Greek cities in Asia Minor, adopted the inscription of Neocoros. The coins indeed exhibit the letter K for C. but the Romans used both letters, as in the instance of Calend and Kalend. The Neocori seem to have been the curators of sacred edifices and managers of public games, or as in Latin they would be called Aediles. – See Neocoros.

Venus and Hercules. – On a first brass of Philip senior are the following legends and type, which Pellerin adds to those of Neapolis, edited by Vaillant:-

NEAPOL. NEOCORO. COL. – Venus, clothed, is standing before Hercules, who extends his hand towards her. Above is Mount Garizim with a temple, on one side of which is the sign of the sun, and on the other the sign of the moon. – Melange, i. Pl. xxi. No.2 p. 317.

Eagle with expanded wings, beneath a temple on a rock, appears on a coin of Trebonianus Gallus, struck at Neapolis, Samaria, with Greek legends on both sides.

Legionary Eagle and Serapis. – On a second brass of Volusian, struck by the colonists at the Samaritan Neapolis, Seraphis stands opposite a cippus, on which is placed a legionary eagle with a military ensign; between them is a ram, on one side and three corn-ears on the other; above them is a temple on a rock – legend COL. NEAPOL.

[The legionary eagle and military ensign on this coin show that not only togated citizens from the Sergia gens (whence Neapolis is called Sergia) were transmitted to it (in Vespasian’s time) but also that this colony was reinforced with legionary veterans. Serapis was worshipped at Neapolis as coins of M. Aurelius and Caracalla (Greek) serve to prove. The ears of corn signify their abundance in the territory of Neapolis, The ram (Aries) seems to designate the season of spring, with which under the above mentioned sign of the Zodiac the Neapolitions, like the Antiochians and Damascenes, were accustomed to begin this year, whilst some cities in these regions calculated theirs from autumn].


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