Images of a Storm God
In our second blog entry about Jupiter Dolichenus we will focus on the depictions of himself and other deities connected to the storm god. We hope to give you a nice picture of the deity that was, for a very long time, so important to the inhabitants of ancient Doliche and as we have seen for many people during the Roman imperial period.
Jupiter Dolichenus can be easily recognized as his iconography differs from standard Graeco-Roman modes of divine representation. He stands on the back of a bull and brandishes his weapons, a thunderbolt in his projected left and a double-axe in the raised right hand. This distinctive iconography closely resembles the image of the Ancient Near Eastern storm god. The underlying Iron Age model underwent substantial modifications in the Roman period and was adapted to contemporary visual norms. Most importantly, in the majority of monuments the god wears a military uniform that resembles a Roman military dress and a Phrygian cap. Conversely, some features of Iron Age divine images like the horned crown and the pigtail have been discarded.
It is noteworthy, however, that in the Doliche sanctuary images of the god that closely follow the ancient Near Eastern iconography were still produced in Roman times. A basalt stele discovered at the sanctuary presents an image of the god that diligently copies the Iron Age iconography of the storm god. There are only few indications that betray a date of origin in the Roman period. The stele clearly suggests that Iron Ages monuments were still present in Roman times. Yet, the canonical Roman image of the god was present at the sanctuary, too.
Jupiter Dolichenus had a consort, who is identified as Juno Regina in Latin inscriptions. She stands on an animal, too, typically on a deer. Her attributes vary, but she frequently holds a mirror and a sceptre. In the aforementioned stele from the Doliche sanctuary, she is equipped with a mirror and a pomegranate. In this image, her iconography clearly follows Iron Age models for the depiction of female deities. It is important to note that a fragment of a stele with a corresponding effigy of a goddess from the ninth century BCE has been found in the sanctuary. This find strengthens the case for the continued presence of Iron Age monuments in the Roman period.
Other deities were worshipped along with Iuppiter Dolichenus and his consort in the sanctuary. Among them was the enigmatic god Turmasgade. The name can be translated as “mountain of the prayer/adoration” or “mountain of the sanctuary” from Aramaic tur (“mountain”) and msgd’ (“adoration, place or object of adoration”). Ten inscriptions from different parts of the Roman Empire mention the god, but no image of him has been identified yet. The name suggests that he was a mountain god. Circumstantial evidence, most importantly the presence of a dedication to Turmasgade in the sanctuary of Iuppiter Dolichenus at Dura Europos, suggested a connection between the two deities. The discovery of a votive altar for Turmasgade in the Doliche sanctuary has confirmed that hypothesis. We still lack any precise information about the character of the god and his role in the pantheon of Iuppiter Dolichenus, but his affinity with Doliche is beyond doubt.
Another large stele from the sanctuary shows the image of a bearded god rising from a chalice of flowers and grasping a tree. He might be a god connected to fertility or a mountain god, but his effigy has no convincing parallel in ancient iconography. The stele underlines the strong locative character of the cult that frequently defies interpretation. In general, the study of the pantheon of Doliche still is in an initial stage.
by Michael Blömer