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Lepcis Magna: Severan Basilica

Lepcis Magna: Phoenician colony, later part of the Carthaginian empire, the kingdom of Massinissa, and the Roman empire. Its most famous son was the emperor Septimius Severus (193-211).
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Severan Basilica

On this page, we will focus on two columns in the Severan Basilica of Lepcis Magna. One of them contains representations of Hercules, the other one of Dionysus. Since Phoenician times, they had been the city's protectors, although back then, they were called Melk'ashtart and Shadrapa., the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
The column of Hercules shows the Twelve Labors he had to perform for king Eurystheus, but we found it impossible to take adequate photos of them. Here is another side of this column. The first three scenes show Hercules, resting on his club.
The fourth scene shows Hercules and Iolaus, fighting against something.
The fifth scene is based on the statue known as the Farnese Hercules, a well-known sculpture that shows the demigod with very large muscles. The sixth scene again shows a resting Hercules, comparable to the one depicted on the Arch of Severus (picture).
The seventh scene, below, is a representation of Hercules fighting against a centaur. This is one of his final acts on earth. When the demigod's wife Deianeira crossed a river on the back of a centaur, it tried to rape the woman, but was killed by Hercules. The centaur tricked her to use his blood to paint her shirt, and give it to Heracles. When he wore it, he was struck by hellish pains, erected a pyre, and burned himself.
The final scene, therefore, must have been an apotheosis.
The column of Dionysus, or, as the Lepcitanians often called him, Liber Pater ("Father Freedom"). It is decorated with all kinds of vines and garlands, but we can also discern, among many other dionysiac themes, centaurs and the god Pan.
In the center, we see Silenus, an old god who was always drunk. On top and below are Bacchantes.
At the bottom we see a crater, in which wine was prepared for drinking, and on top of it, we see the god himself, seated on his panther.
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© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2008
Revision: 1 Jan. 2008
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