Larry J. Kreitzer, «The Plutonium of Hierapolis and the Descent of Christ into the 'Lowermost Parts of the Earth' (Ephesians 4,9)», Vol. 79 (1998) 381-393
After a general discussion of the myth regarding Demeter, Persephone and Hades/Pluto, the author discusses, in the light of coins of the early Neronian period (54-59 AD), the likelihood that the Plutonium of Hierapolis is the geographical spot the author wants his readers to imagine when they read in the Letter to the Colossians that Christ entered the lowermost parts of the earth.
of the mother-goddess Demeter 29. The coins issued under Nero are of particular importance for our purposes in that the early portraiture suggests that they would have been issued during the first few years of his reign as Emperor. Thus, these coins may have been struck within twenty-five years or so of the writing of the document we now know as the epistle to the Ephesians. The most interesting of these is a small bronze coin 30 which depicts the draped bust of a youthful Nero facing to the right with the word NERWN in the field on the left and the word KAISAR in the field on the right. The reverse scene gives us the standard picture of Hades and Persephone in a chariot, although this time it is a biga, perhaps due to the difficulty of portraying four horses on so small a surface. The scene is surrounded by an unusual inscription MAGUTHES NEETEROS IERAPOLEITWN (Magutes the Younger, of the Hierapolitans), probably a reference to a local magistrate from the city responsible for the minting of the coin issue. Interestingly, a companion coin was also issued at the same time which carries the exact same reverse inscription 31. The obverse of this coin has a draped bust of Agrippina the Younger, Neros mother, facing to the right with the word AGRIPPEINA in the field on the left and the word SEBASTH in the field to the right. The reverse image is of the goddess Demeter, seated on a throne and facing left while holding an ear of corn and poppies, symbolic emblems of her role as goddess of agriculture. This second coin not only reinforces the association between the city and the fertility cult of the mother-goddess Demeter, but also helps to date the coins to the beginning of Neros reign. Agrippina the Younger fell out of favour with her son Nero, who arranged for her murder in 59 CE; thus both coins were issued in the first five years of Neros reign (between 54 and 59 CE). The coins testify to the importance of Hierapolis as a centre for the worship of the mother-goddess, and prompt us to consider what connection there might be to the most celebrated expression of that cult in antiquity, the Eleusinian mysteries.