In the first century AD the above coin circulated in southwestern modern day Turkey. It was minted in circa 1st century BC in Caria near the ancient city of Ephesus. The Virgin Mary may have lived the final days of her earthy life near Ephesus. The debate between Jerusalem and Ephesus as the site of Mary's dormition is debatable and the Roman Catholic Church has not pronounced a judgement on the subject. This coin is important because these were the types of coins the Virgin Mary would have held and carried in her purse. She would be familiar with the cultural icons and the messages they communicated in her lifetime.
Atremis was the fertility god of the Roman Empire. The reverse of the above coin shows multiple "breasts" on the front of her. She appears to be separating the components of a solar eclipse, the solar crescent to the left and the star representing the moon to the right. Since a solar eclipse was associated with war and destruction, Artemis, the Roman symbol of fertility, is shown as the solution to war. "Lost your sons in the Roman wars, come to Ephesus, pray to Artemis and your next children will be like Hercules," whose bust is displayed on the coin's obverse. This was big business in the ancient world and Ephesus became one of it's most wealthy cities because of Artemis.
We know from the Bible that early Christianity had a very real economic impact on the worship of Artemis. Clearly, early Christians left the worship of Artemis to follow the message of Jesus Christ. We can guess the Virgin Mary was likely in Antioch and the coasts of Turkey to possibly the mid 50's AD. Assuming she may have been in her early teens when she gave birth to Jesus, Mary may have been born in 20 BC. If she lived to her 70's or 80's she would be very familiar with the pagan messages from the coins of her day. As she looked at these coins, Mary must have thought about ways she could communicate hope to a generation that was lost in the futile and depraved worship of death.
Life in the Roman empire was cheap. The wealthy owned slaves and used the oppresed, occupied provinces of the Roman empire for their own entertainment and glorification. The poor took pleasure in watching the violence of the gladiators in the arenas. The poor and the rich would hope for war to send their sons to loot and pillage distant countries to increase their wealth. The Roman economic system was based on the slavery and domination of their enemies. Lesser peoples were on the earth to serve the Roman Emperor and reproduction centered around the issues of taxation and military recruitment. Artemis was the mother to this economic model. Adolf Hitler wanted to resurrect this pagan system in the mid 20th century. The symbol of motherly devotion at the time of Mary was Artemis. It is interesting that Aztec society was very similar to the brutality of Roman society when the Spanish landed in the Americas. I believe our Lady felt the pain and despair of the Aztec people and wanted to spare them of the horrors that the Jewish people endured with the Roman invasions of Judea. Our Lady of Guadalupe communicated to the Aztecs as she communcated to the Romans and Jews during her lifetime. She changed the economic message of death, despair and emperor worship to the true and righteous worship of her son, Jesus Christ.
We should remember the quote of Edward Gibbon in the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,
'Instead of inquiring why the Roman Empire was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted so long.'
The Romans and Aztecs ran from the empty messages of their day to follow the Words of Jesus Christ. We cannot ignore the fact that it may not have been with the definite knowledge that Christ was superior, but rather it was the truth that the empty and hollow promises of their cultures had lost their popular appeal.
Photo Romae Aeternae Numismatics