Thursday, October 31, 2013


David M. Jacobson, Nikos Kokkinos (ed.), Judaea and Rome in Coins, 65 BCE - 135 CE. Papers Presented at the International Conference Hosted by Spink, 13th - 14th September 2010. London: Spink and Son Ltd, 2012. Pp. x, 245. ISBN 9781907427220. £50.00.

Reviewed by Friedrich T. Schipper, University of Vienna (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This volume contains the edited papers of the same-name two-day international conference organized in cooperation with the Institute of Jewish Studies at UCL by Spink and Son, an English coin trading company established in 1666. The financial support of Spink also enabled the production of this high quality hard-cover volume with many high resolution color photographs of coins, maps and charts.

The event was coordinated by David Jacobson and Nikos Kokkinos,, and Philip Skingley of Spink. It was partly designed to follow-up on two earlier London conferences on similar topics organized by Jacobson and Kokkinos, the first one entitled "The World of the Herods and the Nabataeans" published in 2001 by Franz Steiner Verlag and the second on "Herod and Augustus" published in 2005 by Brill. This third conference dealt exclusively with the interrelations between Rome and Judaea as reflected in the numismatic evidence, thereby focusing on the period between Pompey's conquest of Judaea and the second Jewish war against Rome.

Dan Barag, one of the intended speakers, passed away only a few months prior to the conference. David Hendin took up his topic for the conference and the volume, both of which are dedicated to Barag. (The author of this review also participated in the conference.)

The papers represent the impressive advances within numismatic scholarship that have taken place in the past few decades in connection with this region and this specific period. Only some of them are reviewed here in an attempt to highlight the diversity of the volume.

In the opening, somewhat programmatic paper, Andrew Burnett views Herodian coinage against the wider perspective of Roman coinage. He concludes that compared to the mainstream coinages in Syria-Palestine throughout the Hellenistic-Roman period, Herodian coinage was strikingly different. He labels the mainstream coinages as 'conservative' meaning that they 'did not look to the reality of the new Roman world and its coinage as a source of innovation'. This was also true for Hasmonean coinage. Everything changes with Herodian coinage, which 'swings right in the other direction and to an extreme'. Burnett points out that Herodian coinage was even more Romanized than the coinage of Egypt or Asia Minor, which is particularly evident when considering the coinages of Philip, Agrippa I and Agrippa II. The absolute climax is constituted by the coinage of Agrippa I, which fully embraces Roman ideology and members of the imperial family as well as reflecting its closeness to contemporary Roman Imperial coinage. Burnett explains this phenomenon partly by noting that the Herodian kings and tetrarchs as client kings were entirely dependent on Rome. In this context, the Warren cup, whose iconography is exceptional according to every standard, may be understood.

Anne Lykke's paper investigates the use of languages and scripts in ancient Jewish coinage, thereby focusing on the role of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem as a financial institution. Starting with the assumption that the use of specific languages and scripts were related to the identity of the minting authorities and their relation to the administration of the Jewish temple, she concludes that, though the content of the legends varied with their changing contexts, the scripts held specific meanings in nationalistic and religious terms. It becomes obvious that the Jewish temple in Jerusalem played not only a central role in religious life but also a central role as a financial and monetary institution, to which the use of the palaeo-Hebrew script in the legends of the coins is clearly related.

One of the editors of this volume, Nikos Kokkinos, examines the coinages of the Roman prefects of Judaea. While nine prefects are known in the era from 6-48 CE based on the historiographical evidence, coins can be attributed only to the first five of them 'on the basis of chronology, as their legends refer only to individual emperors dated by year of reign'. In consequence coins were traditionally attributed to the first three prefects—Coponius, Marcus Ambivius and Annius Rufus—but the current state of research is that the latter two issued no coins. Kokkinos shows that this is a misinterpretation of the evidence and explains a change of iconography from the third to the fourth prefect. While the first three used the same designs on their coins, namely the palm tree and corn, Valerius Grassus chose a more Roman iconography that referred to the emperor and the imperial family, using wreaths, cornucopiae, laurel branches, lilies, vine branches with grapes and imperial vessels offered to the temple. Pontius Pilatus basically followed his example with the lituus on the coins of Years 17 and 18, an exception that left 'a bad taste among the Jews'.

The second editor, David Jacobson, discusses the significance of the caduceus between facing cornucopiae in Herodian and Roman coinage. He demonstrates that this motif symbolizing Fortuna Felicitas, which also bore connotations of peace, concord and happy conditions made possible by a benevolent ruler, became recognized as a cipher for commitment by Rome and to Rome. This meaning of the motif is in particular evident in the case of a coin of Sepphoris struck at the climax of the first Jewish war against Rome in order to show the loyalty of its mostly Jewish inhabitants to Rome and its Emperor.

Marius Heemstra deals with the interpretation and wider context of Nerva's Fiscus Judaicus sestertius, the topic of his PhD- thesis published by Mohr Siebeck in 2010. He views the introduction of Nerva's sestertius as a turning point in Roman tax policy as well as an event of historical significance in terms of the distinction between Jews and Christians towards the end of the first century. By the end of the reign of Domitian, both Jews and non-Jews could be reported to the Fiscus Judaicus, with the result that non-Jews found guilty of leading a Jewish way of life were treated as tax evaders. Heemstra argues that Nerva's coin, struck at the very beginning of his reign, is evidence that the Emperor was urged to set clear measures against the use of the Fiscus Judaicus for wrong accusations in order to ruin people, e.g. for revenge or to remove unwanted rivalry. The Emperor on the one hand changed the definition of the tax-payer from 'each of the Jews' to 'Jews who continued to observe their ancestral customs'. This legal distinction between Jews and mainly Christians also harmonized in a way the new Roman definition and the Jewish definition of Jewry and formed an important step in the 'parting of the ways' of Jews and Christians.

New coin hoard finds from the era of the second Jewish war against Rome are discussed by Boaz Zissu and David Hendin. During a survey campaign of Me'arat Te'omim in the western Jerusalem hills in 2009, Boaz Zissu discovered three coin hoards. Hoard A consists of 83 Bar Kokhba silver coins (the largest hoard ever found in a regular excavation), 20 Sela'im (tetradrachms) and 53 zuzim (denarii). Hoard B consists of 10 coins: 8 Bar Kokhba zuzim, 1 shekel of the first Jewish war (!) and one Hasmonean bronze coin. Hoard C comprises 24 coins, including 5 Roman gold coins, 15 Bar Kokhba silver coins and 4 bronze coins. Another hoard was discovered by Boaz Zissu in the course of the excavations of Horvat 'Ethri, a Jewish village in the Shephela that was destroyed toward the end of the second Jewish war against Rome. The village shows underground complexes cut in bedrock, and in complex xiv an assemblage of finds typical for the Bar Kokhba period was found, including a hoard of coins containing Roman and provincial coins, three Bar Kokhba bronze coins and a silver half-shekel of the first Jewish war dating to the year 3. The hoard finds at these two sites form the first reliable evidence that coins of the first and the second Jewish war were found together.

Table of Contents

Andrew Burnett: The Herodian Coinage Viewed against the Wider Perspective of Roman Coinage
Rachel Barkay: Roman Influence on Jewish Coins
Anne Lykke: The Use of Languages and Scripts in Ancient Jewish Coinage: An Aid in Defining the Role of the Jewish Temple until its Destruction in 70 CE
Danny Syon: Galilean Mints in the Early Roman Period: Politics, Economy and Ethnicity
Robert Bracey: On the Graphical Interpretation of Herod's Year 3 Coins
Nikos Kokkinos: The Prefects of Judaea 6-48 CE and the Coins from the Misty Period 6-36 CE
Robert Deutsch: The Coinage of the Great Jewish Revolt against Rome: Script, Language and Inscriptions
David Hendin: Jewish Coinage of the Two Wars: Aims and Meaning
David M. Jacobson: The Significance of the Caduceus between Facing Cornucopias in Herodian and Roman Coinage
Ted V. Buttrey: Vespasian's Roman Orichalcum: An Unrecognised Celebratory Coinage
Marius Heemstra: The Interpretation and Wider Context of Nerva's Fiscus Judaicus Sestertius
Kevin Butcher: The Silver Coinage of Roman Arabia
Boaz Zissu and David Hendin: Further Remarks on Coins in Circulation during the Bar-Kokhba War: Te'omim Cave and Horvat 'Ethri Hoards
Larry J. Kreitzer: Hadrian as Nero Redivivus: some supporting evidence from Corinth

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