Saturday, 9 June 2018

Coins of the Jewish War

Rome terminated the rule of its Jewish client dynasty, the Herodians, in 6 CE, establishing Judaea as a province governed by an appointed praefectus (until 41 CE) or procurator (44 – 132 CE). The most famous of these was Pontius Pilate (26 – 36 CE)

Gessius Florus (64 – 66), appointed by Nero and one of the worst procuratores, did much to provoke the revolt known as the Jewish War. In the Autumn of 66, Florus seized 17 talents from the Temple treasury in Jerusalem, claiming it was due for back taxes. That would be 969 pounds of nearly pure silver.

The “prototype” shekel of the first year of the revolt is one of the great rarities of Jewish coinage – only three are known.
This provoked a riot in the city, which was suppressed with Roman brutality. Florus fled to the coast, and the rebels besieged his troops in the Antonia fortress, the citadel of the city.

One of the first acts of the rebels was to assert their independence by issuing silver coins.

Jewish War. 66-70 AD. Shekel, 14.08g. Year 5
Year 1 shekels are scarce; Years 2 and 3 are more common; Year 4 is very rare; and Year 5 is extremely rare, with only about 25 examples known. The supply of silver for fractional coinage may have run short during the long siege of Jerusalem. Bronze emergency coinage was issued in denominations of half, quarter and eighth shekel.
Vespasian. Æ Sestertius, AD 69-79. 'Judaea Capta' type
On August 3, 70 CE, the Romans breached the last defenses of Jerusalem, massacred the starving rebels and destroyed the Temple. Defeat of the Jewish revolt gave Rome an opportunity for massive looting and enormous profits from the sale of slaves. The spoils of Jerusalem funded construction of the Roman Colosseum. The Romans commemorated their victory with extensive coin issues proclaiming IUDAEA CAPTA (“Judaea Captured”).

Coins of the Jewish War have been in high demand with collectors for centuries and there are many fakes, ranging from cheap trinkets to highly deceptive professional forgeries.