Object: Coin

Judaean: Coin
AD 66-70
Materials: Bronze

This small bronze coin was minted by Jewish rebels who attempted to free Judaea from Roman rule during the First Jewish Revolt in A.D. 66-70.

Herod was in Rome in 40 BC, when the senate appointed him king of Judaea (the area surrounding Jerusalem). He entered Palestinian region with a Roman army, and by 37 BC he was firmly in control of his new kingdom. He ruled Judaea until his death in 4 BC, becoming known to history as Herod the Great.   Known as a great builder, Herod founded new Roman cities, and created a new Temple on the holy mount in Jerusalem.  However, he was also known as a violet ruler.  He killed his wife and her family in an outburst of jealousy.

In his will Herod divided the kingdom between three of his sons. Their inability to control an increasingly turbulent Palestine prompted Rome to give more power to its provincial governors, or procurators. These rulers could not pacify the Jewish people, who were resentful of Roman rule and horrified by any encroachment of Roman religious symbolism (including what they considered the idolatrous theme of a divine emperor). During this tumultuous period the Zealots emerged.  The Zealots were a radical political group committed to ending Roman rule in Palestine.

In A.D. 41, Herod Agrippa was appointed king of Judaea.  He was the grandson of Herod the Great.  For a while, under the rule of Agrippa, Palestine seemed set to enjoy a stability associated with the long reign of Herod the Great. But when Agrippa dies in A.D. 44, the region once again returns to the rule of Roman governors. By this time the violent actions of the Zealots had acquired much support, reinforced by their assassination of Jews who collaborate with the Romans. The Zealots were prominent in the popular uprising which in A.D. 66 expelled the Romans from Jerusalem.  They also played a large part in the revolutionary government which briefly ruled Palestine following the revolt.

The First Jewish Revolt is crushed when Emperor Nero sent General Vespasian and his son Titus to Judaea.  They make progress in restoring Roman order to Palestine. Nero’s suicide prompted Vespasian to return to Rome, leaving Titus in Palestine.  In A.D. 70, Titus besieged Jerusalem and demolished parts of the city wall.  The great Temple built by Herod was looted and burned, with much of the spoils returning to Rome with Titus.

First Jewish Revolt coinage was issued by the Jews after the Zealots captured Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple from the Romans in 66 AD at the beginning of the First Jewish Revolt. The Jewish leaders of the Revolt minted their own coins to emphasize their newly obtained independence from Rome.

In the Revolt’s first year (66–67 AD), the Jews minted only silver coins, which were struck from the Temple’s store of silver. During the second (67–68 AD) and third (69–70 AD) years of the Revolt bronze prutah coins were issued. In the fourth year of the Revolt (70–71 AD) three large sizes of bronze coins were minted, possibly because the supplies of Temple silver were diminishing.

[Debra Taylor]

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