NUMISMATICS:(Redirected from COINS, COINAGE.)
- No Coins Before Maccabeans.
- Payments by Weight.
- Weight of Shekel.
- One-Third Shekels.
- Persian Coins.
- Under the Seleucidæ.
- Minting a Regal Prerogative.
- The Hasmoneans.
- First Grant of Coinage Rights.
- Date of Coins.
- Counterfeit Shekels.
- Brass Coins of Hasmoneans.
- Coins of the Herodians.
- Roman Coinage.
- Coins of the Revolt.
- Roman Commemorative Coins.
- Coins of Bar Kokba.
- Coins Restruck.
The study of Jewish coinage, strictly speaking, begins with the Maccabean period. Some information, however, concerning the use of money, or substitutes for money, among the Jews previous to the creation of a coinage of their own may be here given. The invention of coined money, ascribed to the kings of Lydia, is not earlier by more than a century (if so much) than the fall of the kingdom of Judah (587
When, after the conquest of Canaan, the Hebrews had settled down as an agricultural people, they readily adopted those mediums of exchange which they had found in use among the conquered races of the Holy Land, namely, gold, silver, and brass. The fact that these metals were used in ancient times for this purpose in Palestine is proved beyond doubt by the tribute lists of Thothmes III. at Thebes and by the official correspondence between the King of Egypt and his Syrian vassals found at Tell el-Amarna.
Of the three precious metals, silver seems to have been by far the most commonly employed; to such an extent indeed that its name "kesef" was used for money generally (Ex. xxi. 11). It was told by weight; therefore, the use of the balance and stone weights was inevitable in all important transactions. Under what shape the precious metal circulated—whether in bars or ingots as in Babylonia, or in rings as in Egypt—is a matter of doubt. The system of weights, if not the weights themselves, was at any rate of Babylonian origin. It was the sexagesimal system, which the pre-Hebraic Canaanites had borrowed from Babylon along with the Babylonic script. The three units of this system were the "kikkar" or talent, the "maneh" or mina, and the shekel or "siclus." A talent was worth 60 minas; a mina, 60 shekels; therefore the talent equaled 3,600 shekels. It is to be noted that "mina" occurs rarely, if ever, in the pre-exilic writings, the only passage in which it appears being I Kings x. 17, which mentions (under Solomon) gold shields of 3 minas apiece. On the other hand, sums expressed in shekels, especially in multiples of 10 shekels (20, 50, 600, etc.), are extremely common; and even the word "shekel" is often omitted; that is to say, it must be understood from the context. The inference is that there circulated large quantities of ingots or rings of silver, weighing either 1 shekel, or a round number of shekels, or a fraction of a shekel (I Sam. ix. 8); but it is to be feared that in several passages of this kind the original reading has been tampered with in a period when the coin which was known as the shekel was in common use.Weight of Shekel.
As to the exact weight of the shekel, mina, and talent in pre-exilic times, and whether or not different standards were used for gold and for silver—these and similar questions are dealt with in the article Weights and Measures. Here it seems sufficient to note that the heaviest stone weights found in Nineveh point to a trade or heavy kikkar of about 60 kilograms, and, hence, a mina of 1 kilogram and a shekel of about 16.80 grams (260 grains). There was also a series of weights having exactly half the value of these, the existence of which can be traced up to the time of King Gudea (about 2500
After the Babylonian captivity the scale of weights was slightly modified in accordance with a new system, which perhaps had originated in Babylonia, but at any rate was in common use among various nations (Greeks, Persians, Phenicians). This system is a combination of the older purely sexagesimal (Babylonian) and the purely decimal (Egyptian) systems. It is prescribed in Ezek. xlv. 12 (Greek text), and implied by Ex. xxxviii. 25-26, that the talent shall be reckoned as formerly at 60 minas, but the mina at 50 shekels only; therefore, 3,000 shekels, not 3,600, equaled a talent. The shekel itself was divided into halves ("beḳa'"; Gen. xxiv. 22; Ex. xxxviii. 26), quarters, and twentieths (Ezek. l.c.), called "gerahs" or grains ("obols" as the Greek version renders the word);this last division was seemingly a new one. In order to insure uniformity throughout the community, a set of standard weights was deposited in the Temple at Jerusalem, a practise of frequent occurrence in classical times. This is the so-called "holy shekel," which is repeatedly mentioned in the Priestly Code, and was used for weighing not only gold and silver, but also copper and spices (Ex. xxx. 23).One-Third Shekels.
What the weight of the post-exilic shekel was before Greek times is uncertain. The division of the shekel into three parts presupposed by the law of Neh. x. 32 (each citizen to pay yearly one-third of a shekel to the Temple) is not only unusual in monetary systems for silver (elsewhere it is only found at Corinth), but is strangely at variance with the division of the holy shekel into halves, fourths, and twentieths enacted by the Priestly Code. It may be, therefore, that Nehemiah did not know of the holy shekel, and that he reckoned by the Babylonian shekel of 16.80 grams, for which a division into three parts is not out of the question.
By the time of Ezra and Nehemiah the use of coined money, now widely spread in western Asia, was no longer quite unknown in Judea. To be sure, the Jewish community was neither rich nor independent enough to be allowed by the Persian government to have a coinage of its own; but foreign coins began to circulate in the country, and to supersede little by little the older and more troublesome system of weighing gold and silver. The foreign money consisted in royal Persian and autonomous Phenician coins.Persian Coins.
The chief Persian coin was the golden stater or daric (δαρεικὸς στατήρ), first struck by King Darius I., Hystaspes (522-485
The Persian government issued also a silver coin, called by the Greeks δίγλος μηδικός, although its weight (5.60 grams, or 87 grains, i.e., 1/6000 of a talent of 33.60 kilograms) shows it to have been rather a half-shekel than a shekel. Under the then prevailing ratio of 13⅓ to 1 between gold and silver, 20 σίγλοι were worth exactly 1 gold daric, as 20 shillings are worth a sovereign. See plate, Fig. 2. The silver coins issued from about 440
The Persian government seems also to have struck in this district, for the pay of the sailors, double shekels of Phenician standard: these are the large silver coins commonly, but without sufficient proof, attributed to the mint of Sidon. See plate, Fig. 3.
Of the three species of coins mentioned above, gold darics are certainly mentioned in the Jewish writings of the time, under the name "adarkonim" (Ezra viii. 27; comp. I Chron. xxix. 7) or "darkemonim" (Ezra ii. 69 = Neh. vii. 70 et seq.), in connection with royal gifts or with contributions of the nobles to the Temple treasury. The names seem to be synonymous, although this has been disputed, as well as the identity of either with the δαρεικός. However, two similar forms occur together in a Phenician inscription of the beginning of the first century
A more difficult problem is whether the silver coins used by the Jews in the fifth (latter part) and fourth centuries
Be this as it may, some time or other before the second century
It is not likely that during the two periods in which the Attic standard prevailed (330-300; 200-150) the Temple tax was raised to the value of an Attic didrachma. Therefore if the taxpayer could not manage to procure an old Phenician or Ptolemaic coin, he had to take change for his money; and this may have been the first occasion in which money-changers set up their booths in the precincts of the Temple.Minting a Regal Prerogative.
The Seleucidæ, as well as the Ptolemies, had been very jealous of the prerogative of striking money, which, except in Asia Minor, they reserved exclusively to themselves. Gold and silver were an absolute monopoly; but even the right to coin municipal copper, which was of little importance in the eyes of the ancients, was not readily granted. The few towns of Phenicia which, under Antiochus Epiphanes, obtained the privilege of issuing copper coins bearing their names were compelled to place upon them the effigy of the king.The Hasmoneans.
Matters, however, changed toward the middle of the second century
To convert this semiautonomy into complete independence very little was needed. This was the task of Simon, Jonathan's brother and his successor to the high-priesthood (143 or l42). He first obtained of Demetrius II. the total abolition of all taxes levied by the Seleucidæ, including even the crown tax—a grant of such importance that the Jews (at least according to I Macc. xiii. 42) considered it as the definitive shaking off of the infidel yoke—and deeds were henceforth dated from the year of the high-priesthood of Simon. However, the document xiv. 27 et seq. shows that concurrently with the year of this high-priesthood the Jews continued to mention the Seleucid year. There is no question of a new "era."First Grant of Coinage Rights.
Afterward came the withdrawal of the Syrian garrison (May, 142), then the vote of the people conferring on Simon a hereditary title (Sept., 141), and lastly, in 139-138, the final step—the grant of an autonomous coinage. This came about as follows: Antiochus Sidetes, during the captivity of his brother Demetrius II. (a prisoner of the Parthians), decided to take arms against the usurper Tryphon. Even before setting out on the conquest of Syria, Antiochus, then residing in Rhodes, sent a letter to make friends with Simon. In this letter, the text (or summary) of which has been preserved in I Macc. xv. 1-9, the Seleucid prince (1) confirmed all privileges granted to the Jews, and (2) expressly added the authorization of coinage with their own stamps. The memorable words are: νῦν οὖν ἵστημί [I confirm] σοι πάντα τὰ ἀφαιρέματα [exemptions from taxes] ἃ ἀφῆκάν σοι οἰ πρὸ ἐμοῦ βασιλεῖς, καὶ ὅσα ἄλλα δόματα ἀφῆκάν σοι [crown tax], καὶ ἐπέτρεΨά σοι ποιῆσαι κόμμα ἴδιομ νόμισμα τῃ χόρᾳ σου, Ιερουσαλὴμ δὲ καὶ τὰ ἅγια [the holy precinct, the Temple] εἶναι ἀλεύθερα.
It is reasonable to suppose that this important concession was not quite spontaneous and had long been petitioned for by the Jews. Nor is it difficult to guess why. Independently of the political prestige which a national coinage would confer on their community, it was a practical necessity for the Jews to have at their disposal silver coins of a half- (Phenician) shekel and one shekel for the easy payment of the Temple poll-tax, fixed "ne varietur" at that rate. Such coins, after the Seleucid occupation of southern Syria, were no longer struck anywhere; the older coins of that value were becoming rapidlyobsolete, and the new Seleucid stater of that weight was yet to come. A further inference is that, so soon as granted, the authorization was acted upon. Therefore there need be no hesitation in attributing to this period (with the majority of numismatists since Eckhel) the famous Jewish silver shekels and half-shekels, many specimens of which have come down, chiefly from two hoards, one at Jerusalem, the other at Jericho. The description of the shekel is as follows:
These remarkable coins have been variously attributed to the time of Ezra, of Alexander the Great (by De Saulcy), of Gabinius (by Unger), and of the first revolt against the Romans (66-70
As to the precise date of the shekels, i.e., to which year
Before leaving the subject of shekels a warning must here be issued against forged specimens of this coin. These are very numerous, and have been so since the Renaissance. Most of them are, however, easy to detect, by the clumsiness of the design (which transforms the chalice into a censer), by the absence of date, and by the use of square Hebrew characters, quite unknown not in that period alone, but in the whole range of Jewish numismatics. The counterfeits are also of a larger module than the real ones, and are cast, not struck. Specimens of false shekels were known to Villalpandus (1604) and perhaps even to Melanchthon (1552) (see G. Hill in the "Reliquary and Illustrated Archæologist," Oct., 1902).
After Antiochus Sidetes had recovered his father's realm he quarreled with the Jews, who refused to pay tribute for the districts they had seized beyond the limits of Judea proper. He did not attack them seriously before the death of Simon (Feb., 135
These Hasmonean brass coins are usually of small size, of types borrowed from the contemporaneous coinages of Syria or Egypt; but they strictly conform to the Jewish law (i.e., they exclude all animal representations). They were issued in the name of the reigning prince and sometimes also of the Jewish community ("ḥeber"). Others interpret this word as denoting the senate or the people. The legends are at first purely Hebrew,then bilingual (Hebrew and Greek), as was the dynasty itself. The following is a short nomenclature of the chief types of these not very interesting coins:
|Reverse: A double cornucopia with a poppy-head in the center (the badge of Alexander Zebina). See plate, Fig. 9.|
|Same legend, but with |
|1st species: Same types as above and same legend, but with the name |
|2d species: Obverse: |
|Reverse: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΠΟϒ. An anchor with two cross-timbers within a circle. See plate, Fig. 12.|
|Obverse: ΒΑΣΙΛΙΣ(σης) ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔ(ρας) round an anchor.|
|Reverse: Star with eight rays. Trace of Hebrew legend. Hebrew legend illegible.|
|No certain coins.|
|No certain coins.|
|Obverse: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ANTIΓONOY. Two cornucopiæ (sometimes one).|
After the year 63
Under the high-priesthood of the feeble Hyrcanus II. an Idumean nobleman, Antipater, had been practically prime minister at Jerusalem. His son Herod became, by favor of the Romans, king of the Jews, nominally at the end of 41
After the death of Herod his dominion was divided between his sons. Judea proper fell to the lot of Herod Archelaus, who was content with the title of ethnarch. His brass coins are as varied as those of his father, and the types are similar. The legend reads: ΗΠΩΔΟϒ ΕΘΝΑΠΧΟϒ. See plate, Fig. 16. In the year 6
From 6 to 40
For local use the procurators issued small bronze coins, similar in style to those of the Hasmonean and Idumean dynasties. In fact, it seems that in Judea, as in Egypt, the emperors wished to be considered simply as successors of the former kings, and therefore continued the local coinage as a matter of course, avoiding anything which could give offense to the national feeling and to the religious prejudices of Jewish workmen. The brass coins in question have the name of the reigning emperor (sometimes of another member of the imperial family) and a regnal year; but they have neither an imperial effigy nor figures of living creatures. The usual symbols are found: car of corn, palm-tree or branch, cornucopiæ, "diota," covered vase, "lituus" (curved trumpet), wreath, etc. The coin of which an illustration is given on plate (see Fig. 19) was struck under the authority of Pontius Pilate in the eighteenth year of Tiberius (35
In Sept., 66, the Jews, exasperated by the misgovernment of the Roman procurators, took up arms. The great rebellion lasted, as is well known, four years; it was crushed under the ruins of the Temple of Jerusalem in Aug., 70. Has it left any numismatical records? No coins struck during the first Jewish insurrection are mentioned either in heathen or in Talmudic texts, and, as has been shown, there is good reason for abandoning the view which assigns to that period the silver "shekels" (and half-shekels) "of Israel." Of brass coins, however, the following may with some likelihood be attributed to the Zealots, during the protracted siege of Jerusalem:
- (1) Numerous small coins with Jewish types. Obverse: Vineor fig-leaf. Reverse: A two-handled vase. Legend:
V09p355001.jpg("Ḥerut Ẓiyyon" = "liberty of Zion"). V09p355002.jpg[or V09p355003.jpg("Shenat [or "Shalosh"] Shetayim," "year 2" [or 3]). Year 1 is not represented. The new era most likely began Oct., 66. See plate, Fig. 20.
- (2) Larger coins with types referring to the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths: Obverse: Etrog (lemon) between two lulabs (bundles of twigs). Reverse: Palm-tree or cup between two baskets (or on some specimens a cup). Legend:
V09p355004.jpg("Li-Ge'ullat Ẓiyyon" = "deliverance of Zion"). V09p355005.jpg("Shenat Arba" = "year 4"). The cup variety has no further inscription; but on the palm-tree specimens is found a mark of value, V09p355006.jpg("Ḥaẓi" = "half") on the larger size, V09p355007.jpg("Rebia'" = "quarter") on the smaller. The word to be understood is most likely "shekel." These coins were therefore meant to stand for halves, quarters (and perhaps sixths or eighths?) of shekels. They were tokens or siege money issued during the last convulsions of besieged Jerusalem.
Of these two categories the first has been assigned to the Vespasianic period by De Saulcy; the second, to the same period by Garrucci. This opinion, although not unanimously accepted by numismatists (especially as concerns the second class), seems to prevail more and more; and the present writer sees no reason for dissenting from it.Roman Commemorative Coins.
The triumph of Rome over the Jews was commemorated in Roman numismatics by numerous coins of Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian, of which the commonest types show a female captive (Judea) seated or standing at the foot of a palm-tree or trophy (see plate, Fig. 21). In another series Victory inscribes the name of the emperor on a shield, which she supports against a palm-tree. The legend is "Judæa Capta" or "Devicta." Another coin deserving notice is the large brass one of Nerva with the inscription "Fisci Iudaici Calumnia Sublata" (see plate, Fig. 22); it shows that after the destruction of the Temple the Jewish poll-tax (didrachma) was claimed for the treasury of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome. This vexatious imposition was accompanied with many investigations and calumnies, the suppression of which (though not of the tax itself) is here commemorated. Lastly, there is the brass coin of Hadrian (struck in 130) to celebrate his visit to Judea: "Adventui Aug[usti] Iudææ." See plate, Fig. 23.Coins of Bar Kokba.
In 133 the Jews of Palestine made a supreme effort to regain their independence, or at any rate their right to the free exercise of their religion. This second and last revolt lasted three years, and was quenched with great difficulty in floods of blood, the fortress of Bethar being the last to yield (135). The chief of the insurgents, Bar Kokba, is called in heathen documents "Barco Chebas" (= "son of the star"); in Jewish, "Bar Kozeba." Both give only the patronymic of this bold adventurer, leaving one to guess his proper name. In contradiction to the first revolt, the second revolt is expressly stated by the Talmud to have left monetary records. Say the Rabbis: "The second tithe can not be paid in a coinage which is not current, like the coins of Kozeba or of Jerusalem [the old shekels ?] or that of the former kings [the Seleucidæ ?]" (Tosef., Ma'as. Sheni, i. 5; comp. Yer. Ma'as. Sheni i. 2; B. Ḳ. 97b). Coins of Bar Kokba are still extant in large quantities; a large number of them was discovered near Hebron. They may be divided into the following classes:
- (1) Silver coins (twenty-four varieties, according to Hamburger). These are invariably restruck on Roman denarii, Græco-Roman drachmas of Cæsarea (Cappadocia), or Attic tetradrachms of Antioch. The original types and inscriptions are still sometimes discernible under the new orthodox dies; the original coins bore the figures of emperors from Galba to Hadrian. On the smaller coins (denarii, drachmas) the types are of the usual sort (see plate, Fig. 24). Obverse: Wreath, bunch of grapes. Reverse: Flagon, palm-branch, lyre, pair of trumpets. The legend on the obverse reads: "Simon" (usually spelled
V09p355008.jpg); on the reverse, V09p355009.jpg("Shenat Shetayim le-Ḥerut Yisrael" = "year 2 of the liberty of Israel") or simply "Le-Ḥerut Yerushalayim" (= "liberty of Jerusalem"). A single coin of this class (belonging to the Marquis de Vogüé) bears the date "year 1" ("Shenat Aḥat li-Ge'ullat Yisrael"; On the obverse the name here is not "Simon," but "Eleazar ha-Kohen" (= "Eleazar the priest").
There are also a few hybrid specimens, combining by mistake a die of Simon with one of Eleazar. There can be no reasonable doubt that Simon is the proper name of Bar Kokba or Kozeba, who (at least from the second year of the revolt) was the undisputed chief of the Jews, with almost kingly powers. Indeed, heannounced himself as the Messiah, and was recognized as such by Rabbi Akiba. Who "Eleazar the priest" was is quite unknown; identifications like Eleazar of Modeïn (Bar Kokba's uncle), Eleazar ben Azariah, Eleazar ben Harsom, etc., are mere guesses. On the larger silver coins (restruck on tetradrachms of Antioch) the obverse type is a conventional image of the Temple of Jerusalem (see plate, Fig. 25), usually surmounted by a star; on the reverse is a type (etrog and lulab) already known from the time of the first revolt. Some of these coins bear a date: year 1 ("Shenat Aḥat li-Ge'ullat Yisrael"), or year 2 ("Shenat bet le-Ḥerut Yisrael"); others, the simple inscription "Le-Ḥerut Yerushalayim." Dated coins of the first year have on the obverse the name "Jerusalem"; dated coins of the second, "Simon" or (very seldom) "Jerusalem"; undated coins have always the name "Simon."
- (2) Brass coins. These are of many sizes. They exhibit types of the usual species (palm-tree, bunch of grapes, wreath, diota, vine-leaf, lyre). They also seem to have been all restruck on Greek or Roman brass. Among the coins dating from year 1 ("Shenat Aḥat li-Ge'ullat Yisrael") some are struck in the name of Eleazar (Eleazar ha-Kohen) like the silver denarius of the Marquis de Vogüé; the remainder (some of which are of large size) bear the legend "Simon Nasi Israel" (
V09p356001.jpg; see plate, Fig. 26); they were struck probably by Bar Kokba, and they indicate that he had assumed the title of "nasi" (prince), then used in a profane sense. The brass coin of year 2 ("Shenat Shetayim le-Ḥerut Yisrael") or undated ("Le-Ḥerut Yerushalayim") exhibits on the obverse only the name "Simon," or (more rarely) "Jerusalem."
To sum up: Omitting the distinction of types, and denoting by
|Year 2 and Undated.||Simon|
With these coins Jewish numismatics comes to an end. The Roman colonial coins of Ælia Capitolina, the pagan town built on the site of Jerusalem, do not belong to the subject, nor do medals with Hebrew legends struck on divers occasions after the Renaissance.
- In addition to the general treatises of Eckhel, Mionnet, Ch. and F. Lenormant, Hultzsch, Head, and Babelon, see Perez Bayer, De Numis Hebræo-Samaritanis, 1781;
- Cavedoni, Numismatica Biblica, i. (1849), ii. (1855) in Italian (German transl. by Werlhof, 1855);
- idem, in Grote, Münzstudien, 1867, v.;
- F. de Saulcy, Recherches sur la Numismatique Judaïque, 1854;
- idem, in Revue Numismatique, 1864, 1865;
- in Numismatic Chronicle, 1871;
- and in Revue Archéologique, 1872;
- idem, Numismatique de la Terre Sainte, 1874;
- idem, Mélanges de Numismatique, 1877, ii.;
- H. Ewald, in Göttinger Nachrichten, 1855;
- idem, in Göttingische Gelehrte Anzeigen, 1862;
- De Vogüé, in Revue Numismatique, 1860;
- A. Levy, Gesch. der Jüdischen Münzen, 1862;
- Zuckermandel, Ueber Talmudische Münzen und Gewichte, 1862;
- F. W. Madden, History of Jewish Coinage, 1864;
- idem, Coins of the Jews, 1881 (completest corpus);
- idem, in Numismatic Chronicle, 1866, 1874, 1875;
- Garrucci, Dissertazioni Archeologiche, 1865, ii.;
- Reichardt, in Egger's Wiener Numismatische Monatshefte, 1866, ii.;
- Merzbacher, De Siclis Nummis Antiquissimis Iudæorum, 1873;
- idem, in Zeitschrift für Numismatik, 1874, i.; 1876, iii.; 1877, iv.; 1878, v.;
- Lewis, in Numismatic Chronicle, 1876 (illustration of a shekel of the year 5);
- Von Sallet, in Zeitschrift für Numismatik, 1878, v.;
- Revillout, Note sur les Plus Anciennes Monnaies Hébraïques, in Annuaire de la Société Française de Numismatique et d'Archéologie, 1884, viii.;
- Th. Reinach, Les Monnaies Juives, 1887 (extract from the Actes et Conférences de la Société des Etudes Juives; Eng. translation [revised by the author] by G. F. Hill, 1903);
- idem, in R. E. J. 1887, 1888, 1889;
- Grätz, in Monatsschrift, 1887;
- idem, in R. E. J. 1888, 1889;
- Hamburger, in Zeitschrift für Numismatik, 1892, xviii.;
- Unger, in Sitzungsberichte der Münchener Akademie, 1897;
- A. R. S. Kennedy, Money, in Hastings' Dict. Bible, iii.;
- Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., i. 761 et seq.