A small Nabataean AE coin, very common...

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by GinoLR, May 14, 2024 at 3:35 PM.

  1. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    NABATAEA. Aretas IV (c. 9/8 BC-AD 40), with Shaqilath I. Petra, AD 16-40.
    AE 15-18 mm, 1.66 g.

    Obv. Aretas, in military attire, standing facing, head left, holding spear and sword ; palm frond to left, letter H (H(aritat)) to right
    Rev. Sh Q / Y L / T ; Shaqilath, veiled, standing left and raising hand ; wreath to left
    Cf. CN 187a or 187d ; cf. Meshorer, Nabataea 97.

    The smallest denomination minted in Nabataea under Aretas IV. On the obverse the Arab king is represented long haired and dressed in Hellenistic military attire, standing and holding vertical spear. This posture is typical of Hellenistic monarchies, inspired by the famous Alexander with the Spear statue by Lysippos (Alexander was naked because he was a god, while Aretas, being a mere mortal, is wearing a cuirass, a chlamys, etc.). The palm-frond symbolizes victory. Aretas is identified by the initial of his name in Nabataean : H(RTT) for Ha(ritat).

    On the reverse is queen Shaqilath I. She was Aretas' second wife, after his first wife Huldu died in AD 16. She married Aretas a few years later and was a co-regent until his death in AD 40. Her name is written in full letters. Her veil and her raised hand are the traditional ancient Arab symbols of piety. In the 2nd c AD there are statues of kings and queens in Hatra (another arab kingdom, in Mesopotamia) raising hand the same way.

    Statue of Abu Bint Deimon, wife of Sanatruq I, king of Hatra (AD 140-180)

    The raised hand is a typical Nabataean monetary type : Aretas' first wife, Huldu, was represented in the same attitude on AE coins dated 5 BC,

    Nabataea, Aretas IV (c. 9/8 BC-AD 40), with Huldu. Petra, dated RY 4 = BC 5. AE 19 mm.
    Obv.: head of Aretas right, H to left, O to right
    Rev.: HRTT MLK NBTY ShNT 4 (Aretas king of Nabataea, year 4 = 5 BC), queen Huldu (?) standing left wearing long dress, right hand raised, holding uncertain object.
    Acquired in Petra

    and c. 33 BC AE smaller coins of Malichus I just had the raised hand as reverse type.

    Nabataea, Malichus I (60-30 BC). Petra, dated RY 27 = 34-33 BC. AE 16 mm, 3.98 g.
    Obv.: Diademed head right
    Rev.: Palm of hand.
    Cf. Meshorer, Nabataea 17A
    (Not my coin)

    This hand, called in Arabic the khamsa ("the Five") is still today a religious symbol very popular among Muslims. Women wear it as a pendant, like Christian women's cross.

    These small AE Aretas / Shaqilath coins were minted in enormous quantities and, obviously, circulated long after Aretas' death, even after the Romans annexed Arabia in AD 106 and introduced Roman coinage in the country. Very few were carefully struck and centered ; flans are always irregular, most are very worn, having circulated for decades. In Hegra, today in Saudi Arabia, these small coins are by far the most numerous Nabataean coins found on the site, and it is likely the were still circulating in the second and even the early third century. They were probably worth a half-quadrans, the smallest possible denomination.

    This one was found on the ground near the Via Nova Trajana, a Roman road built under Trajan, 58 Roman miles North of Petra.

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  3. Deacon Ray

    Deacon Ray Artist & Historian Supporter

    Thank you for your interesting post and research, @GinoLR. I have always admired the stylized imagery on Nabataean coins and have accumulated a few over the years but I must confess that of all the coins in my collection, I know the least about them.

    philologus_1, Bing and Johndakerftw like this.
  4. philologus_1

    philologus_1 Supporter! Supporter

    Nabataeans have always caught my eye. Even though they are slightly out of my over-arching collecting theme, 17 "Nabby" types have somehow sneaked into my collection. (And I see a similar but greater occurrence of this sneaking in the collection of @Deacon Ray .) :happy:

    The Hasmoneans and Herodians each had no small amount of interaction with the Nabateans (not always pleasant interactions). Also, Aretas IV was father-in-law to Herod Antipas for a short while. That did not end well.

    Related to this subject of interactions between the neighbors, I recommend this book: Roman Arabia, by G. W. Bowersock, from Harvard University Press. It's an easy and interesting read, and is conveniently well-indexed for reference!
    Last edited: May 17, 2024 at 11:34 PM
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  5. philologus_1

    philologus_1 Supporter! Supporter

    Here is my example of the first type shown at the top of this thread by @GinoLR
    15x14 mm. 2.06 gr. Struck in Petra ca. 18/19 AD.
    And as is noted in the O.P.: Meshorer 97. Barkay's CN 187.

    I once owned a nice example of the small Malichus I type with the reverse featuring just the raised hand khamsa, but I sold it for what was at the time a good reason. In retrospect I regret selling it. What a cool type it is! But my solace is that the above type includes at least a miniature display of the khamsa. :)
    Bing likes this.
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