Aretas IV

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by John Anthony, Mar 30, 2013.

  1. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

    I've decided rather than post a thread about every new Nabataean acquisition, I would just post one thread for every king, since there are so few, and add new coins to it as I go along.

    Most Nabataean coinage was issued by Aretas IV. An excellent summary of his reign comes from the Jewish Dictionary, which is in the public domain, so I'll quote the entire passage...

    And an interesting side-note from the same source...

    This is my most recent acquisition of Aretas IV. On the whole, it presents some attractive features despite the weak reverse. The coin is struck on a round flan and the devices are well-centered. The piece is worth owning for the strong portrait in and of itself.


    But the reverse, despite its wear, suggests it may be a very important piece in the history of coinage. The Nabataeans were the first minters in history to put denominations on their coins. Consider the following extract from Jerzy Ciecielag's Coins of Aretas IV, King of Nabataeans:


    He goes on to describe two types, and arrives at a third, which I believe is the coin that I've acquired in this post...


    Ciecielag uses the modern Hebrew equivalents of the Aramaic Nabataean alphabet. The spelling of "quarter" in Nabataean (RVA) looks like this...


    More in the next post...
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  3. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

    The problem with attributing my coin as a bona fide Nabataean quarter resides in the fact that an earlier issue (Meshorer 115) was of the same type, only it had Aretas' monogram (HRTT) on the reverse instead of a denomination. Here is a picture of that reverse on a coin that's not in my collection...


    Perhaps it's wishful thinking, but I don't see any of the letters HRTT on the reverse of my coin. What I can make out of the inscription comes quite close to the word for quarter. I only wish it was just a little more distinct...


    At any rate, both types are rare, and the condition of the obverse on this coin is particularly good for a Nabataean, so I'm quite pleased to add it to my collection.
  4. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    You, and these coins, are making Nabataean coins very interesting. Thanks for all the info.
  5. Ardatirion

    Ardatirion Où est mon poisson

    That is a well struck specimen. Do you have it in hand yet?
  6. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

    No, but I've gotten a few pieces from this dealer and he's quite fast about shipping, so I should have it in a few days. I'm looking forward to examining the reverse more closely to see if I can make out the letters any better.
  7. stevex6

    stevex6 Random Mayhem

  8. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Nice ones JA.
  9. chrsmat71

    chrsmat71 I LIKE TURTLES!

    i dig that coin! :thumb:
  10. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

    Very cool coin!
  11. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

    Another type coin in this king's set: an AE15 with Aretas on the obverse, Heth between crossed cornucopiae on the reverse. Ciecielag dates these small bronzes between 9 BC and 18 AD. The bust/cornucopiae type is prevalent, but there are many variations in the signs and letters that appear on them - Meshorer only managed to catalog a handful.

    The letter Heth on these coins may refer to Aretas' first queen, Huldu, as she appears in one form or another on most coins of his early reign. After his marriage to Shaquilat in 18 AD, the letter almost completely disappears from the coinage. When it does appear on occasion, it probably refers to Aretas himself, as the Nabataean spelling of his name is HRTT.

    This isn't an expensive coin and neither is it in very good shape, but like many less-common issues of this empire, good luck finding another one. Actually, it's quite acceptable for a Nabataean - the reverse is nicely centered and all the devices are there, despite the wear.

  12. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

    Aretas, Herod Antipas, John the Baptist

    By 60 BC, the Nabataean Kingdom had grown to encompass a substantial amount of territory, with trade routes covering the entire Arabian Peninsula, and parts of the Syrian.


    During the reign of Aretas IV, the Nabataeans achieved their pinnacle of cultural and economic development. Generally maintaining a position of neutrality for the sake of trade, relations with neighbors were mostly good. However, a number of skirmishes with the Judaeans compelled Aretas to marry his daughter Phasaelis to Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great. This relieved tensions for a while, until Herod Antipas fell in love with his brother's wife Herodias in AD 27, and divorced Phasaelis for her sake. This is the soap opera that John the Baptist denounces in Mark 6, thereby earning a lost head.

    Caravaggio's Salome with the Head of John the Baptist (c. 1607/1610)...


    John the Baptist wasn't the only one outraged at Herod Antipas' treachery. When Phasaelis returned to her father a spurned wife, he was equally incensed, and promptly set out with his armies to give the Judaeans a good trouncing. He managed to do it too, but before the Nabataeans could overrun all of Judaea, the police showed up (read Romans) and broke up the party.

    I suppose I should post a coin, so here's one that circulated during the period of the aforementioned events. In 18 AD, Aretas IV married his second wife, Shuqailat, and she appears on small bronze issues in a jugate portrait with the king. The reverse has crossed cornucopiae with Aretas' name at the top, and Shuqailat's between and under the cornucopia. This is the most common typology among Nabataean coins - a vast number of these bronzes were minted during Aretas' reign, and the type would be taken up by the succeeding kings, Malichus II and Rabbel II...

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