Coincidental Coin Connections

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by John Conduitt, Jan 16, 2021.

  1. John Conduitt

    John Conduitt Well-Known Member

    Only a week into the New Year and my only resolution – not to buy coins outside of my main interests – bit the dust. I have no other ancient coins from the Holy Land, unless you count the Crusaders, so this coin from the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-136AD) is decidedly off-topic. But I can’t resist attractive historical coins, and this is certainly that.

    I don’t need to go into the history of the revolt, as it was covered here Suffice to say, Simon Bar Kokhba overthrew the Romans to establish the last Jewish state before modern Israel. It lasted less than 3 years before Hadrian destroyed Jerusalem and dispersed the Jews around the Empire, selling many into slavery. Even so, the revolt greatly influenced Jewish history, not least because it helped distinguish Judaism from Christianity.

    The coins are very expensive. They were all struck over foreign (Roman) issues, and in the case of silver, the host coin is often discernible. The bronze coins, however, were filed down since it didn’t matter if they lost weight. These are more affordable. The palms and vines are symbolic of Judaea, while the way the rather pictorial script is used to fill the space is iconic. It’s not a huge coin (although pleasingly chunky), so I was surprised to find it looks much better in hand. Quite amazing for a coin from an uprising, which are usually dreadful.

    Bar Kokhba Revolt, Year 1 (132-133AD)
    Judaean rebel state. Bronze, 17.5mm, 5.92g. Grape bunch on tendril, ‘year one of the redemption of Israel’. Palm tree (the emblem of Judaea), ‘Elazar the Priest’ (Meshorer 224).

    Unlike some, my coin doesn’t even mention Simon Bar Kokhba. Indeed, a few scholars have suggested this and other types might not be from the Bar Kokhba Revolt. But seeing as these coins were the only evidence that Bar Kokhba even existed until the Cave of Letters was found in the 1950s, and some of these scholars were writing before that, the piecing together of this important event was always going to throw up a great many theories.

    The coin instead refers to Elazar the Priest. No-one knows who he was. Some say he was a rebel, but my preferred theory is that he is the Eleazar in the Bible, the second High Priest and Moses's nephew. He played a key role in Exodus, the founding myth of the Israelites, and was surely an inspiration to any Jewish rebel.

    Then I realised, coincidentally, I also have a coin of Hadrian from around the same time. I acquired it previously in a lot with another coin I wanted. It doesn’t fit into my collection either. I’ve seen it dated 136AD, which happens to be the end of the Bar Kokhba Revolt. I have no idea if there is a link, but it does have an apt reverse.

    Hadrian Denarius, 134-138AD
    Rome. Silver, 3.05g. HADRIANVS AVG COS III P P. Winged Nemesis-Victory, drawing out the drapery across her chest (for her to spit into!) and holding a branch pointed downwards. VICTORIA AVG (RIC II.3 2239).

    It depicts Nemesis-Victory, representing victory as divine vengeance for all excess. It’s a warning to rebels, Jewish or otherwise. She spits on her chest to avert evil influences, more specifically to encourage self-restraint in victory. Go too far and Nemesis could bring you loss and suffering as retribution. Hadrian’s response to the Bar Kokhba Revolt seemed to interpret the spirit of vengeance rather differently.

    Strange how my random acquisitions suddenly find connections! At least they can sit together and won’t be so lonely in my collection, although I doubt either Hadrian or Bar Kokhba would appreciate the irony…
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2021
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  3. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    2 coins is the begining of a focus : you're done :D

  4. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Enrich the soldiers...ignore all others

    Very nice coin and thanks for the write-up.
    John Conduitt likes this.
  5. Spargrodan

    Spargrodan Well-Known Member

    I believe you're not mistaken. That victory on the reverse commemorates the victory over the revolt. Congrats to the coins plus an interesting story!
    John Conduitt likes this.
  6. svessien

    svessien Senior Member Supporter

    Not hard to understand the temptation, because that’s an unusually nice Jewish coin (prutah?). Congrats :)
    John Conduitt likes this.
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