Hadrian The Roman Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD) enjoyed visiting provinces of the Empire, spending more than half of his time outside of Italy. In these tours, the first of which began in 121 AD, he would inspect the borders, encourage military discipline, and launch building projects. In 122 AD, he began the ~six-year construction of the well-known Hadrian’s Wall which stretched 73 miles from coast to coast to mark the northern limit of Britannia. Hadrian had been nicknamed “Graeculus” (“little Greek”) as a youth, and as a philhellene world leader, sought to make Athens the cultural capital of the Empire. In 130 AD, Hadrian visited Iudaea. He found Jerusalem still in ruins, 60 years after its fall in 70 AD during the first Jewish-Roman War of 66-74 AD. General Titus led the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Second Temple. Proceeds from war spoils and Jewish slaves were used to construct the Amphitheatric Flavium (now known as the Colosseum) in ~72-80 AD. Vespasian (69-79 AD) imposed a punitive tax (fiscus Iudaicus) upon all Jews, whether in Iudaea or the diaspora, which was expanded under Domitian (81-96 AD), and later lifted upon Domitian's death by Nerva (96-98 AD). While Trajan (98-117 AD) was distracted with war against Parthia (launched in 113 AD), Jewish insurgents led attacks in Cyprus, Libya, Iudaea, Egypt, and Mesopotamia in what is known as the Kitos War (115-117 AD). Hadrian, inheriting an empire in turmoil when he succeeded Trajan upon his unexpected death in 117 AD, set out to restore order. For Iudaea, he changed the status of the province from praetorian to consular, doubled the military presence there (Legio X Fretenis had been encamped at Jerusalem since 70 AD), and extended the network of military roads. Hadrian planned to rebuild Jerusalem as a colonia for retired soldiers, erect a Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus on the site where the Second Temple had stood, and rename the city Aelia Capitolina, in honor of his family (gens Aelia) and the king of the Roman gods. In 132 AD, he issued an edict banning the practice of circumcision. This set the stage for the second and last Jewish-Roman War. Hadrian (117-138 AD). AR Denarius. Rome mint: 137 AD. HADRIANVS AVG COS III P P - Bare head right. / VOTA PVBLICA - Hadrian, draped standing left, holding a patera over an altar, left, sacrificing. Shim’on ben Koseba Shim’on ben Koseba emerged as the leader of a revolt to liberate Jerusalem and free Iudaea from Roman occupation. Understanding the superior power of the Romans, he did not confront the Romans in their stronghold of Jerusalem or in regions where garrisons were concentrated such as Galilee. Instead, he orchestrated a campaign of guerilla warfare in areas of Iudaea where the Roman presence was lighter and where the terrain was favorable for “attack and retreat” operations. Many Jews were still looking for the prophesied Messiah (“Annointed One”) who would come as a future Jewish King. It is claimed that the influential Rabbi Akiba identified Shim’on ben Koseba to be the “moshiah” (Messiah), calling him “Bar Kokhba” (son of star), based upon his interpretation of Numbers 24:17, “there shall be a star out of Ya’akob.” Members of the Christian community refused to assist Shim’on ben Koseba in the revolt, and they were persecuted and killed for not joining the fight against the Romans. Hit and run attacks launched in the first year of the revolt (132 AD) were very successful, and the rebels began to produce their own currency by overstriking Roman bronze and silver coins. This repurposing of coinage resulted in the conversions of the tetradrachm to the sela (shekel); the denarius and provincial drachm to the zuz; and the sestertius, the dupondus, and the as to the prutah. The surfaces of bronze coins were filed down to obliterate previous images before being overstruck, but silver coins were hammered down instead in order to preserve the precious metal content. The latter method was less effective in completely erasing impressions on the host coin, and thus remnants of the undertype can sometimes be detected on Bar Kokhba selas and zuzim (see example below). In 133 AD, the empire sent reinforcements to Quintus Tineius Rufus, the Roman governor of Iudaea. At the height of the war in 134 AD, soldiers from up to 12 legions had joined the fight to put down the revolt, and large sections of the Judaen Shephelah and Judaean Desert were being retaken from the rebels. In 135 AD, Shim’on ben Koseba had his last stand at his headquarters in the hilltop town of Betar which was located seven miles southwest of Jerusalem. After a long siege, the walls were breached on the 9th of Av, the Jewish day of fasting when the destruction of the first and second temples were mourned. Mop-up operations by the Romans in remaining rebel hideouts in Judaean Desert caves were concluded in 136 AD. Aftermath It is estimated that 580,000 Jews and hundreds of thousands of Romans were killed in the second Jewish-Roman War. Many Jewish survivors were sold into slavery in Egypt. Approximately a thousand Jewish settlements were destroyed. Hadrian realized his vision of establishing Aelia Capitalina, and Jews were banned from entry except on the 9th of Av to mourn their losses in the revolt. (The city would not be called Jerusalem again for nearly 200 years, when Constantine I restored the city’s name in 324 AD.) Hadrian changed the name of the Iudaea Province to Syria Palaestina, and he forbade all Jewish religious practice within the Empire. At or shortly after the end of the war, Hadrian accepted his second acclamation as Imperator. He died in 138 AD, two years after the revolt was suppressed. After his defeat, Shim’on ben Koseba was viewed by the Jews as a false messiah, the “Son of a Liar” (kazav) instead of the “Son of a Star” (kokav), or as a flawed hero (gibbor). He was not seen as a great leader like Judah Macabbee, but a failure who had cost the Jews so much in his disastrous defeat. Over time, however, his image improved, particularly during the Jewish diaspora and the rise of Zionism; and today he is acclaimed as a folk hero who stood against the odds to fight the enemies of Israel. Bar Kokhba was the last leader of a Jewish state until the nation of Israel was established more than 1800 years later in 1948. Long before then, the real name of Bar Kokhba had been lost to history. It wasn’t discovered until 1961, when archaeologist Yigael Yadin and his team found letters bearing his name, Shim’on ben Koseba, in caves that had been used for refuge by rebels during the revolt. Judaea, Bar Kokhba Revolt. Silver Zuz (3.25 g), 132-135 AD. Undated, attributed to year 3 (134/5 AD). 'Simon' (Paleo-Hebrew), bunch of grapes with leaf and tendril. / 'For the freedom of Jerusalem' (Paleo-Hebrew), upright palm branch. Hendin 1430; Hendin Great Biblical Coins, Fifth Edition, plate 40, (this coin illus.); Mildenberg 150 (O11/R103), 7 cited, this being #5. Portions of the undertype legend visible on obverse from the obverse of a Drachm, probably of Trajan and probably of Caesaria. The letters AYTOK can be discerned, these being part of the title AYTOKRATΩR - autocrat, dictator, tyrant, despot. Ex David Hendin Collection. Please post your Bar Kokhba coins and those of Hadrian!