Featured The Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-136 AD)

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Carl Wilmont, Jun 21, 2020.

  1. Carl Wilmont

    Carl Wilmont Supporter! Supporter

    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 Denarius.jpg
    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.

    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.

    Bar Kokhba Zuz.png
    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!
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2020
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  3. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    Here's my Bar Kochba shekel/tetradrachm, purchased many years ago from Worldwide Coins of California.

    Judea, No Date (134/5 AD)
    Bar Kochba
    Second Jewish Revolt
    Attributed to year 3
    Obverse: Paleo-Hebrew 'Simon' on either side of facade of Jewish Great Temple of Jerusalem, star above.
    Reverse: Lulav, ethrog myrtle and willow surrounded by the inscription (for the freedom of Jerusalem).
    MILD - 79
    Ch VF+
    14.39 grams
    26 mm, 11 h.

    There are some indications that this coin was struck over an earlier tetradrachm, probably a Roman provincial coin, most likely that of Trajan.

    D-Camera Judea, Shekel, Bar Kochba, Second Revolt, No Date,, 6-21-20.jpg
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2020
    Nathan401, TIF, randygeki and 14 others like this.
  4. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    @Carl Wilmont ......Nice write up, I found it very interesting thanks..
    Here's my only Denarius..
    Hadrian (117- 138). Rome, c. 131-138 AD. Silver Denarius. 2,85 g. 17 mm.
    Obv: HADRIANVS AVG COS III P P, laureate head right.
    Rev: FORTVNA AVG, Fortuna standing left holding patera and cornucopiae. VF, old collection patina.
    TIF, randygeki, Puckles and 10 others like this.
  5. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Well done, @Carl Wilmont , very nice write-up, thank you. I am interested in some of those overstrikes or repurposed coins. Cool. Great Hadrian, and great Bar Kokhba coin.

    I do not focus on IVDAEA, so I do not have much to offer. I will put down a couple Hadrians, 2 Quinarii makes a Denarius! But it really does not pertain to your great post:

    RI Hadrian 117-138 AR Quinarius Victory holding palm

    RI Hadrian AR Quinarius 1.3g, 14mm Rome, AD 119-122 cuirassed laureate COS III Victory seated wreath palm RIC 108a
    TIF, randygeki, Puckles and 9 others like this.
  6. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

  7. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Nice write-up, Carl. This "spitty" sestertius is a Bar Kochba issue, according to RIC:

    "The main denarius and aes types with VICTORIA AVG slogan (legend on denarii only - the aes with the same theme is anepigraphic) feature an unusual winged Victory superstitiously lifting drapery to spit on her own chest to ward off ill-fortune and syncretised with Pax in holding the branch of peace. This is the type of Nemesis (fate) which along with Justitia can be read as the Roman view of giving Bar Kochba and his rebellion their 'just deserts.'

    Nemesis-Victory admittedly does not die link into the group but thematically it is clearly linked to the evens of 136."
    (Richard Abdy, Peter Mittag, Roman Imperial Coinage, Volume II, Part 3, p. 27)


    Hadrian Æ Sestertius
    (136 (RIC); c. 134-138 A.D.)
    Rome Mint

    [HADRI]ANVS AVG C[OS III P P], laureate head right / S-C, Pax-Nemesis advancing right, holding out fold of dress in apotropaic gesture and branch.
    RIC II.3 2288 (RIC 779); Cohen 1374; BMC 1549.
    (21.14 grams / 29 mm)

    Attached Files:

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  8. 1934 Wreath Crown

    1934 Wreath Crown Well-Known Member

    Great write-up @Carl Wilmont. I recently missed out on a Bar Kokhba shekel but I did snag this Hadrian Aureus. Although I've posted this before, I don't mind doing so again as it is my only coin of Hadrian, possibly a mule:

    Hadrian AV Aureus.jpg
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  9. Larry49

    Larry49 Member

    The aftermath also included what are remembered in Jewish history as the Hadrianic Persecutions, including the martyrdom of major rabbis of that generation. Rabbi Akiba, who, as mentioned above, had supported Bar Kokhba, was among them. Many of these names are included in a lengthy liturgical recitation on Yom Kippur.
    BarKokhbaA'.jpg BarKokhbaB.jpg
    Bar Kokhba 'Middle Bronze; undated (134/5) vine leaf/palm tree (9.05g; 25mm)
    Hendin 1437a (?)
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  10. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    The denarius version:
    TIF, Spaniard, randygeki and 8 others like this.
  11. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    Yours is a very well struck example! These are tough to find with all details visible because of the overstriking and just generally poor mint quality.

    Here's mine which, at a glance, appears off-centered but is actually just on a broad flan:

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  12. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    That's a beautiful example.

    Where did you acquire it and when?
  13. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    I bought it serendipitously from a dealer at the Long Beach show two years ago. I happened to be in town for a speaking engagement and had a spare hour so I dropped by the show (I had never attended that show before - it's predominately US coins which I'm no longer collecting).

    The dealer didn't have a table but I caught him while he was walking around and asked if he happened to have anything on him: he had brought only three coins with: one of which was this Sela. It can't hurt to ask! (Alas, these opportunities will become less frequent in a post-COVID world).
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  14. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Struck during or shortly after the Bar Kokhba Revolt, the following two coins of Hadrian declare: TELLVS STABIL, in essence, Mother Earth has been stabilized.

    Hadrian - Tellus Stabil new 2017.jpg
    AR Denarius. 2.98g, 18.1mm, Rome mint, AD 134-138. RIC II 277d; BMCRE 748 var. (bust type): RSC 1430. O: HADRIANVS AVG COS III P P, laureate head right. R: TELLVS, Tellus reclining left, resting right hand on globe, left shoulder on basket; STABIL in exergue.

    Hadrian - Tellus Stabil 2.jpg HADRIAN
    AR Denarius. 2.97g, 19mm. Rome mint, AD 134-138. RIC II 276; RSC 1425. O: HADRIANVS AVG COS III P P, bare head right. R: TELLVS STABIL, woman (Tellus?) standing left, holding plough and rake; two grain ears below.
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  15. Nemo

    Nemo Well-Known Member

    Here's my most recent Bar Kokhba Zuz, formerly known as a denarius. It's very hard to find a well struck example with such a clear under type. VespZuz.jpg
    Judaea, Bar Kokhba Revolt 132 – 135 CE Silver denarius / Zuz, 3.39 gr. Overstruck on a denarius of Vespasian.
    O: Paleo-Hebrew inscription in wreath: “Shimon".
    R: Lyre. Paleo-Hebrew inscription: "To the freedom of Jerusalem"
    - Mildenberg 130; Meshorer TJC 272c; Hendin 1429. Ex Menashe Landman collection, Haifa.
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  16. jb_depew

    jb_depew Well-Known Member

    Hadrian Sestertius, Victory over Bar Kochba revolt
    Struck 134-138 AD
    Obverse: HADRIANVS AVG COS III P P, laureate head right
    Reverse: S-C, Pax-Nemesis advancing right, holding out fold of dress in apotropaic gesture & holding olive branch
    References: RIC II 779; Sear II 3646
  17. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

  18. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Supporter! Supporter

    That is a nice coin... and I must say that photo is REALLY good!
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  19. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    Fortune was indeed smiling upon you - a great acquisition!

    My example came by way of Worldwide Coins of California, back in the 90s, as I recall. Jim Elmen has been running auctions of world coins going back to the 70s. He really doesn't sell or auction ancients, but I guess this coin was part of a consignment. Still, the price was pretty stiff, even for that time, at $1,400. One good thing about his auctions, besides his outstanding reputation, is that he never charges a seller's fee or commission.
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  20. Carl Wilmont

    Carl Wilmont Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks for the encouraging comments on my first article (and only second thread)! I've learned much from reading articles contributed by other CoinTalkers!

    The posts related to the Second Jewish-Roman War were interesting, with several coin examples.

    Three types of Bar Kokhba coins were included. The shekels (sela) depicting the Jewish temple are highly prized types. Thanks, @robinjojo and @AncientJoe, for posting ones from your collections- as well as the stories of how you acquired them. @Larry49 provided an example of a nice Middle Bronze. @Nemo shared his zuz featuring a clear Vespasian under type.

    Coins of Hadrian were also well-represented. @Andres2 added an informative map outlining Hadrian's travels along with photos of various coins. Several pics of denarii were uploaded by @Spaniard, @randygeki, @dougsmit, and @zumbly. A stunning aureus was shown by @1934 Wreath Crown. @Alegandron contributed 2 quinarii, and @Marsyas Mike and @jb_depew provided sestertii examples. I'll throw in a smaller bronze:


    IONIA. Ephesos. Hadrian (117-138 AD). AE. Hadrian laureate head right. / Statue of Artemis Ephesia facing within temple. 21 mm. 5.89 g.
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2020
  21. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    Sorry, regarding Karl Stephens, I actually meant he does not charge buyer's fee or commission.
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