The Great Mother, "Bacchius the Jew," and a camel

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by DonnaML, Jun 3, 2020.

  1. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Walked into a bar. Actually, they're all on a coin together. What a combination! As far as I know, the only Roman Republican coin with a figure on it identified as being Jewish.

    Roman Republic, Aulus Plautius, AR Denarius, 55 BCE, Rome mint. Obv. Turreted head of Cybele right, A. PLAVTIVS before, AE[D CVR S C] behind [portion in brackets off flan] / Rev. “Bacchius the Jew” [ = Aristobulus II of Judaea?],* in attitude of supplication, kneeling beside saddled camel standing right, extending olive-branch with right hand and holding camel’s bridle with left hand, his cape flowing behind him; BACCHIVS in exergue, IVDAEVS on right. RSC I Plautia 13, Crawford 431/1, Sydenham 932, Sear RCV I 395 (ill.), Harlan, RRM II Ch. 18 at pp. 145-149. 18x20 mm., 4.25 g. (Purchased from Harlan J. Berk, Ltd., 211th Buy or Bid Sale, May 2020, Lot 183.)

    The seller's image:

    Plautius (Cybele-Camel).jpg

    I thought that the details were a bit difficult to see in the seller's photo (especially on the reverse), so here's my attempt:

    Plautius (Cybele-Camel) Obv 1.jpg

    Plautius (Cybele-Camel) Rev 1.jpg

    * Regarding the identity of "Bacchius Ivdaevs," see Sear RCV I at p. 148: “Aulus Plautius strikes as curule aedile. The problematic interpretation of the reverse type appears to have been most successfully resolved by [Michael] Harlan in RRM [see Roman Republican Moneyers and Their Coins 63 BCE-49 BCE (2nd Revised Edition 2015), Ch. 18 at pp. 146-148] . . . who identifies the kneeling figure as Aristobulus [= Judah Aristobulus II of the Hasmonean Dynasty, d. ca. 49 BCE], the Jewish high priest, then held captive by Pompey in Rome.”)

    Here are the three relevant pages from Harlan's book discussing the identity of Bacchius:

    Harlan II p. 146.jpg

    Harlan II p. 147.jpg

    Harlan II p. 148.jpg

    A fascinating coin, and one I'm very happy to have.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2020
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  3. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    What an incredible coin with a fascinating story behind it! And how can you not love a numismatic mystery?
    DonnaML likes this.
  4. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Fantastic coin Donna, great toning.
    DonnaML likes this.
  5. Aaron Apfel

    Aaron Apfel Active Member

    A really cool and unique coin! This really makes me want to get one!
    ominus1 and DonnaML like this.
  6. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Donna, Congratulations on a great score :D! Not only is the coin an important issue by Aulus Plautius, boasting his position as curule aedile, but the reverse clearly commemorates Pompey's victory in Judaea & capture of Aristobulus. The camel on the reverse might allude to Aristobulus seeking the aid of the Nabataean king who provided military support when he was fighting his brother Hyrcanus for control of Judaea. When Pompey conquered Judaea he did it with the aid of Aulus Gabinius, a close friend & governor of Syria. Pictured below is a Tet of Aulus Gabinius I scored long ago.

    McAlee 1.JPG McAlee #1.jpg
  7. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ..kool coin Donna..Pompey(or rather, the moneyers) has a couple of figures kneeling with camel reverses...:)..(i must get one! )
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  8. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I'm happy that you all like the coin! (Despite Cybele's unfortunate skin condition, as now revealed in the photo I took.) I recently bought the revised 2015 edition of Harlan's book ("RRM II") covering the period from 63-49 BCE (the one from which I attached three pages in my post above), and recommend it enthusiastically for anyone interested in Roman Republican coins, along with the volume published in 2012 covering the period from 81-64 BCE ("RRM I"). RRM I covers 34 moneyers (I have coins of 12), and RRM II covers 32 (I have coins of only 4).

    I understand that Harlan's re-dating of some of the coins is controversial and has not been universally accepted, but it doesn't really matter to me all that much whether, say, the Q. Cassius Longinus denarius with an eagle, lituus, and capis on the reverse (Crawford 428/3) was issued in 55 BCE (Crawford's date) or 53 BCE (Harlan's date). That's not the main reason why I bought the books; I bought them for his very interesting discussions of the individual coins and the historical (or mythical) people and/or events they portray. And I must say that he is most often very persuasive, as in his argument (which I discussed in another thread) that the animal being prepared for sacrifice as portrayed on the reverse of the A. Postumius A.f. Sp.n. Albinus denarius (Crawford 372/1, with Diana on the obverse) is not a bull but a heifer. Or his argument that the head on the obverse of the Q. Cassius Longinus denarius is Bonus Eventus rather than Apollo, which makes perfect sense when taken in conjunction with auspicial symbols on the reverse. Or his argument regarding this coin, as presented in the attached pages, that it portrays Aristobulus II on the reverse. As essential and comprehensive as the two volumes of Crawford are, they're not notable for any extended discussions of historical events, or for any extended explanations of the logic behind many of his conclusions.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2020
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  9. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Congrats Donna , great story and coin.

    lepton prutah (2).jpg
    Johndakerftw, DonnaML and ominus1 like this.
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