Roman Period

In 6 C.E. after Emperor Augustus banished Herod Archelaus he installed Roman Prefects, later known as procurator to govern civil affairs in Judaea. The procurator’s superior was the governor of Celesyria. Between 6 C.E. and 66 C.E. fourteen procurators ruled in Judaea and that excludes the reign of Agrippa I between 41 – 44 C.E . Most of the procurators were corrupt, seeking to enrich themselves during their short terms.

As the years passed the procurators got bolder and more wicked and the situation was quite unbearable by the rule of Albinus 62 – 64 C.E. However, even as he was a criminal, he tried to cover up his crimes. His successor Florus was a man of extreme wickedness and manipulation, an open criminal, who had no problem murdering thousands of people for the flimsiest of reasons. It was his rule which instigated the Jewish war against Rome and the ultimate destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem.

Many of the Roman prefects and procurators struck coins in Judaea in the name of the Roman emperor.
Below is the list of prefects and procurators that served in Judaea.
Coponius 6 – 9 C.E.  Struck coins
Marcus Ambibulus 9 – 12 C.E.  Struck coins
Annius Rufus 12 – 15 C.E. 
Valerius Gratus 15 – 26 C.E. Struck coins (many varieties)
Pontius Pilatus 26 – 36 C.E. Struck coins (two varieties)
Marcellus 36 – 37 C.E.
Marullus 37 – 41 C.E.
Cuspius Fadus 44 – 46 C.E.
Tiberius Alexander 46 – 48 C.E. (An apostate Jew to paganism, later served on the side of Rome in the war)
Ventidius Cumanus 48 -54 C.E.
Antonius Felix 52 – 59 C.E. Struck coins (two varieties)
Porcius Festus 59 – 62 C.E. Struck coins
Albinus 62 – 64 C.E.
Gessius Florus 64 – 66 C.E.

Still the Jewish people would have two more eras of minting coins and the coins minted at those times were the most beautiful ever!

The Judaeans revolted against Rome in 66 C.E. and immediately commenced their own coinage, emblazoned with patriotic captions and symbols.
They minted their own silver shekels and half shekels to the same purity level as the Shekel of Tyre. These were struck in years one through five of the war.  Prutot were struck in years two and three and a special one time bronze issue of 1/8th, 1/4 and 1/2 were struck in year four of the war near its close, presumably under the authority of Shimon Bar Giora. Those coins are probably the most beautiful and inspiring of all Judaean coins.

As far as rarity goes:
Half shekels are always rarer than full shekels for each year, though both are exceedingly rare in years four and five with current market values ranging from $20,000 to $200,000 for the few specimens that exist from those years.
The half shekels years one to three do not show statistically significant differences in rarity.
For the full shekels among these three years: year one is the rarest, then year three, and year two is the most common, although relatively speaking still quite a scarce coin.

Prutot in both year two and three are considered common, although the prutot of year three are scarcer than those of year two.

For the year four bronze issue, the 1/8th’s are common to scarce, the 1/4’s are very rare and the 1/2’s exceedingly rare.

Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed in 70 C.E. and most of the Jews were killed or exiled (according to Josephus over 1,000,000 killed and 97,000 sold into slavery). Many were also delivered to their deaths fighting wild beasts in the arena or in gladiatorial contests.

Still Jewish life continued to some extent in Judaea. Thanks to the efforts of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, Jewish law and the Sanhedrin were revitalized in Yavneh (Jamnia).

The Jews still resented what the Romans had done to the Temple and their continued domination. This resentment grew substantially as the years went on and reached a fever pitch after the Roman General Quietus (under Emperor Trajan) killed several hundred thousand Jews who had revolted in the provinces.

More to come soon!


roman 3

Working Title/Artist: Solidus of Constantius II (Sole Emperor, 353-361) Department: Medieval Art Culture/Period/Location: HB/TOA Date Code: 05 Working Date: 353-361 mma digital photo: DP100659 shot summer 2001