JUDAEA or CILICIA, Hellenistic Period. Jerusalem (?). c. 132-130.
|Sale: Nomos 5, Lot: 206. Estimate CHF2500.
Closing Date: Monday, 24 October 2011.
Sold For CHF14000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.
Hemidrachm (Silver, 1.98 g 12). Lily; pearl border. Rev.
Uncertain object, perhaps a wine flask made of an animal skin, some sort of wind instrument with a mouth piece, or, possibly, a gourd used as a rattle in rituals; border made of a wreath of lily blossoms. Apparently unique and unpublished
). An extraordinary coin of the greatest interest and mystery. Good very fine.
From the PGB collection, apparently acquired in ancient Zephyrion, modern Mersin, in 1964.
This coin is almost inexplicable. The fact that it is anepigraphic certainly does not help; in some ways this is rather reminiscent of the kind of curious Late Roman silver issues that appeared in the 4th and 5th centuries (those celebrating the House of Constantine from the mint of Constantinople, for example). However, both stylistically and technically such a date is impossible. The place where this piece was purchased, a bustling modern port city with a very long history, could mean that the coin is of Cilician origin, but the fact that it is certainly Hellenistic in date and anepigraphic goes against this, since coins were simply not made in this way in that area at that time. Thus, we could postulate that this coin came from elsewhere and probably arrived in Cilicia in ancient times. The lily is, however, often a specifically Jewish symbol, and has a clear connection with Jerusalem. The lily wreath on the reverse reinforces this symbolism, though the mysterious object on the reverse is as yet unstudied and unidentified save for the few possibilities mentioned above (though it must have some ritual significance). In fact, the best parallel for this coin comes from the prutot that were issued in the name of Antiochos VII by John Hyrcanus I in the late 130s BCE. If that connection seems reasonable, the production of this coin might be connected with Temple usage, perhaps as an attempt to provide a completely Jewish coin for donative purposes, free from any form of pagan symbolism. The fact that there were a considerable numbers of Jews living in Cilicia in ancient times (at least by the 1st century BCE; among other places Zephyrion is mentioned in the Talmud), provides a number of possibilities. 1) this coin was minted in Cilicia for ritual Jewish use by the local community; 2) this coin was minted in Judaea for ritual use and arrived in Cilicia as a keepsake. In any case, what we have, in this small silver coin, is a relic of astounding historical importance.