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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Aristoboulos Marks the Conclusion of the Jewish War

Triton XXI, Lot: 516. Estimate $7500.
Sold for $27500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

KINGS of ARMENIA MINOR. Aristoboulos. AD 54-92. Æ (24mm, 14.14 g, 12h). Dated RY 17 (AD 70/1). [BACIΛ]EΩC APICTOBOYΛOY E[T IZ], diademed head left; c/m: monogram within square incuse / TITΩ/ OΥECΠA/CIANΩ AY/TOKPATΩ/P CEBAC/T[Ω] in six lines within wreath. Kovacs 301; Meshorer 367a; Hendin 1258; Sofaer 172; RG 3; RPC II 1692; for c/m: Kovacs 24; Howgego pl. 33, 722.1. VF, green patina, gentle smoothing. Very rare.

Aristoboulos was the son of Herod of Chalkis and the great-grandson of Herod the Great. Josephus serves as our only literary source for the reign of Aristoboulos, informing us that he was appointed king of Armenia Minor by Nero in AD 54 (Ant. XX.158). He married Salome (daughter of Herod II and widow of Philip the Tetrarch), who has traditionally been identified as the young woman who demanded the head of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:1–12; Mark 6:14–29). Aristoboulos’ long reign would suggest he was a loyal client of Rome, as does the evidence we can glean from his coinage.

Interestingly, coins of Aristoboulos were only struck for regnal years 13 and 17 (AD 66/7 and AD 70/1), which coincide with the outbreak and conclusion of the Jewish War. This seems to indicate that Aristoboulos’ coins were issued in the context of the revolt as a way for the Herodian ruler to reaffirm his faithfulness to Rome. Although Vespasian was emperor at the time this coin was issued, the reverse refers to Titus, who successfully suppressed the revolt in Judaea.