Search in The Coin Shop

CNG Bidding Platform


Products and Services

The Coin Shop


Enigmatic Bacchius The Jew


A. Plautius. 55 BC. AR Denarius (17mm, 4.05 g, 5h). Rome mint. Turreted head of Cybele right, wearing cruciform earring, hair in knot, locks falling down neck; A • pLAuTiuÍ downward to right, AeD • Cur • Í • C downward to left / Bacchius kneeling right beside his camel, holding reins in left hand and extending olive branch upward in right; iuDAeuÍ upward to right, BACChiuÍ in exergue. Crawford 431/1; Sydenham 932; Plautia 13; RBW 1540. Hint of iridescent toning. EF. Exceptional reverse.

The enigmatic "Bacchius the Jew" depicted in supplication on the reverse has been plausibly identified by Michael Harlan as the Judaean high priest Aristobulus II, who was deposed by Pompey the Great after his siege of Jerusalem in 63 BC. Aristobulus was taken captive and later marched through the streets of Rome in Pompey’s triumph. In 57 BC, he escaped captivity and returned to Judaea, where he led a failed insurrection against Pompey’s choice for high priest, Hyrcanus. Captured again by Pompey’s general Gabinius, Aristobulus was shipped back to Rome in chains in 56 BC. The moneyer, Aulus Plautius, is known to have been a partisan of Pompey’s and was elected Curule Aedile in 55 BC; his choice of coin types suggests he served under Pompey in the eastern campaign. As Harlan points out, Aristobulus was surely the most famous Jew in Rome at the time of this coin’s issue and the most likely candidate for the kneeling figure on the reverse.