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Exceptional Year 2 Shekel


JUDAEA, Jewish War. 66-70 CE. AR Shekel (22.5mm, 14.25 g, 12h). Jerusalem mint. Dated year 2 (67/8 CE). Omer cup; “Y[ear] 2” (date, in Hebrew) above, “Shekel of Israel” (in Hebrew) around / Omer cup; “Y[ear] 2” (date, in Hebrew) above, “Shekel of Israel” (in Hebrew) around. Deutsch 136 (O9/R29); Meshorer 193; Kadman 8; Hendin 1358; Bromberg 376; Shoshana I 20202–3; Sofaer 7–8; Spaer 167–8. Struck on a broad flan in exceptional metal, with mirror surfaces. Superb EF. A gorgeous example of this iconic type.

Ex J. Samel Collection.

In the middle of the first century CE, the Roman Empire ruled Judaea and the entire levant with a heavy hand. In 66 CE, the people of Jerusalem rose up in revolt and attacked the Roman soldiers and officials who occupied the city. The rebellion spread quickly throughout the middle east, and thousands of Romans living in the region were either massacred or forced to flee.
The leaders of the revolt declared Israel an independent nation and began striking coins in silver and bronze. The silver coins were mainly shekels, like this one, along with a few half-shekels and quarter-shekels. Since the Jews forbade the depiction of the human face or figure in art, there are no portraits or other “graven images” on these Jewish coins. The obverse shows the Omer Cup, used during Passover, with the Hebrew inscription “Shekel of Israel.” The date, in years from the beginning of the revolt, appears in Hebrew letters over the cup. The reverse shows three pomegranates on a single stem and carries the inscription “Jerusalem the Holy.”
Alas, the rebellion against Rome did not go well for the Jews. The Romans assembled a huge army and invaded Israel under the general Vespasian and his son, Titus. They reoccupied the countryside and forced the rebels to take refuge in Jerusalem, where bloody battles broke out between rival factions. Titus placed Jerusalem under siege in AD 69, and he slowly battered down the city walls while starvation and disease took a terrible toll on the inhabitants. Jerusalem finally fell in September of AD 70, and the Romans took horrific revenge, burning down the Temple and slaughtering thousands. A few rebels fled to the mountain fortress of Masada, where they continued to resist for another four years until it, too, fell. All told, more than a million people died in the Jewish War, and thousands more were sold into slavery. The idea of a free and independent Israel did not die, however, and the coins struck during the Jewish War served as an inspiration for later generations who finally made the dream into reality.