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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: CNG 64, Lot: 466. Estimate $200. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 24 September 2003. 
Sold For $240. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

NABATAEA. Aretas III. 84-71 BCE. Æ 19mm (8.23 gm). Damascus mint. Diademed head right / Tyche of Damascus seated left holding cornucopiae; monogram to left. Meshorer 6; SNG ANS 1421. VF, dark brown patina. Rare this nice. ($200)

The Nabataean kingdom, like the Hasmoneans and Herodians of Judaea, rose to power in the course of the withering of the Hellenistic empire of the Seleukids. Also like the Judaean kings, the Nabataeans grew wealthy from the excises taken from the busy trade routes between east and west that ran through their territory. Unlike the Judaean kings, the Nabataean kings, with their capital at remote Petra, kept a greater degree of independence from the growing Roman empire, at least for a while.

Aretas II (110-96 BCE) struck the first identified Nabataean coins, bronze pieces copying the types of Alexander the Great's gold staters. Later kings struck bronze coins in a distinctive local style, and also in silver, unlike their neighbors the rulers of Judaea. It is still unclear whether the Nabataean silver coins were struck to the standard of a Greek drachm or a Roman denarius. A very recent discovery is the use of lead coins by the Nabataeans, a find that reflects the great gaps in our knowledge of this kingdom on the edge of the Greco-Roman world. Aretas IV (9 BCE-40 CE) was the most prolific issuer of coins, striking coins in the name of himself and his two queens, Huldu and Shaqilat I, who may or may not have been his sisters.

The last independant ruler, Rabbel II (70-106 CE) lost his throne to the expansionist policy of Trajan, who apparently caused most of the available supply of Nabataean silver to be re-struck into his "Arabian" drachms, this accounting for the relative scarcity of the coins today.