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First Bilingual Jewish Coin, 103 BCE

Material- Bronze

Denomination- Prutah

Size- 6/10 inch in diameter

First_Bilingual_Jewish_Coin_-_Obverse

First Bilingual Jewish Coin – Obverse

This coin was minted by the Hasmonean ruler Alexander Jannaeus (103–76 BCE), son of John Hyrcanus I, who during his reign gained control of most of the territory of the ancient Davidic kingdom. Like the preceding Hasmonean coin, this one, too, was worth one prutah.

On the obverse, wrapping around an anchor, is the legend in Greek, “of King Alexander” (Basileos Alexandrou). Alexander Jannaeus was the first Hasmonean ruler to claim the title of king. On the reverse around the edge of the coin is a circle that is a stylized representation of a diadem similar to the one visible on the portrait coin of Ptolemy. Inside the diadem is a star motif, with paleo-Hebrew letters interspersed among the rays that spell out “Yehonatan [Jonathan, Jannaeus’s Hebrew name] the King.”

 

First_Bilingual_Jewish_Coin_-_Reverse

First Bilingual Jewish Coin – Reverse

The use of both Greek and Hebrew on this coin indicates the spread of Hellenistic culture into Judea and also the reassertion of Jewish religious and cultural practices under the Hasmoneans. The tradition of bilingual coins in Judea continues to this day- The modern state of Israel mints coins with legends in both Hebrew and Arabic.

“Spending Your Way Through Jewish History,” BAR May-Jun 2003.

Posted in: Maccabean Period

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