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First Jewish Self-Portrait, 5 CE

First Jewish Self-Portrait.jpg

Material- Bronze

Denomination- Not known

Size- 8/10 inch in diameter

Philip was the first Jewish ruler of Judea to mint a coin bearing a depiction of himself. Because of the Biblical commandment against “graven images,” Jewish rulers generally did not place images of people or animals on their coinage. Herod Philip’s realm, however, included a large non-Jewish Syrian population, who would not be offended.

The Herod Philip self-portraits are extremely rare; the example shown here bears the head of Philip surrounded by the legend, in Greek, “Of Philip the Tetrarch” (provincial governor). The reverse depicts a four-column temple with the Greek words for Caesar Augustus.

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

Posted in: Roman Period I

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