King Alexander Coin

The Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus (103–76 B.C.) minted the first Jewish bilingual coinage—for a kingdom that had become bi- or multi-lingual. The obverse of one coin depicts an upside-down anchor and bears part of the Greek legend Basileos Alexandrou, “of King Alexander.” On the reverse, circling a lily, is the monarch’s Hebrew name and title. The coin suggests that the majority of Alexander Jannaeus’s subjects had basic reading skills in either Greek or Hebrew, or both.

Alan Millard, “Literacy in the Time of Jesus,” BAR Jul-Aug 2003.