Bar Kokhba revolt coinage

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Bar Kokhba silver Shekel/tetradrachm. Obverse: the Jewish Temple facade with the rising star, surrounded by "Shimon". Reverse: A lulav, the text reads: "to the freedom of Jerusalem".
Bar Kokhba silver Zuz/Denarius, Undated, but attributed to year 3 (134-135 CE). Obverse: the Grape bunch on vine, surrounded by the name “Shim‘on” in paleo-Hebrew. Reverse: A palm branch surrounded by the phrase "to the freedom of Jerusalem"
Bar Kokhba silver Zuz/denarius. Obverse: trumpets surrounded by "To the freedom of Jerusalem". Reverse: A lyre surrounded by "Year two to the freedom of Israel"

Bar Kokhba revolt coinage were coins issued by the Judaean rebel state, headed by Simon Bar Kokhba, during the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire of 132–135 CE.

During the revolt, large quantities of coins were issued in silver and copper with rebellious inscriptions, all being overstruck over foreign (mostly Roman) coins, when a file was used to remove the designs of the original coins, such as the portrait of the Roman Emperor. The undercoin can clearly be seen on some of the silver coins because they were not filed down so as not to lose the value of the silver. On the bronze coins it is very difficult to see the underlying coin because they were filed down before they were over-struck. In rare instances, the coin cracked when it was overstruck.[1][unreliable source?]

The name "Shim'on" (likely referring to the leader of the Revolt, Shim'on (Simon) Bar Koseba) appears on all of the coins of the Bar Kokhba Revolt except for a few types issued at the beginning of the revolt with the name "Eleazar the Priest (Cohen),". The overstruck silver shekel/tetradrachms (see illustration) are among the most religiously significant coins issued by the ancient Jews, because the Holy of Holies of the Jerusalem Temple is shown, with the Ark of the Covenant. The word "Jerusalem" was inscribed around the representation of the Temple. Beginning in the second year of issue and continuing into the final year, a star appeared above the Temple on many coins, probably in reference to Bar Kokhba's nickname "Son of the Star". Agricultural symbols connected with the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot, such as lulav and etrog, appear on the reverse of some of the smaller bronze coins, surrounded by a Hebrew inscription: 'Year One of the Redemption of Israel', 'Year Two of the Freedom of Israel', or 'For the Freedom of Jerusalem'.[1]

In May 2020, a coin embossed with grapes and 'Year Two of the Freedom of Israel' was found in the William Davidson Archaeological Park next to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. This was only the fourth coin from this period to be found in the area, and the only Bar Kokhba coin to have Jerusalem's name on it.[2]

Alternative attributions[edit]

The first group of these coins reviewed by numismatists were 10 silver pieces and one bronze piece found in the mid-nineteenth century.[3] By 1881 the number of coins had grown to 43,[3] and many more have been found since.[4] These coins were first attributed to Bar Kokhba by Moritz Abraham Levy in 1862 and Frederic Madden in 1864.[3]

Since the mid-nineteenth century, a number of scholars have provided alternative attributions for the coins. Claude Reignier Conder, writing in 1909, suggested that the coins were forgeries of the coins of Simon Thassi.[5] Wolf Wirgin, writing in 1959, suggested that the coins were instead minted by King Herod Agrippa[6] Alice Muehsam, writing in 1966, suggested that those coins with dates such as "Year 1" were actually First Jewish Revolt coinage.[7]

Outside Judaea[edit]

As of 2023, twenty-four coins of the Bar Kokhba revolt were found outside Judaea, in various locations in the UK, Austria, Hungary, Romania and Croatia. The majority of coins were found around Roman military sites in the provinces of Britannia, Pannonia, Dacia and Dalmatia, including several legionary and auxiliary camps, though not always in a strictly military context.[8][9][10] In 2010, Eshel, Zissu, and Barkay proposed tying these coins to Roman soldiers stationed in those camps who were active in quelling the Bar Kokhba revolt and took those coins with them as souvenirs or commemorative relics.[8] In a 2023 article, Brull proposed that some of the coins may have been brought to the Europe by Jewish captives or immigrants who arrived in those areas of the revolt.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Handbook of Biblical Numismatics p. 19
  2. ^ staff, T. O. I. "'Year 2 of freedom': Ancient coin from Bar Kochba revolt found near Temple Mount". Times of Israel. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
  3. ^ a b c History of Jewish coinage, and of money in the Old and New Testament, Frederic William Madden, Pegasus Pub. Co., 1967, Introduction, "Madden's chapter IX, "Money Struck during the Second Revolt of the Jews," lists only those coins of "Simon Bar Cochab" which were overstruck on coins of the Roman emperors from Vespasian onwards, and which could not therefore fit in any way into Madden's scheme of the "Simon" or "Eleazar" coins allegedly of the First Revolt. He notes, of course, that some of the coins of Bar Cochab "appear to have been struck from the same stamp as those of Simon son of Gioras." His attribution of these coins to Bar Kochba follows that of Levy. The original group attributed to Bar Kochba numbered 10 silver pieces and one bronze piece in Madden's book of 1864; in 1881 they had grown to 43, including the tetradrachm with the star."
  4. ^ Historia Judaica 11.1, April 1949
  5. ^ The City of Jerusalem By Colonel C. R. Conder (1909), "Stating that "the forgery of Jewish coins is still common in Palestine", Conder wrote that "the theory according to which [Bar Kochba] struck coins in Jerusalem demands notice, in connection with the history of the city, but it appears to be one of those learned fallacies which are very long in dying""
  6. ^ The History of Coins and Symbols in Ancient Israel, by Wolf Wirgin and Siegfried Mandel, 1959
  7. ^ Alice Muehsam, Coin and temple: a study of the architectural representation on ancient Jewish coins, 1966
  8. ^ a b Eshel, H., Zissu, B., & Barkay, G. (2009). "Sixteen Bar Kokhba Coins from Roman Sites in Europe". Israel Numismatic Journal, 17, 91-97.
  9. ^ a b Grull, T. (2023), Bar Kokhba Coins from Roman Sites in Europe: A Reappraisal.
  10. ^ Cesarik, N., Filipčić, D., Kramberger, V. (2018). "Bar Kokhba’s bronze coin from Kolovare Beach in Zadar". Journal of the Archaeological Museum in Zadar, Vol. 32. No. 32.

Further reading[edit]