By Jeremy Bostwick – Senior Numismatist & Cataloger, Stack’s Bowers ……
This week’s featured ancient coin highlight from our Official Auction of the ANA World’s Fair of Money offers an opportunity to present not only a rare and important Roman issue but also introduce a few interesting selections coming up in the August sale.
Much of the area corresponding to the modern state of Israel and its surroundings was brought under Roman rule as the province of Judaea during the reign of Augustus in 6 CE. From the start, ethno-religious conflicts were the norm, along with was a steadily growing sense of nationalism among the Jewish populace. Toward the end of Nero’s reign in 66 CE, tensions came to a head as protests by the local citizenry led to the arrests of many leading Jewish figures. This, in turn, led to even more protests and then outright rebellion. Troops were called in from the neighboring province of Syria but faced a solid defense by the rebels who were so successful against the Roman army that a provisional government was formed.
Having served a successful military career and then a stint as governor of the province of Africa, Vespasian was appointed by Nero to quell the rebellion in Judaea. Vespasian, along with his elder son Titus, embarked upon a strategic campaign to subjugate the Jewish people and put an end to the rebellion. They avoided the stronghold at Jerusalem and instead focused upon weaker areas around the province. As a city fell back into Roman hands, rebels would flee to Jerusalem, creating an untenable situation in terms of both the number of people and the increased political infighting.
Following Nero’s suicide in June of 68 CE, Roman power would pass through the hands of no fewer than three different generals over the next year and a half, ultimately landing at the feet of Vespasian, who had garnered a great deal of military and political support from his peers in the east. Upon his arrival in Rome in December 69 CE, he was proclaimed emperor by the Senate. Meanwhile, Titus continued the plan of choking the province, moving on to the final stage: the siege of Jerusalem. After a seven-month campaign around the city, the Romans were finally successful––albeit with an assist by internal bickering among the rebellion’s factions.
In order to commemorate this momentous Roman victory, numerous coins of different denominations were struck with phrases such as IVDAEA CAPTA (“Judea has been captured”), featuring a defeated man or woman as a metaphor for the subjugated province herself. Others merely employ the personification of Victory affixing a shield to a palm tree, which one can read as victorious Rome teaching a lesson to her unruly subjects.
The sestertius of Vespasian featured here and in our August ANA auction is incredibly rare, with no other examples of this specific type located in auction records. Adding further allure, it matches the plate coin in the updated volume II.1 of Roman Imperial Coinage, which focuses upon the coinage of the Flavians. RIC notes that this particular plate was not made from the coin, but from a cast of the coin––the cast having been made by the Ashmolean Museum when the coin in question, our present piece, was part of the Hall Collection, sold by Glendining in 1950. We note that the coin has seen some use in circulation and also displays some pitting and rough spots, This wonderful sestertius offers incredible rarity and has the distinction of being plated––or at least, a cast of it being plated––in the reference for the coinage.
In addition to this important sestertius, other Roman issues relating to the ‘Judaea Capta’ series will be offered in our ANA auction, as well as a special selection of coins from the rebels’ point of view––the coins of this so-called First Jewish War, struck under the aforementioned provisional government and bearing the dates of the revolt. Lastly, a wonderful collection of Jewish pieces from the Bar Kochba revolt, another uprising which would occur a little over 60 years after the siege of Jerusalem, will be offered in this auction, serving as an excellent bookend to this tumultuous period for the region.
Be sure to visit StacksBowers.com for more information regarding the August ANA World’s Fair of Money Auction in Rosemont, Illinois and to view lots and bid when the entire sale is posted online. If you are interested in consigning your coins and paper money to one of our upcoming auctions, please contact us at 800-458-4646 or by email at [email protected].