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High School Students Find First Gold Solidus of Theodosius II Ever Discovered in Israel

High School Students Find First Gold Solidus of Theodosius II Ever Discovered in Israel

By Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ….

As reported by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) earlier this month, in February a group of boys on a school field trip discovered an almost 1,600-year-old gold coin from the Byzantine Empire in a park just north of Nazareth in the region of Galilee.

Minted in the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) capital of Constantinople (modern Istanbul), the gold solidus was struck around 420 to 423 CE and features the emperor Theodosius II on the obverse. Victoria, the personification of victory, holds a staff of the cross on the reverse. Becoming emperor at the age of seven, Theodosius was born in 401 and died in 450. He is perhaps most famous for the Theodosian Code, or Codex Theodosianus, which codified and compiled the corpus of Roman law established since 312. It was published in its complete form in 438.

One notable effect of the Codex was that it gave Jews an inferior legal status within the Empire, preventing them from serving in the armed forces or joining the civil service and prohibiting the construction of new synagogues. The Codex also effectively eliminated the Nasi, or “president”, of the Great Sanhedrin by diverting native Jewish payments from the Sanhedrin to Imperial coffers. The Sanhedrin itself would dissolve shortly thereafter.

This makes the discovery of this gold coin somewhat ironic, as it happened in the one-time regional capital and the governing seat of the Sanhedrin itself, along a new hiking trail dedicated to the Sanhedrin. According to IAA numismatist Dr. Gabriela “Gabi” Bichovsky, it is “the first time a coin of this kind has been discovered in the Land of Israel.”

The four ninth-grade students who found the solidus (Ido Kadosh, Ofir Siegel, Dotan Miller, and Harel Green) are from Kibbutz Yifat. The boys first showed the coin to their history teacher, Zohar Porshyan, who notified the IAA of the discovery. The young men then showed IAA archaeologist Nir Distelfeld where the gold solidus had been located. All four students received a Certificate of Good Citizenship for finding and reporting the historical treasure.

“It is uncommon to find single gold coins as they were very valuable,” said Distelfeld, who serves as an anti-theft inspector with the Antiquities Authority. The coin is now in the possession of the State Treasury.

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Hubert Walker
Hubert Walker
Hubert Walker has served as the Assistant Editor of since 2015. Along with co-author Charles Morgan, he has written for CoinWeek since 2012, as well as the monthly column "Market Whimsy" for The Numismatist and the book 100 Greatest Modern World Coins (2020) for Whitman Publishing.

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