Herod Archelaus (4 BCE ‒ 6 CE)
The reign of Herod Archelaus proved to be short. Shortly before his departure for Rome, he had repressed the insurgent populace by force. Three thousand people are believed to have died, a poor start for a not-yet elected sovereign. Because of his brutality, which he exercised both toward Jews and to Samaritans, the two ethnic groups sent legations with complaints to the emperor in Rome. Augustus summoned Archelaus and banished him to Gaul.
Herod Antipas (4 BCE – 39 CE)
Herod Antipas showed a talent for rule and was able to pacify the unstable Galilee – at least, no rebellions are recorded during his 43-year reign. He built a new capital on Lake Gennesaret (Sea of Galilee) and named it after Augustus’s successor as “Tiberias” after Augustus' successor. As he had the city partly built on land from an old Jewish cemetery, an impure area according to Jewish understanding, its foundation brought him negative commentary by the Jews. Herod Antipas is the “Herod” who interrogated Jesus in Jerusalem (Luke 23,7‒15) and who brought about the execution of John the Baptist at the request of his stepdaughter Salome (Mark 6,22‒28) (Fig. B.). More profound reasons can be found for this act: with the critique of Antipas’ marriage to Salome’s mother Herodias, the tetrarch’s former sister-in-law, John in the tradition of old prophets announced the immanent decline of Herod Antipas’ reign. As the Baptist had great influence, he had become politically dangerous. Following the change of rule in Rome (37 CE), Herod Antipas was slandered by his nephew Agrippa to the new emperor Caius (Caligula), and banished by him to exile in Gaul.
Philip (4 BCE – 34 CE)
As tetrarch, Herod Philip was apparently satisfied with his realms of Batanea, Trachonitis, and Auranitis. Flavius Josephus calls him a just and peace-loving ruler, who often went through the land to hold a court of law and administer justice (Antiquitates Iudaicae 18,106‒107). His reign proceeded peacefully and unremarkably until his death. Philip re-founded the city Paneas and named it “Caesarea Philippi”. Here too, his father had earlier constructed a temple to the honour of the Roman emperors (Fig. C.), which was a popular motif in the coinage of the city. Philip expanded another city generously, Bethsaida at the mouth of the Jordan on Lake Gennesaret, naming it Iulias after Augustus’ daughter. After Philip’s death, his realm was seized by the Roman province of Syria.
The Coins of the Tetrarchs
The majority of coins minted by the sons of Herod have little in common with the early productions of Jewish rulers. Nonetheless, they respect in part the Jews’ religious sensibility regarding representative images. The coins of Herod Archelaus from Jerusalem are often similar to those of his father. This is the case, for instance, for depictions of the anchor and double cornucopia (c.f. coin No.1A with No.3B Showcase 7). Only through his title of ΕΘΝΑΡΧ (ethnarch) can his coins be differentiated from those of the ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ (King) Herod. The galley (No.2A) is often interpreted as a reference to Archelaus’ journey to Rome. From the pictorial tradition, however, it is likely only a general symbol for Archelaus’ position of power. The grape vine (No.4A), on the other hand, was a generally popular motif, referring to the fertility of the land.
Coins are only documented during five years of Herod Antipas’ reign. According to dating indications, the first coins were issued in the 24th year of his sovereignty (20-21 CE). Though he seldom minted coins, Herod Antipas issued clearly sub-denominated series of whole, half, quarter, and eighth pieces, in contrast to earlier Jewish coinage. The obverses show a palm branch, while the reverses refer to the new capital Tiberias (No.5B). In the final issue (No. 08_09B_1), a wreath surrounds the name of the new emperor Gaius (37 – 41 n. Chr.), whose favour Antipas vainly sought during the final years of his rule.
Herod Philip, Herod’s youngest son, likewise only minted coins irregularly. With one exception, all are dated with the reigning year. The imagery of the coins of Herod Philip differs clearly from those of his brothers, and also from all previous Jewish coinage. The majority of his subjects were not Jews, and he thus had no need to uphold the prohibition on images. He was also the first Jewish sovereign to place his portrait on coins (No.11A and later No.15B). His coins also show portraits of the Emperor Augustus (No.12A) and later Tiberius (No.13A) as well as the imperial mother Livia (No.14A). The reverse sides bear the façade of the temple of Augustus in Caesarea Philippi (No.11A and No.15B).
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K. Ehling, Warum ließ Herodes Antipas Johannes den Täufer verhaften? Oder: Wenn ein Prophet politisch gefährlich wird, in: Klio 89, 2007, 137‒146.
N. Kokkinos (Ed.), The World of the Herods (Oriens et Occidens 14), Stuttgart 2007
Y. Meshorer, A Treasury of Jewish Coins. From the Persian Period to Bar Kokhba, Jerusalem 2001.
Y. Meshorer et al., Coins of the Holy Land. The Abraham and Marian Sofaer Collection at the American Numismatic Society and the Israel Museum, New York 2013, 2 vols.
P. Schäfer, Geschichte der Juden in der Antike. Die Juden Palästinas von Alexander dem Großen bis zur arabischen Eroberung, Tübingen 2010.