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The Galilee Hoard

by Alex Malloy

(from Alex Malloy 's 1991 "Ancient Greek and Roman Coins Catalogue LX," used with permission)

Click here to see more coins of the Galilee Hoard in Forum 's shop catalog.

In 1989 a hoard of 131 bronze coins came into our possession via a Lebanese source.  The location of the hoard is unknown but it was reported to be north of the Sea of Galilee. The hoard consists primarily of bronzes of the Seleucid kings, some two thirds of the total pieces. The general groupings consist of 87 coins of Seleucid kings of which the predominate king represented is Antiochus XII, 20 Phoenician anonymous bronzes including an interesting segment of 13 anonymous hemi chalkoi of Akko-Ptolemais, 3 rare coins of the Nabataean kings, 8 Judaean prutah of Alexander Jannaeus, 1 anonymous coin from Antioch on the Orontes, and 13 coins of very low grade not included in this study. Of the 118 coins studied, the nine mints represented are Damascus, Antioch on the Orontes, Akko-Ptolemais, Tyre, Jerusalem, Seleucis on the Orontes, the Nabataean mint of Petra, Sidon, and Biblos. The mint locations concur with the probable location of the hoard being north of the Sea of Galilee in Lebanon. 

The hoard is of special interest as it represents the fascinating historical struggle that was going on in that region in the end of the 2nd century B.C. and the beginning of the 1st century B.C. All the historical role players of this period are represented in the hoard. The Syrian kings, Antiochus VIII, his sons, Demetrius III and Antiochus XII, the Hasmonean Alexander Jannaeus and the Nabataean Aretas III are included. Coins of Demetrius II, Antiochus XII and Akko-Ptolemais anonymous types are of special interest as these types are scarce and several are unpublished variants.

The Seleucid coins represent no less than eleven Seleucid kings. They span a period of over 100 years, attesting to the longevity of the circulation of Seleucid bronzes. The eight cons of Antiochus VII Grypus in the hoard appear to be of two distinct mints. While all are the Zeus-Uranius type, the portraits and fabric are very different. Antiochus Grypus struck silver coins at Akko-Ptolemais, Antioch, Damascus and Sidon with the Zeus-Uranius type. The coins designated by hoard numbers as in the text H35, H28, H30 and H36 are of a straight nose style on thinner flans and it is suggestive of the Akko-Ptolemais mint. H31, H34, H29 and H32 are of a distinct Damascus fabric with a highly pronounced curved nose. H16 is uncertain due to its neat style; it is slightly different from those of Akko-Ptolemais and definitely not from Damascus.  The Akko-Ptolemais suggestion is supported by the inclusion in the hoard of 14 Akko-Ptolemais municipal coins issued during the reign of Antiochus VII in 104 - 103 B.C. No more Seleucid coins were struck in the city after his reign. The coins of Demetrius III, a son of Antiochus VIII, can all be assigned to the mint of Damascus. Twenty-seven units and half units of Demetrius III are found in the hoard.  The dates recorded are ZIS = 96/5 B.C., HIS = 95/4 B.C., QIS = 94/3 B.C., BKS = 91/90 B.C. and EKS = 88/7 B.C. A two denomi denomination system was initiate in 95 B.C. The unit being a larger and heavier module, 19-20mm, with a radiate bust while the half unit averaged 18mm and was lighter with a diademed portrait. At the end of Demetrius ' reign, a single reduced unit was issued being reduced to 18mm and the weight of the earlier half unit. The type was a radiate portrait, indicating the denomination, with Hermes on a cippus inscribed with a monogram on the reverse

The bronze coinage of Antiochus XII can be arranged in four groups (three groups according to Newell) of non-dated coins. Group I is represented with the epithet Dionysus along with Epiphanes Philopator Callinicus of the new king 's name. The monogram present is in no way referring to Akko-Ptolemais as Antiochus did not control that mint at any time. The monogram represents a magistrate as Newell suggests. Three denominations were struck, the unit, the half unit and the quarter unit. No quarters were in the hoard. In Group II, the name Dionysus was eliminated. In Group III, two new monograms were introduced, and coin H87 in Group III has a countermark of a cornucopia probably designating Akko-Ptolemais, as this was Akko 's symbol at the time. In Group IV, the letter M was substituted, the portrait in he first two groups is adorned with sideburns while on the last two, Antiochus is clean shaven.

Seleukid Kingdom, Antiochus XII, c. 87 - 84 B.C., Incuse Cornucopia Countermark (Akko-Ptolemais?)

Antiochus XII was immediately challenged by the Nabataeans whose territories had grown during the Seleucids ' perpetual fratricidal wars. While Antiochus was campaigning against the Nabataeans, these wars continued - Philip I took Damascus. Antiochus was forced to return to Damascus and evict his brother. Returning to the Nabataean front again, Antiochus, this time, had to overcome the resistance of Alexander Jannaeus en route. He soon perished in battle at the hands of the Nabataeans, leaving Damascus ruler-less. Damascus, the long time Southern stronghold of Seleucid power freely gave itself over to the benevolent rule of King Aretas III of Nabataea.
GB46335. Bronze chalkon, Houghton and Lorber 2473, Houghton CSE 871, SNG Spaer 2897 ff.; Galilee Hoard H87 (this coin), aVF, large flan, Damascus mint, weight 10.260g, maximum diameter 23.2mm, die axis 0o, first issue, c. 87 - 86 B.C.; obverse diademed and draped, beardless bust of Antiochos XII right; reverse BASILEWS ANTIOCOU EPIFANOUC FILOPATOROC KALLINIKOU, Tyche standing left, turreted, palm in frond in right, cornucopia in left, P outer left, countermark: incuse cornucopia

Special note is taken of the two specimens of the rare issue of Aretas II, the Nabataean king. This type was imitative of the Seleucid bronze of Alexander Balas. This issue was the first of Nabataean coinage and most of these coins have been found east of the Jordan River. The third Nabataean coin in the hoard was issued in Damascus by Aretas III upon the death of Antiochus XII in 84 B.C.

Of the thirteen Akko-Ptolemais municipal coins, two are dated, ERR = 118-117 B.C. and DIS = 98-97 B.C. This city coinage was closely related to that of Antiochus VIII and his wife, Cleopatra Thea. The jugate heads of the Dioscuri on the obverse reflect their royal Seleucid counterparts. The municipal epithet of IERAS ASULOU added to Antiochus ' name. 

The close connection of the two cities in this hoard can be seen. Damascus and Akko mints represent 64 percent of he coins studied. In view of the presence of the Nabataean issues, and presuming the exclusion of one or two clearly intrusive specimens, a tentative burial date has been fixed in or about 84 B.C. It is through the study of hoards such as this that we gain a clearer understanding of the economics and the trade patterns of this important historical period. 

Ake Ptolemais, Galilee, 132 - 109 B.C.

In 103 B.C. the King of Judaea, Alexander Jannaeus, with ambition to expand his territory, attacked Ake-Ptolemais. Ptolemais called on Ptolemy of Cyprus to its aid and it soon seemed Jannaeus would be crushed. But Cleopatra III of Egypt intervened, driving out her son and rival Ptolemy, reluctantly leaving Jannaeus with both Judaea and Ptolemais.
GB46326. Bronze hemichalkos, cf. Kadman Akko Ptolemais 24 - 42; BMC Phoenicia p. 128, 10; SGICV 6046; Galilee Hoard H114 (this coin), F/EF, obverse off center, Ptolemais mint, weight 1.584g, maximum diameter 13.0mm, die axis 0o, obverse jugate heads of the Dioskouroi right; reverse ...ERAS AS...(downwards on left), ...PTOL...(downwards on right), cornucopia with fruits, H monogram left


Historical Background to the Galilee Hoard

by Allen G. Berman

(from Alex Malloy 's 1991 "Ancient Greek and Roman Coins Catalogue LX," used with permission)

When Antiochus VIII Grypus was assassinated in 96 B.C. a mad scramble was precipitated, focusing around the possession of the capital of Antioch. While the numerous royal relatives battled in the North, one of Grypus ' sons, Demetrius III (96 - 87 B.C.) seized his opportunity in the South and took Damascus. This became his capital from which he issued tetradrachms with the distinctly local type of Atargatis, sometimes known a Dea Syria. Along with these were issued bronzes of a more traditional Greek design. These bore either Nike or Hermes.  The stable power base of Damascus permitted Demetrius his fair share of military escapades. In 92 B.C. he managed to take Antioch only to lose it three years later. Immediately following his loss of Antioch, Demetrius became involved in Judaean affairs.

In 103 B.C. Alexander Jannaeus became the first High Priest to also hold the title of king.  This met with disapproval of many religious Jews for such a violation of tradition. Jannaeus was an ambitious man with territorial expansion as an objective. He immediately attacked Ake-Ptolemais which called Ptolemy of Cyprus to its aid.  When it looked as though Jannaeus would be crushed, Cleopatra III of Egypt intervened, driving out her son-and-rival Ptolemy and reluctantly leaving Jannaeus with both Judaea and Ptolemais. Other conquests brought Jannaeus into conflict with Obadas I of Nabataea who soundly defeated him in 90 B.C.  Severely unpopular, Jannaeus was pelted with citrons (etrog) on the Festival of Tabernacles (Sukkot) and according to Josephus, "being enraged at this, he killed some 6,000." A full scale revolt erupted and rebels called for the aid of the Seleucid Demetrius II of Damascus (88 B.C). Demetrius met Jannaeus with an army of 3,000 horse and 14,000 -  40,000 foot soldiers, forcing him into the mountains. At Demetrius ' withdrawal, however, Jannaeus gathered reinforcements and re-established his authority, crucifying 800 rebels who were forced to watch the slaughter of their wives and children from their crosses (Jos. Ant. XIII:380).

Judean Kingdom, Alexander Jannaeus (Yehonatan), 103 - 76 B.C.

Severely unpopular, Jannaeus was pelted with citrons (etrog) on the Festival of Tabernacles (Sukkot) and according to Josephus, "being enraged at this, he killed some 6,000." A full scale revolt erupted and rebels called for the aid of the Seleucid King Demetrius II of Damascus. Demetrius forced Jannaeus into the mountains but at Demetrius ' withdrawal, however, Jannaeus re-established his authority and crucified 800 rebels who were forced to watch the slaughter of their wives and children from their crosses (Jos. Ant. XIII:380).
BB46330. Bronze prutah, Hendin 1145; Galilee Hoard H102 (this coin), aVF, off center, Jerusalem mint, weight 1.852g, maximum diameter 13.4mm, die axis 180o, obverse Hebrew inscription, Yehonatan the High Priest and the Council of the Jews, within wreath; reverse double cornucopia adorned with ribbons, pomegranate between horns

Demetrius upon his return, immediately besieged his brother, Philip I, at Beroea. The intervention of both the Parthian Governor of Mesopotamia and a local Arab Sheikh named Aziz, however, forced Demetrius to surrender. Deprived of his throne, he was held in great honor at the Parthian court until his death.

The rule of Damascus fell to yet another brother, Antiochus XII (87 - 84 B.C.) who immediately found difficulties with the Nabateans whose territories had grown with the perpetual fratricidal wars of the Seleucids. Philip I even briefly occupied Damascus while Antiochus was campaigning against them. Antiochus was forced to return to Damascus and evict his brother. Returning to the Nabataean front again, Antiochus, this time, had to overcome the resistance of Alexander Jannaeus en route. He was soon to perish in battle at the hands of the Nabataeans, leaving Damascus ruler-less.

War and politics form enemies and allies quickly. Faced with the conquest by an Ituraean dynasty, this long time Southern stronghold of Seleucid power freely gave itself over to the benevolent rule of King Aretas III of Nabataea. The maintenance of both the Greek and local types on Damascus coinage provides some evidence of the continuity that was maintained at this time. 

Aretas used his new power base to inflict a final attack on Alexander Jannaeus, forcing the concession of a number of Hellenized towns before the latter 's death in 76 B.C.

Cook, S.A., ed. Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. IX, Cambridge, 1962.
Houghton, A. Coins of the Seleucid Empire from the Collection of Arthur Houghton (ACNAC4), N.Y, 1983.
Josephus. Jewish Antiquities, Book XII-XIV, Cambridge, Mass., 1976.
Newell, Edward. Late Seleucid Mints in Ake-Ptolemais and Damascus (NNM 84), N.Y., 1989

Comments by Joe Sermarini

The Galilee Hoard is particularly interesting because it originated in the Holy Land and it reflects the diverse powers that continuously fought over the region.

It includes coins from different kingdoms and cities, strongly indicating that bronze coinage (in addition to silver which traveled far and wide) could be used outside the area under the authority of the issuer.

The hoard was lost to its owner at time of continuous warfare in the region. Greek domination was waning due greatly to the fratricidal wars of the royal families. The cities of the region and the local kingdoms of Judaea and Nabataea were able to shed the domination of the Hellenistic kings and extend their influence. This new greater independence was, however, superficial and short lived. Rome was already the dominant power in the entire Mediterranean world and its influence in the region would increase continually until all other powers were extinguished and the lands absorbed as provinces.

Seleukid Kingdom, Demetrius III Eucaerus, c. 96 - 87 B.C.

Demetrius III Eucaerus ("the Timely") was nicknamed Acaerus ("the Untimely) by the Jews. He defeated the Hasmonaean Priest King Alexander Jannaeus but was forced to withdraw from Judaea by the hostile population. While attempting to dethrone his brother, Philip I Philadelphus, he was defeated by the Arabs and Parthians, and taken prisoner. He was held in confinement in Parthia by Mithridates II until his death in 88 B.C.
GB46351. Bronze AE 19, Houghton and Lorber 2456(4); SNG Spaer 2871; Galilee Hoard H53 (this coin), VF, Damascus mint, weight 3.793g, maximum diameter 18.7mm, die axis 0o, 96 - 87 B.C.; obverse radiate and diademed, lightly bearded head of Demetrius III right; reverse BACILEWC DHMHTRIOU QEOU FILOMHTOROC CWTHROC, Hermes standing left on a square basis, kerykeion in right, palm frond in left, N over A left, DH monogram on basis



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