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Juba II, king of Mauritania


Dear Friends of ancient history!

The client kingdoms of the Romans were an important instrument of their rule and are historically very significant. They are also an interesting field of collecting for numismatists, which unfortunately is often neglected.

The Coin:
Mauritania, Juba II, King of Mauritania 25 BC-23 AD.
AR - Denarius, 3.24g, 17.83mm, 180°
       ca. 11 AD(?)
Obv.: REX IVBA (from lower r.)
         Head of Juba II with diadem n.r.
Rev.: BACIΛ-ICC-A KΛEO[ΠA]TPA. (from lower r.)
        Isis crown with ears of grain above crescent moon
Ref.: SNG Copenhagen 574; Müller 89
Nearly SS, obv. somewhat off-centre.

ex Harlan J. Berk

Origin and Family:
The father of Juba II. (c. 50 BC-23 AD) was Juba I (king of Numidia, c. 60-46 BC), son of Hiempsal II. (King of Numidia, 88-68 BC). In the civil war, he sided with Pompey against Caesar and destroyed the army of Scribonius Curio, who was to wrest Africa from Pompey. When Caesar landed in Africa in 47 BC, he was ready with large troops to support the Pompeians against Caesar. After Caesar's victory at Thapsus, he fled back to Numidia without his destroyed army, but Zama closed the gates to him. He then committed suicide. Caesar made Numidia the province of Africa Nova.

Juba II was brought to Rome by Caesar after Caesar's victory at Thapsus and was carried along in his fourfold triumphal procession. He then grew up at the court of Octavia, Octavian's sister, where he received the education of an educated Roman. Augustus granted him Roman citizenship and he was given the name Gaius Iulius Juba. After the Cantabrian War (26/25), Augustus installed him as king in Mauritania. This made him one of the many strategically important client kings of the Roman Empire. He traced himself back to Heracles and Tinge (Pauly). Tinge was the wife of the Libyan giant Antaios, whom Heracles had killed and with whom Heracles subsequently had a son Safax, who founded the city of Tunis and named it after his mother.

It is known of his military activities that he, together with Cornelius Lentulus, put down an uprising of the Gaetulians, tribes south of the Atlas Mountains, in 6 AD. Of economic importance was that under his reign purple deposits were discovered on the Purpurariae Insulae, 2 islands off the coast of Mauritania, which were traded under the name "Gaetulian purple". The islands were probably the Canary Islands and the purple the resin of the dragon trees (Dracaena draco).

Around 20 BC he was married by Augustus to Cleopatra Selene, who had also grown up at the court of Octavia, a daughter of the famous Cleopatra VII and Marcus Antonius. With her he had a son, Ptolemy, who succeeded him on the throne. After the death of Cleopatra Selene, he entered into a second marriage with Glaphyra, the daughter of the Cappadocian king Archelaus, who had been married before him to Alexander, the son of Herod the Great, and who left him again a short time later to marry Herod Archelaus, Alexander's stepbrother, to the annoyance of the Jews.

Culture and science:
His focus, however, was undoubtedly on culture and science. Under Juba II, Greek culture spread throughout North Africa. He renamed his residence Iol Caesarea in honour of Augustus and developed it into a cultural centre. He founded an important library and furnished his capital, as well as Volubilis, with temples, statues and other art treasures, and also had Egyptian works of art transferred there after his marriage.

Like his grandfather Hiempsal II, who wrote a history of Numidia in Punic and was cultically revered, he was extremely interested in science and very active himself. Unfortunately, most of his works have been lost and are only known from the accounts of writers and historians. He was highly praised by Pliny and Plutarch, who made use of his works. Pliny writes that Juba was then better known as a scientist than as a king. He is known to have written books about
(1) Geography:
      2 books "About the Assyrians"
      2 books "On the Libyans". In these he relocates the sources of the Nile to West Africa,
          but already knows the Nile cataracts.
      "On the Arabs", in which he describes the coast from the Red Sea to India.
      He dedicated this work to Gaius Caesar, the grandson of Augustus, who lived from
      1 B.C.-4 A.D., who undertook a campaign in the Orient. It is assumed that Juba
      accompanied accompanied him on this journey.
(2) History:
      2 books of "Roman History". This work may well have been a compilation of books by
      other historians. In any case, Dionysius of Halicarnassus is said to have made use of it.
(3) Comparative Cultural History:
      15 books comparative compilation of customs and institutions with derivation of Roman
       things from Greek. This is said to have been a main source for Plutarch.
(4) Rhetoric:
      2 books "On the Decline of Oratory".
(5) Arts:
      17 books on the history of theatre and music, one of his Hobbies
       8 books on graphic arts
(6) Natural history
      About the miracle plant Euphorbion discovered in the Atlas Mountains. This is a spurge
      (Euphorbia mauritanica L.), the gummy milky juice of which was its gummy milky juice
      was used as a remedy. This plant got its name (and today the whole genus!) after the
      personal physician of Juba II, Euphorbos, who was a brother of Antonius Musa, the
      equally famous personal physician of Augustus.
He is said to have collected Pythagorean writings. Most of his works were written in Greek, for which he had a preference since his time in Rome.

One can see that his interests were wide-ranging, but one must also ask how he could have had time for his governmental activities?

Cleopatra Selene:
The reverse of the coin is dedicated to Cleopatra Selene. She was the daughter of the famous Cleopatra VII and Marcus Antonius and the twin sister of Alexander Helios. Like her mother, she considered herself the incarnation of Isis, whose star was the moon (Selene). This was the counterpart to Helios, Sun, her brother's name. At the age of 6 she was made Queen of Cyrene by Cleopatra VII (so-called "endowments of Alexandria"), although the military administration remained in Roman hands. After the battle of Actium and the suicide of her parents, she was taken to Rome and there, perhaps also her brother, was carried along in the triumphal procession. In 20 BC, Augustus married her to Juba II.

As Queen of Mauretania, she presented herself as a self-confident ruler in the succession of the Ptolemies. She had coins minted in her name and proudly called herself Basilissa. She had a son, Ptolemy, with Juba II, who succeeded him on the throne. There is no agreement about a possible daughter.

The date of death of Cleopatra Selene is assumed to be 5 BC. Coins with her portrait from the years 11-17 AD, which were found in 1907 at Ksar in Morocco, seem to be posthumous coinages.

I have added the following pics:
(1) Marble bust of Juba II: from the early 1st century, today in the Glyptothek in Copenhagen
(2) Mausoleum of Juba II and Cleopatra Selene in Sidi Rached, Algeria.

(1) Plinius the Elder,  Naturalis Historiae

(1) Der Kleine Pauly
(2) Isabelle Badur, Das Leben vvon Juba II., Untersuchung seiner geographishen
Studien in der Naturalis Historiae von Plinius d. Ae., Seminararbeit 2001
(3) Helmut Genaust, Etymologisches Wörterbuch der botanischen Pflanzennamen

Online Sources:
(1) Wikipedia

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