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See ancient coins of Arabia for sale in the Forum Ancient Coins shop.

The coinage of Arabia begins with the issues of the Nabataean kings. These, about the time of Hadrian, are superseded by the Imperial coins of the principal towns of Arabia Petraea. The era in use in these towns is the Arabian, of which the exact date is not quite fixed (A.D. 105 or 106; see Kubitscheck in Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclop., i. 641 f.). The coinage of Arabia Felix forms a separate and distinct class.


See ancient coins of the Nabataean Kingdom for sale in the Forum Ancient Coins shop.

The early Nabataeans forsook all building and agriculture because those who possess these things, in order to retain them, are easily compelled by the powerful to do their bidding. Rather than fight invaders, they would go into the desert, where only they could survive and wait for the invaders to leave. Aretas II was a contemporary of Alexander Jannaeus. Aretas III was the first to issue coins, which he began after he defeated the Seleucid army in 84 B.C. and the council of Damascus asked him to govern their city. A Roman army under Marcus Aemilius Scaurus defeated Aretas III and besieged Petra, but paying a tribute, Aretas received formal recognition by the Roman Republic. The kingdom was slowly surrounded by the expanding Roman Empire, who conquered Egypt and annexed Judea, but wealthy from incense trade, Nabataea paid tribute and retained independence. The Nabataeans fought against Herod and also provided forces to the Romans during the Second Jewish Revolt. After the last Nabataean king, Rabbel II, died in 106 A.D., Trajan incorporated Nabataea into the Roman province Arabia Petraea. One of the latest known Nabataean language inscriptions, from 191 A.D., records "...This in the year 85 of the Eparchy [Roman Rule], in which Arabs destroyed the land." It seems likely that raiding Arab tribes extinguished what remained of a weakened Nabataean culture. In 747 A.D. what was left of the Nabataean cities was destroyed in a major earthquake.


Al-Qatanani, Y. Nabataean Coins. (Jordan, 2020).
Barkay, R. "New Nabataean Coins" in INJ 16 (2007-8).
Barkay, R. "Seven New Silver Coins of Malichus I and Obodas III" in NC 2006, pp. 99 - 103.
Barkay, R. "The Coinage of the Last Nabataean King, Rabbel II (AD 70/1-105/6)" in NC 174 (2014).
Barkay, R. The Coinage of the Nabataeans. (Jerusalem, 2019).
Barkay, R. "The Coinage of the Nabataean Usurper Syllaeus (c. 9–6 BC)" in NC 177 (2017).
Barkay, R. "The Earliest Nabataean Coinage" in NC 2011.
Bowersock, G. Roman Arabia. (Cambridge, 1983).
Bowsher, J. "Early Nabataean Coinage" in ARAM 2:1-2 (1990), pp. 221-228.
Cohen, E. Dated Coins of Antiquity: A comprehensive catalogue of the coins and how their numbers came about. (Lancaster, PA, 2011).
Dussad, R. "Numismatique des rois de Nabatene" in Journal Asiatique 12 (1904), pp 189 - 238.
Hill, G. A Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum - Arabia, Mesopotamia and Persia. (London, 1922).
Hoover, O. "A Reassessment of Nabataean Lead Coinage in Light of New Discoveries" in NC 2006.
Hoover, O. Handbook of Coins of the Southern Levant: Phoenicia, Southern Koile Syria (Including Judaea), and Arabia, Fifth to First Centuries BC. HGC 10. (Lancaster, PA, 2010).
Hoover, O. & R. Barkay. "Important Additions to the Corpus of Nabataean Coins since 1990" in Huth CCK. (New York, 2010).
Huth, M. Coinage of the Caravan Kingdoms, Ancient Arabian Coins from the Collection of Martin Huth. ACNAC 10. (New York, 2010).
Huth, M. & P. van Alfen. Coinage of the Caravan Kingdoms. Studies in the Monetization of Ancient Arabia. ANSNS 25. (New York, 2010).
Meshorer, Y. Nabatean Coins, Qedem 3. (Jerusalem, 1975).
Plant, R. The Coinage of the Nabataeans, Seaby Coin and Medal Bulletin, March 1979, pp. 81-84.
Robinson, E. "Coins from Petra etc." in NC 1936, pp. 288-291, pl. XVII.
Schmitt-Korte, K. & M. Cowell. "Nabatean Coinage - Part I. The Silver Content Measured by X-ray Fluorescence Analysis" in NC 1989, pp. 33-58, pl. 11-17.
Schmitt-Korte, K. "Nabatean Coinage - Part II. New Coin Types and Variants" in NC 1990, pp. 105-133, pl. 10-15.
Schmitt-Korte, K. & M. Price. "Nabatean Coinage - Part III. The Nabatean Monetary System" in NC 1994, pp. 67-131, pl. 10-12.
Spikerman. A. The coins of the Decapolis and Provincial Arabia. (Jerusalem, 1978).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, The Collection of the American Numismatic Society, Part 6: Palestine - South Arabia. (New York, 1981).
Tal, O. "Coin denominations and weight standards in fourth-century BCE Palestine" in INR 2, pp. 24 - 28.

Coins of The Nabatean Kings

The Nabataean kingdom was located in present-day Jordan, southern Syria, southern Israel and north-western Saudi Arabia. The fall of the kingdom of Judea was followed by the rise of the Nabateans beginning in the fourth century B.C. These traders traveled in caravans from Arabia and made their capital Petra, in what is now southern Jordan. They eventually controlled trade in perfumes and spices and built numerous fortresses along the branch of the Spice Route in the Negev Desert.

The coins bear the portraits of the kings and their queens, sometimes jugate; other types are mentioned below.

Aretas I

The first known Nabatean king. His name appears on the earliest Nabatean inscription discovered to date, a 168 BCE carving found in Halutza. He is also mentioned in 2 Maccabees 5:8. The passage relates that Jason, the high priest who established a Hellenistic polis in Jerusalem, was held prisoner by Aretas I after being forced to leave the city.

Rabel I

Aretas I's successor, whose reign began c. 140 BCE. His name is known from a statue dedicated to him in Petra.

Aretas II

Rabel I's successor. His reign began in 120 or 110 BCE and he ruled until 96 BCE. Aretas 11 was a contemporary of the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus, whose expansionist policies were a direct threat to the Nabatean kingdom.

Obodas (Avdat) I

Obodas I ascended the throne in 90 BCE and defeated Alexander Jannaeus in a battle on the Golan Heights-probably the key to the Nabatean return to the Negev. The town of Oboda (Avdat) was named for the victor, who was worshiped as a god even after his death.

Aretas III (87-62 BCE)

Hostilities between the Hasmoneans and the Nabateans came to a head with the rise to power of Aretas III. In 84 BCE he conquered Damascus. He later invaded the Hasmonean kingdom and defeated Alexander Jannaeus at Hadid (a few kilometers east of Ben-Gurion Airport). The latter retaliated by capturing Nabatean cities in Moab and attacking the Bashan and Gilead. Alexander was succeeded by his wife Shlomtzion; after her death, her sons Hyrcanus and Aristobolus fought over the throne, which the latter finally ascended.

Hyrcanus fled to Aretas III, with whom he forged an alliance. In 65 BCE the Nabatean army besieged Jerusalem, but its attack was to end the following year when the Romans appeared in the East. The two Hasmonean brothers took their case to Pompey, who sent Scaurus to Jerusalem to force a Nabatean retreat.

Obodas II

Obodas II's existence was uncertain for years, until an inscription recently found east of the Suez Canal confirmed it. He probably ruled for only a few months.

Malichus I (60-30 BCE)

Obodas II's son. In 40 BCE he helped the Parthians overrun Syria and Palestine. After the Romans expelled the Parthians in 34 BCE, they confiscated Malichus's date groves around Jericho and his Red Sea harbors. Herod also fought Malichus, defeating his army near Philadelphia (present-day Amman).

Obodas III (30-9 BCE)

This king's reign was an era of cultural flowering for the Nabatean kingdom. Under him, most of its temples were built, including that at Avdat. It was during his days that the Romans attempted to discover the sources of the perfume and spice trade.

Aretas IV (9 BCE-40 CE)

Aretas IV was the greatest of the Nabatean kings. During his reign, large religious centers-also serving as banks and clearinghouses-were established on the Hauran, in Petra, and at Avdat. Aretas's daughter married Herod Antipas, tetrarch of the Galilee. When Antipas took another wife, Herodias, Aretas's daughter returned to her father, who went to war against the Jewish tetrarch and defeated him. Antipas appealed to Emperor Tiberius, who dispatched the governor of Syria to attack Aretas. The episode was an important factor in the beheading of John the Baptist. Aretas is mentioned by Paul in connection with his visit to Damascus (2 Corinthians 11:32).

Malichus II (40-70 CE)

In Malichus's time, Nabatean trade dwindled as the Romans diverted the perfume and spice cargo to Egypt. Malichus sent 5,000 horsemen and 1,000 soldiers to help Titus quash the Jewish revolt.

Rabel II (70-105)

Rabel II was the last of the Nabatean kings; Emperor Trajan deemed his death the right moment to annex the Nabatean kingdom. On March 22, 105, it was incorporated into the new Roman province of Provincia Arabia.


Adraa, about thirty miles north-west of Bostra. Imperial, M. Aurelius to Gallienus. Inscriptions: ΑΔΡΑΗΝΩΝ or ΑΔΡΑΗΝΩΝ ΤΥΧΗ. TypesAstarte in temple; Baetyl of ΔΟΥCΑΡΗC ΘЄΟC (the Arabian Dionysos on alter-shaped base; Herakles seated on rock; etc. The era of Adraa is that of the province of Arabia. See Dussaud, Rev. Num., 1904, pp. 160 f.

Bostra, the capital of Roman Arabia, was situate in a fertile oasis about seventy miles south of Damascus; refounded by Trajan A.D. 105 or 106. Imperial, Hadrian to Elagabalus. Inscriptions: ΑΡΑΒΙΑ on coin of Hadrian, and subsequently ΤΥΧΗ ΝΕΑC ΤΡΑΙΑΝΗC ΒΟCΤΡΑC, or ΒΟCΤΡWΝ, ΒΟCΤΡΗΝWΝ, &c. Era—the Arabian. Colonial, Sev. Alexander to Treb. Gallus. Inscriptions: COLONIA BOSTRA, COL. METROPOLIS BOSTRA or BOSTRENORVM. TypesTyche of the city; Three baetyls of the god Dusares (see Dussaud, Rev. Num., 1904, p. 163); Bust of Ammon (? Dusares-Ammon) with ram 's horns and globular headdress; Camel; Arab on Camel; Temples of various divinities; etc. Games, ΔΟΥCΑΡΙΑ, ΑΚΤΙΑ ΔΟΥCΑΡΙΑ, or ΑCΤΙΑ DVSΑRΙΑ.

Charach-Moba (El-Kerak, east of the Dead Sea, and south of Rabbath-Moba). Imperial of Elagabalus only. Inscriptions: ΧΑΡΑΧΜWΒΑ or ΧΑΡΑΧ[ΜWΒΗΝ]WΝ. TypesTyche; Figure seated before wine-press (Babelon, Rev. Num., 1899, p. 274).

Eboda (Ptol. v. 17.4), south of Gaza and south-west of the Dead Sea, now called Abdeh. Imperial of Nero. Inscriptions: ΕΒWΔΗΣ. TypeNike Apteros (Imhoof, Monn. gr., p. 450).

Esbus (Heshbon), some twenty miles north-east of the Dead Sea. Imperial of Elagabalus only. Inscriptions: ЄCΒΟΥC or ΑΥΡ. ЄCΒΟΥC. TypesAstarte in temple; Zeus seated; Mên (De Sauley, Terre-Sainte, p. 393).

Medaba (Mâdebâ), south-west of Esbus. Imperial of Caracalla and Elagabalus. Inscriptions: ΜΗΔΑΒWΝ ΤΥΧΗ. TypesTyche; Tyche-Astarte with cornucopiae and bust of Osiris (Babelon, Mél. Numism., iii. pp. 251 f.). Era—the Arabian.

Petra, the metropolis of the Nabathaeans, adopted the surname Adriana in consequence of favors conferred upon it by Hadrian. Imperial, Hadrian to Elagabalus. Inscription, ΠЄΤΡΑ ΜΗΤΡΟΠΟΛΙC, ΑΔΡΙΑΝΗ ΠΕΤΡΑ ΜΗΤΡΟΠΟΛΙC, etc. TypesTyche of city seated on rock; Figure sacrificing; etc. Era—the Arabian. See Petra.

Philippopolis, founded by the Emperor Philip, a native of Bostra, from which place it was distant about twelve miles. It was constituted by him a Roman colony. Imperial colonial of Philip, Otacilia, and Philip Jun., and posthumous coins of Marinus, Philip 's father, reading ΘЄΩ ΜΑΡΙΝΩ. Inscriptions: ΦΙΛΙΠΠΩΠΩΛΙΤΩΝ ΚΟΛΩΝΙΑC S. C. TypesRoma seated or standing, etc.

Rabbath-Moba (De Sauley, Terre-Sainte, p. 354). Imperial, Antoninus Pius to Gordian. Inscriptions: ΡΑΒΒΑΘΜWΒΑ, ΡΑΒΒΑΘΜWΒΗΝWΝ, ΡΑΒΑΘΜΟVΒΗΝWΝ, &c, usually of very barbarous work and blundered. Era—Arabian. Types—Ares, Astarte, Poseidon, etc. The occurrence of Ares (who is seen standing to front on a pedestal, between two altars) confirms the statements of Stephanus and Eusebius that the later name of this city was Areopolis.


For the coins of South Arabia (Yemen) see Mordtmann, Num. Zeit., xii. 28; B. V. Head, Num. Chron., 1878, 273, and 1880, p. 369; Prideaux, Journ. As. Soc. Bengal, 1881, p. 95; Erman, Zeit. f. Num., ix. 296, and Kubitschek in D. H. Müller 's Südarabische Altertümer (Vienna, 1899).

The Sabaei and Homeritae (Himyarites) were from very early times down to the sixth century A.D. a powerful and prosperous people, governed by their own kings, and dwelling in the most fertile district of Arabia, which faces the Indian Ocean, and extends as far as the Persian Gulf. The highest point of their wealth and power was attained by the Himyarite dynasty, which ruled the land between the fourth century B.C. and circ. A.D. 120. Their earliest coins belong to the fourth and third centuries B.C., and consist of imitations of the older Athenian silver money, which probably found its way across the desert by the caravan route from the prosperous seaport of Gaza, where, as we have already seen, the money of Athens was also imitated. Most of these coins which come to us from Southern Arabia bear, in addition to the Athenian types, Himyarite letters or inscriptions, and sometimes an inscription in an unknown character. A small class have on the obverse, instead of the head of Athena, a beardless male head (Kubitschek, Pl. XIV. 13, 14). In the second century B.C. the Athenian types appear to have been temporarily superseded by those of Alexander the Great, then predominate in all the markets of the ancient world, a tetradrachm having been discovered by me, which bears, in the Himyarite character, the name of a king called Abyatha (Num. Chron., 1880, Pl. XV. 3).

In the second half of the first century B.C. the Athenian tetradrachms of the 'new style ', with the Owl standing on an Amphora, served as models for the coinage of the Sabaean kings, as is proved by the important Find of San 'â (B. V. Head, Num. Chron., N. S. xviii. 273). Of this later gold and silver currency there are several series, the earlier bearing on the obverse a head of Augustus, and are doubtless copied from Roman coins, which must have become known in Southern Arabia at the time of the expedition of Aelius Gallus into that country in B.C. 24. The inscriptions on these coins consist of monograms in the Himyaritic character, and of a second legend in an unknown character. After the Christian era the Himyarite coinage loses much of its importance, and the execution becomes more and more barbarous. To this later period belong small coins with local types—Beardless head, rev. Bucranium or Antelope 's head; and Beardless head on both sides, with name of mints Raidan, Na 'am, Ya 'ub, etc.

Although the Southern Arabians seem to have been content to copy the well-know money of the Greeks, it is remarkable that they did not adopt the Attic standard of weight. The Himyarite drachm, like the old Persian siglos, weighed 84 grs. The coin of Abyatha being a tetradrachm of Attic weight, would be equivalent to three Himyarite drachms.


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Arabia, one of the largest regions of Asia, between Egypt and India, divided nominally into three parts - Felix, Deserta, and Petraea; bounded by Syria and Mesopotamia on the north; by the Arabian Gulf or Red Sea on the west; and by the Indian Ocean (Erythraum Mare) on the south.

Arabia Felix (Arabia the Blessed) derived its name from its great fertility.

Arabia Petraea (Arabia the Rocky) lies centrally, running from north-west to southeast. Its north is extremely sterile and scantily populated but the southern portion includes fertile cultivated plains. Under Augustus the Romans sent troops into Arabia Petraea but they failed to make a conquest of it. The Arabs remained subdued until the time of Trajan.

Arabia Deserta (Arabia the Desert), the smallest and northernmost district was inhabited by the Idumaeans, the Moabites, the Midianites and the Amalekites.

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