Coin of Herod Agrippa II depicting the head of Vespasian and Tychē standing holding a cornucopia and two ears of corn (86-87 CE)

Denomination: 

Large denomination

Date: 
86 CE to 87 CE
Material: 

Bronze

Mint: 

Caesarea Philippi

Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 

Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Name of Ruler: 

Herod Agrippa II

Obverse (Image and Inscription): 

Image: Laureate bust of Vespasian looking to the left

Inscription: ΑΥΤΟΚΡΑ ΟΥΕCΠΑCΙ ΚΑΙCΑΡI CEBACTΩ 

Reverse (Image and Inscription): 

Image: Tychē not turreted, standing left, holding cornucopia in her left hand and two ears of grain in right hand

Inscription: BA AΓΡΙΠΠΑ ETΟΥ Kς

Diameter (mm): 
32.90mm
Weight (g): 
22.76g
Commentary: 

This large bronze denomination, minted at Caesarea-Philippi by Agrippa II in 86-87 CE, during the reign of Domitian, depicts on the obverse the head of Vespasian, and on the reverse Tychè. The inscriptions are in Greek. On the obverse, the inscription refers to Vespasian, as imperator, Vespasian, Caesar, Augustus. On the reverse, the inscription in Greek records the year in which the coin was minted, the twenty-sixth year of King Agrippa.With the accession of Domitian in 81 CE, Agrippa II was confirmed as ruler of Gaulanitis, Auranitis, Batanaea, and most of Galilee. This coin is part of the third emission, minted under the rule of Domitian, which Agrippa II struck in the “year 26”, that is the year 86/87 C.E. This is the largest group of coin minted by Agrippa II. As with the previous emission, the year before, two groups can be discerned. The first group includes three denominations, and it is characterized by a bilingual inscription in Latin and Greek. Ya’akov Meshorer argues that this group continues the one minted in the previous year. However there are two differences, the first is the date, “year 26”, and the second is the Roman prototype taken as model. Ya’akov Meshorer argues that this group, which depicts coins minted in honor of Vespasian and Titus already dead, who are therefore characterized with the title divus, as in Rome, is a continuation of earlier issue. On this group, minted for the local market, the obverse of the large denomination depicts the bust of Vespasian, while the reverse depicts Tychè-Demeter holding ears of grain and a cornucopia. The obverse of the middle denomination depicts the bust of Titus, while the reverse depicts Nikè-Victoria holding a wreath and a palm branch over her shoulder. The third and smaller denomination depicts on the obverse the bust of Domitian, while the reverse depicts Nikè-Victoria writing on a shield. The second group, not considered here, as with the previous issue, which was made for the local market, is characterized by an inscription in Greek alone, and includes two denominations. On the obverse of this group is depicted the portrait of Domitian. The reverse of the first coin depicts the goddess Moneta holding scales and, contrary to the one depicted on the previous emission, a cornucopia. The reverse of the second coin depicts a Roman altar, exactly as in the previous emission. The reverse of the third and smaller coin depicts a large pair of double crossed cornucopias with a winged caduceus in between, while the reverse of the fourth coin, similar to the previous, depicts the two letters SC, which stands for senatus consultum inscribed in a wreath (Meshorer, A Treasury of Jewish Coins, p. 113). The title Germanicus, attributed to Domitian, inscribed on the denominations of the second group, brings us to a problem of dating. As an earlier issue minted by Agrippa II in 67-68 CE presents two eras, scholars are uncertain how to date the issues minted during the rule of Domitian. According to the vast majority of scholars, the first era began in 56 CE. The second era, on the other hand, began in 61 CE. According to Ya’akov Meshorer, the “era” used in the Flavian period is that which started in 61 CE. This can be discerned by the fact that the title Germanicus, which appears on the obverse of this coin, was granted to Domitian by the Senate not before 83 CE. Thus, if we date the emission, using the era, which started in 61 CE, the coin was minted in the year 86-87 CE. On the other hand, if the earlier era, that which started in 56 CE, is taken into account, the coin ought to be dated to 81-82 CE. But then, the senate had still to bestow on Domitian the title Germanicus. Therefore this dating is too early (Meshorer, Y., Ancient Jewish Coinage 2, p. 69-73). Tychè is depicted as dressed in a tunic, and draped in a himation, or a large cloak. The head of Tychè is not crowned by a tower, as it was usual in the depiction of the city-goddess. Besides, while she holds a cornucopia, a symbol of plenty in her left hand, she holds two ears of grain in right hand. Therefore, according to Ya’akov Meshorer, the figure depicted can be either identified with the city Tychè, as well as with Demeter, the goddess of agriculture. There are four variants of the reverse of this denomination (Meshorer, A Treasury of Jewish Coins, p. 254, no. 30; Meshorer, A Treasury of Jewish Coins, p. 237, no. 159). This depiction of the Tychè of Paneas, follows, with the exception of the crown, the traditional iconography, which was attributed to the goddess. The message forwarded by the goddess is one of abundance and plenty. This message is emphasized by the fact that the goddess holds in her hands a cornucopia as well as two ears of grain. Yet, on the reverse of a coin minted in 88-88 CE, a year later, Tychè is depicted as dressed in a short chiton, while holding a huge cornucopia in her left hand and supporting the rudder of a ship in her right. According to Ya’akov Meshorer, it seems that this coin reflects the inauguration of a huge statue of Tychè-Fortuna in Paneas, where this denomination was struck. This statue appears once more on coins struck between 196-221 CE (Meshorer, A Treasury of Jewish Coins, p. 113).  Yet, on this coin, the iconography of Tychè is also very similar to that of Caesarea Maritima. Therefore, maybe it refers to the latter and not to the Tychè of Paneas. However, the most important issue here is that Tychè symbolizes a city. On this denomination, Agrippa II celebrates the Roman patrons as well as one of the most important achievements of his dynasty, the creation of cities, and the successive urbanization of the area, as well as the wealth of the surrounding chora, or the area which surrounded the city. This, the presence of cities such as Paneas, Tiberias, and Sepphoris, made possible the successive incorporation of the kingom in the Roman empire.

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Coin of Herod Agrippa II depicting the head of Vespasian and Tychē standing holding a cornucopia and two ears of corn (86-87 CE)
Author(s) of this publication: Samuele Rocca
Publishing date: Wed, 01/25/2017 - 22:51
URL: http://judaism-and-rome.cnrs.fr/coin-herod-agrippa-ii-depicting-head-vespasian-and-tych%C4%93-standing-holding-cornucopia-and-two-ears
Visited: Fri, 11/24/2017 - 10:12

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