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Ancient Jewish Coins: City Coins of Palestine

(66 - 268 CE)

In the first century, the Roman Empire granted many of the cities in its provinces the right to mint bronze coins. Silver coins were only minted in a few important cities outside of Rome. Coins were issued in Judaea/Palestine by 38 different cities, according to Meshorer, as follows (from North to South):

Coastal Cities: Ptolemais (Akko), Dora (Dor), Caesarea, Joppa (Yafo), Ascalon (Ashkelon), Gaza, Anthedon, Raphia

Inland Cities: Tiberias, Sepphoris (Sippori), Gaba, Nysa-Scythopolis, Samaria (Shomron-Sebaste), Neapolis (Shechem), Antipatris, Diospolis (Lod), Nicopolis (Emmaus), Aelia Capitolina (Jerusalem), Eleutheropolis (Beth Govrin)

Cities of Transjordan: Panias, Philippopolis, Hippos (Susita), Canatha (Kenath), Abilla (Abel), Gadara (Gader), Adraa, Capitolias (Beth Reisha), Bostra (Beser), Dium, Pella (Pehal), Gerasa (Geresh), Philadelphia (Rabbat Ammon), Esbus (Heshbon), Medeba, Rabbath-Moba (Rabbath Moab), Charach-Moba (Kir Moab), Petra (Reqem)

The definition of “Palestinian” cities is somewhat subjective. The British Museum Catalog of Palestine coins tallies 16 cities in Galilee, Samaria and Judaea; Klimowsky lists 32 cities under the heading “Palestine;” and Rosenberger enumerates 22 cities in “Palestine” and 18 in “Eastern Palestine.”

While a scattering of city coins were minted earlier, the time of the First Revolt (66-70 CE) saw the initial pronounced production of city coins in Judaea ... and the number of mints blossomed after the defeat of the Jews in the Second Revolt (132-135 CE). The Ascalon Mint deserves special mention, since it produced coins almost continuously from about 375 BCE through 235 CE; one of its more interesting issues features the famous Cleopatra on a silver shekel.

Shekel from Ascalon featuring Cleopatra, 47 BCE (City Coins, p.26, #40)

A few cities, with large Jewish populations - Neapolis and Sepphoris -- initially struck coins with Jewish symbols.

Neapolis, Domitian 81 CE (City Coins, p. 48, 123)

Sepphoris, Trajan 98-117 CE (City Coins, p. 36, 88)

Some historic coins - issued by Akko-Ptolemais, Aelia Capitolina- Jerusalem, Caesarea, etc. -- picture the Roman ceremonial founding of the city. The Emperor is shown in a cart pulled by a bull and ox, defining the boundary as the area enclosed by a plough in 24 hours.

Aelia Capitolina, Hadrian 130 CE (City Coins, p. 60, 162)

Caesarea, Septimus Severus 193-211 CE (City Coins, p. 20, 26)

But the coins of these cities eventually joined with the others in depicting Roman gods, goddesses, temples, etc. One of the most interesting designs depicts a Roman temple, dedicated to the worship of Jupiter “The Supreme God,” which was erected on the former site of the Samaritan Temple atop Mt. Gerizim.

Neapolis, Antoninus Pius 160 CE (City Coins, p. 48, 126)

This extensive series of Palestine city-coins finally came to an end during the reign of Gallienus (253-268 CE), when the Roman Empire disintegrated.

Sources: The Handbook of Biblical Numismatics