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Ancient Jewish Coins: The Last of the Maccabees Coins

(40 - 37 BCE)

Antigonus Mattathias (40-37 BCE) was the last of the Maccabean/Hasmonean line to rule Judaea. His short but volatile reign was subjected to persistent conflict against Herod the Great. Herod was ultimately victorious, and executed Mattathias at Antioch in 37 BCE. The crudeness of Mattathias’ coins are evidence of the desperation of his cause. His small bronze prutahs feature double cornucopiae, like his predecessors, but his Hebrew name (no title is indicated) is always backwards!

Antigonus Mattathias Prutah with retrograde inscription (Brom. 18)

The large bronze of Mattathias, featuring double cornucopiae, is the biggest coin issued by the Hasmoneans. Its dual Hebrew and Greek inscriptions tied together Antigonus and Mattathias for the first time for historians. A medium sized coin depicts a single cornucopia. Both of these coins had their planchets cast in two halves in a mold, and were generally not precisely aligned giving them an unusual appearance.

Large coin of Antigonus Mattathias (Herbst 1107)

Medium coin of Antigonus Mattathias (Herbst 1110)

The most famous and rarest of all Judaean coins was issued in the final days of Antigonus Mattathias' reign, in a last ditch attempt to rally the Jews against Herod’s overwhelming forces. The small coins feature holy ceremonial objects from the Temple of Jerusalem - the seven-branched menorah and table of shew bread -- symbols that never appeared before or since until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

Menorah coin of Antigonus Mattathias (Mesh1 Pl.55, Z1)

Sources: The Handbook of Biblical Numismatics