Obverse: Portrait of the Emperor Crowned in a Diadem
Reverse: Athena Standing Left Holding Nike
The son of Demetrius I and brother of Demetrius II, both kings of the Seleucid state of Syria, Antiochus VII spent his youth in the Greek islands. In 141, his brother was captured while fighting the Parthians. Cleopatra Thea, Demetrius II's queen, meanwhile was regent; but a usurper, Tryphon, had risen and threatened to seize full power. At this point, Antiochus VII, an energetic prince, arrived in Syria (139), married Cleopatra Thea, and put Tryphon to flight. A passage in the Bible (I Maccabees 14:1–14) suggests that he first assured himself of the neutrality of possible opponents, such as Judah. By 138, Antiochus had ended Tryphon's career, and he delivered an ultimatum to the Jews to acknowledge him as overlord. When they refused, he sent one army against them, which was defeated, and, later, in 135/134, he himself led a siege, which captured Jerusalem. Internal dissension among the leaders of Judah aided him. Antiochus razed Jerusalem's walls and made John Hyrcanus, who had recently assumed leadership, his vassal. Rejecting suggestions to exterminate the Jews, he appointed Hyrcanus high priest and allowed religious autonomy. With Palestine secured, Antiochus set out to restore his forefathers' eastern realm. With enthusiastic support from the Hellenized cities he drove the Parthians from Mesopotamia and invaded Media. The Parthians, perhaps hopeful of stirring up civil war behind him, released Antiochus' brother, who had been a prisoner since 141. In early 129 the Parthians made a surprise attack on the Seleucid winter quarters and slew Antiochus, who left five children by his queen. Syria lapsed into civil war, with all hopes of empire gone.
How many hands have touched a coin in your pocket or your purse? What eras and lands have the coin traversed on its journey into our possession? As we reach into our pockets to pull out some change, we rarely hesitate to think of who touched the coin before us, or where the coin will venture to after us. More than money, coins are a symbol of the state that struck them, of a specific time and place, whether contemporary currencies or artifacts of a long forgotten empire. This stunning hand-struck coin reveals an expertise of craftsmanship and intricate sculptural details that are often lacking in contemporary machine-made currencies. Antiochos sought to restore his empire to its original glory achieved under his father’s rule. However, more than just a memorial to Antiochos VII, this coin is a gorgeous artifact commemorating the greater Seleukid kingdom passed from the hands of civilization to civilization, from generation to generation.