Obverse: Three Bound Heads of Barley, the Outer Two Drooping, Encircled by Inscription, “IUYLIA KAICAPOP” or “Empress Julia”
Reverse: Simpulum (a Libation Ladle) and Date “LIS “ (Year 16 or 29 A.D.) Surrounded by Inscription, “TIBEPIOY KAICAPOC” or “of Tiberius Caesar”
Pontius Pilate was the Roman Procurator of Judea from 26 until 36 A.D. Though much literature, both ancient and modern, portrays him as infamous and incompetent, the judge who sentenced Jesus to death; however, it may be fairer to say he was a complex man beleaguered by extraordinary circumstances in a difficult time. The world in which Jesus lived was dominated by the Romans, although Rome did make concessions to the sensibilities of other cultures. This powerful coin is a case in point, showing three ears of barley bound together. Out of respect for Jewish sensitivity regarding graven images, coins depicted “still life” subjects such as palm branches, cornucopia, etc. The poignant beauty of this coin matches the simple faith of the most pious. It is a memorial to one of the most momentous eras in history, when Roman paganism, Judaism, and the nascent faith of Christianity all intermingled in the same land.
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 long forgotten empires. This stunning hand-struck coin reveals an expertise of craftsmanship and intricate sculptural details that are often lacking in contemporary machine-made currencies. The coins of Pontius Pilate were circulated in Ancient Israel for over thirty years. They knew the scent of spice-stalls, heard the ranting or merchants, and smelled the sweat and dust of daily works. They were alive to the sounds of Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin voices haggling over prices in the marketplaces or offering prayers to YHVH, Jesus, or Jupiter in temples. Holding this work in our hands, we are transported back in history to one of the most fabled times words have recorded, when the Jewish people struggled to be free from Roman occupation and when the Lord Jesus Christ walk the earth, was tried, and executed. We can still feel the power of these events resonate in the energy of this ancient coin.