Obverse: Prow of Galley
Reverse: Greek Incription, "Ethnarch," Surrounded by Wreath
Herod Archelaus was the son of King Herod the Great and his wife Malthace. Upon Herod’s death in 4 B.C., his kingdom was divided amongst his sons Archelaus, Herod Antipas, and Philip with Archelaus receiving the largest portion to govern under the title ethnarch, or “national leader.” However, immediately after his accession, things went horribly wrong. Just before his death, Herod the Great sentenced two popular teachers, Judas and Mathias (as well as their students), to be burned alive for inciting their pupils to remove the golden eagle from the entrance to the Temple. An angry mob greeted the new leader, Archelaus, demanding justice for these martyrs. In order to quell this protest, Archelaus had over three thousand Jews murdered. Once calm was seemingly restored, Archelaus ventured off to Rome to have himself crowned by Augustus. During his absence, a new series of new riots were initiated by a series of messianic Jewish leaders, among them Athronges. Herod’s soldiers were unable to deal with the rebellion and reinforcements were called in from Roman-governed Syria. In the end, the rioting ceased after much more bloodshed. Herod Archelaus was such a bad leader that the citizens of Samaria and Judea jointly appealed to Rome to appoint a new leader. There request was granted and Archelaus was banished to Gaul, ending another bloody chapter in the history of ancient Israel.
How many hands have touched a coin in your pocket or 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 might have touched the coin before us, or where the coin will venture to after it leaves our hands. More than money, coins are a symbol of the state that struck them, of a specific time and location, whether contemporary currencies or artifacts of a long forgotten empire. This stunning hand-struck coin reveals an expertise of craftsmanship and intricate sculptural detail that is often lacking in contemporary machine-made currencies. This ancient coin is a reminder of the troubled times during the reign of Herod Archelaus, passed from the hands of civilization to civilization, from generation to generation that still appears as vibrant today as the day it was struck.