Obverse: Double Cornucopia with Ear of Barley in the Center
Reverse: Hebrew Inscription, "Mattatayah," Surrounded by Wreath
Mattatayah Antigonus, the ambitious son of Aristobulus II, led several futile Jewish rebellions against the Romans during his father's imprisonment, only increasing Rome's suspicions of independence-minded Jews. In 43 B.C., the murder of Antipater, the chief supporter of his Roman-aligned uncle, Hyrcanus II, led Antigonus launch a last attempt to seize control of Judea. He was defeated in battle by Antipater's younger son, Herod. But Antigonus allied himself with the Parthians, who were challenging Rome for control of Syria and Palestine. . "[Antigonus] promised [to Parthia] one thousand talents and five hundred women to dispose of Hyrcanus and give the throne to [him] ." Proclaiming Antigonus king, a Parthian force took Jerusalem in 40 B.C., deposed Hyrcanus from power and held Herod's older brother, Phasael, hostage. Herod, however, escaped and rallied Roman support. After the Parthians were defeated by Marc Antony, Antigonus was eventually captured by Herod in 37 B.C., and delivered to the Romans at Antioch, where he was executed, thus marking the transition from the end of the Maccabean Dynasty and the beginning of the Herodian.
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 struggle of Jewish independence, as represented by this coin, has in modern times finally come to an end. This coin reconnects us with the past, with those who fought and struggled for their freedom against an oppressive empire over two thousand year ago.