With the decline in power of the ruling Seleucid dynasty of Syria in the second century B.C., the Maccabeans began to assert greater political independence for the Jewish people. Upon the death of Alexander Jannaeus in 76 B.C., his widow Salome Alexandra took over the reigns of power. However, because a woman could not hold the office of high priest, this title was given to her son by Jannaeus, Yehohanan Hyrcanus II. When Salome died in 67 B.C., a civil war broke out between Hyrcanus and his brother Aristobulus II that lasted four years, until the Roman general Pompey intervened. Pompey then conquered Jerusalem but left the powers of Yehohanan Hyrcanus as high Priest intact. From this time onward, the Romans took an active hand in the political affairs of Judea. One of John Hyrcanus chief advisors was Antipater the Idumean who saw that his own son Herod was eventually installed on the throne after the death of Hyrcanus in 40 B.C.
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. - (C.7849)