The ancient Kingdom of Judea reached the height of its power during the reign of the Maccabean (or Hasmonean) King Alexander Jannaeus, who ruled Ancient Israel from 103-76 B.C. The youngest son of Jehohanan Hyrcanus, Jannaeus was imprisoned for a year by his oldest brother, Aristobulus. Released by his widowed sister-in- law, Salome, whom he later married, Alexander conquered a series of coastal cities from Gaza to Carmel, extending Judean control from the Mediterranean to Gadara across the Jordan River. He ruled more territory than any Judean king since the time of Solomon. Yet he faced mounting criticism from Jews inside Jerusalem for embracing the increasing Hellenization of the Near East. Eventually, a civil war erupted between those forces loyal to Jannaeus and the pious rebels who enlisted the aid of King Demetrios of Syria, whose Kingdom, the Seleucids, once ruled the lands of Judea and Samaria before Maccabean Independence. However, after being led to a stunning victory by Demetrios’ forces, the rebels soon realized that the Syrian army planned to march onwards into Jerusalem and they rallied around their King Jannaeus. In the end, Alexander met his fate on the battlefield, on the outskirts of Gadara, ever battling to secure the borders of his Kingdom.
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 Alexander Jannaeus include inscriptions in both Hebrew and Greek, indicating the influence of Hellenized areas within Judea. Depicted on the obverse, the pomegranate was one of the seven celebrated products of Palestine and among the fruits that brought to the temple as offerings of the first-fruits. Two hundred pomegranates decorated each of the two columns in the temple and were an integral part of the sacred vestment of the High Priest, as bells and pomegranates were suspended from his mantle. 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 to maintain their independence against oppressive empires that sought to dominate them and their land. - (C.0797)