The First Jewish War against Rome, also known as the Great Revolt, lasted from 66-70 AD. Financial exploitation and religious intolerance were the key motivations for the Jewish uprising. For decades the population had been ruled by Roman procurators who had to raise a specified annual tax, any thing above this they could keep, a system that encouraged gross exploitation. There was also a growing disrespect for the Jewish religious practices.
The revolt was initially successful; Jerusalem and its treasury were captured and the Roman garrison destroyed. Silver, including the Tyrian coins paid to the Roman authorities in taxes, was used to mint Jewish coins in shekel and half-shekel denominations. The obverse depicted a chalice with the year of the revolt above; this was surrounded by the Hebrew inscription ‘Shekel of Israel.’ The reverse features three budding pomegranates and the inscription ‘Jerusalem the Holy.’ Year 1 shekels and half shekels are scarce, Years 2 and 3 more common and Years 4 and 5 extremely rare. It is difficult to under-estimate the symbolic significance of this act of defiance. Roman authorities tightly controlled the minting of coins across the empire and for years had forced the Jews to use a coinage with depicting the head of the god Melkhart, known in the west as Heracles. The reverse featured an eagle with the inscription ‘Tyre the Holy and City of Refuge.’ In 66 it was finally possible to mint a coin that did not violate the prohibitions of the Torah.
Ultimately the Romans regained the upper hand, initially led by Vespasian and after 69 by his son Titus. Jerusalem was destroyed, the Temple sacked and the population massacred. The coins minted during this period however are a physical testimony to this bold attempt to resist Roman rule. - (LC.143 )