Biblical Archaeology Review 38:4, July/August 2012

ReViews: The King’s Coins

The Coins of Herod: A Modern Analysis and Die Classification
(Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity Volume 79)

By Donald T. Ariel and Jean-Philippe Fontanille (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2012), 203 pp. + 97 pp. plates, $175 (hardcover)

It turns out that Herod the Great was great at a lot of things—but making coins was not one of them. “Herod’s numismatic legacy is disappointing to say the least,” according to a new book on the coins of Herod by Donald T. Ariel and Jean-Philippe Fontanille. “Considering Herod’s larger-than-life persona, most of his coinage is particularly unimpressive.”

Herod was named king of the Jews in 40 B.C.E. by a declaration of the Roman Senate. At the time, however, Herod was without a kingdom, since Mattatayah Antigonus, the last Hasmonean ruler, was king on the ground in Judea and remained so until 37 B.C.E., when Herod captured Antigonus and his Parthian sponsors.

Herod had many of his immediate family members murdered, including his wife the Hasmonean princess Mariamne (in 30/29 B.C.E.) and his two sons by Mariamne. When Augustus heard about these latter executions, he reportedly said, “It is better to be Herod’s pig than his son.”

Among Herod’s “greats” were his amazing building projects—the enlargement of the Temple Mount and rebuilding the Second Temple, his palace complex at Herodium and the magnificent port of Caesarea Maritima.

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