The Coins of Herod the Great
by Andrew McIntyre
I, or better known
Herod the Great, was a
King of Judea from 40 BC to 4 BC. He was completely beholding to
the power of Rome. He came from a powerful
and wealthy Idumaean family who had strong
connections among the elite of Rome. Herod's
father had been the Roman governor for Judea.
Herod received the position of governor of
Galilee during his father's rule around 43
BC. After his father's death, Herod was forced
to Rome when
Antigonos, took control of the Jerusalem
with a foreign invading Parthian army in 40 BC.
appointed Herod King of Judea and supported
him militarily in his recapture of Judea
in 37 BC. Herod married ten times and had
children by these marriages. He was paranoid
about conspiracies against his life and he
had several of his children and his first
wife executed. As King, Herod went to great
project his power in the region
including rebuilding the temple of Jerusalem,
works projects, building cities and ports, and
providing food aid during times
of hardship. Most biblical scholars accept
that Jesus was born under Herod the Great. However, historical
shows that Herod died in 4 BC which means Jesus Christ
would have been born around 4 BC or before.
Rightly or wrongly, it is the monk Dionysus
(c. 470 – c.
544) who is credited and blamed for the error
in the AD dating system.
Herod, although nominal Jewish, was not
liked by his Jewish subjects due to
his heavy taxation, his
towards Hellenistic culture, and his subservience
to Rome. Herod did try to accommodate Jewish
for the most
part did not have graven images. The inscriptions
are in Greek which was the language
of the ruling elite.
be remembered the Greek speaking dynasties
of Egypt (Ptolemies) and Syria (Seleukids),
derived from the Macedonian Empire of Alexander
the Great, had at various times controlled
Judea. There were five different coin types denominated by weight. All the coins issued by Herod were bronze. The largest coin
is known as 8 prutot (Fig.
1) and weighs
around 6 - 10 grams. The obverse of this coin has a Greek styled military helmet with a star above and a wreath. A similar styled starred helmet
on coins of Macedonia and on Greek coins
depicting the Greeks heroes, the Dioscuri
twins. On the reverse of many of Herod's coins are the inscriptions HRWAOU BASILEWS = [coin]
of King Herod. In the center, to the left of the center
symbol, is LG which
stands for Year 3. This commerates his capture
of Judea in 37 BC, three years after Rome
appointed him King of Judea. The monogram
PT in the right field is of uncertain meaning.
The obverse of the 4 prutot bronze coin (Fig.
2) has a Macedonian type shield on the obverse and a crested helmet encircled with
Herod's inscriptions on the reverse. The obverse of the 2 prutot coin (Fig.
3) has a poppy while the reverse has a cadeucus surrounded by Herod's inscriptions. The single prutah coin comes in several varieties with (Fig.
3) & (Fig.
4) being just two examples. The Lepton coin (Fig.
6) is the smallest bronze denomination weighing less than 1 gram. Many biblical coins, including Herod's coins, are well written about and demonstrated in David Hendin's book "Guide to Biblical Coins".
to Bibical Coins (David Hendin 2001)
Photos by A.P.McIntyre ( 8 & 4 Prutot) & CNG (remaining photos)