Judaean Tetrarchy - Herod Antipas 4 BC - 39 AD

Started by Finn235, September 07, 2017, 09:49:57 PM

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When I got started in ancient coins, I mostly just bought lots of junk off of ebay. Wasted plenty of money before I got into the swing of what to look for. On rare occasions, I got lucky and got a collection-worthy coin for peanuts. This is one such example, a case of beginner's luck I struggle to wrap my head around.

Judaea, Herodian Tetrarchy
Herod Antipas
AE 23mm / 11.03g ("Full denomonation" or perhaps dupondius)
TIBE/PIAC in two lines, surrounded by wreath  (Tiberias mint)
(Other side obliterated, would have been palm frond surrounded by HRWDOU TETRARCOU)
Ref: Hendin 512


Herod Antipater (or Antipas as he was commonly known) was born in c. 20 BC, the youngest child of Herod the Great by one of his five wives. Upon the death of Herod in 4 BC, his kingdom was split in four, and Antipas was given control of Galilee and Perea as a pseudo-autonomous client king under Augustus, although he never officially held the title of "king".

(Antipas' territory in purple)

During the reign of Tiberius, Antipas began construction of his new capital, named Tiberias, which still exists today:


At some point early in his reign, Antipas entered into a political marriage with Phasaelis, the daughter of Nabatean king Aretas IV. While this union brought stability to the region, Antipas was not happy with his wife, and began to desire Herodias, the wife of his half brother and older Tetrarch Herod II. After having an affair while vacationing in Rome, Herodias convinced Antipas to divorce her wife and marry her. They each divorced their spouse, prompting Phasaelis to flee to her father in Nabatea, and relations between the kingdoms quickly soured. This was a major breach of Jewish mores, prompting criticism from John the Baptist, whom Antipas had arrested. Jesus scathingly denounced Antipas' actions and continued his teachings. The gospels of Mark and Matthew give roughly the same account of John's death on the orders of Antipas:

QuoteFor it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.

But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias's daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you." And he vowed to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom." And she went out and said to her mother, "For what should I ask?" And she said, "The head of John the Baptist." And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, "I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter." And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

(Caravaggio, 1610)

Following the death of John, Jesus continued preaching up until his arrest. Luke details that upon learning that Jesus hailed from Galilee, Pilate attempts to send him to the court of Antipas for trial:

QuoteThen Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, "I find no basis for a charge against this man."

5 But they insisted, "He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here."

6 On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. 7 When he learned that Jesus was under Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. 9 He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. 11 Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. 12 That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.

(Dürer, 1509)

The Biblical narrative ends there; Roman histories mention that in about 34, tensions between Antipas and Aretas IV boiled over into war, and Antipas was nearly totally defeated. He appealed to Tiberius for help, but Tiberius had died and been replaced by Caligula, who was not as sympathetic toward the Tetrarch, who had sided against his nephew (and Caligula's close friend) Herod Agrippa. Agrippa convinced Caligula that Antipas was involved in a conspiracy against him, and Caligula stripped Antipas of all of his property, handed it over to Agrippa, and exiled him to Gaul. Antipas is never again mentioned in history after 39.

The coin itself is part of a short series, all minted at Tiberias in the late 20s or early 30s, and comprising several denominations all with roughly the same design. The 11 gram "full denomination" coins may well have been dupondii; we know that the Jewish prutah circulated on par with the Roman quadrans, and Antipas' denominations include 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 and full units. The full denomination was only minted under Antipas, but a 6.3 gram half denomination of roughly the same design was minted under Claudius. The mint at Tiberias was also used by Trajan, Hadrian, and Elagabalus.


Thanks you for this very interesting write-up !
Not a subject i knew anything about, very good introduction to widen one's horizon !