An exceedingly rare Year 1 sela or tetradrachm from the Bar Kokhba Revolt
Lot 154
JUDAEA, Bar Kokhba Revolt. 132-135 CE. Sela or Tetradrachm (Silver, 27 mm, 14.56 g, 1 h), Year 1 = 132/3. 'Jerusalem' (in Hebrew) Tetrastyle façade of the Temple of Jerusalem with fluted columns; within, the Ark of the Covenant in chest form with semicircular lid and short legs. Rev. 'Year 1 of the redemption of Jerusalem' (in Hebrew) Lulav with three projecting tips; to left, etrog. Bromberg 79. (same obverse die). Hendin 6402. Meshorer 218 (same obverse die). Mildenberg 4 (O1/R4). Shoshana I 20223 (same obverse die). Sofaer 1 (same obverse die). Of the highest rarity, apparently the fourth known example. An incredibly fresh and attractive example of this earliest and largest silver coin of Bar Kokhba, struck from an exceedingly rare reverse die. Minor roughness and with light doubling on the reverse, otherwise, good extremely fine.

Even following the suppression of the initial Jewish uprising in 66-70 CE, Judaea remained a turbulent province within the Roman Empire. While the Kitos War (Kitos being a derivation of Lucius Quietus, the Roman commander-in-chief), known to the Romans as the Tumultus Iudaicus, primarily ravaged the Jewish diaspora in Cyrenaica, Egypt, Cyprus, and Mesopotamia in 115-117 CE, Judaea was also impacted when one of the Jewish leaders, named Lukuas, retreated to Lydda, where he was subsequently captured and executed by Quietus.

Fifteen years later, in 132 CE, Judaea became the epicenter of a renewed Jewish revolt under the leadership of Simon bar Kokhba. Within weeks, the rebels managed to ambush substantial portions of the Roman forces in the province in minor skirmishes and gained control over larger swathes of Judaea, although Jerusalem, the capital city, remained seemingly unconquered. Simon, assuming the title 'nasi of Israel,' akin to 'Prince' or 'Leader' of Israel, likely capitalized on messianic expectations, although political and social motivations also fueled the revolt.

Drawing from past conflicts and the substantial initial casualties suffered by the two legions stationed in Judaea, the Roman response was resolute. Troops were marshaled from across the Eastern regions, resulting in the deployment of between 30,000 and 50,000 soldiers to quell the rebellion. Nonetheless, it took the leadership of Sextus Julius Severus, Hadrian's finest general, to shift the tide in 134/5 CE. Simon's final stand was at Betar, where he and his remaining followers met their demise in 135 CE. The uprising left Judaea in ruins, likely resulting in Jews becoming a minority in their ancestral lands. Jerusalem was reestablished as Aelia Capitolina, a Roman colony, and the province was renamed Syria Palaestina. To suppress Jewish nationalism, Hadrian also prohibited Torah law and the Jewish calendar.

Although entirely Jewish iconographically, Simon Bar Kokhba's coinage was heavily influenced by the Roman denominations circulating in the province. This was not only driven by economic factors but also because the rebels seemingly did not produce their own flans, instead overstriking their silver coins on confiscated Syrian-Phoenician tetradrachms, drachms from Bostra, and imperial denarii. The present piece is an exceedingly rare Sela or tetradrachm from the first year of the revolt, a key rarity in the entire Jewish series. Interestingly, it was struck from a flawed reverse die, lacking the third letter of the legend, a taw. Mildenberg knew only three specimens of this variety in total, making our wonderfully preserved piece the fourth known example, and quite possibly the finest.
50000 CHF
Starting price:
40000 CHF
Hammer price:
60036 CHF
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