Coin of Herod Agrippa II depicting the head of Domitian and Nikē-Victoria (74-75 CE)


Bronze denomination

74 CE to 75 CE



Caesarea Philippi

Name of Ruler: 

Herod Agrippa II

Obverse (Image and Inscription): 

Image: Bust of Domitian
Inscription: ΔΟΜΙΤΙΑ ΚΑΙCΑΡ (Domitian Caesar)

Reverse (Image and Inscription): 

Image: Nikē inscribing a shield
Inscription: L IΔ - BA / AΓ - ΡΙΠO (year 14, king Agrippa)

Diameter (mm): 
Weight (g): 

Meshorer, Ancient Jewish Coinage 2, no. 11, p. 251 (equivalent of RPC II/1, no. 2250, p. 311, however the authors date the coin from 73/74 CE).

This bronze coin, minted at Caesarea-Philippi by Agrippa II in 74-75 CE, depicts on the obverse the head of Domitian, and on the reverse Nikē-Victoria. The inscriptions are in Greek. On the obverse, the inscription refers to Domitian, the younger heir to the throne, as Domitian Caesar. The inscription on the reverse records the year in which the coin was minted, in the fourteenth year of King Agrippa.
Agrippa II, the son of Agrippa I, was born in 27/28 CE. In 48 CE, Claudius appointed the young Agrippa King of Chalcis. In 53 CE, Agrippa was made king over the territories previously governed by Philip and Lysanias, although he had to give back Chalcis. In 56 CE, Nero bestowed on king Agrippa II part of Galilee, which included the cities of Tiberias and Tarichaeae, as well as part of Perea, which included the city of Livias (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities XX.158-159). From the beginning of the Jewish revolt, Agrippa II sided with Rome. At first, while in Jerusalem, he tried to quell the populace without success (Josephus, War II.342-404). Back in his kingdom, although part of his subjects joined the rebellion, he was able to present Vespasian with an auxiliary force of 2000 soldiers, when the latter arrived at Ptolemais. Agrippa II followed Titus to Rome, when the latter was sent by his father to pay homage to Galba. While Titus, once he learned of the murder, decided to come back, Agrippa II carried on with his voyage to Rome (Josephus, War IV.498-500). Yet, once he learned that Vespasian had been proclaimed emperor, he left Rome to join the new ruler on the battlefield in Judea (Tacitus, Histories II.81). There, he served in the general staff of Titus, and took part in the siege of Jerusalem. Together with his sister Berenice, he then followed Titus to Rome. In the aftermath of the war, Vespasian expanded his territories, and in 75 CE, he was appointed praetor (Cassius Dio, Roman History LXVI.15). This issue, thus, was minted in the same year in which the king had been appointed praetor in Rome. 
This issue is in fact the smallest of three different denominations. Thus, while the obverse of the biggest denomination depicts Vespasian, then emperor in Rome, the middle denomination depicts Titus, and this denomination, the smallest one, depicts Domitian, the other heir to the throne. Yet, while this denomination, as well as the middle one, depict Nikē-Victoria, the biggest depicts the Tychē of Caesarea-Philippi. On the middle denomination, the goddess of victory is depicted as advancing, while holding a wreath in her left hand, and a palm branch in her right hand, whereas on the denomination presented here, Nikē-Victoria is depicted dressed in a tunic, and draped in a cloak, while writing on a shield. This later iconography of Nikē-Victoria may recall the representation of Victoria on some contemporary series of Iudea Capta, minted in Rome (see RIC II/12, Vespasian, no. 68-69, p. 65 with the legend IUDAEA DEVICTA; for another example of the type with the legend VICTORIA AUGUSTI, see RIC II/12, Vespasian, no. 433, p. 88). Yet, Ya‘akov Meshorer rightly argues that although the depiction of Nikē-Victoria stemmed in the repertoire of the Iudea Capta series, the Jewish king Agrippa II had no intention to celebrate the defeat of his own people in the recent war. In fact, if the Jewish king had wished to celebrate the bitter victory, he would have depicted the mourning Jewess (see Meshorer, Ancient Jewish Coinage 2, no. 11, p. 77-78). Thus, Agrippa II decided to celebrate the idea of victory in a more general way. Indeed, the Flavians defeated their opponent Vitellius in a civil war, and they had other rebellions to quell, such as the Batavian rebellion, headed by Gaius Iulius Civilis. Contrary to Vespasian in Rome, Agrippa II, as client king, had no qualms about celebrating the victory of the new dynast in a civil war. Besides, the coin is associated with Domitian, who did not take part in the Jewish War, although he took part in the successive triumph (Josephus, War VII.119-162). This issue perfectly mirrors the dilemma of a client king, torn between his oath of allegiance to his Roman overlord, and the loyalty to his own people.

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