Judaea. Hasmoneans. Mattathias Antigonos (Mattatayah) Æ Prutah. Circa 40-37 BC. ""Mattatayah the Priest"" in Paleo-Hebrew script around showbread table / BAΣIΛEΩΣ ANT, seven-branched menorah. TJC 41; Sofaer 446; AJC I Group Z; Samuels 46; Hendin 1168.
Very Rare; the only ancient Jewish coin type depicting the menorah.
This coin represents what it probably the most important type in Jewish numismatics. Struck towards the end of his doomed conflict with Herod, this type was issued by Mattathias Antigonos whilst besieged in Jerusalem.
During the Second Temple period, depictions of these most sacred of artefacts were prohibited, thus their appearance on this coinage was both unprecedented and extremely significant. A member of the Hasmonean dynasty and High Priest, Mattathias must have intended this coinage to serve an inspirational function. The showbread table and menorah are direct references to the temple itself, and are probably intended to instill in the populace a fear that these holy objects might fall into the hands of the besieging army. This army, though nominally commanded by Herod who was himself a Jew, was largely a Roman force sent by Marc Antony, and led by Gaius Sosius. That the showbread table and the menorah could fall into Roman hands would have been unthinkable, and indeed during the assault of the city the defenders fought bitterly until they were driven back into the Temple's inner court and overrun by Roman troops. Only by bribing Sosius and his officers was Herod able to spare the temple from being sacked.
That such important types should be struck on flans far smaller than the dies is perhaps disappointing, but not at all surprising given the siege conditions of its issue and the lack of provisions and material within the city. As a depiction of the menorah though, this type is of the greatest importance and interest. Its form here is identical to its appearance on the Arch of Titus in Rome as it was carried in triumphal procession following the sack of Jerusalem in AD 70."
Condition Very Good 2.4 gr. 24 mm.