- The Founding of Bethsaida-Julias: Evidence from the Coins of Philip
- Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies
- Purdue University Press
- Volume 13, Number 4, Summer 1995
- p. pp. 40-51
- View Citation
40 SHOFAR Summer 1995 Vol. 13, No.4 THE FOUNDING OF BETHSAIDA-JULIAS: EVIDENCE FROM THE COINS OF PHILIP by Fred Strickert The author is Associate Profesor of Religion at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa and has been involved in the Bethsaida Excavations Project since 1988. September 22 was the day in ancient Rome when the birthday of Livia was celebrated along with that of her husband, the Emperor Augustus.l 1995 marks the 2,053rd anniversary of her birth, the celebration of which has found new meaning after all these years for a number of archaeologists working in Northern Israel at a city named in her honor: BethsaidaJulias.2 Recent study of coins has led to the conclusion that September 22, 30 CE -the celebration of Livia's 87th birthday-is a likely date for the official founding of that city. The coins minted by Philip, son of Herod the Great, have received renewed attention since excavations began at Bethsaida in 1987. Following the death of Herod and the division of his kingdom into three parts, Philip was granted the Golan region while his brothers Antipas and Archelaus inherited Galilee and Judea, resp"ectively. After ten years, Archelaus was deposed and replaced by a series of Roman prefects whose relationships to the longer-ruling Antipas and Philip was often strained, as we shall see. From 4 BCE to 34 CE, Philip ruled over the region northeast of the Sea of Galilee and issued a total of 19 different mints of coins in eight years. 'Tacitus, Annals, 4, 37; Dio 51, 21. vrhe author is part of the Bethsaida E:"cavation Project operated by a consortium of colleges and universities (including Wartburg College and the University of Nebraska at Omaha) under the direction of Dr. Rami Arav. For more detailed information on the coins of Herod Philip see Fred Strickert, "The Coins of Philip," in The Bethsaida Excavations Reports, I (Kirksville, MO: Thomas Jefferson Press, 1995), pp. 123-148. The Founding of Bethsaida-]ulias 41 These tell us much about the political situation of Philip and also about the founding of Bethsaida. The most interesting mint of Philip was in the year 30 CE when he issued four different denominations of coins, each depicting images of important first-century figures:3 1. Emperor Augustus and Livial.fulia 2. Emperor Tiberius 3. Uvial.fulia 4. Philip, son of Herod Philip is significant as the first Jewish ruler to use human images on coins.4 The coins of the Hasmoneans, Herod the Great, Archelaus, Antipas, and even the Roman prefects all avoided human images, presumably in respect to the law of Exodus 20:4.5 Yet beginning in 1 CE6 and continuing in 8, 12, 15, 26, and 29, Philip minted two coins each year depicting the Roman Emperor and sometimes himself. The year 30 eE, however, provided a spectacular change. . The reason for this spectacular mint is made clear by the inscription on a coin bearing the image of the reigning emperor Tiberius: Em IAIIllIOY TETPAPXOY KTIE (= "c1uring [the rule] of Philip, Tetrarch, Figure 1. Coin of Philip-30 CEo . 3ya'akovMeshorer, Ancient]ewish Coinage, II (New York: Amphora Books, 1982), plate 8:6, 11, 12 and plate 19:1. tA. Kindler, "A Coin of Herod Philip-the Earliest Portrait of a Herodian Ruler," Israel Exploration]oumal (1971), p. 162. SoJ"his seems to have been alTected by the "mLxed population" in the territory of Philip. Oosephus,]ewish War 3, 58). 6All dates are CE unless otherwise noted. 42 SHOFAR Summer 1995 Vol. 13, No.4 Founder"). On previous coins, Philip had often written simply ~IAIIrnOY TETPAPXOY (= "of Philip, Tetrarch") or EIII ~IAIIII10Y TETPAPXOY(= "during [the rule] of Philip, Tetrarch"). However, the additional four letters KTIE are unique to this coin. KTIE is an abbreviation for KTIETHE, the Greek word for "founder." The inscription thus notes that the coin was issued "during [the rule] of.Tetrarch Philip-the founder [of cities]." Previous studies assumed that the reference was to the foundation of Caesarea Philippi, founded in 3 BCE, because the reverse shows the tetrastyle temple of Augustus built there by Herod the Great when Caesarea was known as Paneas. Yet it...