Archaeologists Find Rare Zodiac Coin in Israel

According to archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority, this bronze drachm was struck at the mint of Alexandria in Egypt by the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161 CE).

The 1,850-year-old zodiac drachm, reverse. Image credit: Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority.

The 1,850-year-old zodiac drachm, reverse. Image credit: Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority.

The 1,850-year-old bronze drachm was found by Israel Antiquities Authority numismatics expert Lior Sandberg on the seabed near Israel’s Carmel coast.

“This is the first time such a coin has been discovered off Israel’s coast, and it is a rare addition to the National Treasures collection,” said Dr. Jacob Sharvit, director of the Maritime Archaeology Unit at the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“Israel’s Mediterranean shores and waters have yielded many archaeological sites and finds that attest to connections in antiquity between Mediterranean ports and the countries along it.”

“These finds, which were lost at sea and disappeared from sight for hundreds and thousands of years, have been remarkably well preserved.”

“Some are extremely rare and their discovery completes parts of the historical puzzle of the country’s past.”

The coin bears the date ‘Year Eight’, the eighth year of Antoninus Pius’ rule (144/145 CE).

Its reverse depicts the Roman moon goddess Luna and the zodiac sign of Cancer.

“In ancient Roman mythology, Luna is the deity representing the moon and she is best known for wearing a crescent as a crown and riding her chariot as she casts the darkness of the night,” the archaeologists said.

“She is the female counterpart of her brother Sol, the personification of the Sun.”

The 1,850-year-old zodiac drachm, obverse. Image credit: Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority.

The 1,850-year-old zodiac drachm, obverse. Image credit: Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority.

The coin belongs to a series of thirteen Roman coins, twelve depicting the different signs of the zodiac and another the complete zodiac wheel.

“Interestingly, the ruler who minted the coin, Antoninus Pius, was a Roman emperor who ruled between 138 and 161 CE,” the researchers said.

“Unlike his predecessors, he was not a military man and never participated in battle.”

“His reign was the quietest during the whole of the Roman Empire and marked the height of the period of ‘Roman peace’ (Pax Romana) throughout the empire.”

“Antoninus had a different approach to running the Roman Empire, preferring to deal with any foreign crises through provincial governors. In fact, he never left Rome himself.”

“He encouraged and initiated the construction of temples, theaters, and magnificent mausoleums and promoted science and philosophy.”

“During his rule, the empire’s relations with the Jews were greatly improved, the decrees of Hadrian were revoked, and Jews were allowed to practice circumcision.”

“These steps led to amicable relations between the emperor and Rabbi Yehuda ha-Nasi.”

Source: sci-news.com

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