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The Romans were keen to spread the news of their victory through the equivalent of our 1p coin.
It depicts a mourning woman, representing the country of Judaea, standing by a palm tree, (associated with Judaea), next to which is a heap of weapons topped by a helmet, indicating that arms have been laid down. Running round the top part of the image is the legend ‘IUDAEA CAPTA’, which identifies the mourning woman as Judaea. The coin is an ‘as’, (shortened form of the Latin ‘assarius’), the lowest denomination of Roman coinage.
The coin is an ‘as’, (shortened form of the Latin ‘assarius’), the lowest denomination of Roman coinage.
In a time without mass media, (TV, newspapers, Twitter), coins were an excellent form of propaganda.
Another way of demonstrating the victory, was by building two arches to celebrate Titus’ victory, one of which survives today in Rome.
It was produced by the Roman emperor Vespasian, who ruled from 69-79 CE. Vespasian became emperor in tumultuous times, (in the year 69 CE, following the death of the emperor Nero, there had been four emperors, of which Vespasian was the fourth and final one), and was the first emperor of a new dynasty, the Flavians.
Before he became emperor, he had been fighting a campaign against the Jews in the province of Judaea, who had revolted against the Romans. He had left the campaign, eventually to become emperor, and it was his son Titus, who defeated the Jews, sacking the city of Jerusalem.
In a time without mass media, (TV, newspapers, Twitter), coins were an excellent form of propaganda, projected both in the images used and the so-called legend, (the writing on the coin). Another way the Flavians demonstrated their victory over the Jews was by building two arches to celebrate Titus’ victory, one of which survives today in Rome and is known as the ‘Arch of Titus.’
Are there links to current religious practices or a modern equivalent?
The sacking of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 CE by the Romans was marked, (and continues to be observed), as a terrible day of mourning in the Jewish religious calendar, and a famous Jewish prayer, the so-called Amidah, prays for the restoration of Jerusalem as a Jewish city.
It is significant for the study of religion in a number of ways: it is a witness to a Jewish defeat, which was to leave a significant mark on Jewish religious consciousness, raising questions about why God had allowed the Jews to be defeated in such a way and subsequently to speculation about when he would restore Jerusalem. It is also important for Christianity: while no Christian writer refers to this type of coin directly, the defeat of the Jews by Vespasian and Titus was to play a vital part in Christianity’s evolving negative image of Judaism. In an attempt to show that it was the Christians, and not the Jews, who were God’s people, reference to the defeat of the Jews in 70 CE, immortalised in the coin, was regularly referred to as evidence that the Jews had ceased to be God’s people.
There are links with ancient texts. The Jewish historian, Josephus, who fought in the Jewish revolt, gives us an account of the Jewish war, in his history, The Jewish War. His account of the fall of Jerusalem in book 7 was much used, especially by Christians. Some people think that there are references to the fall of Jerusalem in the New Testament: in the Gospels, upon seeing the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus prophesies that not one stone will stand upon another and goes on to predict events, which some think refer to the Jewish revolt against Rome, (see Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21). Because Jesus lived before the Jewish revolt against Rome, some scholars suspect that this section of the Gospels is a prophecy after the event i. e. words attributed to Jesus, that were in fact written after the events they describe.
Stories of Money, The Citi Gallery, Room 68
The Jewish Revolt against Rome
E. Mary Smallwood
2nd ed., 1981, SBL Press