The Jewish War, 66 – 70. Shekel, year 5 (70 AD), AR 13.30 g. 'Shekel of Israel year 5' in Paleo-Hebrew characters, Temple vessel with date above. Rev. 'Jerusalem the Holy' in Paleo-Hebrew characters Stem with three pomegranate fruits. AJC I, 31. Meshorer 215. Sotheby's sale 9 June 1983, 108 (these dies). Superior sale 10 November 1992, Bromberg II, 309 (these dies). Hendin 1370.
Extremely rare. Surface somewhat porous, otherwise good very fine
Ex Leu 91, 2004, 288 and Heritage 3003, 2012, 20221 sales.
This shekel of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome was struck in the disastrous fifth year of the rebellion. Although the Jewish rebels had enjoyed some early successes, by AD 70 the holy city of Jerusalem was under close siege by the Roman forces commanded by Titus and the rebel leadership was falling apart under the pressure. Conflict broke out between the Zealot leader, Eleazar ben Simon, the Galilean leader, John of Giscala, and the Idumaean leader, Simon bar Giora at Passover, when John forcibly took possession of the Temple from Eleazar. John then wanted to make a sortie against the Romans, but ultimately did nothing out of fear that if the led his forces out of the city, Simon would shut the gates behind him. Meanwhile, the city, which was overflowing with pilgrims and the regular population of Jerusalem was suffering from acute hunger and the Romans were constructing ramparts and siege towers in order to storm the last defenses. The Kidron and Hinnom Valleys were filling up with starved corpses and many common people attempted to surrender in order to get a little bread to fill their empty stomachs.
In early July, the Romans seized the Fortress of Antonia overlooking the Temple and by early August the Temple was in Roman hands. The temple was desecrated and destroyed, with many of its priceless holy implements carried off to adorn Titus' triumph in Rome as depicted on the Arch of Titus. The Roman victory was an unmitigated disaster for the Jewish people, which resulted in the deaths of some 1.1 million non-combatants and the enslavement of a further 97,000 according to the historian Josephus. The fall of Jerusalem and the fate of the Temple is still mourned to this day as part of the Jewish observance of Tisha B'Av.
This shekel continues the established types used by the Jewish rebels featuring the Omer Cup used in Temple observances and what is usually described as a stem with three pomegranates. As pomegranates they serve as symbols of the priestly class of Jerusalem, but an older interpretation has been resurrected recently in which the object depicted is understood as the miraculous almond-wood rod of Aaron. According to Biblical accounts, this rod turned into a serpent when Moses demanded the freedom of the enslaved Israelites from Pharaoh and later sprouted and flowered as a sign that the tribe of Levi was to provide priests for the Tabernacle. If this interpretation is correct, then the "pomegranates" are actually flower buds.