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(4/2019) Rare Gold coin Byzantine coin found in the Galilee

street in sepphoris

“Cardo Maximus” of ancient Sepphoris, with clear wheel marks from centuries of us. (C) Danny Herman

Located in the center of the lower Galilee, Sepphoris was founded in Hellenistic times, and was heavily expanded in the first century CE.

Joseph, the (step) father of Jesus, may have been employed in the construction of the city.

In the late third century CE Sepphoris was also the seat of the Jewish Rabbinical court (the “Sanhedrin”), as well where the important book of Jewish Law (the “Mishnah”) was codified.

theodosius II solidus galilee

A rare Byzantine Gold coins (“Solidus”) of Theodosius II found in the Galilee. Photo: Nir Distelfeld, Israel Antiguities Authority

But in the Byzantine period, both the Sanhedrin was moved to Tiberias, and eventually outlawed, and the Pagan temples of Sepphoris, like in all the Roman Empire, were abolished, and eventually replaced with Christian churches. Both were the result of the policy of Theodosius II (401-450),

theodosius ii rev

Reverse of the Gold Coin (“Solidus”) of Theodosius II found in the Galilee. The image of Nike holding a big cross reflects well the transitional stage of the the religion Roman Empire from Paganism to Christianity.
Photo by Nir Distelfeld, Israel Antiquities Authority.

Recently four Israeli pupils in 9th grade found by chance a gold coin near Sepphoris, a central city in the lower Galilee in Roman and Byzantine times. My friend, Dr. Gabriela Bijovsky, a Byzantine coins expert from the Israel Antiquities Authority, studied the coin and concluded it was minted in Constantinople (now days Istanbul) around the year 420-423 CE, and that this is the first of its type to be found in Israel.

Finding such a coin near a site that was especially effected by Theodosius II is especially interesting. Perhaps it was part of the wealth of the Sanhedrin confiscated by the Roman while executing Theodosius’ new orders?