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Research Coins: Printed Auction


The Coinage of Nabataea

Sale: CNG 75, Lot: 532. Estimate $2500. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 23 May 2007. 
Sold For $2600. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

NABATAEA. Malichus I. 60-30 BC. AR Drachm (3.48 g, 12h). Dated RY 26 (35 BC). Diademed head right / Eagle standing left; palm frond to left, date to right. Cf. Meshorer, Nabataea 12 (didrachm); Schmitt-Korte II 11; SNG Copenhagen -. VF, find patina, obverse off center. Extremely rare.

The Nabataean kings had much in common with their neighbors, the Hasmonean and Herodian kings of Judaea. Both monarchies rose to power in the shadow of the withering Seleukid empire, and both grew wealthy from the excises taken from the busy east-west trade routes that ran through their territories. Unlike the Judaean kings, however, the Nabataeans, with their capital at remote Petra, kept a degree of independence from the growing Roman empire for some time.

Aretas II (110-96 BC) struck the first Nabataean coins, bronze pieces copying the types of Alexander the Great's gold staters. Later kings struck both silver and bronze coins in a distinctive local style. It is still unclear whether the Nabataean silver was struck to the standard of a Greek drachm or a Roman denarius. A very recent discovery is the use of lead coins by the Nabataeans, a find that highlights the great gaps in our knowledge of this kingdom on the edge of the Greco-Roman world. Among the Nabataean kings, Aretas IV (9 BC-AD 40) issued the largest volume of coinage, mostly struck as joint issues along with one of his two queens, Huldu and Shaqilat I, who may or may not have been his sisters. The last independent ruler, Rabbel II (AD 70-106), lost his throne to the expansionist policy of Trajan, who apparently caused most of the available supply of Nabataean silver to be re-struck into his "Arabian" drachms, accounting for the relative scarcity of Nabataean silver today.