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Research Coins: Printed Auction


The “Great King” Agrippa I
Proclaimed by Claudian Edict

CNG 94, Lot: 917. Estimate $10000.
Sold for $6000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

JUDAEA, Herodians. Agrippa I, with Herod of Chalcis and Claudius. 37-43 CE. Æ (24mm, 14.84 g, 12h). Caesarea Maritima mint. Dated RY 8 of Agrippa I (43 CE). [BAΣ AΓPIΠΠAΣ ΣEB KAIΣAP BAΣ HPΩΔHΣ] (King Agrippa, Augustus Caesar, King Herod), Claudius, togate, standing left, sacrificing from patera over altar, between Agrippa I and Herod of Chalcis, each crowning the emperor with a wreath; [L H (date) in exergue] / [OPKIA BAΣ M]EΓ AΓP[IΠ]ΠA [ΠΡ ΣEΒ KAIΣAP AK ΣYNKΛHTON K ΔHMO POM ΦIΛI K ΣYNMAXI] AYTOY (A vow and treaty of friendship and alliance between the Great King Agrippa and Augustus Caesar, the Senate and the People of Rome) in two concentric circles divided by wreath; clasped right hands in center; c/m: crude male head left and spear(?) within large oval incuse. Burnett, Coinage 8 var. (ME not MEΓ); Hendin 1248 var. (same); Meshorer 124a var. (same); RPC 4982 var. (same). Fair, brown patina. Extremely rare, the eighth known, and of great historical importance.

Agrippa I had a close relationship with both Gaius (Caligula) and Claudius, in part helping to secure the rule of the latter in the uncertain days following his unexpected rise to the purple by counseling the understandably shaken Claudius and entreating the Senate to support him. Indeed, his relationship with Claudius was so close that Josephus (Ant. xix. 5.1) records that among the new emperor’s first acts was publishing an edict guaranteeing Agrippa’s kingdom (with the title “Great King”) and granting the territory of Chalcis to Agrippa’s elder brother Herod.

This remarkable and excessively rare issue not only explicitly refers to the alliance on the reverse, even using Agrippa’s new title “Great King”, but depicts the oath taking ceremony that occurred in the Roman Forum and is discussed in historical sources:

He also made a league with this Agrippa, confirmed by oaths, in the middle of the Forum in the city of Rome. (Josephus, Ant. xix.5.1)

He struck his treaties with foreign princes in the Forum, sacrificing a pig and reciting the ancient formula of the fetial priests. (Suetonius, Claud. 25.5)

This issue is typically found in poor condition with much of the legends illegible. The legends given here are taken from Burnett’s study, reconstructed from the seven previously known specimens, although there are slight variants among them. For the extremely rare counterpart issue of Herod of Chalcis with a similar obverse, albeit with the position of the brothers switched, see Meshorer 361.