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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: CNG 64, Lot: 413. Estimate $200. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 24 September 2003. 
Sold For $240. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

SAMARIA. Circa 375-333 BC. AR Obol (0.59 gm). Persian king seated right, holding flower to nose and sceptre, thymiaterion before; Aramaic "BT" (Bagabatas) around / Persian king slaying a bull, pellet in center. Meshorer & Qedar 6. Good VF. ($200)

Bagabatas is unknown, but must have been a Persian administrator in Samaria. The obverse design is derived from the seated king on staters of Mazaios of Myriandros (cf. SNG France 422).


Samaria was founded as his new capitol by Omri, king of Israel around 900 BC. The "watch mountain" guarded several strategic passes in the north, and soon became the most properous city in the region. The first phase of its existance ended with the Assyrian conquest of 721 BC, when the Israelite population was deported to Babylon, to be replaced by a mixed community of Chaldeans, Syrians and Arabs. When the Israelites returned with the Persians after 539 BC they settled into a diffuse cosmopolitan city, with numerous pagan temples and cults, the most significant being those of Baal and Astarte. Surrounded by these disparate foreign influences, the Samaritans evolved into a distinctive Jewish sect that survives to the present day in small towns at the foot of their sacred mountain, Mt. Gerizim.

The Samaria Hoard and other recent finds in the region have revealed an amazingly complex coinage that was unknown until the last decade. Both Samaria and Judaea produced a fractional coinage in the 4th century BC, reproducing Greek and Persian types with legends naming the province. However, Samaria went well beyond the standard types, using types with Persian kings and deities, animals fantastic and natural, other Semitic types, as well as traces of Greek mythology. The extensive studies by Meshorer and Qedar will be supplemented by further detailed examinations of the unique iconography of the series.

When Meshorer published Jewish Coins of the Second Temple Period in 1967, he knew of only one example of the falcon coinage of Judaea (with lily reverse). In fact, of the six coins listed by him for the Persian period, five were recorded as unique. The Judaea and Samaria region was apparently quite lacking a local coinage. However, by the 1980's several hoards found in the area of Samaria Sebaste and elsewhere in Israel revealed a number of new types of obols and smaller fractions. Numerous examples are now known from the Persian and Hellenistic periods with Hebrew and Aramaic legends naming YHD (province of Judaea) and SMYRN (Samaria), as well as the names of local satraps and other officials. Other issues parallel the fractional Athenian imitations struck at Gaza. The drachms, one unique example long in the British Museum, remain a unique larger denomination for Judaea.