Zuz, Bar Kokhba revolt

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134–135 CE
Hood Museum of Art: Gift of Joseph De Gregorio; 2011.69.26

Obverse: Bunch of grapes, hanging from a branch, attached to a 5-lobed leaf on the left and an open tendril on the right.

Legend: שמעון (Simon) counterclockwise from ten o’clock. Border of dots.

Reverse: Oenichoe (jug), handle facing left, standing upright, with palm branch to the right.

Legend: (נה) ב לח(י)ר(ות) ישארל (Year Bet of the freedom of Israel Second Year of the freedom of Israel) counterclockwise from five o’clock.


Although mirroring the iconography of the First Jewish Revolt coinage, Simon bar Kokhba’s overstruck and low-quality coin inevitably betrays the economic, social, and military vulnerabilities of his current position in the third Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire 132–136. The Jewish commander’s attempts to preserve Jewish identity and promote cultural renewal through religious allusions are undermined by the coinage’s regression from the proclamation of a goal in the first issue (“Year Two of the Freedom of Israel”) to the later proclamation of a cause by adding the dative (“For the Freedom of Jerusalem”). Thus, the coin reveals narrowing expectations for the best Jewish outcome of the war.

This text was prepared by Suiwen Liang, Class of 2013

The coin embodies components and ideas integral to ancient scriptures and rituals: for example, the one-handled oinochoe symbolizes the vessel with which Jews performed libations during the festival of Sukkot. The religious iconography (grapes, seven-branched palm tree, etc) and the inscriptions, both the content and language of which have specific meanings, all work in conjunction to create a picture of the attempted unification of the Jewish peoples through a shared identity, as supported by Simon bar Kokhba, the leader of the Jewish rebellion. By minting a coin separate from Roman denominations and thus asserting a form of independence, Simon meant to elicit a sense of shared identity between his followers and the ancient Israelites.

This text was prepared by Ranya Brooks, Class of 2013

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