Judaea Capta Coin Uncovered in Bethsaida Excavations

Judaea Capta coin issued by Agrippa II found at Bethsaida

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2014. It has been updated.—Ed.


A bronze Judaea Capta coin issued by Jewish ruler Agrippa II was discovered in the 2014 Bethsaida excavations. The coin features Roman Emperor Domitian. Photo: Hanan Shafir, courtesy of the Bethsaida Excavations.

The 2014 Bethsaida excavations in Israel uncovered a rare Judaea Capta coin. In an email to Bible History Daily, University of Nebraska Omaha professor and excavation director Rami Arav revealed that the coin was issued by Herod’s great-grandson Agrippa II. Minted in 85 C.E. at Caesarea Maritima, the bronze coin depicts Roman Emperor Domitian on the obverse (front face of the coin) and a palm tree on the reverse (back face).*
Judaea Capta (“Judea captured”) coins were first struck under Roman Emperor Vespasian to celebrate the Romans’ suppression of the Jewish revolt (66–70 C.E.). The revolt was effectively quashed with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., though thereafter the Roman army continued to stamp out the last of the rebels at such hideouts as Herod’s desert fortress at Masada.

Judaea Capta coin struck by Roman Emperor Vespasian. Photo: Casden Collection.

Minted in gold, silver and bronze, the Roman imperial Judaea Capta coins often feature on the reverse a palm tree, under which sits a female in mourning—symbols of the conquered Judea. Other varieties of the Judaea Capta series depict a male captive with his hands tied behind his back, the goddess Victory and Roman symbols of war. The legend reads IUDAEA CAPTA or IUDAEA DEVICTA (“Judea defeated”). The obverse of Judaea Capta coins feature a profile of the Roman emperor, most often Vespasian. Judaea Capta coins were minted for 25 years by Vespasian and his sons and successors Titus and Domitian.

Herod’s desert fortress on the mountaintop of Masada was made famous as the site of the last stand between the besieged Jewish rebels and the relentlessly advancing Romans at the conclusion of the First Jewish Revolt. In the free ebook Masada: The Dead Sea’s Desert Fortress, discover what archaeology reveals about the Jewish defenders’ identity, fortifications and arms before their ultimate sacrifice.

Agrippa II, whose reign spanned the latter half of the first century C.E., was the last ruler of the Herodian dynasty. Having enjoyed the favor of the Romans, he issued provincial Judaea Capta coins that feature some of the same motifs as the Roman imperial series. The Judaea Capta coin from the 2014 Bethsaida excavations is a part of this unique series minted by the Jewish ruler.
Bethsaida was a small village on the northern shore of Galilee. It was at Bethsaida that Jesus, according to the New Testament, healed the blind man (Mark 8:22–25) and fed the multitude (Luke 9:12–17). Founded in the 10th century B.C.E., Bethsaida was located in the Biblical kingdom of Geshur. Excavations led by Rami Arav at Bethsaida have thus far uncovered the remains of an Iron Age city gate complex as well as the Hellenistic-Roman city.
The recently discovered Judaea Capta coin “connects Bethsaida with the great importance that the Roman Empire placed on the quelling of the revolt in Judea and Galilee,” said excavation codirector Carl Savage in a University of Nebraska Omaha press release.
* Special thanks to Dr. Rami Arav for providing this information to Bible History Daily.

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on July 30, 2014.


Learn more about Bethsaida in Bible History Daily:

Bethsaida Excavations Reveal Path of the Apostles
Life as an Archaeology Volunteer at Bethsaida, Israel
Bethsaida Excavations Reveal Possible Royal Escape Tunnel


Learn more about ancient coins in Bible History Daily:

Roman Emperor Nerva’s Reform of the Jewish Tax by Nathan T. Elkins
Gold Nero Coin Comes to Light in Jerusalem
Rare Roman Gold Coin Minted by Trajan Found
How Ancient Jews Dated Years
Coins Celebrating the Great Revolt Against the Romans Unearthed near Jerusalem
Ancient Coins and Looting


4 Responses

  1. Peter Gleave, Manchester, England says:

    I would like to ask you a question as follows regarding the dating of the Book of Revelation. You make the statement that it was written around AD 81 to AD96. Why do you do this? Now the problem I have with you is that you present this to your readers as a fact, when in reality it is highly speculative. There is substantial evidence that it was written before AD70 and also less evidence that it was written after AD70. In my opinion the latter date is much more speculative. It is a lengthy subject to write about in this comment, so I will make just one point. If it was written after AD70 then why does John never mention or even allude to the most horrendous war the Jews were ever engaged in. Jerusalem was raised to the ground and not a stone was left upon a stone. Matthew 24:2. Over one million Jews were slaughtered and God’s chosen people were almost wiped out. Jesus’s beloved City and God’s Temple were completely and utterly destroyed. It was without doubt the most catastrophic event ever to be inflicted on the Jews. Therefore, I ask you why then did John not even mention this event, which Jesus stated in His prophecy that it would occur at the end of the age? Matthew 24:3. The answer I believe is a very simple one that it was written before AD70 and John was completely unaware.

  2. gustavob3 says:

    Nick: the notations C E and B C E are the academic style for chronology. They are not anti Christians. And isn’t a war, is scholarly…

  3. Nick T. Cinelli says:

    Why do you and your writers etc., use the non Jesus believing C.E. and B.C.E.?
    Instead of the original AD, Anno Domini and BC, Before Christ?
    Are you not “buying in” to the secular notation to remove all evidence of God & Jesus?
    I’m sure non-believers must shout a victory every time some Christian, Jewish or God loving
    people use the non Christ script. Or are you/they think that you are just being politically correct, not wanting to offend non-believers? Just asking. I’ve asked before. Maybe no one cares!

  4. James says:

    Amazing discoveries about the ancient coin.

    Here are some history documentaries.

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