Roman Coins and the Last Great Jewish Revolt

Discovery sheds light on little-known revolt

Roman coins. Courtesy Dafna Gazit, IAA

Hoard of Roman coins hidden during the last Jewish revolt. Courtesy Dafna Gazit, IAA.

Excavations in the central Israeli city of Lod offer a glimpse of the third-century CE Gallus Revolt, the last great Jewish revolt against the Romans. In addition to uncovering a large public building, archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) found a hoard of silver and bronze coins, likely stashed under the building’s floor in a moment of desperation.

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The Last Great Jewish Revolt

The excavations in Lod uncovered the remains of a large public building that may have been the home of the famous Sages of Lod. Torn down to its foundations, the building opens a window into the violent end of the Gallus Revolt (c. 351–354 CE), which saw the destruction of many important centers of Jewish life, including Lod, Sepphoris, and Tiberias. Among the finds was an impressive stash of 94 bronze and silver Roman coins, dating between 221 and 354. They had been deliberately hidden below the building’s floor, likely as a way of keeping them safe until the conflict settled down. Unfortunately for the owner, they were never retrieved. Other finds included stone and marble artifacts bearing inscriptions in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

Jewish building

The Jewish public building discovered in Lod. Courtesy Assaf Peretz, IAA.

Lod was an important center for Jewish life and learning after the destruction of the Second Temple (c. 70 CE), with many famous rabbis having lived there, including Eliezer ben Horkanos, Tarfon, Akiva, and Yosi HaGalili. That largely came to an end, however, with the Gallus Revolt, the last of the great Jewish revolts against Roman rule. The revolt was also a response to the increased persecution of Jews by the growing Christian population.

While the Roman emperor Constantius II was occupied by a civil war, a Jewish leader named Isaac of Sepphoris led a group of men to assault the Roman garrison of Sepphoris. From there, he went on to conquer several other towns in the region. In response to the revolt, Constantius sent his cousin Flavius Constantius Gallus to put down the revolt. According to Jerome’s Philostorgius, Gallus slew thousands of rebels, including children who were too young to fight.

According to the IAA’s Joshua Schwartz, an expert on Talmudic-period Lod, “It is difficult to determine if this magnificent building served as synagogue, study hall, meeting hall of the elders, or all three of these functions as one. But what is clear is that the building’s size, the coin hoard, and the assemblage of archaeological finds produced by the excavation, fit well Lod’s description in both Jewish and non-Jewish sources as a center of Torah-true Jewish life in the Mishna and Talmud periods. Lod’s role as a leading community with elders continued from after the destruction through to this moment when it was cruelly cut down in the Gallus Revolt.”

Related reading in Bible History Daily

Lod Mosaic Center Opens in Israel

Coins Celebrating the Great Revolt Against the Romans Unearthed near Jerusalem

All-Access members, read more in the BAS Library

The Lod Mosaic: Jewish, Christian or Pagan?

Jewish Revolts

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