Herod Agrippa left a son of the same name, Herod Agrippa (II), as well as three daughters: Berenice, who was married three times, among them to her uncle Herod of Chalcis, and who later became the mistress of the Roman emperor Titus; Mariamne, who married Julius Archelaus and then Alexander Demetrios; and Drusilla, the later wife of the procurator of Judea, Marcus Antonius Felix. As Herod Agrippa was still too young to assume the succession on the death of his father in 44 CE, the empire was made a Roman province and placed under the control of Roman procurators.
The Coinage of Herod Agrippa I
In the choice of imagery for his coins, Agrippa I looked to the prototype of Roman coinage, employed well-known Hellenistic symbols, and only adhered to the prohibition on images when it appeared politically necessary. His coinage combined old images with new, and he masterfully balanced demonstrative proximity to Rome with native traditions.
Agrippa was closely allied with the Roman imperial house, particularly with Caligula. Many of his coins copy models from the city of Rome without much chronological delay: only their legends indicate the differing issuers. Coin No.1B can thus scarcely be differentiated from the Roman dupondius (No.10A). While the legend of the Roman dupondius recalls Caligula’s prematurely deceased father Germanicus, the inscription on the Agrippan piece emphasizes him as the issuer of the coin: ΝΟΜΙΣΜΑ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΓΡΙΠΠΑ (“coin of the King Agrippa”).
In order to emphasize his close ties to the Roman emperor, Agrippa labelled himself in many coin legends as ΦΙΛΟΚΑΙΣΑΡ (“friend of the emperor”). The connection between Agrippa and Rome is also demonstrated through a depiction together with Claudius at a sacrifice (No.2B). The same was true for coins of Agrippa’s brother Herod (No.7A and No.8A), who had been named King of Chalcis by Claudius and who likewise showed himself on coins as a “friend of the emperor”.
Agrippa not only employed Roman numismatic iconography to emphasize his closeness to the imperial family, he also sought to present his own family members similarly, as a coin type from the early period of his reign documents. The coin No.3B shows Agrippa’s son, Herod Agrippa II, on horseback. In the portrayal of the rider, this motif closely follows a prototype from the city of Rome (No.9A), on which the sons of Germanicus are presented to the Roman public as young princes. The idea of succession was also unquestionably decisive in Agrippa’s modified appropriation of this coin type. Coin No.4A shows the portrait of his son Agrippa I with an anchor, the Seleucid symbol of rule: Agrippa used both current and traditional pictorial codes with great skill to present his son to the public as the sole legitimate heir.
The only coin type that he had minted in Jerusalem is characteristic of Agrippa’s canny approach (No.5B): in consideration of the minting location, the Jewish prohibition on images was respected. In their place, the king’s name is written around a baldachin, symbolic of regality. The reverse shows three grain spikes, emblems of the fertility of the land. This stands in clear opposition to Agrippa’s depiction on coins from the pagan city Caesarea Maritima (No.6B). The draped bust of Agrippa I with a diadem and the legend ΒΑCΙΛΕΥC ΜEΓΑC ΑΓΡΙΠΠΑC ΦΙΛΟΚΑΙ[CΑΡ] (“the great king Agrippa, friend of the Emperor”) appears on the obverse of these coins. On the reverse, the legend ΚΑΙCΑΡΙΑ Η ΠΡΟC ΤΩ CΕΒΑCΤΩ ΛΙΜΗΝ[Ι] (“Caesarea with its nearby harbour Sebastos”) surrounds a standing female figure – the personification of the city and its harbour Sebastos.
A. Burnett, The Coinage of King Agrippa I of Judaea and a New Coin of King Herod of Chalcis, in: H. Huvelin ‒ M. Christol ‒ G. Gautier (Eds.), Mélange de numismatique, Wetteren 1987, 25‒38
N. Kokkinos (Ed.), The World of the Herods (Oriens et Occidens 14), Stuttgart 2007
Y. Meshorer, A Treasury of Jewish Coins. From the Persian Period to Bar Kokhba, Jerusalem 2001
Y. Meshorer et al., Coins of the Holy Land. The Abraham and Marian Sofaer Collection at the American Numismatic Society and the Israel Museum, New York 2013, 2 vols.