Antony + Cleopatra Coin from Bethsaida!

Interesting item from Ha’aretz, although it is behind a paywall. Here are some excerpts:

[…]

A few thousand years is a mere blink of an eye when it comes to the vital ties between this land and Egypt, as attested by a rare coin carrying historical weight far greater than its 7.59 grams, which depicts the notorious lovers – and which emerged last year from the ruins of a first-century house at Tel Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee.

Tel Bethsaida rises from the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee, but the coin was minted in another city by another sea – the Mediterranean port of Akko – today better known as Acre. The coin, made of bronze, is about the size of a quarter, being 21–23 millimeters in diameter (it is not perfectly round, at least not any more). Its date shows that it was minted in the last half of the year 35 or the first half of 34 BCE.

Mark Antony, the most powerful man in the world at the time, is on one side of the coin and Cleopatra graces the other. On her side are the Greek words “of the people of Ptolemais.”

Ptolemais is the Greek name for ancient Akko, which was founded in the 3rd century BCE and named after Ptolemy II Philadelphus. The name appears in the New Testament (Acts 21:7) as the home of an early Christian community that Paul the apostle visited: “And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day.”

The coin was minted some two and a half centuries after the city was founded, a time when both Mark Antony and his bitter rival Octavian were in their prime and no one knew who would prevail, Arav says.

Why depict them? The cities of the ancient Middle East had a habit of minting coins bearing the portraits of whoever was in power, says Dr. Donald T. Ariel, head of the Israel Antiquities Authority Coin Department.

And Marc Antony was most definitely powerful in the year stamped on the coin. Prof. Rami Arav, director of the Bethsaida Excavations Project, suggests that the minting of the coin may have had to do with Marc Antony’s victory over the Parthians, rulers of a land in what is now northeastern Iran and Armenia, in 35 BCE. He then granted Armenia to Cleopatra’s sons and gave Cyprus to her daughter Selene.

Cleopatra also appears on coins from the same period, found in cities further north up the Lebanese coast, that were among gifts Marc Antony gave his consort.

That same year Marc Antony, still deeply involved with Cleopatra, moved the capital of the empire from Rome to Alexandria, Egypt.

[…]

via: The ancient coin of Cleopatra: There could have been pyramids in Paris (Ha’aretz)

… Rami Arav is then pressed to speculate what might have happened if Tony and Cleo were victorious at Actium. There is no photo of the coin (which was found last year, by the way), alas, but presumably it was like this one from the VRoma site:

via VRoma

That said, I’m not sure if anyone would call Antony’s actions in Parthia a “victory” in anything but a ‘Parthian’ sense; he lost a major portion of his troops — Napoleon-like — to the cold and had to do some serious bribing of those that remained … it’s actually more interesting how little of substance there is about this campaign on the www. One can, of course, read Dio 49.22-33 on it and get a sense of the ‘failure’ (although Dio’s description of the testudo in action here is incredibly interesting)

Votive Relief of Zeus from Near Starosel

This one’s interesting primarily because of the ‘omen’ involved in the different coverage and how it is dealt with by the journalists. First, here’s the coverage from Focus-Fen:

Archaeological team of Dr Ivan Hristov discovered a big votive relief of the ancient Father of Gods and men Zeus close to the archaeological excavations of Bulgaria’s National Museum of History at the Kozi Gramadi peak in Severna Gora, close to the village of Starosel.
Director of the National Museum of History, Dr Bozhidar Dimitrov, announced the news for FOCUS News Agency.
“It is bigger than the votive slabs found so far and probably it is the central icon of the ancient temple,” Dimitrov said.
A strange event took archaeologists by surprise while the votive relief was taken out. A big imperial eagle started flying over them.
In antiquity Zeus was often portrayed as an imperial eagle and the younger women archaeologists started commenting that Zeus had come to see what they were doing in his temple.
The Kozi Gramadi stronghold, built in VI-V century before Christ, was a capital of a Thracian tribe, which used to live in this part of Bulgaria during the antiquity. The popular tombs close to Starosel are in fact the necropolis of the Thracian aristocrats living in the city.

Here’s the same site, with the same coverage (and sadly, the same, uniformative photo) via Novinite/Sofia News Agency:

A team of Bulgarian archeologists led by Dr. Ivan Hristov has discovered an unusually large votive relief of the ancient Greek God Zeus near the Bulgarian village of Starosel.

The news was announced by the National History Museum for the Bulgarian News Agency Focus.

The archeological team uncovered the votive relief which was much bigger than the ordinary ones and thus it was allegedly the center part of an ancient temple.

A large rock eagle appeared flying round when the archeological team was about to uncover the artifact. As the ancient Greek god Zeus was commonly featured as a rock eagle, some of the archeologists jokingly concluded that god Zeus should have come to look over his sanctuary.

The votive relief was uncovered while the archeologists were excavating the Kozi Gramadi mount in the Sredna Gora mountain, in the village of Starosel, close to the resort town of Hissar in central Bulgaria.

The fortress, located on the Kozi Gramadi mount , was built VI-V century BC and it used to be the capital of ancient Thracian tribe living in central Bulgaria.

The archaeologists believe that the region was the power center of Ancient Thrace in the 4th century BC. It was destroyed during the rise of the Macedonian state of Philip II in 342-341 BC.

… it’s interesting the different tone one gets comparing the use of “commented” to “jokingly concluded”. Not sure if that’s just an aspect of translation or sensation (c. e.g., all the claims this past weekend about a ‘True Cross’ find presented with incredible credulity by quite a few outlets …). That said, it would have been nice to have a photo of the relief itself …