A Lead Weight of Hadrian: The Prototype for the Bar Kokhba Weights
by Robert Deutsch

The monumental numismatic work, The Coinage of the Bar Kokhba War, written by my teacher, the late Dr. Leo Mildenberg, is to date the most important and complete corpus on the subject.1 I am therefore pleased to offer this modest contribution regarding the metrology of the Bar Kokhba weight standards.2

A-C: Lead weight of Hadrian (98.8g; size 1:1)

The weight under discussion (A-C)3 lacks an exact provenance but it was probably found in Judea. The present owner purchased it in Jerusalem from a licensed antiquities dealer. The weight is made of lead and is covered with a thick layer of corrosion, which unequivocally proves its authenticity. Cast in a mould, the weight is rectangular with a small handle and its cross section is trapezoidal. Its total length measures 64.6mm and its width 37.0mm. It has an uneven thickness that varies from 7.3 to 5.1mm and weighs 98.8g. Its edges are marked with lines and both faces have a rectangular frame. On the reverse side are four large dots, one in each corner. In the middle of the weight, on both faces, is a rosette surrounded by a Greek inscription. The average height of the letters is 7mm, with the largest letter, iota, 11mm and the smallest letter, delta, 5mm.

The inscription on the face reads: 'the 14th year of Trai(anus) Hadria(nus)/Agora(nomos/nomountos) Theodo(ros) (?).'

'Traj(anus) Hadria(nus)' is the name of the Roman emperor (A.D. 117-138) who was the emperor Trajan's nephew and successor. For lack of space, the inscription is marked in abbreviated form, a very common feature on coins and weights of the Roman period.

'14th year.' The emperor Hadrian's 14th year corresponds to A.D. 129/130. The mention of a Roman emperor and his date according to his regnal years is a very rare occurrence on Palestinian weights. The weights were normally issued by cities for their own use and the majority of the cities in Palaestina had their own eras by which they dated their weights. A.D. 129/130 was the year in which Hadrian visited Judaea, but it is difficult to prove a direct connection between that visit and the date on the weight. However, such a connection is not entirely unlikely (see below).

'Agora(nomos)' or 'Agora(nomountos),' i.e. 'the agoranom' or 'during the time of office of the agoranom' is the title given to the official in charge of the marketplace and the weight standards. In ancient Greek cities, the agora was an open space that served as a meeting place and was used for various civic and commercial activities. It was located either in the middle of the city or near the harbour and was usually surrounded by public buildings and temples.

'Theodo(ros),' or perhaps Theodotos, is the name of the official in charge of the agora. The text on the weight here follows a formula found on other weights of the Roman period, i.e. it includes: a) the ruler's name, b) the date according to his term of office, c) the name of the official in charge of the agora, and d) the official's title 'Agoranomos'.4 The date on our weight is A.D. 129/130; its provenance, however, is enigmatic.

Typology and Iconography

D, E: Lead weight from Hurvat 'Alim (803.6g; Max. height: 11cm)

F, G: Lead weight; Kadman Numismatic Museum (c. 400g; 75% of actual size)

A comparison of this weight with the three Bar Kokhba weights recorded to date5 (D-E, F-I) reveals very close typological as well as iconographic similarities. All four objects have identical rectangular shapes with a small handle and a trapezoidal cross section. The edges are marked with lines and both faces have rectangular frames. On the reverse four large dots are placed in the corners. In the middle, on both sides, is depicted a rosette surrounded by an inscription.6 The date on the weight (A.D. 129/130) indicates that it was issued about three years prior to the outbreak of the Bar Kokhba War. It is obvious, therefore, that this weight, or similar ones, served as the prototype for those of Bar Kokhba.

The Provenance

The inscription on the weight dos not mention the name of the city in which it was issued or used. Unfortunately, the weight has no exact provenance, and there is no indication by which it could be attributed to a specific city. The inscription is in Greek and not in Latin, indicating that it belonged to a Greek city rather than to a Roman colony. Furthermore, the name of the Agoranomos is also Greek. In the time of Hadrian there seem to have been only three cities in Judaea that did not have their own era: Caesarea, Sepphoris and Jaffa. Caesarea was a colonia and Sepphoris was probably too remote from the territory affected by the revolt. Jaffa is the nearest and an obvious candidate. In addition, the recently published palaeo-Hebrew weight of Bar Kokhba7 is very similar in form to the Jaffa weight moulds from the time of Trajan found in excavations in Jaffa (dated by Trajan's regnal year to year 9 = A.D. 105/106).8 I therefore suggest that this palaeo-Hebrew weight imitated those of the city of Jaffa. It also seems quite likely that weights with the rosettes also imitated the weights of Jaffa, and that the weight under discussion was accordingly also manufactured in that city.9

The Weight Standard

H, I: Lead weight published by B. Lifshitz in 1976 (No. 41) (206.87g; actual size)

Although the weight weighs 98.8g, the inscription does not mention its denomination10, which equals seven Roman provincial tetradrachms of approximately 14g. The tetradrachms are the coins overstruck by Shimon Bar Kokhba in minting his famous large silver coins, the so-called sela'im. The issuance of the Bar Kokhba weights according to the large silver tetradrachms (sela'im) standard was recently suggested by the present writer.11

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