Rare find: Coin with image of emperor who abolished Sanhedrin

Students find a 1,600-year-old coin with the likeness of Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II, a first of its kind to be discovered in Israel.

Sara Rubenstein,

The coin
The coin
Nir Distelfeld Israel Antiquities Authority

Students of the Western Valley School in Kibbutz Yifat found a rare 1600-year-old gold coin in the Tzipori river near the Sanhedrin Trial in the Galilee, according to a press release published by the spokesperson for the Jezreel Valley Regional Council earlier this week.

Four ninth graders were practicing navigation in an agricultural field near the Sanhedrin trail when they spotted something gold glittering in the field. The students, Ido Kadosh, Ofir Siegel, Dotan Miller and Harel Green, informed their geography and history teacher Zohar Prishian about their find, who in turn contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The coin
Nir Distelfeld Israel Antiquities Authority

The Antiquities Authority identified the antique find, the first of its kind to be found in Israel, as a gold coin minted in Constantinople by Theodosius II about 420-423 CE. One side of the coin bears the image of Theodosius II, an influential Byzantine emperor who abolished the Sanhedrin, the leaders of the Jewish people of the time, which had relocated to the Galilee after the destruction of the Second Temple. The other side of the coin boasts the image of Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory holding a large cross.

According to Dr. Gabi Bichovsky, a coin expert at the Israel Antiquities Authority, "Theodosius II was one of the most influential emperors in the Byzantine Empire. Among other things, he compiled a comprehensive code of laws for the empire, known as the Theodosius Codex."

Students who found the coin Suzy Frankel

The four students, who gave the coin to the National Treasures, were praised by Nir Distelfeld, the inspector of the Antiquities Authority's Anti-Robbery Unit. "It's rare to find a single gold coin," Distelfeld said. "Gold has always been precious, and people tried very hard not to lose it. I want to praise the students and the teacher for their good citizenship." Distelfeld awarded certificates of appreciation to the students.

Yair Amitzur, archaeologist of the Sanhedrin Trail at the Israel Antiquities Authority, said, "It's symbolic that the coin which bears [Theodosius'] likeness was found specifically by Israeli students next to the Sanhedrin trial - the walking trail that was dedicated this year by the Israel Antiquities Authority together with youth, which traces the leadership of the Jewish people in the Galilee during the period of the Mishnah and the Talmud."




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