In 70 C.E., Roman Emperor Vespasian and his son, Titus, sacked the city of Jerusalem, destroying the Jewish temple.
To commemorate the success of quelling the Jewish Revolt, the Romans minted a series of nearly 50 “Judea Capta” (Captured Judaea) coins in gold, bronze and silver to remind the Roman Empire of its victory. Most of these coins depict a Roman soldier or leader, outfitted in military attire, and a mourning female Jewish woman, seated under a palm tree or trophy.
On Jan. 14, Jewish Chaplain Rabbi David Teva Leipziger Teva, director of religious and spiritual life, donated a silver coin, known as a denarius, to Wesleyan’s Special Collections and Archives. The silver denarius, featuring an embossed profile of Emperor Vespasian and the words “Caesar Vespasianus Avg(ustus),” was struck in 69-70 A.D.
“The coin was probably minted at a time when the teaching of Judaism and outward expressions of biblical, temple cult-based Judaism were made impossible by a dominating power,” Rabbi Leipziger Teva says. “Fast forward to 2010 at Wesleyan. Today we have multiple creative pathways for students to express and explore their Judaism and their Jewish identities. This coin talked about the complete opposite of all of this.”
Suzy Taraba, university archivist and head of Special Collections and Archives, says the denarius is the first coin donated to Wesleyan in at least 12 years. The coin will be housed with another Roman coin of the 15th century, which is embossed with the first, regularly used printer’s mark.
Taraba encourages faculty teaching courses on religion or history to use the coins as teaching tools. Jewish history