Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Hannukah - A Tetradrachm of Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Obverse: Diademed Head of Antiochus IV Epiphanes facing right

Reverse: Zeus seated holding a spear in one hand and Nike the goddess of victory in the other.

Inscription: Basileos Antiochou Theou Epiphaniou Nikephorou - Of King Antiochus God Made Manifest Carrier of Victory.

Sadly, such a fine silver tetradrachm is not yet in my collection but its on my list of coins to eventually acquire. A Greek coin, but also an impressive and tangible link to Jewish history, especially at this time of the year.

Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights is a celebration of liberation from tyranny, and its about the liberation of Israel from the rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

When the Hellenized Assyrians, led by Antiochus Epiphanes IV attempted to force the Jews to worship Antiochus as a god, such worship the Jews, led by Judah Maccabeus took quite an exception and led an uprising against the Syrians starting in 165 BC which eventually drove them from Israel and led to the rise of the Jewish Hasmonean dynasty from the Maccabees descendants.

The victorious Maccabees reclaimed the temple and purified and rededicated it.

The story of the lamp oil supply only enough for one day that ended up lasting for 8 days until more purified oil could be obtained is a later addition to the story. Its the reason the Hanukkiah (Menorah) with 9 candlesticks with eight of them representing the eight days and the other the watchman candle that lights them.

The story was added to change the focus of the story of Hanukkah from a military victory to a more spiritual one. Regardless of the veracity of the story of the oil, it is a fun holiday and a good way to remember a historic Jewish victory over more numerous and better armed enemies. The tasty latkes (fried potato pancakes) and sufganiot (fried dough topped with powdered sugar) along with gifts for the kids only sweetens the memory of that historic victory.

Happy Hanukkah!

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