Symbols of Solar Eclipses on coins of the Roman Civilization Republic to the Christian Era 231 posts For the Romans, a solar eclipse was the greatest symbol of fear, terror and domination in nature. This website explores the meaning of solar/lunar darkening events in Judeo-Roman culture.
Herod Philip, Solar Eclipse of 29 AD, Seen by Jesus Christ
This coin was minted by Herod Philip in 30-31 AD in Caesarea Paneas. It was likely in circulation when Jesus Christ had His ministry in the Northern Galilee. The obverse shows Tiberius and Livia. The reverse has the temple complex of Caesarea Paneas or perhaps Bethsaida, renamed Julias-Livia. The central circular design in the middle of the temple was only present on coins minted after 29 AD. No dates were present on the coins with the circular design because everybody at the time knew what it symbolized. The total solar eclipse of November 24, 29 AD was visible over Caesarea Paneas and is represented by the circular object in the temple. Herod Antipas had married Philip's wife Herodius. War was brewing with the Nabateans because Antipas divorced his first wife Phasaelis to marry Herodius. Phasaelis was the daughter of King Aretas IV of Nabatea and Aretas was not happy about how his daughter was treated. John the Baptist was likely beheaded around the time of this eclipse for his condemnation of the marriage.
A theory exists that the circular object in the temple is in reference to the "shields episode" from Pontius Pilate. Please note the object in the temple has an image of concentric circles on it. The original event as related by Philo:
One of his lieutenants was Pilate, who was appointed to govern Judea. He, not so much to honor Tiberius as to annoy the multitude, dedicated in Herod's palace in the holy city some shields coated with gold. They had no image work traced on them nor anything else forbidden by the law apart from the barest inscription stating two facts, the name of the person who made the dedication and one of him in whose honor it was made. (F.H. Colson, The Embassy to Gaius, 38.244)
Cleary the above circular object in the temple has an image.
The jugate images on the obverse are of Tiberius "eclipsing" his mother Livia. Livia died in September of 29 AD. Tiberius did not get along well with his mother. I doubt this was a public acknowledgement of strife in the emperor's family because Livia was very well respected in the Roman Empire as the wife of Augustus. This obverse is very similar to the coins of Aretas the IV of Nabatea. Aretas the IV poses in the same fashion with his wives on the Nabatean coins of Petra. The Roman "jugate" obverse is likely in confrontation to the family of Aretas the IV. The spice trade from the near and far east came directly thru Petra into ancient Israel. Without the spices and incense from this part of the world, ancient cities would have a very difficult time controlling the stench of sacrificial animals in the temples and the odors of daily life in the closed quarter conditions of large buildings. The "silk road trade" was of critical importance to the Roman Empire and a solar eclipse over the area may have encouraged Roman aggression.