top of page

Roman counterinsurgency coinage as a reason for the Bar Kochba Revolt

The Bar Kochba Rebellion occurred in 132 AD and ended in July or August 135 AD at the Battle of Betar. This war resulted in severe Roman casualties and ended the Roman province of Judea. The Jewish people were forbidden to enter Jerusalem and a ban on circumcision were efforts made by the Roman Emperor Hadrian to destroy the Judeo-Christian faith. The above coin from Bar Kochba was over struck on a Trajan Tetradrachma from Tyre or Antioch.( see the type below)

Coins were the political and propaganda medium of the day and the Antioch ram coin series was minted again in 129 AD by Hadrian as a means to decrease the chance of a Judean Revolt thru fear and intimidation. (See coin below) Significant solar eclipses in 118 AD, 121 AD, 125 AD were still in the minds of the young rebellious generation and the Roman hope may have been to scare the Jews into peace. Please see prior posts. Note it was minted in 129 AD the same time a solar eclipse was seen over Hadrian's wall in Roman Britain.



The Romans recently fought the Kitos War with Jewish rebellions in Cyprus and Alexandria. Additionally the period in Jerusalem between 70-132 AD was likely very difficult for both sides. The pre-Aelia Capitolina coinage of Roman Jerusalem gives us insight into Roman fear and terror tactics and likely contributes to our understanding of why the above coins were overstruck by the Bar Kochba warriors.

The coins below were overstrikes with symbols of the 10th Roman legion which had a permanent base in Jerusalem starting in 70 AD with the destruction of the Second Temple.

Nero with Agrippa II, XF Countermark (10th Legion Fretensis)

Domitian, Sebaste mint, LX Countermark ( Legion Ten )

Nobody knows why the Roman legions would countermark their coins. They were frequently on worn, low denomination, local coinage. I propose they were marked for Roman intelligence and counterinsurgency operations against groups of rebels in the Judean hill country. Free marked coins were distributed at Jewish festivals in Jerusalem. Jews would still come to Jerusalem to mourn the Second Temple destruction before the Bar Kochba revolt. Countermarking would provide economic intelligence to Roman legion units looking for rebels and give them insight into figuring out social connections in the Judean countryside. Covert killing and assassinations by Roman units were the likely goals of these countermarks. When local inhabitants would have discovered these intentions it likely led to the idea of counterstamping Roman coins out of hatred and may even been one of the reasons from the Jewish perspective of the Bar Kochba revolt. Please remember the American government marked Hawaiian paper money in anticipation of a Japanese invasion.

The Romans viewed solar eclipses thru their mythology as the opportunity to plant Roman colonies after their conquests. (see prior post for more detailed explanations)

Hadrian had many solar eclipse symbols on his coinage. The solar eclipses of 118, 121, and 125 may have convinced him to found Aelia Capitolina on Roman Jerusalem in 129 AD. (This date is controversial)

The following solar eclipses were seen in Rome and Judea at the start of the Bar Kochba Rebellion.

Note the solar eclipse was first seen in Judea then Rome, very significant and would not have been ignored by both sides.

The war concluded with the defeat of Bar Kochba in July or August of 135 AD in Betar.

bottom of page