obverse of these coins show the bust of the reigning emperor and
his inscription. The reverse depicts an Apameian chest, representing
the ark, floating on water with a young male and female inside.
In front of the ark stands an older (bearded) male and female each
with a hand raised. Perched on top of the ark is a raven or the
first dove sent out by Noah and flying above the chest is a dove
with an olive branch in its beak. The inscription NOE, Greek for
Noah, is inscribed on the front of the chest. Around the edge is
the inscription recording the official in whose time the coin was
struck, and the city's name in Greek letters as APAMEION, for 'Of
Apameia' appears below.
scholars claim that the reverse picture was probably copied from
a wall painting perhaps located in the main synagogue of the city.2
Numismatists interpret the scene as Noah and his wife inside the
Ark. It is strange that the name of Noah's wife is never mentioned
in the Bible but the Rabbinic tradition is that it was Na'amah (or
Na'amat). The two people outside the ark were considered to represent
Noah and Na'amah at a later time, leaving the Ark. The use of duplicate
figures to convey the passage of time is a common device in ancient
artwork. However, as the male figure inside the ark is beardless,
I believe that this young man and woman represent the "two and two,
male and female" of the species that God commanded Noah to take
on board. It would have been more dramatic and satisfying if the
artist had shown animals inside the ark but he probably could not
figure out how to differentiate between male and female animals
so he chose the easy way out and used human figures.
bronze coin, 28 millimeters in diameter, of Apameia struck for Gordian
III, AD 238-244, with the Noah reverse. The difference between the
young and older male is clearly seen. Von Aulock, 8347.
historians pointed out that the Jewish city officials, Artemas and
Alexander, whose names appear on some of the coins, must have been
assimilated Jews because their high office required that they function
as the priests of the Imperial cult and perform the ceremonies of
worship to the emperor.3 No observant Jew would do this. However,
it is also recorded that Septimius Severus and his successors were
tolerant of the Jews in Asia and deferred to their religious scruples
by permitted them to hold civic office without performing unacceptable
religious rites such as emperor- worship.-- 4
the name Alexander was distinctly Jewish in those time and a legend
based on the Talmud, Yoma 69a, and a story told by Josephus in 'Antiquities',
book 11, 8.5, explains why. In these writings, Alexander the Great
supposedly invaded Judaea and was met on the road by the High Priest,
Simeon the Just and the elders of Jerusalem. They asked that he
not destroy their city and desecrate the Temple. Alexander treated
them with respect and complied with their wishes. The Rabbinic legend
then added on to this story that in appreciation, the High Priest
decreed that every son born in the following year should be named
is a fictional account because Alexander never threatened Jerusalem
but the name was adopted by many families anyway and as Jewish children
are traditionally named after ancestors, the name Alexander carried
on through the generations. Alexander as a family name appeared
later in Eastern European Jewish surnames such as Sender and Shendrov.
bronze Noah coin, 28 millimeters in diameter, of Apameia struck
for Philip I, AD 244-249, showing the magistrates name on the reverse
as Alexander, most probably a Jew. Von Aniock 8347.
Jewish community of Apameia supported the First Judaean revolt against
the Romans in AD 66- 70 and, because of this they lost their special
privileges. However, the emperors Vespasian and Titus would not
permit them to be persecuted and confirmed their full rights as
Roman citizens' The Jews of Apameia eventually recovered from this
setback and reached their height of prosperity and influence in
the 3"* century. The last known of the Noah and the ark coins was
struck under the emperor, Trebonianus Gallus, AD 251-253.
last type of bronze Noah coin struck at Apameia for Trebonianus
Gallus, AD 251-253, with the ark facing right. Greek Imperial Coins
by David R. Sear, no. 4327 and Von Aulock, 3513.
Jewish community began a gradual decline after 280 but continued
to exist in Apameia up to about the year 420 when the spread of
Christianity in Asia overwhelmed them. The last vestige of the Jewish
congregation in Apamaeia was a mosaic floor of a synagogue containing
an inscription to the Jewish donor in Greek dated to AD 391." This
mosaic was found under the floor of a church that had been built
on top of the synagogue's foundations in around 450. Within a few
years of this date, the Jews of Apameia faded into history. Perhaps
they became the ancestors of the modem Jewish population in Turkey
but only the Noah and the ark coins remain as monuments to their
very special history in ancient Asia Minor.
- New Larousse
Encyclopedia of Mythology, Hamlyn, New York, 1981, page 66-72.
- Cities and
Bishoprics of Phrygia by W. M. Ramsay, Clarendon Press, Oxford,
1896, page 670.
- Cities and
Bishoprics of Phrygia, as above, page 672.
- The Jews
in the Roman World by Michael Grant, Dorset Press, New York, 1984,
- The Loom
of History by H. J. Muller, Harper Brothers, New York, 1958, page
- The Synagogue
by Brian de Breffny, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1978, page
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