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The 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.

Some 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.

A 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.

Early 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

Incidentally, 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 Alexander.

This 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.

A 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Notes and Bibliography

  1. New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology, Hamlyn, New York, 1981, page 66-72.
  2. Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia by W. M. Ramsay, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1896, page 670.
  3. Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, as above, page 672.
  4. The Jews in the Roman World by Michael Grant, Dorset Press, New York, 1984, page 269.
  5. The Loom of History by H. J. Muller, Harper Brothers, New York, 1958, page 12.
  6. The Synagogue by Brian de Breffny, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1978, page 38.

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