An Israel Defense Forces soldier discovered a rare 1,800-year-old coin during a training exercise, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Monday.
The coin features an image of the head of the Roman emperor Antonius Pius and was dated to 158–159 CE.
On its reverse was the Syrian god MEN, the moon god, and the phrase “of the people of Geva Phillipi.”
The Israel Antiquities Authority said the coin was minted in Geva and was discovered in northern Israel, without giving further specifics of the location of the find.
Donald Tzvi Ariel, head of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Numismatics Department, said that the coin was well-preserved and a rare find.
“This coin joins only eleven such coins from known locations in the National Treasures Department collection. All the coins were found in northern Israel, from Megiddo and Zippori to Tiberias and Arbel,” Ariel said.
Avner Ecker, lecturer in classical archaeology at Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, said that the coin was minted the year that cities in the area were granted self-government under the Roman Empire.
“The coin discovered is one of the municipal coins minted in the city of Geva Philippi, also known as Geva Parashim. In the Roman period, cities were granted the right to mint their own coins,” said Ecker. “The year marked on the coin is the year when the municipal council was evidently established and its citizens were allowed self-government under the Roman Empire.”
Nir Distelfeld, inspector for the Antiquities Authority Northern District’s robbery prevention unit, praised the soldier for coming forward with the discovery.
“The coin was probably lost by its owner on one of the roads that cross this area, until the soldier spotted it almost 2,000 years later,” Distelfeld said.