Bronze Prutah of Porcius Festus
Date: 59-62 CE
Ruler: Porcius Festus
Mint: Judea (Jerusalem)
Obverse: Palm-branch surrounded by KAICAPO & date LE.
Reverse: NEP/WNO/C, legend in a wreath tied at bottom with an X
Size and Weight: 14mm, 1.35g
The coin of Festus depicts a palm branch compatible with the Jewish religious feelings. (Pontius Pilate’s -26-26 CE- coin was exceptional in that depicted a pagan symbol, the lituus). The laurel wreath is a symbol of power and victory, and figures on various ancient Greek and Roman coins.
A Prutah is a Hebrew word that appears in the Mishna and Talmud. A loaf of bread was worth about ten prutot (plural). The Prutah was the most commonly minted coin of the Jewish kings and Roman procurators.
Porcius Festus was the Procurator in Judea just prior to the Great Revolt. He is well known as the 'Festus' of Acts 25:12 in the New Testament who sent the Apostle Paul to Rome to be judged. So it is that everyone, whether a believer or simply a lover of history or of numismatics, will find in these coins direct evidence of and witness to an episode the memory of which has survived 2000 years: A momentous event which has to a great extent fashioned the world we know.
Porcius Festus (59-62 CE)
Porcius Festus was procurator of Judaea under Nero. He succeeded Felix, who had jailed the Apostle Paul. Festus believed Paul innocent, but saved face with his other subjects by allowing Paul to be sent to Nero Caesar to appeal his trial. This got Paul quietly out of jail. In addition, Festus demanded that a wall, built by the Jews to block the spying of Roman troops, be torn down. He was the only procurator to have died in office.
Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favour, said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?” Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!” After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”
(Acts 25: 9-12)