Erich Lessing

You say shekel, I say drachm. The Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus (103–76 B.C.) minted the first Jewish bilingual coinage—for a kingdom that had become bi- or multi-lingual. The obverse of one coin depicts an upside-down anchor and bears part of the Greek legend Basileos Alexandrou, “of King Alexander.” On the reverse, circling a lily, is the monarch’s Hebrew name and title. The coin suggests that the majority of Alexander Jannaeus’s subjects had basic reading skills in either Greek or Hebrew, or both.