The coinage of Arabia begins with the issues of the Nabathaean kings. These, about the time of Hadrian, are superseded by the Imperial coins of the principal towns of Arabia Petraea. The era in use in these towns is the Arabian, of which the exact date is not quite fixed (A.D. 105 or 106; see Kubitscheck in Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclop., i. 641 f.). The coinage of Arabia Felix forms a separate and distinct class.
The little that is known about the coinage of the Nabathaean kings is summed up by R. Dussaud, Journal Asiat., 104, pp. 189-238. The
Aretas III(Philhellen), B.C. 87-62. Æ. Types—Nike; Tyche of Damascus seated on rock, river-god at her feet; Goddess holding wreath(?) and resting on spear. Inscr., ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΡΕΤΟΥ ΦΙΛΕΛΛΗΝΟΣ.
Obodas II, son of preceding. Circa B.C. 62-47. AR Phoenician didrachms. Type—Eagle. Inscr., (King Obodas, king of Nabathaea).
Malichus I, son of preceding. Circa B.C. 47-30. AR Phoenician didrachms. Type—Eagle. Inscr., (King Malichus, king of Nabathaea).
Obodas III, son of preceding. B.C. 30-9. AR Phoenician didrachms, Attic drachms, and Æ. Types—Eagle; Goddess raising r. hand. Inscr., as on coins of Obodas II, or without . Dates—years 3-20.
Aretas IV (Philopatris), brother of preceding. B.C. 9-A.D. 40. With his queens Chuldu and Shaqilath. AR Attic drachms and Æ. Types—Goddess raising r. hand; Eagle; Cornucopiae; Two cornuacopiae. Inscr., (Aretas, king of Nabathaea, lover of his people); (Aretas, king of Nabathaea); (Chuldu, queen of Nabathaea); (Shaqilath, queen of Nabathaea); (Peace), &c. Denominations— (silver obol); (silver half). Dates—years 1-16 with Chuldu, 23-48 with Shaqilath.
Malichus II, son of preceding, and his sister and wife Shaqilath. Circa A.D. 40-75. AR Phoenician drachms and Æ. Types of Æ—Two cornuacopiae. Inscr., as on coins of Malichus I, and (Shaqilath, his sister, queen of Nabathaea), &c. Dates—years 9-17.
Rabbel II (Soter), son of preceding, with his mother Shaqilath and his sister and wife Gamilath. AR Phoenician drachms and Æ. Type of Æ—Two cornuacopiae. Inscr., (Rabbel, Shaqilath, his mother); (King Rabbel, king of Nabathaea); (Gamilath, his sister, queen of Nabathaea), &c. Date—year 20(?).
Adraa, about thirty miles north-west of Bostra. Imperial, M. Aurelius to Gallienus. Inscr., ΑΔΡΑΗΝΩΝ or ΑΔΡΑΗΝΩΝ ΤΥΧΗ. Types—Astarte in temple; Baetyl of ΔΟΥCΑΡΗC ΘЄΟC (the Arabian Dionysos)
Bostra, the capital of Roman Arabia, was situate in a fertile oasis about seventy miles south of Damascus; refounded by Trajan A.D. 105 or 106. Imperial, Hadrian to Elagabalus. Inscr., ΑΡΑΒΙΑ on coin of Hadrian, and subsequently ΤΥΧΗ ΝΕΑC ΤΡΑΙΑΝΗC ΒΟCΤΡΑC, or ΒΟCΤΡWΝ, ΒΟCΤΡΗΝWΝ, &c. Era—the Arabian. Colonial, Sev. Alexander to Treb. Gallus. Inscr., COLONIA BOSTRA, COL. METRO- POLIS BOSTRA or BOSTRENORVM. Types—Tyche of the city; Three baetyls of the god Dusares (see Dussaud, Rev. Num., 1904, p. 163); Bust of Ammon (? Dusares-Ammon) with ram’s horns and globular headdress; Camel; Arab on Camel; Temples of various divinities; &c. Games, ΔΟΥCΑΡΙΑ, ΑΚΤΙΑ ΔΟΥCΑΡΙΑ, or ΑCΤΙΑ DVSΑRΙΑ.
Charach-Moba (El-Kerak, east of the Dead Sea, and south of Rabbath-Moba). Imperial of Elagabalus only. Inscr., ΧΑΡΑΧΜWΒΑ or ΧΑΡΑΧ[ΜWΒΗΝ]WΝ. Types—Tyche; Figure seated before wine-press (Babelon, Rev. Num., 1899, p. 274).
Eboda (Ptol. v. 17.4), south of Gaza and south-west of the Dead Sea, now called Abdeh. Imperial of Nero. Inscr., ΕΒWΔΗΣ. Type—Nike Apteros (Imhoof, Monn. gr., p. 450).
Esbus (Heshbon), some twenty miles north-east of the Dead Sea. Imperial of Elagabalus only. Inscr., ЄCΒΟΥC or ΑΥΡ. ЄCΒΟΥC. Types—Astarte in temple; Zeus seated; Mên (De Sauley, Terre-Sainte, p. 393).
Medaba (Mādebā), south-west of Esbus. Imperial of Caracalla and Elagabalus. Inscr., ΜΗΔΑΒWΝ ΤΥΧΗ. Types—Tyche; Tyche-Astarte with cornucopiae and bust of Osiris (Babelon, Mél. Numism., iii. pp. 251 f.). Era—the Arabian.
Petra, the metropolis of the Nabathaeans, adopted the surname Adriana in consequence of favors conferred upon it by Hadrian. Imperial, Hadrian to Elagabalus. Inscr., ΠЄΤΡΑ ΜΗΤΡΟΠΟΛΙC, ΑΔΡΙΑΝΗ ΠΕΤΡΑ ΜΗΤΡΟΠΟΛΙC, &c. Types—Tyche of city seated on rock; Figure sacrificing; &c. Era—the Arabian.
Philippopolis, founded by the Emperor Philip, a native of Bostra, from which place it was distant about twelve miles. It was constituted by him a Roman colony. Imperial colonial of Philip, Otacilia, and Philip Jun., and posthumous coins of Marinus, Philip’s father, reading ΘЄΩ ΜΑΡΙΝΩ. Inscr., ΦΙΛΙΠΠΩΠΩΛΙΤΩΝ ΚΟΛΩΝΙΑC S. C. Types—Roma seated or standing, &c.
Rabbath-Moba (De Sauley, Terre-Sainte, p. 354). Imperial, Antoninus Pius to Gordian. Inscr., ΡΑΒΒΑΘΜWΒΑ, ΡΑΒΒΑΘΜWΒΗΝWΝ, ΡΑΒΑΘΜΟVΒΗΝWΝ, &c, usually of very barbarous work and blundered. Era—Arabian. Types—Ares, Astarte, Poseidon, &c. The occurrence of Ares (who is seen standing to front on a pedestal, between two altars) confirms the statements of Stephanus and Eusebius that the later name of this city was Areopolis.
For the coins of South Arabia (Yemen) see Mordtmann, Num. Zeit., xii. 28; B. V. Head, Num. Chron., 1878, 273, and 1880, p. 369; Prideaux, Journ. As. Soc. Bengal, 1881, p. 95; Erman, Zeit. f. Num., ix. 296, and Kubitschek in D. H. Müller’s Südarabische Altertümer (Vienna, 1899).
The Sabaei and Homeritae (Himyarites) were from very early times down to the sixth century A.D. a powerful and prosperous people, governed by their own kings, and dwelling in the most fertile district of Arabia, which faces the Indian Ocean, and extends as far as the Persian Gulf. The highest point of their wealth and power was attained by the Himyarite dynasty, which ruled the land between the fourth century B.C. and circ. A.D. 120. Their earliest coins belong to the fourth and third centuries B.C., and consist of imitations of the older Athenian silver money, which probably found its way across the desert by the caravan route from the prosperous seaport of Gaza, where, as we have already seen, the money of Athens was also imitated. Most of these coins which come to us from Southern Arabia bear, in addition to the Athenian types, Himyarite letters or inscriptions, and sometimes an inscription in an unknown character. A small class have on the obverse, instead of the head of Athena, a beardless male head (Kubitschek, Pl. XIV. 13, 14). In the second century B.C. the Athenian types appear to have been temporarily superseded by those of Alexander the Great, then predominate in all the markets of the ancient world, a tetradrachm having been discovered by me, which bears, in the Himyarite character, the name of a king called Abyatha (Num. Chron., 1880, Pl. XV. 3).
In the second half of the first century B.C. the Athenian tetradrachms of the ‘new style’, with the Owl standing on an Amphora, served as models for the coinage of the Sabaean kings, as is proved by the important Find of San'ā (B. V. Head, Num. Chron., N. S. xviii. 273). Of this later gold and silver currency there are several series, the earlier bearing on the obverse a head of Augustus, and are doubtless copied from Roman coins, which must have become known in Southern Arabia at the time of the expedition of Aelius Gallus into that country in B.C. 24. The inscriptions on these coins consist of monograms in the Himyaritic character, and of a second legend in an unknown character. After the Christian era the Himyarite coinage loses much of its importance, and the execution becomes more and more barbarous. To this later period belong small coins with local types—Beardless head, rev. Bucranium or Antelope’s head; and Beardless head on both sides, with name of mints Raidan, Na'am, Ya'ub, &c.
Although the Southern Arabians seem to have been content to copy the well-know money of the Greeks, it is remarkable that they did not adopt the Attic standard of weight. The Himyarite drachm, like the old Persian siglos, weighed 84 grs. The coin of Abyatha being a tetradrachm of Attic weight, would be equivalent to three Himyarite drachms.