Nabataea, Aretas IV & Shuqailat. 9 BC - 40 AD. Jugate busts of Aretas IV & Shuqailat /Crossed cornucopiae, Nabataean inscription. 17 mm, 4.53 g
Aretas IV was king of the wealthy trading kingdom of Nabataea, today’s southern Jordan and northern Saudia Arabia. This small bronze coin shows him with his second wife Shuqailat.
The Nabataeans were closely involved with their neighbors in Roman-controlled (or controlled-by-proxy) Judaea. Aretas’ daughter, Phasaelis, married Herod the Tetrarch (aka Herod Antipas). The relationship between the two powers was generally cordial, and resulted in a prosperous Judaea. Both Judaea coins and this coin of Aretas show a pair of cornucopiae on the reverse, suggesting a common visual language to express this prosperity.
However, when Herod divorced Phasaelis, Aretas invaded Judaea. This led to Herod’s displacement and a force sent from Rome by the emperor Tiberius to force the Nabataeans out. Rome never managed to hold the Nabataean territory for long and it remained a contested borderland for much of antiquity.
There is also an account in 2 Corinthians that, during this invasion, the apostle Paul was forced to flee the from Aretas’ representatives by concealing himself in a basket and being thrown out a window.