Amphora with broad rim and two handles, legend around (year 2) / Vine leaf on small branch, legend around ("the freedom of Zion"). H-661; Meshorer-197.
I know you're asking, what does this coin have to do with The DaVinci Code? Bear with me as I discuss the bronze coins struck in Judaea during this war. The 'messages' these coins impart help paint a picture of the tides of this war. They also provide a convenient segue into my discussion of the relational aspects of The DaVinci Code.
Prutot were not struck in the first year of the First Jewish War... only shekels and their fractions were struck. However, prutot were struck in the second and third years of the Jewish War and 'other' bronze denominations in the fourth. The following is a list of those coins, by Hendin reference number:
Year 2 (AD 67-68)
H-661 AE Prutah
Year 3 (AD 68-69)
H-664 AE Prutah
Year 4 (AD 69-70)
H-668 AE Half (26mm)
H-669 AE Quarter (22mm)
H-670 AE Eight (20 mm)
It is interesting to note that the reverse legend on the prutot of the second and third years issues carried the words, "Freedom of Zion". As David Hendin states in his Guide to Biblical Coins, 4th Edition, "That slogan represents a kind of rallying cry for the Jews." However, that 'slogan' is replaced by "For the redemption of Zion" on the reverse legends of year 4 bronze coins. This signalled an acknowledgement of Rome's impending victory, and as Hendin suggests, a change in tone from that of a 'rallying cry' to one more spiritual.
The First Jewish War began in AD 66 as an uprising... a reaction to mistreatment by the Roman procurator Gessius Florus. Initial Jewish victories shocked the Romans. Nero, fearing that a prolonged rebellion would signal Roman weakness, tapped his top general, Vespasian, to quell the uprising. By the middle of AD 68, Vespasian's forces had stamped out the rebellion in all but Jerusalem, Masada and a few other areas.
The year AD 68 saw the death of Nero and the beginning of a civil war that brought about 4 emperors: Galba (AD 68-69), Otho (AD 69), Vitellius (AD 69) and finally Vespasian (AD 69-79). Vespasian's marching on Rome meant that the Jewish War would have to be handed off to another capable general and Vespasian chose his son Titus to finish the job. The changing fortunes of the Jews are evident by the legends on the bronze coins they issued. Recall that the legends change from a tone of a 'rallying cry' to one more spiritual on the year 4 bronze coins, which were issued in AD 69-70.
The Arch of Titus in Rome commemorates Titus' conquest of the Jews in this First Jewish War. One of the more famous reliefs on the Arch depicts the triumphal procession of Romans carrying the looted treasure from the Second Temple. Included in this treasure were the sacred Menorah, the Table of the Shewbread and the trumpets which called the Jews to Rosh Hashanah.
Now here is where The DaVinci Code comes in...
Many believe that an object more sacred was kept in the Jewish Temple. They hold that this object was hidden when it became clear that Titus' forces would breach the walls of Jerusalem. Theories abound about the nature of this object, with some refering to it as the 'Holy Grail' and others that it was the Ark of the Covenant. Still others contend this ‘object’ was not so much an object as it is a secret that contradicts the very foundation upon which the Church is based.
Theories also abound about where this object was hidden. Some believe that the Jews hid it below the Temple, in what was once believed to be Soloman's stables (the Temple Mount was thought to be the site of the Temple of Soloman). Fast forward 1,000 years to the time following the First Crusade, to the second half of the eleventh century. Crusader Godfroi de Bouillon is believed to have founded an organization called the Priory of Sion. It is believed that this secret order created the Knights Templar as its military arm.
The Knights Templar, or as they were originally called, the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Soloman, were given space for their headquarters on the Temple Mount by King Baldwin II of Jerusalem. Many believe the Templars were sent to Jerusalem with the sole intention of recovering a sacred relic and that this object was found under their headquarters, under what was previously the Second Temple. Was the object the Templars were rumored to have found the 'Holy Grail', perhaps hidden as Titus' army laid seige to Jerusalem? Or did they find the Ark of the Covenant, again hidden while under seige by Titus' army? Or, even more intriguingly, did they find the ‘secret’ that contradicted Church dogma? Nobody knows for sure but this has been the subject of speculation for centuries.
The Knights Templars and Priory of Sion parted ways in 1188. The Templars were eventually dissolved at the hands of France’s king Philip IV and the pope. The Priory of Sion, however, supposedly remains to this day and has been the subject of many books and the book/movie, The DaVinci Code.
If any of this piques your curiosity, I highly recommend the book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, by Michael Biagent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln. In this book, the authors tell of an interview with a prominent figure of the Priory of Sion named Pierre Plantard de Saint-Claire. The authors recant that the interviewee offered to answer any questions about the order’s past history, but would say nothing of their current activities. One such bit of past history offered by Pierre Plantard de Saint-Claire was that the order was still in possession of the lost treasure of the Second Temple… that plundered by Titus’ forces at the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 during the First Jewish War!
So, there you have it… the tie-in between this coin, a prutah from the First Jewish War, and The DaVinci Code.