Himyarite Kingdom, Silver Hemidrachm

Date: c. 50 - 200 CE
Yemen, Middle East

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Item Description:

These cup shaped silver coins come from the Himyarite Kingdom, an ancient Middle Eastern state whose territory encompassed Yemen and a small portion of Saudi Arabia.

The denomination of these coins is often called a hemidrachm or a half denarius, based on Greek and Roman silver coins that are a similar size. However, like many types of ancient currency, it is not known what the original Himyarite name for these coins was.

(Map source: Wikimedia)

Who were the Himyarites?

The Himyarite Kingdom was located in a region known as Arabia Felix in ancient geography, a Latin name that translates to “Happy” or “Flourishing Arabia.” Described as one of the “richest nations in the world” by Roman author Pliny the Elder, the kingdom was an international trade hub that connected the Mediterranean to the Middle East and India.

It also produced much of the Roman Empire’s frankincense and myrrh, which are fragrant tree resins that were highly prized in the ancient world for their religious and medicinal uses.

"...they are the richest nations in the world, seeing that such vast wealth flows in upon them from both the Roman and the Parthian Empires; for they sell the produce of the sea or of their forests, while they purchase nothing whatever in return."

- Pliny the ElderThe Natural History, describing Arabia in the 1st century CE

Like many ancient kingdoms, Himyarite coinage is inspired by Greco-Roman designs. These hemidrachms in particular show a male head on both sides, presumably that of a king or a god, though its identity has not been proven. His hair is braided into ringlets and the portraits are rather abstract: if they do depict kings, there is not much variation between rulers.

The head on the reverse is surrounded by a legend written in the Himyaritic language, which was related to Arabic and Hebrew but fell out of use around the 10th century.

Each includes a Certificate of Authenticity.


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