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Document Details :
Title: Herod the Great and the Copper Mines of Cyprus
Author(s): HAUBEN, H.
Journal: Ancient Society
Volume: 35 Date: 2005
A famous but in some respects obscure passage in Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities (XVI 4.5) mentions an exchange of gifts between Augustus and King Herod of Judaea in 12 BC, the latter receiving «half the revenue from the copper mines of Cyprus» while being entrusted with «the management of the (other?) half». The text shows that the princeps (not the republic) was regarded as the legal owner of the mines of what was at the time a public province. According to the interpretation given here, Josephus’ wording should mean that Herod was entrusted with the responsibility for (and maintenance of) all the copper mines on the island (not only those of Soloi or Tamassos), taking half the revenue extracted from them. There is not the slightest indication that Jews were particularly involved in their king’s Cypriot business. Augustus’ donation was not part of a leasing contract (supposedly in exchange for the 300 talents given by Herod) but has to be understood in the sense of a Hellenistic dôrea, implying all the characteristics of a Roman precarium.