Created recently under the auspices of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Sanhedrin Trail is designed for hikers, especially students, looking for Jewish archaeological sites in the Galilee from the first half of the first millennium CE. In February a group of such students discovered a solid-gold coin, which experts have now identified as dating to the reign of the emperor Theodosius II—who abolished the rabbinical high council for which the trail is named. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:
Emperor Theodosius II (401-450) began his reign over Byzantium, the eastern part of the Roman empire whose capital was in Constantinople, at the age of seven. His name is enshrined in the Codex Theodosianus, . . . a set of laws published in 438 that collected and redacted the thousands of imperial laws of the sprawling empire.
Unfortunately for the Jews of the era, who had enjoyed relative freedom, the codex officially demoted their status. Although the coin depicts the goddess Victory, Theodosius was a defender of the Christian faith, which he promoted as the official religion of the empire. As such, the rights and privileges of Jews were circumscribed. They were barred from military and civil service—aside from the thankless profession of tax collector—and no new synagogues could be constructed.
In an even more resonant blow, the emperor’s codex also diverted the taxes paid to the head of the Sanhedrin, which led to [its] eventual abolishment. Gamaliel VI (400–425) was the final holder of the office of nasi [or president of the council].