Romanisation‎ > ‎

Antonia Minor


A characteristic of the textual tradition is how it glorifies, sanctifies even, those useful to its cause, and this woman belongs to both categories - vastly important in imperial, political intrigue, responsible for Romanising the children of provincial royalty, and one of the leading Chrestians in Rome.

Antonia Minor (PIR2 A 885)...(31 January 36 BC - September/October AD 37) was the younger of two daughters of Mark Antony and Octavia Minor.[2] She was a niece of the Emperor Augustus, sister-in-law of the Emperor Tiberius, paternal grandmother of the Emperor Caligula and Empress Agrippina the Younger, mother of the Emperor Claudius...

Antonia is one of the most prominent Roman women. She is celebrated for her virtue and beauty.

Her history is thought to be, broadly, well-documented, though this inscription (epitaph CIL VI 24944) dedicated to the "Gods of the Underworld" undermines such a claim to some extent. The scholarly consensus has always agreed that this refers to Antonia Minor and her husband Drusus, and that it describes her as a Chrestian, though as with all theological scholarship in that regard, they don't seem to know what this means.

Her son Germanicus died in 19 CE; on the orders of Tiberius and Livia Drusilla, Antonia was forbidden to go to his funeral. When Livia Drusilla died in June 29CE, Antonia took care of:
  • Caligula, 
  • Julia Agrippina, 
  • Julia Drusilla, 
  • Julia Livilla and later 
  • Claudia Antonia and her younger grandchildren.

Covert Chrestianity

The giving and holding of hostages was an important part of imperial policy towards both foreign nations and its own provinces. Imperial policy also included Romanisation, also towards both captured peoples and neighbours. The emperor Augustus gave Antonia Minor the role of raising provincial royalty in a fit manner. Generally speaking, this can be described as Romnisation, though as explained here, this involved more than learning Latin and how to look like a Roman; it contained the theological as well: the imperial cult and the Religio Romana as two examples.

She would not have worked as a tutor - Roman families used Greek slaves for this. Looking at her slaves who became freedmen, we see such Greeks as Felix, who went on to become Procurator of Judea. His actions managed to get him into both the chronicles of Josephus and the New Testament.

Her authority came from her status, enhanced by her not remarrying, and from Augustus, founder of the empire. In later centuries, as emperors looked back to Augustus for inspiration, they also saw her and this alone would have ensured credibility for her values and belief.

She was the focus loci for Chrestianity, with Alexander the Alabarch her agent in Alexandria (with control over the grain supply to Italy and money to buy support in Jerusalem) and his brother, Philo, producing a syncretic philosophy; Felix her agent in Judea; Epaphroditus the senior chamberlain, in effect prime minister of the empire; her freed slave becoming common-law wife to Vespasian and step-mother to Titus.

Her interest was in maintaining imperial control of the Levant, from Asia Minor, through Syria and Judea, to Egypt and across North Africa. Her Chrestianised child hostages returned home to become the next generation of rulers in the imperial provinces. The primary threat she needed to counter was the insurrection always brewing in Judea:

Following increasing Roman domination of the Eastern Mediterranean, the client kingdom of the Herodian dynasty had been officially merged into the Roman Empire in the year 6 CE with the creation of Roman Judea. The transition of the Tetrarchy of Judea into a Roman province immediately brought a great deal of tensions and a Jewish uprising by Judas of Galilee erupted right away as a response to the Census of Quirinius. (Jewish-Roman Wars - Background)

Judas of Galilee or Judas of Gamala was a Jewish leader who led an armed resistance to the census imposed for Roman tax purposes by Quirinius in Iudaea Province around 6 CE. The revolt was crushed brutally by the Romans. These events are discussed by Josephus in Jewish Wars and in Antiquities of the Jews.

In Antiquities of the Jews Josephus states that Judas, along with Zadok the Pharisee, founded the "fourth sect" of 1st century Judaism (the first three are the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Essenes). Josephus blamed this fourth sect, which he called the Zealots, for the Great Jewish Revolt of 66-73 CE

See also: The Poor and Judas Iscariot

Rome needed Judean revenues. Observant Jews across the world - and along the Silk Road Jewish merchants and workshops reweaving silk became rich - sent a tithe each year to the Temple in Jerusalem, built by Herod I and managed by officials appointed by the Herodian monarchy. Once the Temple was destroyed in the First Jewish-Roman War, this had to be replaced by a Roman tax.

As importantly, Judea under Herod Agrippa I and in alliance with the messianic movement, was expanding its influence across the region. Kings were being converted to Judaism, Jewish fighters were appearing in Mesopotamia and taking control, Adiabene (Helen and Izates) poured money into Judea, and there was talk of the king building defences such as raising the wall around Jerusalem. Along with the periodic eruptions of violence and the ever-present fear of the Sicarii, Roman clients in the Levant would have questioned the value of imperial protection.

After Augustus and the passing of Antonia Minor, the emperors do not have appeared to have been overly concerned with Judea, though that is not true for those of Greco-Roman culture in the region, as we see in the Greek-Jewish riots. Both Philo (brother of Antonia Minor's estate manager) and Josephus went to Rome as "ambassadors" for their Jewish communities; that Josephus met privately Poppaea Sabina, wife of Nero and almost certainly a closet Chrestian, indicates that both were already Chrestian, probably under the control of Epaphroditus.

From the reaction of Nero - Saul was sent for interrogation by him at Corinth and disappeared; he is said to kicked Poppaea Sabina to death - Christianity at least in imperial circles - seems to have been covert in this period.

Foreign Hostages

Romanization...Hostages played an important part in this process, as elite children, from Mauretania to Gaul, were taken to be raised and educated in Rome.[Leonard A. Curchin, The Romanization of Central Spain: complexity, diversity, and change in a Provincial Hinterland, 2004, p.130.]

The following taken directly from my notes:

Cleopatra Selene

Caesar installed Cleopatra VII as ruler of Egypt and entered a 14-year relationship with her. After his assassination on the Ides of March 44 BCE, Mark Antony married Cleopatra, sparking a civil war. Their only daughter, Cleopatra Selene II, was the fraternal twin of Ptolemaic prince Alexander Helios - together being the sun and the moon; these twins also had a brother,Ptolemy Philadelphus. Of Greek and Roman heritage. Cleopatra Selene was born, raised and educated in Alexandria. In late 34 BCE, during the Donations of Alexandria, she was made ruler of Cyrenaica and Libya (Roller, pp. 76–81).

Her parents were defeated by Octavian (future Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus) during the naval battle at Actium in 31 BCE. The next year, her parents committed suicide as Octavian and his army invaded Egypt. Octavian celebrated his military triumph in Rome, by parading the three orphans in heavy golden chains in the streets of Rome. The chains were so heavy, they couldn’t walk. (Cassius Dio, Roman History 51.21.8 - who only says that Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene participated in the triumph, but does not mention Ptolemy Philadelphus).

The three siblings were taken by Octavian and given to his sister (and fourth wife of Mark Antony) Octavia Minor to be raised in her house in Rome. (Plutarch, Antony 87.1; Cassius Dio, Roman History 51.15.6; Suetonius, Augustus 17.5)

The last mention of Alexander and Ptolemy Philadelphus comes from Cassius Dio, who states that when their sister Cleopatra Selene married King Juba of Mauretania, Octavian (then named Augustus) spared the lives of Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphus as a favour to the couple.(Cassius Dio, li. 15)

This Cleopatra married African King Juba II of Numidia, a Berber.

Juba II was descended from a long line of distinguished ancestors who had been involved in Roman politics for nearly two hundred years prior to his accession to the throne of Mauretania. The family tree can be constructed for at least seven generations before Juba,  starting with the tribal chieftain Zilalsan, born perhaps around 300BC. The family was famous and talented, producing a variety of scholars and political and cultural leaders, attached first to Carthaginian interests and then to Roman, with an increasing amount of Hellenism. This impressive ancestry was certainly a factor in Caesar’s decision to save young Juba, and that of Augustus to make him king of Mauretania.

- Duane W. Roller, The World of Juda II and Kleopatra Selene

The people of Numidia disapproved of their king being too romanised. In response, Augustus divided the Numidian Kingdom into two: one half he joined to the Roman province of Africa Nova; the other - Western Numidia and Mauretania - became one kingdom. The Phoenician city of Jol was renamed Caesarea and became the capital of this new Roman province of Mauretania, with Juba as king and Cleopatra Selene as queen. 

Juba and Cleopatra moved to the security of Caesarea and Mauretania became one of the important client kingdoms in the Roman Empire, with Juba and Cleopatra one of the most loyal client monarchies to serve Rome. 

Juba and Cleopatra rebuilt Caesarea in the grand, Roman manner. The monarchs were buried in their mausoleum, which can still be seen.

Gaius Julius Antiochus IV

Epiphanes (Greek: Γάιος Ἰούλιος Ἀντίοχος ὀ Ἐπιφανής, before 17 CE – after 72 CE) was the last king of Commagene, who reigned between 38-72 as a client king to the Roman Empire.

Antiochus appears to have been very young when in 17, his father died. Roman Emperor Tiberius agreed with the citizens of Commagene to make their kingdom apart of the Roman province of Syria. Between 17 and 38, Antiochus seems to have gained Roman citizenship. He lived and was raised in Rome, along with his sister. While he and his sister were growing up in Rome, they were part of the remarkable court of Antonia Minor, a niece of the first Roman Emperor Augustusand the youngest daughter of triumvir Mark Antony. Antonia Minor was a very influential woman and supervised her circle of various princes and princesses. Her circle assisted in the political preservation of the Roman Empire’s borders and affairs of the client states.

In 38, Antiochus received his paternal dominion from Antonia’s grandson, the Roman Emperor Caligula. In addition, the emperor enlarged Antiochus' territory with a part of Cilicia bordering on the seacoast. Caligula also gave him the whole amount of the revenues of Commagene during the twenty years that it had been a Roman province.[2][3] The reasons for providing a client king with such vast resources remain unclear; it was perhaps a stroke of Caligula's well-attested eccentricity. Antiochus was on most intimate terms with Caligula, and he and King Agrippa I are spoken of as the instructors of the emperor in the art of tyranny.[4] This friendship, however, did not last very long, for he was subsequently deposed by Caligula.

Antiochus did not obtain his kingdom again till the accession of Roman Emperor Claudius in 41.

Julia Iotapa

(before 17-around 52) was a princess of Commagene who lived in the 1st century. She was the daughter of the late King Antiochus III of Commagene and Queen Iotapa of Commagene. Her parents were full-blooded siblings who had married each other. She was the sister of later King Antiochus IV of Commagene. Through her ancestor from Commagene, Queen Laodice VII Thea, who was the mother of King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene, she was a direct descendant of the Greek Syrian Kingdom the Seleucid Empire.

Iotapa and her brother appeared to be very young, when their father died in 17. Roman Emperor Tiberius agreed with the citizens of Commagene to make their Kingdom apart of the Roman province of Syria. From 17 until 38, Iotapa seems that she had gain Roman citizenship. Iotapa would have put the Latin name Julia, as apart of her name. She had lived and was raised in Rome, along with her brother. While Iotapa and Antiochus were growing up in Rome, they were apart of the remarkable court of Antonia Minor. Antonia Minor was a niece of the first Roman Emperor Augustus and the youngest daughter of triumvir Mark Antony. Antonia Minor was a very influential woman and supervised her circle of various princes and princesses. Her circle assisted in the political preservation of the Roman Empire’s borders and affairs of the client states.

The Roman Emperor Caligula returned to her and Antiochus IV their paternal dominion in 38. In addition, the emperor even enlarged their territory with apart ofCilicia bordering on the seacoast. Caligula also gave them one million gold pieces the whole amount of the revenues of Commagene during the twenty years that it had been under a Roman province. The reasons for providing a client kingdom with such vast resources remain unclear; it was perhaps a stroke of Caligula's well-attested eccentricity.

Iotapa had married her brother and became Roman Client Monarchs of Commagene. Iotapa and Antiochus IV had three children:

She appeared to have died before Commagene was annexed by Roman Emperor Vespasian in 72. When she died, Antiochus IV in her honor founded a town called Iotape (modern AytapTurkey). On coinage her royal title is ‘Queen Iotape Philadelphus’ or ‘ΒΑΣΙΛΙΣΣΑ ΙΩΤΑΠΗ ΦΙΛΑΔΕΛΦΟΣ’. The titlePhiladelphus reveals to us that she is the sister-wife of Antiochus IV. This also shows her descent and claim to the Royal Cult that was established by her late ancestor Antiochus I.

Antonia Tryphaena also known as Tryphaena of Thrace or Tryphaena (her name in Greek: η Άντωνία Τρύφαινα orΤρυφαίνη, 10 BC - 55) was a Princess of Pontus and a Roman Client Queen of ThraceWhile Tryphaena’s children were growing up they were part of the remarkable court of Antonia Minor in RomeAntonia Minor was another great maternal aunt of Tryphaena’s.

Tryphaena’s brother Polemon II

When his mother died in 38, Polemon succeeded his mother as the sole ruler of Pontus, Colchis and Cilicia.

Around 50, Polemon was attracted to the wealth and beauty of the Judean princess Julia Berenice, whom he had met in Tiberias during a visit to King Agrippa I. Berenice in turn wanted to marry Polemon II to end rumors that she and her brother were committing incest. Berenice was previously widowed in 48 when her second husband, her paternal uncle Herod of Chalcis, died. She had two sons by him, Berenicianus and Hyrcanus. Berenice however set the condition that Polemon had to convert to Judaism, which included undergoing the rite of circumcision, before marriage. Polemon assented, and the marriage went ahead. It did not last long however, and Berenice left Pontus with her sons and returned to the court of her brother. Polemon abandoned Judaism and, according to the legend of Bartholomew the Apostle, he accepted Christianity, but only to become a pagan again.

Polemon renamed the town Fanizan and named the town after himself to Polemonium (modern Fatsa Turkey). In 62, Nero induced Polemon to abdicate the Pontian throne, and Pontus, including Colchis, became a Roman province. From then until his death, Polemon only ruled Cilicia. Polemon never remarried and had no children.

Tryphaena is associated with the life of the Saint Thecla, the Acts of Paul and Thecla and Saint Tryphaena of Cyzicus. Saint Tryphaena is the patron saint of Cyzicus and she was named in honor of Tryphaena.

Through the preachings of Saint Paul, Tryphaena may have converted to Christianity. In Romans 16:12, in the New Testament of the Bible, Paul sends his greeting to a ‘Tryphaena’ and then the apostle writes about her ’who works in the Lord’s service’.

Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.

Tryphaena bore Cotys four known children:

 - Rhoemetalces was named after his paternal grandfather and ruled with Tryphaena from when his father died in 18 until his death in 38. Rhoemetalces ruled Thrace with his mother as one kingdom and served as a loyal Roman client ruler, even in 26 putting down Thracian malcontents for the Roman Emperor Tiberius. On coinage his Royal title is ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ ΡΟΙΜΗΤΑΛΚΑΣ or King Rhoemetalces. Rhoemetalces never married and had no children.
she married the Roman Client King Tiberius Julius Aspurgus of the Bosporan Kingdom. Gepaepyris bore Aspurgus, two sons who were Tiberius Julius Mithridates and Tiberius Julius Cotys I. Mithridates and Cotys are the only known grandchildren of Tryphaena and her husband.
he was the namesake of his father. He became Roman Client King of Lesser Armenia from 38 to until at least 47.
or Pythodorida II. She was named after her maternal grandparents and her paternal grandmother. In 38, after the death of Rhoemetalces II, Tryphaena abdicated the throne at the request of Caligula. Caligula put on the Thracian throne Rhoemetalces III as king, the first paternal cousin of her late father’s. Caligula and Tryphaena arranged for Pythodoris II to marry Rhoemetalces III. The marriage between Pythodoris II and Rhoemetalces III was to repair past dynastic misfortunes. Pythodoris II and Rhoemetalces III became the new Roman Client Rulers of Thrace from 38 until 46, when Rhoemetalces III was murdered by insurgents or on the orders of his wife. Pythodoris and Rhoemetalces were the last monarchs of Thrace and then under Claudius, Thrace became a Roman province. The fate of Pythodoris II afterwards is unknown and she seems not to have any children with her paternal cousin.

Ptolemy of Mauretania

sometimes known as Ptolemy of Morocco (Greek:Πτολεμαῖος, LatinPtolemaeus1 BC-40) was a prince and the last Roman Client King of Mauretania.

Ptolemy was sent to Rome by his parents to be educated. Through his parents, Ptolemy had Roman citizenship. His mother died in 6 and was placed in the Royal Mausoleum of Mauretania, which by built by his parents. In Rome, Ptolemy was well educated, received a Roman education and became Romanized. During his years living in Rome, Ptolemy was a part of the remarkable court of Antonia Minor

Antonia Minor was a maternal aunt to Ptolemy who was a half-sister to his late mother. Cleopatra Selene II and Antonia Minor shared the same father but their mothers were different. Her circle assisted in the political preservation of the Roman Empire’s borders and affairs of the client states. Ptolemy lived in Rome until 21 and left Rome to return to Mauretania to the court of his aging father.

Marcus Julius Agrippa I

Agrippa I also called the Great (10 BC - 44 AD), King of the Jews, was the grandson of Herod the Great, and son of Aristobulus IV andBerenice.[1] His original name was Marcus Julius Agrippa, and he is the king named Herod in the Acts of the Apostles, in the Bible, "Herod (Agrippa)" (Ἡρώδης Ἀγρίππας). He was, according to Josephus, known in his time as "Agrippa the Great"

Josephus informs us that, after the murder of his father, young Agrippa was sent by Herod the Great to the imperial court inRome. There, Tiberius conceived a great affection for him, and had him educated alongside his son Drusus, who also befriended him, and future emperor Claudius.[1] On the death of Drusus, Agrippa, who had been recklessly extravagant and was deeply in debt, was obliged to leave Rome, fleeing to the fortress of Malatha in Idumaea. There, it was said, he contemplated suicide.

1. A LITTLE before the death of Herod the king, Agrippa lived at Rome, and was generally brought up and conversed with Drusus, the emperor Tiberius's son, and contracted a friendship with Antonia, the wife of Drusus the Great, who had his mother Bernice in great esteem, and was very desirous of advancing her son. Now as Agrippa was by nature magnanimous and generous in the presents he made, while his mother was alive, this inclination of his mind did not appear, that he might be able to avoid her anger for such his extravagance; but when Bernice was dead, and he was left to his own conduct, he spent a great deal extravagantly in his daily way of living, and a great deal in the immoderate presents he made, and those chiefly among Caesar's freed-men, in order to gain their assistance, insomuch that he was, in a little time, reduced to poverty, and could not live at Rome any longer. Tiberius also forbade the friends of his deceased son to come into his sight, because on seeing them he should be put in mind of his son, and his grief would thereby be revived.

So Marsyas desired of Peter, who was the freed-man of Bernice, Agrippa's mother, and by the right of her testament was bequeathed to Antonia, to lend so much upon Agrippa's own bond and security; but he accused Agrippa of having defrauded him of certain sums of money, and so obliged Marsyas, when he made the bond of twenty thousand Attic drachmae, to accept of twenty-five hundred drachma as (18) less than what he desired, which the other allowed of, because he could not help it.

4. And now Agrippa was come to Puteoli, whence he wrote a letter to Tiberius Caesar, who then lived at Capreae, and told him that he was come so far in order to wait on him, and to pay him a visit; and desired that he would give him leave to come over to Caprein: so Tiberius made no difficulty, but wrote to him in an obliging way in other respects; and withal told him he was glad of his safe return, and desired him to come to Capreae; and when he was come, he did not fail to treat him as kindly as he had promised him in his letter to do. But the next day came a letter to Caesar from Herennius Capito, to inform him that Agrippa had borrowed three hundred thousand drachmae, and not pad it at the time appointed; but when it was demanded of him, he ran away like a fugitive, out of the places under his government, and put it out of his power to get the money of him. When Caesar had read this letter, he was much troubled at it, and gave order that Agrippa should be excluded from his presence until he had paid that debt: upon which he was no way daunted at Caesar's anger, but entreated Antonia, the mother of Germanicus, and of Claudius, who was afterward Caesar himself, to lend him those three hundred thousand drachmae, that he might not be deprived of Tiberius's friendship; so, out of regard to the memory of Bernice his mother, (for those two women were very familiar with one another,) and out of regard to his and Claudius's education together, she lent him the money; and, upon the payment of this debt, there was nothing to hinder Tiberius's friendship to him. After this, Tiberius Caesar recommended to him his grandson, (20) and ordered that he should always accompany him when he went abroad. But upon Agrippa's kind reception by Antonia, he betook him to pay his respects to Caius, who was her grandson, and in very high reputation by reason of the good-will they bare his father. Now there was one Thallus, a freed-man of Caesar, of whom he borrowed a million of drachmae, and thence repaid Antonia the debt he owed her; and by sending the overplus in paying his court to Caius, became a person of great authority with him.

6. On this account it was that Eutychus could not obtain a bearing, but was kept still in prison. However, some time afterward, Tiberius came from Capreae to Tusculanum, which is about a hundred furlongs from Rome. Agrippa then desired of Antonia that she would procure a hearing for Eutychus, let the matter whereof he accused him prove what it would. Now Antonia was greatly esteemed by Tiberius on all accounts, from the dignity of her relation to him, who had been his brother Drusus's wife, and from her eminent chastity; (21) for though she was still a young woman, she continued in her widowhood, and refused all other matches, although Augustus had enjoined her to be married to somebody else; yet did she all along preserve her reputation free from reproach. She had also been the greatest benefactress to Tiberius, when there was a very dangerous plot laid against him by Sejanus, a man who had been her husband's friend, and wire had the greatest authority, because he was general of the army, and when many members of the senate and many of the freed-men joined with him, and the soldiery was corrupted, and the plot was come to a great height. Now Sejanus had certainly gained his point, had not Antonia's boldness been more wisely conducted than Sejanus's malice; for when she had discovered his designs against Tiberius, she wrote him an exact account of the whole, and gave the letter to Pallas*, the most faithful of her servants, and sent him to Caprere to Tiberius, who, when he understood it, slew Sejanus and his confederates; so that Tiberius, who had her in great esteem before, now looked upon her with still greater respect, and depended upon her in all things. So when Tiberius was desired by this Antonia to examine Eutychus, he answered, "If indeed Eutychus hath falsely accused Agrippa in what he hath said of him, he hath had sufficient punishment by what I have done to him already; but if, upon examination, the accusation appears to be true, let Agrippa have a care, lest, out of desire of punishing his freed-man, he do not rather bring a punishment upon himself." Now when Antonia told Agrippa of this, he was still much more pressing that the matter might be examined into; so Antonia, upon Agrippa's lying hard at her continually to beg this favor, took the following opportunity: As Tiberius lay once at his ease upon his sedan, and was carried about, and Caius, her grandson, and Agrippa, were before him after dinner she walked by the sedan, and desired him to call Eutychus, and have him examined; to which he replied, "O Antonia! the gods are my witnesses that I am induced to do what I am going to do, not by my own inclination, but because I am forced to it by thy prayers." When he had said this, he ordered Macro, who succeeded Sejanus, to bring Eutychus to him; accordingly, without any delay, he was brought. Then Tiberius asked him what he had to say against a man who had given him his liberty. Upon which he said, "O my lord! this Caius, and Agrippa with him, were once riding in a chariot, when I sat at their feet, and, among other discourses that passed, Agrippa said to Caius, Oh that the day would once come when this old fellow will dies and name thee for the governor of the habitable earth! for then this Tiberius, his grandson, would be no hinderance, but would be taken off by thee, and that earth would be happy, and I happy also." Now Tiberius took these to be truly Agrippa's words, and bearing a grudge withal at Agrippa, because, when he had commanded him to pay his respects to Tiberius, his grandson, and the son of Drusus, Agrippa had not paid him that respect, but had disobeyed his commands, and transferred all his regard to Caius; he said to Macro, "Bind this man." But Macro, not distinctly knowing which of them it was whom he bid him bind, and not expecting that he would have any such thing done to Agrippa, he forbore, and came to ask more distinctly what it was that he said. But when Caesar had gone round the hippodrome, he found Agrippa standing: "For certain," said he, "Macro, this is the man I meant to have bound;" and when he still asked, "Which of these is to be bound?" he said "Agrippa." Upon which Agrippa betook himself to make supplication for himself, putting him in mind of his son, with whom he was brought up, and of Tiberius [his grandson] whom he had educated; but all to no purpose; for they led him about bound even in his purple garments. It was also very hot weather, and they had but little wine to their meal, so that he was very thirsty; he was also in a sort of agony, and took this treatment of him heinously: as he therefore saw one of Caius's slaves, whose name was Thaumastus, carrying some water in a vessel, he desired that he would let him drink; so the servant gave him some water to drink, and he drank heartily, and said, "O thou boy! this service of thine to me will be for thy advantage; for if I once get clear of these my bonds, I will soon procure thee thy freedom of Caius who has not been wanting to minister to me now I am in bonds, in the same manner as when I was in my former state and dignity." Nor did he deceive him in what he promised him, but made him amends for what he had now done; for when afterward Agrippa was come to the kingdom, he took particular care of Thaumastus, and got him his liberty from Caius, and made him the steward over his own estate; and when he died, he left him to Agrippa his son, and to Bernice his daughter, to minister to them in the same capacity. The man also grew old in that honorable post, and therein died. But all this happened a good while later.

Now, as soon as Caius was come to Rome, and had brought Tiberius's dead body with him, and had made a sumptuous funeral for him, according to the laws of his country, he was much disposed to set Agrippa at liberty that very day; but Antonia hindered him, not out of any ill-will to the prisoner, but out of regard to decency in Caius, lest that should make men believe that he received the death of Tiberius with pleasure, when he loosed one whom he had bound immediately. However, there did not many days pass ere he sent for him to his house, and had him shaved, and made him change his raiment; after which he put a diadem upon his head, and appointed him to be king of the tetrarchy of Philip. He also gave him the tetrarchy of Lysanias, (27) and changed his iron chain for a golden one of equal weight. He also sent Marullus to be procurator of Judea.

- Antiquities of the Jews - Book XVIII, CHAPTER 6.

Freed slaves

The freed slaves of Antonia Minor also had important roles; also from my notes:

Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix (22–62) was one of the lesser known figures of the Julio-Claudian dynasty of ancient Rome. His grandmother was Antonia Major, the niece of Emperor Augustus by her husband Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (consul 16 BC) (his maternal grandfather). His mother was Domitia Lepida, a great niece of Emperor Augustus and granddaughter of Octavia Minor and Mark Antony. His father was Faustus (II) Cornelius Sulla (see also Faustus Cornelius Sulla Lucullus III), suffect consul of 31 and a descendant of the dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla. He was also the half brother of the empress Valeria Messalina.

In 47, Felix's mother's cousin, the emperor Claudius arranged for Faustus to marry his daughter, Claudia Antonia. They had a son, reportedly a weak child of little strength who died before his second birthday. His son's first birthday was celebrated privately. His attachment to the imperial ruling family meant that he was awarded a consulship in 52.

In 56, two years after the accession of Nero, the imperial freedman Pallas and the Praetorian prefect Sextus Afranius Burrus were accused of conspiring to have Faustus declared emperor. The conspirators were put on trial, but Faustus does not appear to have been implicated. Nero, however, began to watch his brother-in-law closely, afraid of his connection to the imperial family.

In 58, another imperial freedman falsely accused Faustus of plotting to attack Nero, possibly at the latter's instigation. Nero treated Faustus as proven guilty. Faustus was exiled in 59 and confined to Massilia (modern MarseilleFrance).

Finally, in 62, the palace guardsman Tigellinus sent assassins to murder Faustus. He was murdered at dinner, five days after Tigellinus gave his orders. Faustus' head was transported to the palace. At times, Nero would tease Faustus's head, due to his baldness and greyness to his hair.

Tacitus described Faustus's character as "timid and despicable" and also stated that Faustus was incapable to attempt to plot against Nero.

This must relate to:

Tiberius Claudius Epaphroditus

(to which Augusti libertus ("freedman of the emperor") could be added); mentioned as apparitor Caesarum; as viator tribunicius he served the emperor; as a libellis he drafted Nero's replies to petitions; mentioned by Josephus as his patron in the Jewish Antiquities, his Autobiography, and Against the Greeks.

It was probably at this stage in his career, in 65, that Epaphroditus learned that a senator named Gaius Calpurnius Piso and many others had organized a coup. Epaphroditus immediately reported it to the emperor and the conspirators were arrested. In this context, the Roman historian Tacitus calls Epaphroditus "Nero's freedman", which does not exclude the possibility that he had not obtained the office of a libellis yet, and reached this position as a reward for saving the emperor's life. On the other hand, the fact that he could decisively intervene suggests that he was already a man of great importance.

After the execution of the conspirators, Epaphroditus received military honors. He was now a wealthy man and owned large gardens on the Esquiline hill, east of the Domus Aurea ("golden house"), which Nero had started to construct after the great fire that had destroyed Rome in 64.

 Keeping a low profile, he survived the fall of Nero and the brief reigns of Galba (68-69), Otho (first half 69), and Vitellius (second half of 69). The last-mentioned started to put an end to the influence of freedmen on the imperial bureaucracy, a policy that was continued by Vespasian (69-79), Titus (79-81), and Domitian (81-96), who, according to Suetonius, appointed Epaphroditus as his secretary.

This piece of information may be wrong, because Epaphroditus, while living in retirement, protected the philosopher Epictetus, until Domitian expelled all philosophers from Rome. It is unlikely that the emperor reappointed a man who had been sympathetic to Nero and was connected to the opposition. This also casts some doubt on the story of Epaphroditus' death: according to, again, Suetonius, Domitian had Epaphroditus executed in 95.

- at Livius

I am convinced this is the man appearing in the letters of Saul/Paul. As he writes of Ephisaphroditus in Philippians, he also writes:

All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household.

- Philippians 4:22

This fixes the identity of Epaphroditus within the imperial court as the man whom Tacitus calls "Nero's freedman".


 is a saint of the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, first Bishop of Philippi, and of Andriacia in Asia Minor, and first Bishop of TerracinaItaly. There is little evidence that these were all the same man.

Epaphroditus was a fellow Christian missionary of St. Paul's.

Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.

For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick.

For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.

I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful.

Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation:

Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.

- Philippians 2:25-30

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.

Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.

For even in Thessalonica you sent once and again to my necessity.

Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.

But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.

- Philippians 4:10-18

Mentioned only in Philippians 2:254:18, and 4:23. The name corresponds to the Latin Venustus (= handsome), and was very common in the Roman period. "The name occurs very frequently in inscriptions both Greek and Latin, whether at full length Epaphroditus, or in its contracted form Epaphras" (J. B. Lightfoot, Philippians, 123). His name was a pagan one, meaning loved by Aphrodite.

Epaphroditus was the delegate of the Christian community at Philippi, sent with their gift to Paul during his first Roman imprisonment. Paul calls him "my brother and fellow-worker and fellow-soldier." "The three words are arranged in an ascending scale: common sympathy, common work, common danger and toil and suffering" (Lightfoot, l. c.).

On his arrival at Rome, Epaphroditus devoted himself to "the work of Christ," both as Paul's attendant and as his assistant in missionary work. So assiduously did he labor that he lost his health, and in the words of Paul:"he was ill, and almost died." He recovered, however, and Paul sent him back to Philippi with this letter to quiet the alarm of his friends, who had heard of his serious illness. Paul besought for him that the church should receive him with joy and 'honour men like him'.

We see in the financial records of Jucundus, the Chrestian and his banking associates, how slaves and freedmen acted as agents for the masters (and former masters) in financial transactions.

We also have reported from Suetonius: several ex-consuls did not venture to lay hands on his (Nero's) chamberlains although they caught them on their estates with tow and fire-brands, while some granaries near the Golden House, whose room he particularly desired, were demolished by engines of war and then set on fire, because their walls were of stone. 

In 65... After the execution of the conspirators, Epaphroditus received military honors. He was now a wealthy man and owned large gardens on the Esquiline hill, east of the Domus Aurea ("golden house"), which Nero had started to construct after the great fire that had destroyed Rome in 64. (Livius)

It was the senate - and the corrupt senators - turning against Nero thhat brought his death:

In March 68, Gaius Julius Vindex, the governor of Gallia Lugdunensis, rebelled against Nero's tax policies.[136][137]Lucius Verginius Rufus, the governor of Germania Superior, was ordered to put down Vindex's rebellion.[138] In an attempt to gain support from outside his own province, Vindex called upon Servius Sulpicius Galba, the governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, to join the rebellion and further, to declare himself emperor in opposition to Nero.[139] At the Battle of Vesontio in May 68, Verginius' forces easily defeated those of Vindex and the latter committed suicide.[138] However after putting down this one rebel, Verginius' legions attempted to proclaim their own commander as emperor. Verginius refused to act against Nero, but the discontent of the legions of Germany and the continued opposition of Galba in Spain did not bode well for Nero.

While Nero had retained some control of the situation, support for Galba increased despite his being officially declared a public enemy. The prefect of the Praetorian GuardGaius Nymphidius Sabinus, also abandoned his allegiance to the emperor and came out in support for Galba.

At this time a courier arrived with a report that the Senate had declared Nero a public enemy and that it was their intention to execute him by beating him to death.

It was in this obscure circumstance that Nero died, with but Epaphroditus at his side.

Marcus Antonius Pallas

(c. 163) was a prominent Greek freedman and secretary during the reigns of the Roman Emperors Claudius and Nero. His younger brother was:

Marcus Antonius Felix

a procurator of Iudaea Province.

Felix was the younger brother of the Greek freedman Marcus Antonius Pallas. Pallas served as a secretary of the treasury during the reign of the Emperor Claudius. Felix was a Greek freedman either of Claudius, according to which theory Josephus (Antiq. xx. 7) calls him Claudius Felix, or for Claudius's mother Antonia Minor, a daughter of Triumvir Mark Antony to Octavia Minor and niece of Emperor Augustus. According to Tacitus, Pallas and Felix descended from the Greek Kings of Arcadia. Felix became the procurator by the petition of his brother.

Felix’s cruelty and licentiousness, coupled with his accessibility to bribes (see Book of Acts 24:26), led to a great increase of crime in Judaea. The period of his rule was marked by internal feuds and disturbances, which he put down with severity.

After Paul the Apostle was arrested in Jerusalem and rescued from a plot against his life, the local Roman chiliarch Claudius Lysias transferred him to Caesarea, where he stood trial before Felix. On at least one further occasion Felix and his wife Drusilla heard Paul discourse, and later on frequently sent for Paul and talked with him (Acts 24:24-26). When Felix was succeeded as procurator, having already detained Paul for two years, he left him imprisoned as a favor to the Jews (Acts 24:27).

On returning to Rome, Felix was accused of using a dispute between the Jews and Syrians of Caesarea as a pretext to slay and plunder the inhabitants, but through the intercession of his brother, the freedman Pallas, who had great influence with the Emperor Nero, he escaped unpunished. Porcius Festus succeeded him as procurator of Judea.

According to Tacitus, Pallas and Felix descended from the Greek Kings of Arcadia.

Pallas was originally a slave of Antonia Minor, a daughter of Mark Antony and niece of Emperor Augustus. Pallas took her name when freed. Josephus mentions him as the slave sent by Antonia to deliver evidence to the emperor Tiberius concerning the murder of his son Julius Caesar Drusus by Sejanus. Antonia probably manumitted Pallas between the years of 31 and 37, when he would have passed the minimum age for freedom. He is listed as owning land in Egypt during that period, possibly as a reward for his servitude. When Antonia died in 37, he became the client of her son, Claudius, as tradition dictated at the death of a former master and patron.

As a freedman, Pallas rose to great heights in the imperial government. From the beginning of Claudius' reign, the senate was openly hostile to him, which forced him to centralize powers. The daily maintenance of the empire was too much for one man, so Claudius divided it up amongst his trusted freedmen. Pallas was made secretary of the treasury. He did this job with such efficiency that Cornelius Scipio proposed before the Senate that he be rewarded. The position apparently enabled Pallas to reward himself as well, as he is later listed as one of the richest men of the time by Pliny the Elder. The historians do admit that he never embezzled directly from the imperial account, and his wealth may have come from his financial acumen. Some ancient historians claim that he was able to control the emperor through his high-ranking position, but this is probably not the case. When his brother Felix was recalled to Rome to stand trial for maladministration, Pallas could not prevent him from being banished, though he was at the height of his career. Nor could he prevent his fellow freedman-administrator Polybius from being executed for treason.

In the second half of Claudius' reign, Pallas chose to support Agrippina the Younger as a new empress after the fall of Empress MessalinaTacitus notes his intent to reunite the Julian and Claudian families through the marriage, and prevent either a future husband of Agrippina or Agrippina herself from claiming the throne. But the ancient authors also state that the real reason for his choice was that Pallas and Agrippina were lovers. Modern historians suggest that their relationship was strictly business, and they helped each other with mutual goals. Pallas' influence on Agrippina was real and became well-known, but he continued to advise Claudius on matters of state. He was the source of law that stated that a free woman who married a slave would remain free if the master approved.

When Agrippina's son, Nero, succeeded Claudius, Pallas retained his position in the treasury for a time. It is suggested that he assisted Agrippina in murdering Claudius, since he was sure of his future security. This security did not last long. In 55, Nero dismissed Pallas from service, tired of having to deal with any allies of Agrippina. He further accused Pallas of conspiring to overthrow him and place Faustus Sulla, the husband of Claudius' daughter Claudia Antonia, on the throne.Seneca, who was prominent in Nero's circle, came to Pallas' defense at the trial and got him acquitted. Pallas did not elude Nero's wrath forever, and was killed on Nero's orders in 63 - possibly to gain access to his large fortune, part of which was his by right as Pallas' official patron. Some money must have gone to Pallas' family, as a descendant of his became consul in 167.

- Source: Oost, S.V. "The Career of M. Antonius Pallas." American Journal of Philology 79 (1958). 113-139.

Comment: Nero executing him in 63 suggests that Pallas was associated with Saulus and Poppaea Sabina, and therefore also with Epaphroditus. In fact, so many of these characters were slaves that one must consider this in relation to the Tradition that Christianity attracted slaves predominantly.

a. Paul Chats Up Major Officials and the Royal Family
Paul is put on trial. Although Acts does not make very clear the charges, Felix, the governor, keeps him under house arrest (probably actually protective custody). Felix and his wife Drusilla (not identified as such but actually the sister of King Agrippa II) carry on conversations with Paul over the course of 2 years(!) about theological and perhaps other matters. At this point (60 C.E.) Festus succeeds Felix and is pressed by “the Jews” once again about Paul, whom Festus then gives a new trial. Again, the charges are not clear. Paul demands an appeal to the emperor Nero, a request that is granted.

b. It is therefore likely that Paul’s extended conversations with Felix, Festus, and Agrippa II, whatever theological excursions they may have contained, were basically debriefing sessions that provided these authorities with invaluable intelligence on the workings of the resistance movement that was spiraling out of their control.
(Gould review)

Eisenman reviewed by Price:
Agrippa I's third daughter Drusilla, after contemplating marriage to the son of King Antiochus, married King Azizus of Emesa because he had agreed to circumcise himself (as Antiochus' son had not). Displaying that cynical opportunism so typical of Herodians, Drusilla divorced him on her own initiative to marry Felix, a marriage connived at in Caesarea by someone who can be none other than the infamous Simon Magus (like its anagram "Mnason" above, he too is a "Cypriot"). Simon's singular service to Felix was to convince Drusilla to divorce her previous husband. In this episode many themes emerge which are of the utmost importance for dating Qumran documents and understanding the true gist of their critique of the establishment. Even Josephus, who is usually so accommodating on such matters (later finding Herodian practices congenial, he too divorces a wife), describes Drusilla's self-divorce from the King of Emesa as contrary to "the laws of her forefathers." He makes a similar comment about an earlier such divorce by Herodias, which is at the root of problems relating to the death of John in both Josephus and the New Testament. These divorces are anticipated by the divorce of Herod's sister Salome from the Idumaean Costobarus, so important in all our genealogies and paralleled by similar ones by Mariamne (mentioned above) and Bernice from Polemos of Cilicia to take up with Titus (which would involve her in a two-fold denunciation at Qumran, not to mention her "riches" and the rumor of her illicit connection with Agrippa II which Josephus also mentions relative to the Polemos affair). Paul, too, shows his knowledge of this kind of divorce in discussing James' 'Jerusalem Council' "fornication" directives in 1 Cor 7:10f., but importantly he does not condemn them. Instead, he gently slaps the wrist of the offending woman by recommending that she abstain from further marriage and specifies no further punitive procedures.

Antonia Caenis

a former slave and secretary of Antonia Minor (mother of the emperor Claudius), was the mistress of the Roman emperor Vespasian. It is believed that she was born in Istria, now in Croatia, based on a trip she took there on her own Cassius Dio 66.14. In her 30s Caenis, still possibly a slave, was in an unofficial relationship known as contubernium, with Vespasian before his marriage. According to Suetonius, after the death of Vespasian's wife Flavia Domitilla, Vespasian and Caenis, now a freedwoman, resumed their relationship; she was his wife "in all but name" until her death in AD 74. She had a remarkable memory and considerable influence on the emperor's administration, carried out official business on his behalf, and apparently made a lot of money from her position. However, she was treated with disrespect by Vespasian's son Domitian, who refused to greet her as one of the family (Cassius Dio 66.14).

And lastly:

Alexander the Alabarch: Roman and Jew

Katherine G. Evans
Summary presented to the Philo of Alexandria Seminar of the Nov. 1995 annual meeting of Society of Biblical Literature. Full text of article published in SBL Seminar Papers, 1995, p. 576-594. 

The present study represents a "back door" entry to Philonic studies in that it attempts to reconstruct the historical Philo based on what can be known about his brother Alexander the alabarch. I propose that Alexander was both a very prominent Roman citizen and a very prominent Jew with social ties that stretched from the Imperial family in Rome to the royal family and priesthood in Judea and that Philo to some extent shared this status. 

Alexander is known to us directly only through 5 references in Josephus and indirectly through Philo's On Animals. Although Josephus' reliability is always at issue, I believe that here he was probably accurate because Josephus almost certainly had met a number of Alexander's relatives if not the alabarch himself and because the War andAntiquities were dedicated to the Emperors Vespasian and Titus who were close friends with Alexander's son Ti. Alexander. 

In War 5.205 it is learned that Alexander had the nine gates of the Temple in Jerusalem overlaid with massive plates of silver and gold, a gift which one can assume would have placed him on very good terms with the Temple High Priest among others. This is but one of a number of indications of Alexander's great wealth. In around 35 C.E. Agrippa sailed to Alexandria and begged Alexander for a loan of 200,000 drachmas (Antiquities 18.159-160). Agrippa and Alexander were probably previously acquainted particularly since both men were friends of Claudius before he became Emperor. Josephus tells us that Alexander was "old friends" with Claudius which would suggest that they were roughly contemporary in age or born around 10 B.C.E. Since there is no evidence that Claudius ever journeyed to Egypt, Alexander probably spent time in Rome. It is plausible that he was educated there and grew up "in the circle of Claudius" as Josephus reports Agrippa did. Alexander also became an epitropos for the mother of Claudius, Antonia Drusus, which I suggest meant that Alexander became the procurator of Antonia's extensive land estates in Egypt. At some point Alexander was appointed "alabarch" which appears to have been a Roman magistry responsible for tax assessment. 

Sometime between 37 and 41 C.E. the Emperor Gaius imprisoned Alexander in a fit of anger. The exact reason is unknown but may have been connected somehow with Philo's embassy to Gaius in 39/40. Upon becoming Emperor, Claudius released Alexander from prison and soon thereafter Alexander's son Marcus married Agrippa's daughter Berenice thus linking Alexander's family to the Jewish ruling class through marriage. Josephus also reported that Alexander surpassed all his fellow citizens in both ancestry and wealth (Antiquities 20.100). What Josephus considered to be "superior ancestry" may be elucidated by the beginning of his Life where he relates that for Jews a claim to nobility includes a connection to the priesthood and having royal blood by being descended from the Hasmoneans. If this characterization applies then we can deduce that Alexander was considered a nobleman in both Alexandria and Judea tracing his ancestry back to the Hasmoneans and the priesthood. Josephus also mentions Alexander's religious devotion and adherence to his ancestral practices. 

There can be no question that Alexander was a Roman citizen. This is supported by the Roman names of his two sons, Marcus and Ti. Julius Alexander and the status of the latter. Ti. Alexander held the exalted status of inlustris eques or "knight of the first rank" which was second only to the Roman senatorial class. Besides being a procurator of Judea he attained the two pinnacles of an equestrian career, Prefect of Egypt and Praetorian Prefect. It would have been virtually impossible for Ti. Alexander to obtain such distinguished rank and titles if his father had not already been established as one of the Roman elite. In all likelihood Roman citizenship was granted to Alexander's father or grandfather by Julius Caesar. 

Alexander's full Roman name would have been some unknown first name or praenomen followed by Julius Alexander. A variation of Alexander's name is found in some manuscripts of Antiquities 19.276. In the passage which mentions Alexander's imprisonment by Gaius some manuscripts call him Alexander Lysimachus or simply Lysimachus. This is likely a later confusion with a third brother named Lysimachus as clarified in Philo's On Animals

Finally, I return now to the question at hand. What can knowledge of the status of Alexander reveal to us about Philo's relationship to Judaism? The answer to this question may depend partly upon the exact blood relationship of the brothers. Did they have the same two parents and if not did they share the parent through whom Alexander derived his "superior ancestry?" Josephus tells us that Philo was a man held in the highest honor which may indicate that they did. I have suggested above that Alexander was descended from priests and Jerome provides an independent witness that this was also true of Philo. Philo was also related to the ruling class of Judea through the marriage of his nephew Marcus if not before that. I have no doubt that when Philo made his pilgrimmage to Jerusalem as described in On Providence that he was welcomed as an honored guest for his brother's sake as well as for his own. It is also very likely that Philo was a Roman citizen since Alexander's parents would have only married Romans to keep the citizenship in the family. Interestingly the possession of Roman citizenship appears to have opened doors among both Jews and Romans for the family of Alexander the alabarch and may have done so as well for Philo. 

Page URL: