Thursday, July 9, 2009

Is A.D. [Anno Domini] Time also in Need of a Radical Revision?

We certainly think it is! 

Who Was the Roman Imperial Persecutor of
St. John the Evangelist?

Damien F. Mackey


For some time now I have strongly suspected that there has occurred, in the construction of Roman imperial history, the same sort of duplication that revisionists have observed in early Egyptian history. Chronologists, scientists, anthropologists, seem to have a pathological tendency to want to stretch things out. It is the legendary Procrustes of Attica in action with his rack (as opposed to his other, and opposite, radical action of ‘shortening’ or ‘lopping off’).
The so-called Stone Ages, they stretch out over several million years, in single file, though there is abundant evidence for overlap (e.g. the sophisticated astronomical knowledge of so-called primitive man as exhibited in the Lascaux cave paintings). Astronomers keep wanting to expand the size of the universe, galaxy upon galaxy, based on the Doppler Effect (or should that be the Doppelgänger Effect?); and to expand the age of the universe by billions of year (give or take a zero).
The same with the conventional recorded history. In many articles now I have argued, following the initial great insight of Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky (Ages in Chaos series), that ancient Egyptian chronology, for instance, has been artificially stretched on the rack to the tune of 500 years or more. It needs a benign Procrustes to shrink it back to its original size. Dr. D. Courville, in The Exodus Problem and its Ramifications, rightly concluded that Egypt’s Old and Middle kingdoms - conventionally separated the one from the other (at their beginnings) by 700 years - were in actual fact contemporaneous, and not successive. Chronological reality is often like that; more of a ‘pond-ripple effect’, spreading outwards, than an ‘Indian file’ successive extension.
In my “Osman’s ‘Osmosis’ of Moses” and “Re-discovering the Egyptianized Moses”, written for The Glozel Newsletter (Waikato, N.Z.), I built upon Courville’s important re-alignment. This enabled me to propose that the great Fourth Dynasty Pharaoh, Chephren (conventionally dated to c. 2500 BC), of the Old Kingdom of Egypt, was the same person as the Twelfth Dynasty’s Sesostris (conventionally dated to c.1950 BC), of the Middle Kingdom. What conventional history has cleft in two, artificially separating the parts by some 500-700 years, needs to be rejoined together again. Pharaoh Chephren (Egyptian Kheper-ka-ra), I argued, was none other than pharaoh Sesostris (also known in Egyptian as Kha-kheper-ra). And this one Pharaoh was the “Chenephres” of Greek tradition; the Pharaoh who married Moses’ Egyptian foster-mother and from whom prince Moses eventually had to flee for his life.
See also related articles at the California Institute for Ancient Studies, e.g:

Now, that same sort of folding as with Egypt’s Old and Middle Kingdoms, I suspect, needs to be applied to early Roman imperial history - though thankfully not a fold of 700 years in the latter case, but more like 60 years (a minimum figure - though see a few radical suggestions below towards the possibility that even this may need to be expanded). I hope to be able to demonstrate this from various testimonies.
Strange Afterglows and Anomalies

One frequently encounters in Egyptology queries over whether some artefact, piece of literature, or even a destructive action, ought to be dated to the Old or Middle Kingdom. This very querying in itself can often be a tell-tale sign that a chronological folding is required (so that chronologists will no longer be forced into a dispute over a range of estimates incorporating many centuries). Now the same tendency of querying I am finding in historical discussions of Nero (54-68 AD, conventional dating) and Domitian (81-96 AD, conventional dating). Historians puzzle over whether such and such a persecution, or event, or cultural innovation, occurred during the reign of the one or the other Roman emperor.
A tell-tale sign?
It can be (though one can also of course end up with egg all over one’s face when the situation is misread). Some commentators, who cannot make up their minds whether St. John the Evangelist was exiled to the island of Patmos during the reign of the emperor Nero, or the reign of Domitian, end up by compromising and suggesting that the great Evangelist may in fact have experienced two exiles.
One of the first things I decided to do, to test if there might be any possibility of chronologically folding Nero and Domitian - as I am claiming to have been able to have done with Pharaohs Chephren and Sesostris, beginning with a name comparison - was to look at Nero’s other names. Like we, the ancients often had a set of names (not necessarily of course of the same signification as ours); and this can be the cause of much confusion and duplication (leading e.g. to the failure I think to link pharaoh Kheper-ka-ra of Egypt’s Old Kingdom with his alter ego, Kha-kheper-ra of the Middle Kingdom, because the latter Pharaoh is more commonly known by the unsimilar name of Sesostris).
So is there the chance that Nero was also called Domitian?
Even with this new theory in mind, I read over Nero’s four names, without a pause, once I had found them in K. Gentry’s The Beast of Revelation. Perhaps I was distracted by Nero’s nickname, Ahenobarbus; a description of his red facial hair, or beard, causing me to miss a connection. I was only stopped in my tracks a bit further along when I read that a name of Nero’s father was Domitius. I quickly scanned back to Nero’s set of names and saw that, yes, Nero certainly had as one of his names, Domitius, or Domitianus, the Roman version of the name Domitian.
Nero was Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (Nero Cæsar); Nero being an adopted name. [He was also Nero Claudius Cæsar, see Ancient Rome, C. Mackay, Cambridge 2004, p. 201; a matter that will also shortly come under certain consideration].
Speaking of beards (Aheno-barbus), strangely, from the Memoirs of Julia Balbilla - a companion of the emperor Hadrian’s wife - we read her testimony that Hadrian, who is supposed to have ruled a full half century after Nero (that is, during 117-138 AD, conventional dating), was the first Roman emperor to have sported a beard: ‘Those who never saw more of the emperor [Hadrian] than his picture on a coin, and only knew that it was him because no other emperor had worn a beard, still talked about him as if they had met him”. (E. Speller, Following Hadrian, p. 46. Emphasis added).
But Nero, of course, had also worn a beard as many sculptures of him attest.
Hadrian had, due to Greek influence, grown his beard sometime during his reign. Thus Julia Balbilla: “Not yet an emperor, every gesture heavy with conscious gravity, nor bearded – though he told my brother later it was in Greece he had determined to let his beard grow should he reach full power …” (Ibid., p. 47). Nero, too, was, as we shall learn, a fervent Grecophile.
Hadrian will become the third character in A., the main part of this article (along with Nero and Domitian), whom I consider might to be required to make up the composite Persecutor of St. John the Evangelist, and also of the Jews. He is not unlike Nero in appearance - though perhaps Hadrian is a bit more refined looking.
This similarity of names (Nero Domitius, emperor Domitian, as with the Egyptian pharaohs) is of course by itself no certain proof of identity between Nero and Domitian. But it, coupled with other evidences, and the queries of historians already mentioned, will gradually begin to shape up to some sort of a real picture.
Moreover, the current chronology for the life of St. John the Evangelist would have him ending up as an unrealistically sprightly nonagenarian. I admit that there are some instances of this phenomenon throughout the world, but it is far from being the norm. St. Irenæus wrote (in Adv. Haer. Bk. II) that St. John “continued with the Elders till the times of [the emperor] Trajan”, who is supposed to have arrived on the scene even after Domitian. Trajan (98-117 AD, conventional dating) is regarded as the emperor whom Hadrian would succeed. Though there seems to be some numismatic and monumental evidence that Trajan was Hadrian as well. In my MA thesis for the University of Sydney, The Sothic Star Theory of the Egyptian Calendar, 1994, pp. 187-188, I wrote (with ref. to H. Mattingly & E. Sydenham’s The Roman Imperial Coinage:

From the same, or next, year [i.e. 117 AD, conventional dating] there was a coin having, as its obverse: ‘IMP CAESAR TRAIAN. HADRIANUS AUG’, and as its reverse, holding a globe with a phoenix on top of it, and with the legend: ‘SAEC. AUR’ [Saeculum Aureum = ‘Golden Age’] ….

Hadrian, moreover, was called Traianus [Trajan] Hadrianus Augustus.
There is also some indication that Hadrian and Antoninus Pius overlapped. It is possible that the latter, whose substantial period of reign was completely forgettable, is also in need of an alter ego? “His reign of twenty-three years is remarkable for nothing apart from the fact that nothing remarkable happened in all those years” (Mackay, p. 231). That sounds unlikely. So Antoninus Pius will probably be given some further consideration at a later time.
Trajan, too, was of similar facial feature to Nero and Hadrian. He was also a persecutor of Christians. We shall tentatively include Trajan also in our mix. Thus, now, Nero = Domitian = Trajan = Hadrian.
Hadrian, we shall find, was a rather complex character; perhaps somewhat like Herod the Great. He would seem to have been both like, and unlike, the alter egos whom I am proposing for him. He travelled, loved Greece, and was artistic, like Nero; he could be gloomy and was certainly most superstitious, cruel and fearful, like Domitian; he could also appear dignified, conscientious and competent, like Trajan. But he would be generally considered to have been far less clownish than Nero, whose real person may perhaps have been, to some degree, caricatured due to later criticisms; and less sullen and morose than Domitian. We shall come to discuss the complexities of the man in some detail.

According to the reckonings of the conventional Roman chronology, St. John would have been in his nineties by the time of his dwelling at Ephesus after his return from exile. Yet the activity that he is then said to have undertaken is that of a younger person. Eusebius wholeheartedly endorsed Clement of Alexandria’s account that John not only travelled about the region of Ephesus appointing bishops and reconciling whole churches, but also that while on horseback he chased with all of his might a young man. Unlikely energy for a person in his nineties.
A similar sort of uncertainty, as with the exile of St. John the Evangelist, occurs in relation to the demise of Pontius Pilate. According to The Jerome Biblical Commentary (75:143): “…later legends tell of [Pilate’s] suicide under Caligula (Eusebius, HE 2.7), or of his execution under Nero (John of Antioch, in Fragm. hist. graec. 4.574)”.
Can we possibly also equate Caligula with Nero?
Again, was it Caligula, or was it Claudius - or was it all one and the same - who had granted to Herod Agrippa the Roman province of Judaea?
More of those tantalising questions.
If Nero were now also to be chronologically ‘folded’ with Caligula, with whom he admittedly shares some definite perverse traits - and perhaps also with Claudius (whose name he shares) - then the composite (including Hadrian) would demand a revision of Roman imperial history to the tune of about a century (c. 38 AD-138 AD). It would also seem to curtail too much the New Testament history. The New Testament, if I have read it correctly, does mention only three Roman emperors: (Caesar) Augustus (Luke 2:1); Tiberius (Caesar) (Luke 3:1); and Claudius (Acts 11:28; 18:2). Whilst the same ruler can be referred to in the Bible by different names (e.g. the Assyrian king, Tiglath-pileser [III], 2 Kings 15:29, is also called Pul, 2 Kings 15:9), chronological considerations alone (apart from historical) would probably necessitate at least that Tiberius Augustus ruled later than Augustus, and seemingly that Claudius ruled later than Tiberius, thereby making for three distinct Roman emperors here.
Whether the actual succession was in fact simply (i) Augustus; (ii) Tiberius; and then (iii) our composite emperor (based on Nero), would be difficult to establish at this stage, and I shall be presuming, for the time being, that it was the standard sequence: Augustus; Tiberius; Caligula; Claudius; and Nero. Thus I shall be leaving Caligula and Claudius out of the main mix, concentrating on the Neronic and Domitianic periods (supposedly two periods, that is), which periods we are going to find below also share the commonality of being (supposedly two) periods of Jewish revolt. Some parallels of our composite emperor with Caligula and Claudius will however be mentioned in the course of this article, leaving the door open for possible future equations. Certainly, Caligula and the presumably deformed Claudius do not appear to have the same stamp of appearance as do Nero/Trajan/Hadrian. However, it may be possible to find more likeness between the former and the younger, beardless Nero.

Now, here are some of the examples of the queries historians make between Nero and Domitian, plus some historical anomalies relevant to this revised scenario:

· Despite the strong conviction by some that the emperor worship that they detect in Revelation can be found no earlier than Domitian, others insist that Nero practised it. Nero was particularly infatuated with Apollo, and even claimed the title, “Son of Apollos”. Seneca, one of young Nero’s tutors, convinced Nero that he was destined to become the very revelation of Augustus and Apollo. [A coin with an obverse bust of Trajan has DIVO written on it, which may indicate that the emperor Trajan was divinised, see Sothic Star Theory, p. 187].

· Despite unanimity amongst early Fathers that St. John was banished to Patmos in the reign of Domitian, shortly after his being dipped in a cauldron of burning oil, St. Jerome said that this dipping occurred in Nero’s reign (Against Jovinianum 11:26). That total picture would be appropriate of course if Nero were Domitian.

Another anomaly. The conventional chronology of imperial Rome has also served to throw out of kilter the early history of the Roman Catholic Church that has been chronologically tied to it. Let us take the case of Pope St. Clement I of Rome. Clement, like St. John, is supposed to have written around 90-95 AD, yet he spoke as if the Jerusalem Temple were still standing. Clement’s relevant statement is as follows (I Clement 41):

Not in every place, brethren, are the continual daily sacrifices offered, or the freewill offerings, or the sin offerings and the trespass offerings, but in Jerusalem alone. And even there the offering is not made in every place, but before the sanctuary in the court of the altar; and this too through the high-priest and the aforesaid ministers, after that the victim to be offered hath been inspected for blemishes.

This statement clearly pre-dates 70 AD. Clement as a writer, therefore, needs to be retro-dated by at least 20 years. That similar anomalies occur with the current chronology of Pope Pius I is shown in some detail by Gentry in Before Jerusalem Fell (93ff).
Added to all this is another strange afterglow about 60 years after the destruction of Jerusalem, with the Emperor Hadrian’s putting down a so-called ‘Second’ Jewish Revolt in the Holy Land, and supposedly removing all the stones of the Temple. This, rather than Titus’ destruction of the city in 70 AD, is considered by some to be the more perfect fulfilment of Jesus Christ’s prophecy that ‘... not a single stone here will be left on another; everything will be destroyed’ (Matthew 24:2).
But I ask how could the Jews have rallied so mightily, re-populated the area to such an extent, so soon after 70 AD, when their capital city had been absolutely burned to the ground, and whatever citizens survived had been sold into slavery? Thus The Jerome Biblical Commentary (75:163, 164):

The Jews were slaughtered …. By September 70 [AD] the city [of Jerusalem] was final taken, plundered, and razed; its walls were torn down … A Roman garrison was stationed in the city ….
Iudaea capta was the inscription that appeared on the coins struck for the Roman province thereafter.

Yet the thought is still entertained that Temple worship resumed briefly about half a century later, at the time of a presumed Second Jewish Revolt (ibid.):

Except for a very brief time during the “Liberation of Jerusalem” by Simon ben Kosibah (Bar Cochba …), when it is likely that the Temple sacrifice was resumed, the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 meant much more than the mere leveling of the holy city. It brought an end to the tradition of centuries according to which sacrifice was offered to Yahweh only in Jerusalem.

We are expected to believe that it basically happened all over again.
But I rather think that it is clearly the one historical scenario duplicated, with the most significant ramifications for early Roman imperial structure. “Its causes are not certain”, we read of the presumed Second Revolt (ibid., 167); a typical comment provoked by the conventional history. Interestingly, when possible causes are proffered, from Dio Cassius, they relate to Hadrian’s anti-Jewishness, which we are going to find was also a trait shared by his various proposed alter egos as well (ibid.):

Dio Cassius (Rom. Hist. 69.12, 1-2) records that [the Second Revolt] was sparked by Hadrian’s attempt to build a Graeco-Roman city (Aelia Capitolina) on the site of Jerusalem and to erect a shrine to Jupiter on the ruins [sic] of the Temple of Yahweh. The Vita Hadriani 14.2 gives an imperial edict forbidding circumcision as the cause for the revolt.

Now this (a) smacks of (b) Caligula, of (c) Claudius, of (d) Nero, and of (e) Domitian. For example:

(b) Caligula (Mackay, p. 198): “He went so far as to order the governor of Syria to erect a statue of himself as god in the Temple in Jerusalem, an act that would have caused a major revolt in Judaea. The governor delayed long enough that [Caligula] was dead before he was obliged to carry out this clearly insane command”.

(c) Claudius (Acts 18:2): “There [Corinth Paul] found a Jew named Aquila … who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome”.

(d) Nero (Mackay, p. 207): “… Nero put T. Flavius Vespasianus (“Vespasian” in English) in charge of suppressing the [Jewish] revolt, and a force totalling about 60,000 men was gathered from various provinces for this purpose”.

(e) Domitian ( “Later in the first century, another Emperor, Domitian (A.D. 81-96), instituted a more serious persecution [presumably than Nero’s]. Domitian saw Christianity as an unlicensed religion and ordered its persecution in A.D. 91. This persecution arose partly because of Domitian's insistence that he be recognized as deity prior to his death. Rome usually deified an Emperor after his death. Romans accorded such recognition primarily as a patriotic gesture, but the idea offended Christians and they refused to accord deference to the Emperor. In addition, Domitian hated Jews and anything Jewish. Since Christianity arose from Jewish roots, he hated Christians as much as Jews. He directed his persecution against Jews and the Christian community”.

In the case of (f) Trajan: “The sources for Trajan’s campaigns are very poor” (Mackay, p. 225). But we do know that there was a “revolt among the Jews of the diaspora in Roman territory … in Egypt and Cyrene”, against which “Trajan sent one of his best generals from the Dacian war to restore order” (ibid., pp. 227, 228). Trajan was also a persecutor of Christians.

There was a ‘third’ bloody capture of Jerusalem in Roman history. Actually this preceded the other supposedly two assaults in the Neronic and Hadrianic eras. It is considered to have occurred in Republican times, in 63 BC, when Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great), one time ally of Julius Caesar, captured Jerusalem and killed 12,000 Jews. This is quite a massive event, yet is often mentioned only in passing. I suspect that there also needs to be a folding of some Roman Republican history with early Roman Imperial history. The larger-than-life, ambiguous, and even godlike, Julius Caesar, may be a composite of several historical characters. See e.g:

Moreover, there was (i) a Pompey the Great (Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus) also at the time of Caligula (see A. Barrett, Caligula – the Corruption of Power, p. 237) about a century after (presumably) the Republican Pompey. And there was then also (ii) a Marcus Crassus; the same name as the ‘earlier’ Pompey’s fellow consul (see Mackay, p. 135). Moroever, Caligula may have been murdered by (iii) a Cassius Longinus (Barrett, p. 162); the same name as the chief conspirator against Julius Caesar.
All very strange indeed and greatly needing to be explained – but the explanation of which is beyond the scope of this particular article!

The Travelling Emperor

Given my premise that Nero was also Hadrian, then one might be led to suggest that Hadrian’s grand tour of Asia Minor, at a late stage in his reign, “finalising his great league of unified Greek communities” (ibid., p. 166) and indulging in self-glorification, might be somewhat synchronous with St. John’s seven letters to the churches in that regions - and also with St. Paul’s great missionary activities there - strengthening them for the persecution. I take up Speller’s account of Hadrian’s travels, beginning on p. 167:

So the cities of the eastern empire resurrected their history, discovered ancient links with the homeland, excitedly re-named themselves: Hadriane, Hadriani, Hadriana, Hadrianoutherae, Hadrianeia, Hadrianoi, Hadrianopolis; and in the main, enthusiastically embraced the new cult of [Hadrian’s deceased lover] Antinous, just as they had always, unlike Rome, worshipped the living emperor. ….
Tarsus, the greatest city of Cilicia, was already a thriving commercial centre … when Hadrian arrived in 131 and founded the hoped-for games ….
Hadrian swept through the great Greek cities of Pamphylia and Lycia, distributing largesse, founding monuments …. Arches were erected at Attalia (modern Antalya) and Perge. At Phaselis ….
… He arrived at Ephesus on the west coast of Asia minor and celebrated at the new temple erected in his name ….

[Could this be also when he exiled St. John of Ephesus to Patmos?].

Athens received money, buildings, dedications to Athenian boys, a corn dole for its poorest citizens and the gift of the island of Cephalonia … The supreme moment of theatre was the dedication of the temple of Olympian Zeus …. This time not just a god but the abode of a god – or gods: Zeus and Hadrian – was revealed. A magnificent ivory and gold statue of Zeus was unveiled. Hadrian, who was also worshipped there, donated a rare serpent to the priests. In the orgy of gratitude, statues of Hadrian donated by Greek communities were erected everywhere within the complex. ….

In all of this Grecophilia, indifference to Rome, emperor-worship, and lavish theatre, one cannot help thinking of Nero. Thus Mackay (op. cit., pp. 204, 207, 208):

One aspect of Nero’s personality (apart from his proclivity to murder) that earned him the disfavor of the upper class was his fondness for the arts. Already in A.D. 60, he instituted a new series of Greek-style artistic contests in Rome under the name Neronia (“Neronian games”). He wished to perform himself at that time, but the senate managed to avoid this by offering him victory crowns ahead of time; at the second celebration in A.D. 65, he did perform. His participation was disgraceful in terms of Roman values, since performers were normally people of low social standing. ….

Despite the clear signs of dissatisfaction with his rule, Nero decided in the fall of A.D. 66 to cross over to Greece, the land of culture. There he intended to display his artistic skills (the Olympic games had even been postponed for his visit). Nero apparently competed honestly, but it should come as no surprise that he won whatever competition he entered. In honor of his reception, Nero restored the province to the semi-independent status it had under the Republic. Nero had a great time, but his days were numbered.
… When [Nero] retuned to Rome in early 68 A.D., he celebrated a sort of parody of a traditional military triumph, entering the city in the manner of a victorious Greek athlete rather than as a Roman general … Finally, instead of winding up at the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, where victorious generals fulfilled their vows by dedicating plunder, he rode to the Palatine temple of Apollo, the god of artists. Nero was going out of his way to flout Roman sensibilities ….

Historians are reluctant, however, to liken Hadrian to Nero in all of this. Speller, for instance, contrasts Hadrian’s presumably more dignified sense of theatre with that of the supposedly clownish Nero (pp. 171-172):

There were parties, readings and music. At the theatre Hadrian, inevitably, excelled himself. Unlike Nero, Hadrian never appeared as a buffoon on the stage, but day after day he simply played himself, and extraordinary actor-manager of his own life on the stage of the city.
….Returning to Rome meant facing a more demanding, more critical population.

But these emperors, or this emperor, were/was complex. Allowing for some bad press, and possible exaggeration from late sources, the tyrannical Nero could be Hadrian. About Hadrian, Speller has written (pp. 3, 4):

Despite his apparent strengths, something went very wrong in the last years of his life … at his death … he was said to be hated by the people; some even called him a tyrant.
… A combination of melancholy, quick temper and intellectual competitiveness did not promote friendship or even, at times, respect ….

Also with Nero, he is thought to have made a very good start, but then to have deteriorated. “It was generally agreed that Nero’s first five years were exemplary”, writes Mackay (p. 202), but, later, “Nero increasingly asserted his independence, as he fell under the sway of his girlfriend Poppaea and other bad influences”.
Was this Poppaea Sabina the same person as Hadrian’s wife, Sabina?
The same pattern emerges with Caligula (whether or not he be the same as Nero/Hadrian). Mackay again (p. 198):

In the fall of A.D. 37, Gaius [Caligula] nearly died of an illness, and after his recovery began acting tyrannically. The biographer Suetonius claims that the illness deranged him …. Gaius became increasingly erratic and cruel in his behavior. He stole other men’s wives (twice) [Nero had stolen Poppaea from general Otho], and the treason law was revived. … He came to have delusions of grandeur ….

And again with Domitian; some inherent good, but a steep decline into tyranny (Speller, p. 36):

… although there are records to suggest that he was in some ways a conscientious ruler, he lived the remainder of his life in a state of increasing paranoia, expressed in pre-emptive and imaginative sadism …. Domitian’s fear made him cruel, and the more cruel he was the more he had to fear; to an educated Greek or Roman, in his sadistic paranoia, Domitian displayed the characteristics of the eponymous Greek tyrant Damocles.

Interestingly, the so-called Second Revolt lasted about as long as did the First – about the three and a half years. Hadrian’s main Jewish opponent was the legendary Simon bar Cochba (son of the Star), thought by the Jews to be the Messiah. Indeed Rabbi Aqiba, intellectual leader of the Jews, proclaimed Simon as such. Had not Jesus Christ himself warned his followers that some would rise up claiming to be the Christ, i.e. the Messiah (Matthew 24:24)? And Simon perfectly fits this description. Simon was a guerilla fighter, and is very reminiscent of the terrible Simon bar Giora of 70 AD, guerilla fighter, who led one of the three factions in Jerusalem, fighting amongst themselves even when the Romans had the city encircled.
Even the Jewish spiritual leader on both occasions was one called Eleazer. Thus The Jerome Biblical Commentary (First Revolt): “The leader of the Jews was Eleazer …” (75:158), and (Second Revolt): “… their spiritual leader, the priest Eleazer …” (75:168).
The case of the missing wall. We read in the Jerome Biblical Commentary about a wall that Herod Agrippa is supposed to have built during the reign of the emperor Claudius, but which might actually have been built during the First Jewish Revolt (a decade or so later) or in Bar Cochba’s time of the Second Jewish Revolt (75:151):

Herod Agrippa undertook to build Jerusalem’s “third north wall”, which, if completed, would have made the city impregnable …. But before it could be finished, Claudius who had been warned by Maurus, the legate of Syria, forbade any further work on it (Ant. 19.7, 2 § 326-27). The location of this wall is disputed by archaeologists; either it coincided roughly with the present North Wall of the Old City … or with a line of ancient wall somewhat N of the Old City …. However, an excavation in 1965 by Kathleen Kenyon … suggests a date no earlier than the sixties for “Sukenik’s [previous archaeologist’s] wall”. Either it was not built by Agrippa, or else Agrippa only laid out the line for the third wall and the real building was done in the First Jewish Revolt (W.F. Albright) or in Bar Cochba’s time.

The ‘folding’ of imperial Roman chronology that I am primarily proposing here, albeit extremely tentatively at this early stage, is:

A. Nero = Domitian = (more tentatively) Trajan = Hadrian.
B. First Jewish Revolt = Second Jewish Revolt.
C. Simon Giora = Simon Bar Kosiba (alias Bar Kochba)
D. (And, see below) Leader of the Jews, Eleazer = spiritual leader and priest, Eleazer.

The Comparisons (Nero, Domitian, Hadrian;
secondarily including Caligula and Claudius)

[Apart from Speller and Mackay, I am also using A. Barrett’s Caligula - the Corruption of Power, Routledge 2000].

1. Intellectual Tastes and Personality

(Speller) p. 35: “Domitian was the emperor most like Hadrian in his intellectual tastes and his psychological complexities …”.

(Barrett) p. 43: “When [Caligula’s] true personality was given free rein, it soon became apparent that he was a young man with a taste for the exotic and the outrageous, who was not afraid to cause offence among what Dio calls the euphrones, the sober minded who took umbrage at his excesses”.

(Speller) p. 36: “[Domitian’s] effect on Hadrian is apparent not least in the latter’s admiration of his building schemes: … it was Domitian’s extravagant palace that the usually sensitive Hadrian found most congenial and that he chose as his official residence when in Rome. But Domitian is an important figure in Hadrian’s life primarily because the choices and assumptions Hadrian was to make about how to be an emperor were undoubtedly influenced by the experience of living within Domitian’s reign”.

The Comparisons (Nero, Domitian, Hadrian;
secondarily including Caligula and Claudius)

[Apart from Speller and Mackay, I am also using A. Barrett’s Caligula. The Corruption of Power, Routledge 2000].

1. Intellectual Tastes and Personality

(Speller) p. 35: “Domitian was the emperor most like Hadrian in his intellectual tastes and his psychological complexities …”.

(Barrett) p. 43: “When [Caligula’s] true personality was given free rein, it soon became apparent that he was a young man with a taste for the exotic and the outrageous, who was not afraid to cause offence among what Dio calls the euphrones, the sober minded who took umbrage at his excesses”.

(Speller) p. 36: “[Domitian’s] effect on Hadrian is apparent not least in the latter’s admiration of his building schemes: … it was Domitian’s extravagant palace that the usually sensitive Hadrian found most congenial and that he chose as his official residence when in Rome. But Domitian is an important figure in Hadrian’s life primarily because the choices and assumptions Hadrian was to make about how to be an emperor were undoubtedly influenced by the experience of living within Domitian’s reign”.
“Crucially, in Hadrian’s personality there are traces from the first of Domitian’s awareness that the emperor is always alone, can never, ultimately, trust anyone”.

P. 37: “Nobody conjures up more potently the distorted tensions of Domitian’s mental disintegration in the palace that had become his prison than Gibbon: ‘Domitian, trapped in his palace, felt the terrors he inspired’. The portents of death clustered around Domitian, even as he had the prophesiers of doom punished or killed. Like Hadrian … Domitian was counting down the day to some pre-ordained date when it had been foretold he would die ….
Domitian summed up his own predicament succinctly: ‘Nobody believes in a conspiracy against a ruler until it has succeeded …’. His death was a justification of his beliefs; and it was the justification for Hadrian’s … hostile action against the four senators”.
…. The Roman legions under Trajan were unequivocally loyal to their emperor and had continued to support Hadrian …. But Domitian too had succeeded a popular soldier-emperor, and he too had been liked within the army; yet …. had been bloodily despatched in his own palace”.

Pp. 37-38 “As with Domitian, so Hadrian discovered an intrigue against him soon after he acceded”.

2. Hellenism

(Speller) P. 63: “… Nero brought down on himself contempt and ultimately civil war following his aesthetic pilgrimages to Greece and his predatory acquisition of public city territory on which to build his splendid folly, the Golden House.

Pp. 60 -61: “Hadrian seems to have developed his preference for the Greek way of life while sill young. Even as a boy he had acquired the Greek name graeculus – ‘Greekling’ – an ambiguous soubriquet which was at least partly derogatory.
P. 64: “That Hadrian’s profound Hellenophilia and his love of travelling, the two major driving impulses of his reign, were closely linked is clear”.

(Barrett) p. 43: “As Suetonius comments, [Caligula] would claim that there was nothing in his own character that he admired more than his adiatrepsia, a Greek word, difficult to translate but conveying the notion of ‘shamelessness; …”

3. Adultery

(Mackay) p. 198: “[Caligula] stole other men’s wives (twice) …”.

P. 202: “… Nero fell in love with Poppaea Sabina … the wife of Otho … [who] obligingly let Nero have his way with her …”.

4. Tyranny, Perversion (Homosexuality)

(Speller) p. 61: “Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, Vitellius and Domitian became bywords for perversion, madness, decadence, greed and sadism …. P. 6. “Gibbon summed Hadrian up: ‘He was in turns an excellent prince, a ridiculous sophist and a jealous tyrant’.”

(Mackay) p. 198: “In the fall of A.D. 37, Gaius [Caligula] nearly died of an illness, and after his recovery began acting tyrannically. The biographer Suetonius claims that the illness deranged him …”.

(Speller) P. 108: “Rumours of Hadrian’s homosexuality surfaced quit early on in his life, and several named individuals have been suggested as his sexual partners. …. Many of Hadrian’s predecessors were recorded as having some or even exclusively relationships with men: Julius Caesar, Tiberius, Nero and Domitian were perhaps the most notorious”.

P. 109: “… some emperors, like Julius Caesar and Trajan, had preserved their reputations relatively untarnished by associations with partners of the same sex. For others, notably Nero, Domitian and Elagabalus, and usually within a package of other baroque accusations of decadence, sexual indulgence undercut imperial authority. … it is quite possible that, as with al his other Hellenic pursuits, Hadrian felt freer to indulge in such activities outside Rome, and that this was his motive for his incessant journeys outside the city”.

4. Astrology

(Speller) pp. 286-287: “… one anecdote finds [Nero’s astrologer, Balbillus] suggesting to Nero that a particularly unfortunate prediction might be averted by sacrificing some important person. Echoes of this tale recurred in rumours that Hadrian, a much more able and obsessive reader of signs than Nero, had foretold a crisis in his immediate future, and, through [his lover] Antinous, had decided to take the remedial action recommended by the earlier astrologer”.

(Mackay) p. 198: “One of [Caligula’s] first acts upon recovering [from his illness] was to demand that someone who had made a vow to give up his own life if [Caligula] survived his illness should make good on his promise”.

5. Murder and Dissection

P. 288: “By the seventeenth century the story [of Hadrian’s murdering his lover Antinous] included vivid tableaux in which Hadrian himself, sodden with his lover’s blood, ripped out Antinous’ entrails, as a priest might in a sacrifice or an augur looking for signs of the future. The most interesting features of these versions is that they combine aspects from the biographies of two notorious emperors. The other philhellenic emperor, Nero, traditionally condemned of incest and matricide, murdered and dissected his mother, while the youthful but depraved Elagabalus had persuaded doctors to cut new openings in his own body to extend his sexual repertoire”.

Now - as if all this weren’t radical enough - there is another emperor ‘Trajan’ significantly later in conventional Roman history, in the C3rd AD, and he too was a persecutor of the Christians; a formidable one. He was the emperor Decius, to whom the name ‘Trajan’ was given. But Decius is supposed to have ruled in 260 AD. Could one possibly also entertain the radical consideration that Decius, too, belongs to our revised period of Christian persecution and Jewish revolt? A further intriguing consideration largely for future articles perhaps.

This article has been the first in what is expected to be a series of revisions of conventional Roman history. It is to be considered only as a working paper at this early stage.

No comments: