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Augustus and Herod

Published June 7, 2017 by amaic
Image result for reign of augustus caesar


Part One:



 Damien F. Mackey



“… the rehabilitated Herod is considerably more Roman than his older counterpart. In the new portrait of Herod, he faces west toward Rome and Augustus rather than east toward the Hellenistic kingdoms, and he is described as “a friend of the Romans” rather than as “an Arab monarch”.”


Byron McCane




Some Parallelism


The dates and lengths of reign conventionally assigned to the succession of early Herodians: Herod the Great, Herod Antipas, and Herod Agrippa I, run strikingly parallel to those of the early Julio-Claudian emperors: Augustus, Tiberius, and Caligula. Thus we find – and we must make allowance (by at least a handful of years) for the famous chronological uncertainties associated with Herod the Great:


Julio-Claudian emperors Herodians
Augustus 27 BC – AD 14 Herod the Great 37 – 4 BC
Tiberius 14 – 37 AD Herod Antipas 4 BC – AD 39
Caligula 37 – 41 AD Herod Agrippa I 37 – 44 AD


Moreover, the lineage of Herod was typically Roman-educated (see e.g. Herod and Augustus: Papers Presented at the IJS Conference, 21st-23rd June 2005, p. 372, edited by David M. Jacobson, Nikos Kokkinos).

And the ‘Roman-facing’ Herod the Great, according to Byron McCane’s re-evaluation of this most significant of ancient kings (“Simply Irresistible: Augustus, Herod, and the Empire”, JBL:, has frequently been compared with the emperor Augustus. See e.g.:


As for Herod Antipas (


Herod Antipas grew up in an unusual household where you didn’t know if your father was going to provide you with love or instant death. Herod the Great was perhaps one of those people who wasn’t really suited to be a dad. A homicidal monarch yes – a father no. Perhaps it isn’t surprising that in his own later life Herod Antipas had no interest in starting his own family, perhaps he feared he would kill his own children or keep an ex-wife in jars of shredded marmalade. It was a wise choice … [,]


well, he was something like Tiberius insofar as ( “… sufficient factual evidence remains to show that Tiberius was an eccentric, misunderstood, and unloved person”.

And again (


After the death of Livia, however, Tiberius, with the encouragement of Sejanus, systematically persecuted this family. Accusing them of plotting to assassinate him, Tiberius banished Agrippina the Elder and her oldest son, Nero; her second son, Drusus, was imprisoned a year later along with Asinius Gallus, who had earlier asked to marry Agrippina. Within four years these prisoners were all dead, mostly through starvation.


As for Herod Agrippa (there are considered to have been I and a II), we read of “Agrippa II” in The Jerome Biblical Commentary (1968) of this very Caligula-like state of affairs (75: 153): “[Agrippa’s] relations with his sister Bernice (probably incestuous) caused scandal in Rome (Ant. 20. 7. 3 § 145 …)”. Agrippa I is even supposed to have sojourned with Caligula in Rome ( “Agrippa stayed in Rome. The relation between the Jewish king and the Roman emperor was excellent, which is remarkable, because many considered Caligula a madman, and he could be very cruel indeed”.

And, like Caligula, Agrippa ‘turned into a god’.

Compare: “Caligula announces he will be a god when he is dead. … Caligula becomes obsessed with attaining the status of a god …”. (Hawes, Wm., Caligula and the Fight for Artistic Freedom), with Acts 12:21-23:


On the appointed day Herod [Agrippa], wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, ‘This is the voice of a god, not of a man’. Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.


Part Two:

Parallel Career Patterns




Tripartite Reign


According to The Jerome Biblical Commentary (75:130): “Herod’s reign falls into three parts”.

Let us consider these three phases in turn, and compare them with the reign of Augustus.



  • Herod’s Early Years 37-25 BC





These early years were used mainly to consolidate his powers, and were marked by the cold-blooded, systematic elimination of any who might contest his authority.

…. His cruelty, rooted in insatiable ambition, was notorious, yet he was surrounded by intrigue and conspiracy that made him fight for his very existence.

[End of quote]


The same single-minded pursuit of power and use of force, during a tumultuous phase of history (at least, so-called), is apparent in the early years of the career of Caesar Augustus (


As the first Roman emperor (though he never claimed the title for himself), Augustus led Rome’s transformation from republic to empire during the tumultuous years following the assassination of his great-uncle and adoptive father Julius Caesar. He shrewdly combined military might, institution-building and lawmaking to become Rome’s sole ruler ….

[End of quote]


Likewise, Octavius is “cold and calculating” according to (


As one of the three triumvirs, Octavius is the youngest and the most ambitious of the three.

…. Nothing exists for young Caesar except the single goal of acquiring and maintaining power. …. Because of the limited range of Octavius’s vision and interests, he often appears cold and calculating, and many of his actions are indeed calculated ones. In betrothing his beloved sister to Antony, his long-time rival, he shows that he is capable of placing political expediency above family loyalty. Conversely, when Antony abandons Octavia, Octavius acts like the outraged brother who wishes to avenge his sister’s honor. While his pride is understandably piqued, his anger also hints of opportunism, for here is the perfect pretext for attacking his rival.

Octavius struggles for supremacy within the Triumvirate ….

Octavius has few devoted friends … the lot of the ruler who must sacrifice everything to stay in power. He trusts no one, and he fears to let himself be close to few, if any, of his men. His treatment of Lepidus is one example of how he can cast aside presumed friends in order to achieve even more power.


Octavius, at times, seems almost without principle. …. Basically, then, we can say that Octavius symbolizes the world of power, politics, and war. ….

[End of quote]



  • Herod’s Cultural Phase 25-13 BC



The Jerome Biblical Commentary (75:132):


Once opposition to his power had been removed, Herod embarked on a period of lavish and munificent cultural improvements in his realm, financed mainly by taxes … emperor-temples, theaters, hippodromes, gymnasia, baths, and even new cities.

…. In all of this Herod was influenced by the cultural advances of the Augustan age, for he had surrounded himself with Greek philosophers and rhetors as advisers. … [e.g.] Nicolas of Damascus ….

[End of quote]


Augustus was likewise single-minded about taxation (


During his 40-years reign, Augustus nearly doubled the size of the empire, adding territories in Europe and Asia Minor and securing alliances that gave him effective rule from Britain to India. He spent much of his time outside of Rome, consolidating power in the provinces and instituting a system of censuses and taxation that integrated the empire’s furthest reaches. He expanded the Roman network of roads, founded the Praetorian Guard and the Roman postal service and remade Rome with both grand (a new forum) and practical gestures (police and fire departments).


And Augustus, like Herod, built on an impressive scale: temples, theatres, roads, aqueducts (


Augustus’ campaign to rejuvenate Rome largely hinged on his uncanny ability to inextricably link the city’s aesthetic splendor to its imperial splendor. The strong connection Augustus fostered between visual and moral strength encouraged the city’s wealthy men to invest in the capital’s built environment; the Temple of Hercules and the Muses, the Temple of Diana, the Atrium of Liberty, the Temple of Saturn, and the amphitheater of Statilius Taurus are all massive projects funded exclusively by Rome’s elite (Suetonius 60). These endeavors were viewed, even in their own age, as tangible markers of Rome’s ascension to cultural prominence and the re-solidification of the Empire’s standards following the late Republic’s seemingly all-encompassing decrepitude. In his Res Gestae Augustus takes care to highlight the marble magnificence of his Rome; “I built the Senate-house…and the temple of Apollo on the Palatine with portocos…I rebuilt the Capitol and the theater of Pompey…I rebuilt aqueducts in many places that had decayed with age… I completed the Forum of Julius…I built the temple of Mars Ultor…I rebuilt the Flaminian road…,” (Res Gestae) ….

[End of quote]


“His reported last words … to his subjects he said, “I found Rome of clay; I leave it to you of marble …”.” (



Some Greek influence on Augustus: “During his childhood Octavian was educated in Greek philosophy in Athens” (


The clear Greek inspiration in style and symbol for official sculptural portraits, which under the Roman emperors became instruments of governmental propaganda, is a central part of the Augustan ideological campaign, a shift from the Roman Republican era iconography where old and wise features were seen as symbols of solemn character. Therefore, the Prima Porta statue marks a conscious reversal of iconography to the Greek classical and Hellenistic period, in which youth and strength were valued as signs of leadership, emulating heroes and culminating in Alexander the Great himself. Such a statue’s political function was very obvious—to show Rome that the emperor Augustus was an exceptional figure, comparable to the heroes worthy of being raised to divine status on Olympus, and the best man to govern Rome.



  • Herod’s Domestic Strife Last Phase 13-4 BC



The Jerome Biblical Commentary (75:133): “It was domestic strife that marked the last years of Herod’s reign”.

Augustus: Family and Succession


Augustus married three times, although his first union, to Mark Antony’s stepdaughter Clodia Pulchra, was unconsummated. His second wife, Scribonia, bore his only child, Julia the Elder. He divorced in 39 B.C. to marry Livia Drusilla, who had two sons—Tiberius and Drusus—by her first husband, Mark Antony’s ally Tiberius Claudius Nero. The family tree became more complicated after Augustus had his stepson Tiberius briefly marry his daughter, and then adopted Tiberius outright as son and successor in A.D. 4.


[End of quote]


Herod, Augustus, reigned for about four decades.

The tripartite pattern of reign set out above is probably fairly typical for great and long-reigning monarchs, with an initial phase of single-minded quest for supreme power accompanied by cruelty and bloodshed; then a peaceful and prosperous phase enabling for grandiose projects; with a final decline towards the end, due to age and possible disputes over succession.




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Vespasian and Trajan

Published June 3, 2017 by amaic

Illustration of Trajan's Forum (Rome, Italy) | Radu Oltean (Bucharest), Illustrator for Kogainon Films

Imperial Rome Re-Considered



Damien F. Mackey



“Like Vespasian and Trajan’s own father, Trajan was an apt military leader, and his purging of the Praetorian Guard showed he was not in the position to be disobeyed or stabbed in the back by his own soldiers”.





This article is a tentative effort to give new revised form to a part of imperial Roman history, following on from my hinting of a possible fusion of:

Antiochus ‘Epiphanes’ and Emperor Hadrian. Part One: “… a mirror image”


and of Nero (Domitius) and Domitian. The imperial period under consideration here would be, in conventional terms, c. 54-117 AD, Nero to Trajan, the supposed predecessor of Hadrian


December 15, 37 AD, Antium, Italia Great-nephew, stepson, son-in-law and adopted son of Claudius; nephew of Caligula; great-great-nephew of Tiberius; grandson of Germanicus; great-great-grandson of Augustus October 13, 54 AD – June 9, 68 AD June 9, 68 AD
Committed suicide after being declared a public enemy by the Senate.
13 years, 7 months and 27 days

(68–96) Year of the Four Emperors and Flavian dynasty[edit]

Main articles: Year of the Four Emperors and Flavian dynasty

Portrait Name Birth Succession Reign Death Time in office
December 24 3 BC, Near Terracina, Italia Seized power after Nero‘s suicide, with support of the Spanish legions June 8, 68 AD – January 15, 69 AD January 15, 69 AD
Murdered by Praetorian Guard in coup led by Otho.
7 months and 7 days
April 28, 32 AD, Ferentinum, Italia Appointed by Praetorian Guard January 15, 69 AD – April 16, 69 AD April 16, 69 AD
Committed suicide after losing Battle of Bedriacum to Vitellius
3 months and 1 day (91 days)
September 24, 15 AD, Rome Seized power with support of German Legions (in opposition to Galba/Otho) April 17, 69 AD – December 20, 69 AD December 20, 69 AD
Murdered by Vespasian‘s troops
8 months and 3 days
November 17, 9 AD, Falacrine, Italia Seized power with the support of the eastern Legions (in opposition to Vitellius) December 21, 69 AD – June 24, 79 AD June 24, 79 AD
Natural causes
9 years, 6 months and 3 days
December 30, 39 AD, Rome Son of Vespasian June 24, 79 AD – September 13, 81 AD September 13, 81 AD
Natural causes (fever)
2 years, 2 months and 20 days
October 24, 51 AD, Rome Son of Vespasian September 14, 81 AD – September 18, 96 AD September 18, 96 AD
Assassinated by court officials
15 years and 4 days

(96–192) Nerva–Antonine dynasty[edit]

Main article: Nerva–Antonine dynasty

Portrait Name Birth Succession Reign Death Time in office
November 8, 30 AD, Narni, Italia Appointed by the Senate September 18, 96 AD – January 27, 98 AD January 27, 98 AD
Natural causes
1 year, 4 months and 9 days
September 18, 53 AD, Italica, Hispania Baetica

A new structure would go something like this:

Nero = Domitian;


Galba, Otho, Vitellius phase = Nerva period;


Vespasian = Trajan


Hadrian no longer to be regarded as following on from Trajan.


Essentially Military,

‘Ushering in a Golden Age’


Vespasian and Trajan do get compared. For example in “Augustus, Vespasian and Trajan – Comparing Emperors”, at:


The Roman Empire stood for centuries, and remains one of the greatest empires to have existed to this day. During these years, there were good emperors, and there were bad emperors. During the periods that the former reigned, the empire seemed to flourish, and during the periods where the latter reigned the primary sources are fraught with stories of trials and tribulations, unhappy populations, and general unease.

The largest problem with an autocracy like the empire of Ancient Rome lies in the fact that the empire rests in the whims of one man. If he rules well, and can master his own greed and the corruption that the power brings with it, the people will be happy and relatively docile under his rule. If the lure of power is too much, the empire can easily crumble under his fist, and autocratic though it may be, a rebellion of the majority of a population can be too much to fight.

There were many emperors who were considered ‘good’ by those who recorded their histories, as well as far too many considered ‘bad.’ This paper, however, will cover just three of these good emperors, and will focus on why they went down in the texts of Rome, as well as modern day histories, as good emperors, as well as their major accomplishments, and why they are remembered. These three emperors are Augustus, the first emperor of Rome himself, Vespasian, and Trajan, respectively.


Although Augustus was the first, he was obviously not the only good emperor that Rome had rule over it. Nero saw the ending of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, and this ending was not on a happy note. Blamed for many of Rome’s problems, including the great fire that is to this day associated with his reign, Nero was not well liked. The eventual ascension of Vespasian to the throne, after some initial conflict with finding the next emperor to reign longer than a few months, signaled the end of the Julio-Claudians, and the beginning of the Flavian dynasty, which Vespasian, along with his son Titus, would lay a mark in history as a golden age for Rome (Alston, 166). Although this golden age would be short lived, ending when Vespasian’s other son, Domitian, acquires the throne, it is an age of prosperity that is marked by both building and military accomplishments.

Vespasian came into rule at a time when war with Judea, Britain and Germany was rampant. However, instead of crumbling under the pressure of warfare, Vespasian was able to use this to his advantage. After quelling the problems in Judea, he was able to fund building projects and fighting in Britain and Germany meant expansion in the west. With the help of Titus, Vespasian was able to bring most of this warfare under control.

It was also at this time, with funds from winning the conflict with Judea, that Vespasian was able to build what could easily be considered his biggest claim in history books. The [Colosseum] was more than just a place for the gladiatorial games to take place, it was a standing reminder of what Vespasian had done. It was a monument to conquering the armies of Judea, but by building it over the lake at Nero’s palace, it was also a marker to signify the end of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty, and the reign of Nero himself. It marked an ushering in of a new sort of emperor, who did not necessarily have to be born into the highest class. Like Augustus before him, Vespasian was able to set up a sort of framework for those who followed.

Finally, the emperor Trajan took the empire to what could be considered its limits, boundary wise. Hadrian after him [sic] would build fortifications to try and hold the empire at this position, and further emperors would try and push the boundaries with little success.

Trajan was essentially one of the few untainted by the corrupt image of the reign of Domitian. His father has served in Judea with Titus, and Trajan himself had been away from Rome during the critical years of Domitian’s tyrannical rule giving him an outward appearance of trust and honesty, something the people of Rome would have needed after another poor ruler so soon after the death of Nero, even if Vespasian and Titus had ushered in a golden age before Domitian.

Like Vespasian and Trajan’s own father, Trajan was an apt military leader, and his purging of the Praetorian Guard showed he was not in the position to be disobeyed or stabbed in the back by his own soldiers. He built the Forum, a mark of his grandeur as Vespasian’s [Colosseum] before him and Hadrian’s Wall after. Most importantly, Trajan had the strength, the cunning, the expertise as well as the moral backbone to bring Rome back from the poor ruling of Domitian, and push it’s boundaries to the very limit.

When comparing these three emperors, it is hard to pick who ruled best, because even though each is considered to be one of Rome’s finest emperors, each also has his short comings, as well. ….

[End of quote]


The Dacians




…. the Dacians continued to harass Rome, an invasion in 11 or 10 bce being particularly devastating. Augustan generals gradually pushed them back from the left bank of the Danube while also settling 80,000 men within the Roman province of Moesia on the right bank. No further trouble was recorded until autumn 69 ce, when the Dacians found Moesia vulnerable after the legions had departed to fight Vitellius. After capturing a number of forts, they were beaten back by Vespasian’s general Gaius Licinius Mucianus, then on his way to Italy.




Trajan …. Known as a benevolent ruler, his reign was noted for public projects which benefitted the populace such as improving the dilapidated road system, constructing aqueducts, building public baths and extending the port of Ostia. Trajan was also a highly successful general and won three major conflicts against the Dacians and in the East, resulting in the Roman Empire reaching its greatest size up to that date.


Commander in Thrace (Thracia) and Germany,

in Crete and Cyrenaica




Despite not coming from a noble family, Vespasian served as a colonel in Thrace (north of Greece) and a quaestor (financial official) on the island of Crete and in Cyrenaica (eastern Libya). Before incurring the wrath of Emperor Claudius’s wife Agrippina (as many did), he was the commander of a legion in Germany and Britain. He fought in over thirty battles and captured at least twenty cities. … Vitellius, increased the Guard to 16 cohorts, totaling 16,000 personal men. Shortly thereafter, however, when Vespasian emerged as the eventual victor, the Praetorians were reduced back to a more manageable nine cohorts.




Although Trajan did not hurry to Rome, he did think it necessary to solve the controversy surrounding the mutiny by the Praetorian Guards who had wished to punish the assassins of Domitian. Trajan sent for the conspirators, especially Casperius Aelianus – the guard who had engineered the mutiny – to meet him in Upper Germany to receive a special commission. According to historian Cassius Dio, Trajan offered “to employ them for some purpose and then put them out of the way.”


Colonies were founded with one at Aprus (Colonia Claudia Aprensis) by Claudius or Nero, and at Deultum (Colonia Flavia Pacensis Deultum) under Vespasian. Trajan expanded further on settling Thracia ….


During the Roman period, the Jewish population of Cyrenaica grew. …. Growing tensions between Jews and Romans in Cyrenaica erupted in rebellion in 115 CE. Known as the “Kitos War”[9] this revolt dragged on for two years, with massacres and atrocities that shocked even Roman historians. The province was virtually depopulated, and Emperor Trajan resettled it with Greek-speaking colonists brought in from other provinces. This may have been the occasion for an extensive coinage of silver drachms (3.2 grams) and hemidrachms (1.6 grams) bearing the stern face of Trajan obverse, and Zeus Ammon reverse.



Praetorian Guard




… Vitellius, increased the Guard to 16 cohorts, totaling 16,000 personal men. Shortly thereafter, however, when Vespasian emerged as the eventual victor, the Praetorians were reduced back to a more manageable nine cohorts.




Although Trajan did not hurry to Rome, he did think it necessary to solve the controversy surrounding the mutiny by the Praetorian Guards who had wished to punish the assassins of Domitian. Trajan sent for the conspirators, especially Casperius Aelianus – the guard who had engineered the mutiny – to meet him in Upper Germany to receive a special commission. According to historian Cassius Dio, Trajan offered “to employ them for some purpose and then put them out of the way.”






Vologases …. Parthia was troubled throughout his reign on both its eastern and western borders.


Relative peace followed between Parthia and Rome, especially in the reign of Nero.

Vespasian had Vologases’s backing in 69, and the emperor even pondered sending him troops to aid in the defeat of the barbarian Alans. Better relations allowed domestic opportunities, as Vologases founded the city of Vologesia as a rival to Seleucia. ….




The war began when the [Parthians] placed one of their own on the throne of Armenia, a Roman buffer state. This “upset the delicate balance of power” on the eastern frontier. Trajan intervened, and Armenia was made a province of Rome. The army continued on eastward and annexed Mesopotamia, including the Parthian capital of Ctesiphon. Under Trajan, the Roman Empire now stretched further than it ever had – from Scotland to the Caspian Sea. ….


Jewish War




… Vitellius, increased the Guard to 16 cohorts, totaling 16,000 personal men. Shortly thereafter, however, when Vespasian emerged as the eventual victor, the Praetorians were reduced back to a more manageable nine cohorts.


But in AD 67 he was offered a province and an army command of three legions by Nero. If the emperor was mad and wanted to see Vespasian dead, he needed him now. The Jewish rebellion of AD 67 called for a commander who knew of ways to oust the Jews from their walled cities. Someone had obviously reminded the emperor of Vespasian’s record against the defensive earthworks in Britain.
At the age of fifty eight Vespasian headed for Judaea, directed the reduction of Jotapata in the north and began the preparations for the siege of Jerusalem.

On hearing of Nero’s death Vespasian formally recognized the accession of Galba.

When news arrived of Galba’s murder in early AD 69, Vespasian was prompted to consider rebellion. He had on his side the governor of Syria, Gaius Licinius Mucianus. At first the two had not got along well, mainly due to Mucianus resenting that Vespasian’s military command had been given higher status by Nero than his governorship, but now they both needed allies to weather the crisis following the death of two emperors.

After Otho’s suicide in April AD 69 they formed plans to take action. They both acknowledged Vitellius’ accession, but meanwhile secretly enlisted the support of Tiberius Julius Alexander in Egypt. Mucianus had no sons of his own to be his heirs. Alexander was only of equestrian rank – and a Jew. Neither therefore could be considered as potential emperors. Vespasian though had two sons, Titus and Domitian, was of senatorial rank and had held the consulship. All three agreed, that he should be their candidate for the throne.

On 1 July, Alexander commanded the legions in Egypt to swear an oath of allegiance to Vespasian. Within two weeks the armies in Judaea and Syria had followed that example.
The plan was that Mucianus would lead twenty thousand men into Italy, with Vespasian remaining in the east, where he could control the all-important Egyptian grain supply to Rome.

Vespasian now headed for Rome, leaving his son Titus behind to capture Jerusalem, and arrived at Rome in October AD 70. He was almost 61 but he was still fit and active.
Soon after Titus in Palestine brought an end to the Jewish revolt (although the siege of Masada continued until AD 73) and in the north Cerealis defeated the Gallo-German uprising at Augusta Trevivorum. In effect Vespasian, an old military veteran, was the man who could finally deliver peace to the empire.

Vespasian possessed insight and the sense of how to maintain peace, too. Though the destruction of Jerusalem and the retaliation against the Jews were carried out with unnecessary severity, and restrictions were placed on some of their practices, Jews were excused from Caesar-worship.




[Trajan’s] father, a career soldier also named Marcus Ulpius Traianus, had been governor of both Baetica in Spain and Syria, a commander during the Jewish War of 67 – 68 CE ….

Rebellion among the Jewish population broke out in Cyrenaica, spreading to both Egypt and Cyprus; however, when trouble broke out on the northern frontier, Trajan left his army in Syria and retreated to Rome. ….


Simple habits and virtues




…. the Flavians had succeeded the Julio-Claudians, and the simple habits and virtues of the Italian bourgeois replaced, at the court of the emperor, the epicurean wastefulness of the city-bred descendants of Augustus and Livia. ….

He scorned luxury and laziness, ate the food of peasants, fasted one day in each month, and declared war upon extravagance. When a Roman whom he had nominated for office came to him smelling of perfume, he said, “I would rather you smelled of garlic,” and withdrew the nomination. He made himself easily accessible, talked and lived on a footing of equality with the people, enjoyed jokes at his own expense, and allowed everyone great freedom in criticizing his conduct and his character. Having discovered a conspiracy against him he forgave the plotters, saying that they were fools not to realize what a burden of cares a ruler wore. He lost his good temper in one case only.




Cassius Dio wrote, “Trajan was most conspicuous for his justice, for his bravery, and for the simplicity of his habits.”  As an emperor who was concerned with both good government and the public welfare, he instituted an excellent domestic policy – providing for the children of the poor, restoring the dilapidated road system, as well as building new bridges, aqueducts, public baths, and a modern port at Ostia. Lastly, he continued his predecessor’s policy of undoing much of the harm done by Domitian by freeing prisoners and recalling exiles.




Christians, Gladiators and Cult of Sol Invictus




“Similar to Vespasian, Trajan was a good soldier and a man of talent. He was also a man of tolerance and courtesy. He expanded the empire against the Parthians. He put down another rebellion by Jews. He favored applying the law against only those Christians about whom people complained, or Christians who had created disturbances, and he declared that the accused were to receive a proper trial in which they were able to face their accusers. During his nineteen years of rule he improved the empire’s roads and harbors, he beautified Rome and he provided support for the children of Rome’s poor. And although the Senate continued to have little real power, Trajan consulted it and maintained its good will. The historian Tacitus – who lived during Trajan’s rule – praised Trajan for restoring Rome’s “old spirit,” including the feeling that one could express oneself freely”.




Treatment of Christians


Vespasian, Trajan, treated Christians in a way that is generally perceived to have been tolerant – at least by the standards of that age.




Still more important to the subsequent progress of civilization was the period of tranquility for the infant Church which began in this reign. The official classes of Rome then regarded the Christians vaguely as a Jewish sect, and as such the latter was subject to the impost of half a shekel for rebuilding the Capitoline temple, which had been destroyed when Rome was stormed for Vespasian; but this tax does not seem to have been the occasion of any general harsh treatment. Tertullian (Apologia) and Eusebius (Church History) agree in acquitting Vespasian of persecution. St. Linus, the pope whose death occurred during this period, cannot be proved to have suffered martyrdom, while St. Apollaris of Ravenna, though a martyr, may very well have suffered at the hands of a local mob.




Art and learning flourished during Trajan’s reign. Among his literary contemporaries were Tacitus, Juvenal, and the younger Pliny with whom the emperor carried on an animated correspondence. This correspondence belonging to the years 111-3 throws light on the persecution of Christians during this reign. Pliny was legate of the double Province of Bithynia and Pontus. In this territory he found many Christians and requested instructions from Trajan (Ep. 96). In his reply (Ep. 97) Trajan considers the confession of Christianity as a crime worthy of death, but forbade a search for Christians and the acceptance of anonymous denunciations. Whoever shows by sacrificing to the gods that he is not a Christian is to be released. Where the adherence to Christianity is proved the punishment of death is to follow. The action he prescribed rests on the coercive power of the police, the right of repression of the magistracy, which required no settled form of procedure. In pursuance of these orders measures were taken against Christians in other places also. The most distinguished martyrs under Trajan were Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, and Simeon, Bishop of Jerusalem. Legend names many others, but there was no actual persecution on a large scale and the position of the Christians was in general satisfactory.







The Colosseum was built by Emperor Vespasian, founder of the Flavian dynasty, for Titus, his successor.

Colosseum is an elliptical building measuring 189 meters long and 156 meters wide with a base area of 24,000 m² with a height of more than 48 meter.

The Colosseum has over 80 entrances and can accommodate about 50,000 spectators.

It is thought that over 500,000 people lost their lives and over a million wild animals were killed throughout the duration of the Colosseum hosted people vs. beast games.

There were 36 trap doors in Arena allowing for elaborate special effects

All Ancient Romans had free entry to the Colosseum for events, and were also fed throughout the spectacles.

Festivals as well as games could last up to 100 days in the Colosseum.

The Ancient Romans would sometimes flood the Colosseum and have miniature ship naval battles inside as a way of entertainment.

The Colosseum only took 10 years to build starting in 70 AD and was completed in 80 AD using over 60,000 Jewish slaves.




Trajan was a brutal warlord. The depictions on Trajan’s Column, thought to date to the years 101-106 tell a story of death and Roman ruthlessness on a grand scale. In this time span, Trajan enacted genocide on the Dacians – The king Burebista, Zalmoxis his philosopher/sage, and the entire nation were destroyed according to Strabo (7,3,5). In his rule 2,000 Jews of the town Emmaus were crucified, according to Florus, Epitome of Roman History (II,88)

In the “Temple of Augustus”, at Ankara, in Turkey, there is the following [inscription], placed there by Trajan:


“Three times I gave gladiatorial shows in my own name,
and five times in the name of my sons or grandsons, in
which shows about 10,000 men fought to the death”


This barbaric ruthlessness on a large scale are typically Roman qualities, as distinct from those whom the Romans themselves called Barbarians.


Sol Invictus


As far as religion went, Vespasian, Trajan, favoured the Mithraïc cult of Sol Invictus (“Unconquered Sun’), which divinity would become the official sun god of the Roman Empire and a patron of soldiers.




After the great fire of AD 64, in which a large portion of Rome was destroyed, Nero erected a colossal statue of himself one hundred and twenty feet high (Suetonius, Life of Nero, XXXI.1), which Vespasian converted to one of Sol, placing a radiant crown on its head (Suetonius, Vespasian, XVIII.1; Pliny, Natural History, XXXIV.45). Vespasian also was the first emperor to display the image of Sol on imperial coinage. By the second century AD, this autochthonous deity was being eclipsed by an Eastern cult of the Sun, Invictus appearing as an epithet in an inscription in AD 158.




Before Aurelian, Sol was no more prominent than many other deities. The denarius of Trajan [below], from 111 CE [sic], demonstrates this; it shows the heads of Sol and Luna being carried by Aeternitas, symbolising that day and night are component parts of eternity. Trajan and his successor, Hadrian, also struck coins much like those above, showing the radiate head of Sol; sometimes they were labelled Oriens, meaning the rising sun in the east.


The reverse of a denarius of Trajan showing Aeternitas.


Isis, Serapis and Dionysus




… from the time of Vespasian the worship of Isis and Serapis became firmly established, and remained in a flourishing condition until the general introduction of Christianity.

In Tarsus, where he served next, with its grand processions of the dying and rising God, Baal Taraz, Vespasian was introduced to the Mysteries of Dionysus, the only Olympian with a mortal mother. (Ralph Thorpe, The Gospel of the King of the Jews).




According to Josephus, Caligula donned female garb and took part in the mysteries he instituted, and in the Hellenistic age Isis acquired a “new rank as a leading goddess of the Mediterranean world.” Vespasian, along with Titus, practiced incubation in the Roman Iseum. Domitian built another Iseum along with a Serapeum. Trajan appears before Isis and Horus, presenting them with votive offerings of wine, in a bas-relief on his triumphal arch in Rome.

Built around 104 C.E, it is one of the finest monuments in Ephesus. It was constructed in honor of Emperor Trajan, and a statue of Trajan stood in the central niche on the facade overlooking the pool.

The pool of the fountain of Trajan was 20×10 meters, surrounded by columns and statues. These statues were Dionysus, Satyr, Aphrodite and the family of the Emperor. They are now on display in the Ephesus Museum.,_Ephesus,_Turkey_(18818526443).jpg


There is enough in this series, I think, to encourage one in the consideration of Trajan as a Vespasian-type, enabling for an imperial folding now of Nero (Domitius) with Domitian and of Vespasian with Trajan. Regarding Trajan’s supposed successor (but not son), Hadrian, who has been called “a mirror image” of the Seleucid tyrant, Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’, he would likely be a composite figure, partly based upon Antiochus IV (and perhaps others), and, considering his reputation as a destroyer of Jerusalem, partly on Titus, the son of Vespasian, who really did destroy Jerusalem and demolish its Temple.

Caligula and Antiochus ‘Epiphanes’

Published May 3, 2017 by amaic

Image result for caligula painting


 Damien F. Mackey



“What, therefore, do Caligula and Antiochus Epiphanes have in common, as their reigns pertain to the Jews? Both reigned during a time when the Jews were abandoning their God and breaking covenant with him on a national scale. The one ruler officially desecrated the Temple, while the other planned to do so. Both rulers were involved in the emperor cult that required worship from those they ruled”.



This blogger (presuming, apparently, the convenional structure of history) has discerned likenesses between:


Caligula and Antiochus Epiphanes




I believe the reign of Caligula, emperor of Rome (37-41 CE), is underrated, as it pertains to the New Testament and the early Messianic movement in Judea. There was a lot happening during these few years in Jewish history that remind me of the period of Antiochus Epiphanes who desecrated the Temple, which gave rise to the revolt of the Maccabees, cir. 168 BCE.


Just before the days of the Maccabees the corruption of the high priesthood had become so prevalent that the Temple duties of the priests had been ignored in favor of spending time in the gymnasium, bowing to Hellenism. In other words, the desire to become like the nations around them was so intensified among the Jews that true worship of God had been virtually abandoned. In fact, to accentuate his displeasure with his people, the Lord allowed or perhaps caused Antiochus IV to sacrifice swine’s flesh upon the brazen alter in the Temple at Jerusalem, thus polluting it and officially ending worship in the House upon which he placed his name, emphasizing in the words of the writer of the second book of the Maccabees:


2 Maccabees 5:19-20 KJVA  (19)  Nevertheless God did not choose the people for the place’s sake, but the place far the people’s sake.  (20)  And therefore the place itself, that was partaker with them of the adversity that happened to the nation, did afterward communicate in the benefits sent from the Lord: and as it was forsaken in the wrath of the Almighty, so again, the great Lord being reconciled, it was set up with all glory.


In other words, as the people go, so goes the Temple of God. Therefore the abomination that polluted the Temple occurred long before official deed of Antiochus IV. The religious revolution among the dueling High Priests during this time had taken away the hearts of the people and caused them to seek to become like the nations around them, ignoring the Covenant made with the Lord.


During the reign of Caligula and before, Annas, the High Priest, had initiated a persecution of Messianic Jews, thus making war against true worshipers of God, simply because they were so devoted to the Lord. I don’t mean to imply the unbelieving Jews didn’t worship God, but I do mean to say Annas was not among them. Annas’ persecution began with the stoning of Stephen and the expulsion of Hellenist Messianic Jews from Jerusalem (Acts 8:1-3), and pursuing them even to cities outside Judea (Acts 9:1-2; 26:11).


I often wonder if we tend to leave God out of history at times, or, at least, refrain from acknowledging the real reason that historical developments took the shape in which we see them today. What I mean is, what do we really know about Jewish history between the time of Stephen’s death in Acts 7 and the death of Herod Agrippa of Acts 12? All the Scriptures tell us is that there was a persecution, but it doesn’t say how effective or widespread it was. We are told of evangelistic efforts (Acts 8), Paul’s conversion (Acts 9), Peter’s preaching to Cornelius, a Gentile (Acts 10), Peter having to explain himself due to his receiving Cornelius as a believer, and an almost parenthetic remark about the Hellenist believers getting as far as Antioch with the Gospel (Acts 11), and the death of James the Apostle, Peter’s expulsion from Jerusalem and the death of Herod Agrippa (Acts 12). More than this we are not told, and this period covers approximately 10-11 years! Did anything really important occur that we have to read into the text in order to receive the full impact of what God is saying to us?


Unrest in Egypt began over the Jews’ exemption of having to practice the emperor cult, whereby statues of Caligula were placed within their places of worship. This ensued into riots with the result that many Jews were killed. In probable retaliation, Jews rose up in defiance of the emperor cult in Jamnia, a city in Palestine, near the coast and just south of Lydda and Joppa, and destroyed an imperial altar there. When news of this incident reached Caligula, he decided to erect a statue of himself in the Temple at Jerusalem. Meanwhile, an anti-Jewish backlash among the Gentiles began to spread throughout the Gentile cities in Palestine. What does all this mean?


What had occurred in history is only implied in the Scriptures with: “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified…” (Acts 9:31). Rome and Jerusalem were brought to the brink of war during Caligula’s reign, and war would have indeed occurred had he placed the images of himself in the Temple at Jerusalem. If we allow for the working of God in the historical developments of this time, what may we conclude? What I see is, Annas was seeking to wipe out the Jesus movement in Judaism. God retaliated by threatening to wipe out the Jewish nation, if things persisted as they were. The Jerusalem government left off its persecution of the Messianic believers (Acts 9:31) in order to pursue peace with Rome. By the thousands Jewish families flocked to Ptolemias just north of Caesarea, where the Roman legate of Syria, Petronius, was wintering his troops, planning to erect the statues of Caligula in the spring of 39 CE. It is only through his wise efforts to calm the tumultuous situation that Rome and Jerusalem didn’t come to war at this early date.


What, therefore, do Caligula and Antiochus Epiphanes have in common, as their reigns pertain to the Jews? Both reigned during a time when the Jews were abandoning their God and breaking covenant with him on a national scale. The one ruler officially desecrated the Temple, while the other planned to do so. Both rulers were involved in the emperor cult that required worship from those they ruled. Many scholars associate Daniel’s prophecy of the abomination of desolation as it pertains to the 1290 days of Daniel 12 with Antiochus Epiphanes. In reality these 1290 days have to do with the abomination of desolation set up at the death of Stephen in Acts 7—when persecution culminating in death began (cp. Matthew 24:15), which if we allow for the presence of God in history, brought about Caligula’s decision to set up images of himself within the Temple compound at Jerusalem.







Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’ Doubled

Published May 3, 2017 by amaic

Image result for antiochus epiphanes


Damien F. Mackey

As if one king Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’ were not enough, there was another such named king, at least according to the history books, ruling in the C1st AD.

King Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’ of Commagene (Armenia) and Cilicia Tracheia was, just like his Seleucid namesake, Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’, born to a king Antiochus III – Commagene being the region ruled by the Seleucid tyrant: “Another Epiphania was founded [by the latter] in Armenia”.

For the massive impact upon Cilicia Tracheia by the Seleucid ‘Epiphanes’, see C. Tempesta’s

“Antiochus IV Epiphanes and Cilicia”, in Adalya VIII, Istanbul, 2005, pp. 59-81.

Both the Commagene version, who “reigned … as a client king to the Roman Empire” (, and the Seleucid one, were servants of Rome (

After his father’s defeat by the Romans in 190–189, [Antiochus IV] served as hostage for his father in Rome from 189 to 175, where he learned to admire Roman institutions and policies. His brother, King Seleucus IV, exchanged him for Demetrius, the son of Seleucus; and after Seleucus was murdered by Heliodorus, a usurper, Antiochus in turn ousted him. During this period of uncertainty in Syria, the guardians of Ptolemy VI, the Egyptian ruler, laid claim to Coele Syria, Palestine, and Phoenicia, which Antiochus III had conquered. Both the Syrian and Egyptian parties appealed to Rome for help, but the Senate refused to take sides. In 173 Antiochus paid the remainder of thewar indemnity that had been imposed by the Romans on Antiochus III at the Treaty of Apamea (188).

[End of quote]

The Commagene version also grew up in Rome: “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 …” (Wikipedia).

Both were descended form a Queen Laodice.

In the case of Commagene: “Through his ancestor from Commagene, Queen Laodice VII Thea, who was the mother of King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene, he was a direct descendant of the Greek Seleucid kings” (Wikipedia).

So, there is a blood connection here between the supposedly two dynasties.

In the case of the Seleucid: “Mother: Laodice III (daughter of Mithradates II of Pontus)”:

That name, “Mithradates”, was in fact the Seleucid’s original name: “Antiochus IV Epiphanes (Επιφανής, Greek: Manifest), originally named Mithradates, but renamed Antiochus either upon his ascension or after the death of his elder brother Antiochus …”. (

Finally, we learn of another connection of an Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’ with the emperor Hadrian, over and above what I wrote about this in:

Antiochus ‘Epiphanes’ and Emperor Hadrian. Part One: “… a mirror image”

The Commagene version’s grand-daughter, Julia Balbilla, became a travelling companion of the emperor Hadrian in Egypt (

Perhaps the best candidate for such a figure of females [re “prominence and visibility to females in the domain of cult”] is Julia Balbilla, a granddaughter of Antiochus IV who accompanied Hadrian and Sabina on a trip to Egypt in A.D. 130 (the visit to Sparta was not to occur until late in life for the purpose of attending to the construction of a heroon in honor of her cousin Herculanus). Writer of poetry in the Aeolic dialect of Sappho, with no recorded husband or child, a possible exemplar of lesbian relationships, if she was the lover of Sabina (perhaps modeled on the emperor’s own liaison with Antinous) (pp. 128-129) — a more unconventional female figure (by the standards of Greek antiquity) would be difficult to imagine, but strictly speaking we are no longer here within the limits of religion, much less religion at Sparta. ….

It is unfortunately upon such a dubious historical figure as Julia Balbilla that we must be reliant for much of the account of the emperor Hadrian’s visit to Egypt.


Pericles (Peisistratus) and emperor Hadrian

Published May 2, 2017 by amaic


Damien F. Mackey

“The Panhellenion was devised with a view to associating the Roman Emperor with the protection of Greek culture and of the “liberties” of Greece – in this case, urban self-government. It allowed Hadrian to appear as the fictive heir to Pericles, who supposedly had convened a previous Panhellenic Congress …”.

Some Commonalities

The famous beard

We read about it, for instance, in the book, Rethinking Revolutions Through Ancient Greece (ed. Simon Goldhill, Robin Osborne):

But if Hadrian’s beard is not that of a philosopher, what are we to make of it? Susan Walker has recently refined her answer to this question to describe the beard ‘as worn in the style of Pericles’. …. Pericles’ short, curly beard and moustache put her on safer ground art-historically than those who favour a philosophical reading …. Historiographically it lends him an identity that complements his building in Athens. But the more one pursues the implications of this hypothesis, the more one is made to doubt it. If one reads Plutarch to get a sense of Pericles’ reputation under Hadrian, one encounters an icon whose physical appearance is similar to Pisistratus. …. In some ways this is eminently suitable: Pisistratus is a prolific builder in Athens and inaugurates the Olympeion that Hadrian is to finish. …. But were Hadrian attempting to instigate a revolution, there is danger in even the slightest whiff of tyranny. Rest-assured, there is little additional evidence to support a Pericles-Hadrian parallel, at least not compared to stronger associations with a bearded Zeus or Jupiter ….

[End of quote]

Eleusinian mysteries

Under Pericles

The Eleusinian mysteries attracted many initiates in Athens from about the seventh century BC, and the epics of Homer prove that, even that early, Greeks believed that the Eleusinian rites granted the initiates happiness after death. The citizens of Athens adopted the Mysteries of Eleusis as a feature of the state cult, then, at the time of Pericles, other Greek cities were admitted and later everyone who could speak Greek and had shed no blood or had subsequently been purified.

Under Peisistratus

Since religion was closely interwoven with the structure of the Greek polis, or city-state, many of [Peisistratus’] steps were religious reforms. He brought the great shrine of Demeter at Eleusis under state control and constructed the first major Hall of the Mysteries (Telesterion) for the annual rites of initiation into the cult. Many local cults of Attica were either moved to the city or had branch shrines there. Artemis, for instance, continued to be worshiped at Brauron, but now there was also a shrine to Artemis on the Acropolis. Above all, Athena now became the main deity to be revered by all Athenian citizens. Peisistratus constructed an entry gate (Propylaea) on the Acropolis and perhaps built an old Parthenon under the temple that now stands on the crest of the Acropolis. Many sculptured fragments of limestone from Peisistratid buildings have been found on the Acropolis, and the foundations of a major, unfinished temple can still be seen.

Under Hadrian

Emperor Hadrian was initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries; he and his successors Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius and Commodus all protected the shrine and contributed to its embellishment ….

In September 128 [sic], Hadrian attended the Eleusinian mysteries again. This time his visit to Greece seems to have concentrated on Athens and Sparta – the two ancient rivals for dominance of Greece. Hadrian had played with the idea of focusing his Greek revival around the Amphictyonic League based in Delphi, but by now he had decided on something far grander.

Panhellenion and Olympeion


Rethinking Revolutions Through Ancient Greece: “Pisistratus is a prolific builder in Athens and inaugurates the Olympeion that Hadrian is to finish”.

Dedicated to Olympian Zeus, the Olympieion was situated on the bank of the river Ilissus southeast of the Acropolis. It was built on the site of an ancient Doric temple, the foundation of which had been laid out by the tyrant Pisistratus, but construction was abandoned several decades later in 510 BC when his son Hippias, whose rule had become increasingly despotic, was expelled from Athens and a democracy established (he would return twenty years later with the Persians at Marathon, Thucydides, Peloponnesian War, VI.54ff). Aristotle cites the temple and the pyramids of Egypt as examples of how rulers subdue their populations by engaging them in such grandiose projects. Kept poor and preoccupied with hard work, there was not the time to conspire (Politics, V.11). Over three centuries later, in 174 BC, Antiochus IV Epiphanes (king of Syria and the “vile person” of Daniel 11:21) commissioned the Roman architect Cossutius to begin work again on the same ground plan. He did so “with great skill and taste,” says Vitruvius, constructing a temple “of large dimensions, and of the Corinthian order and proportions” (On Architecture, VII, Pref.15, 17). Of all the works of Antiochus, the Temple of Jupiter Olympius or Olympian (as the Romans called it) was the “only one in the world, the plan of which was suitable to the greatness of the deity” (Livy, History of Rome, XLI.20). But when the king died a decade later, the temple still was “left half finished” (Strabo, Geography, IX.1.17), although it extended at least to the architrave of the columns still standing at the southeastern corner.


Plutarch writes that Pericles “introduced a bill to the effect that all Hellenes wheresoever resident in Europe or in Asia, small and large cities alike, should be invited to send deputies to a council at Athens.” The aim was to discuss matters of common interest—restoration of the temples the Persians had burned down, payment of vows to the gods for the great deliverance, and clearing the seas of pirates.


More than half a millennium later [sic] Hadrian picked it up where it had fallen. During his previous visit, his attention had been caught by the synedrion, or council, at Delphi for the Amphictyonic League, but it did not include enough Greek cities. He decided to launch a new Panhellenion along Periclean lines. As before, a grandly refurbished Athens was to be the headquarters and Greek cities would be invited to send delegates to an inaugural assembly. Member communities had to prove their Greekness, both culturally and in genetic descent, although in practice some bogus pedigrees were accepted.

The enterprise had a somewhat antiquarian character. So far as we can tell from the fragmentary surviving evidence, Hadrian aimed at roughly the same catchment area as Pericles had done—in essence, the basin of the Ionian Sea. Italy and Sicily were excluded once again, and there was no representation of Greek settlements in Egypt, Syria, or Anatolia. The emperor made a point of visiting Sparta, presumably to ensure that it did not stay away as it had done in the fifth century.

A renaissance of old glories was reflected in the development of archaized language; so, for example, Spartan young men (epheboi) suddenly took on an antiquated Doric dialect in their dedications to Artemis Orthia, a patron goddess of the city. It seems clear that one of the purposes of Hadrian’s policy was to recruit the past to influence and to help define and improve the decadent present.

Hadrian began to call himself the “Olympian,” echoing the example of Pericles as well as reflecting the completion of the Olympieion, the vast temple to Olympian Zeus. He was soon widely known throughout the Hellenic eastern provinces as “Hadrianos Sebastos Olumpios,” Sebastos being the Greek word for Augustus, or indeed “Hadrianos Sebastos Zeus Olumpios.”

What did the Panhellenion actually do? It administered its own affairs, managed its shrine not far from the Roman Agora and offices, and promoted a quadrennial festival. It also assessed qualifications for membership. But Hadrian was careful to give it no freestanding political powers. All important decisions were referred to him for approval. Rather, the focus was cultural and religious, and a connection was forged with the Eleusinian Mysteries. In essence, the task was to build spiritual and intellectual links among the cities of the Greek world, and to foster a sense of community. The Panhellenion also furthered the careers of delegates, who were usually leading members of Greek elites (but not necessarily Roman citizens), and created an international “old-boy network” of friends who advanced one another’s interests. ….

Ptolemy IX “Chickpea” and Cicero “Chickpea”

Published May 2, 2017 by amaic




 Damien F. Mackey



“… I suggest that Cicero explicitly employs unhistorical (or at least not certifiably true) exempla, with a view to the internal consistency of the dialogues’ fictional world”.

Dan Hanchey




Some Commonalities


Some obvious similarities between the text-book Ptolemy Soter (so-called IX) and Cicero are their supposed beginnings before 100 BC, and their sharing of a name, or nickname, meaning “Chickpea”. In the book, Language Typology and Historical Contingency: In honor of Johanna Nichols (eds. B. Bickel et al.), we read as follows about this name (p. 303):


The possible prehistory of *ḱiḱer- is more interesting. The attested forms are Latin (Glare 1996) cicer ‘chickpea’ (Cicer arietinum), cicera ‘chickling vetch’ (Lathyrus sativus), Armenian siseṙn ‘chickpea’, Macedonian (Hesychius) kíkerroi (Lathyrus ochrus), and Serbo-Croatian sȁstrica (Lathyrus cicera or Lathyrus sativus). …. There is also the possibility of Greek kriós, ‘chickpea’, which Pokorny (1994: 598) tentatively suggests might be from *kikriós with dissimilation, and Hittite kikris, a food item used in a mash, and measured in handfuls. ….

[End of quote]


Likewise, Ptolemy was, Cicero was, contemporaneous with a Cleopatra, who had no great love for the “Chickpea”, or vice versa.

In the case of Ptolemy, we read ( “Although [Cleopatra, so-called III] preferred his younger brother, Ptolemy Alexander, popular sentiment forced the dowager queen to dismiss him and to associate Ptolemy Soter on the throne with herself”.

In parallel fashion, Cleopatra [so-called VII] ruled as co-regent with Ptolemy [so-called XII]: “Before his death, Ptolemy XII chose his daughter Cleopatra VII as his coregent. In his will, he declared that she and her brother Ptolemy XIII should rule the kingdom together”. ( Interestingly, Cicero, according to what we read at this site, is supposed to have commented unfavourably on this latter situation:


Throughout his long-lasting reign the principal aim of Ptolemy [XII] was to secure his hold on the Egyptian throne so as to eventually pass it to his heirs. To achieve this goal he was prepared to sacrifice much: the loss of rich Ptolemaic lands, most of his wealth and even, according to Cicero, the very dignity on which the mystique of kingship rested when he appeared before the Roman people as a mere supplicant.

[End of quote]


As for Cicero and Cleopatra: “Without doubt Cicero was hoping for bad news about Cleopatra. He did not like Greeks and he did not like women, and most of all he hated the Greek woman Cleopatra …”. (Michael Foss, The Search for Cleopatra, 1999).




Ptolemy experienced three of these, according to Encyclopædia Britannica:


…. The latent hostility between the son and his mother finally erupted in October 110, when Cleopatra expelled him from Egypt and recalled his brother from Cyprus. Soter II returned in early 109 but was evicted anew by his mother in March of the following year.

After a reconciliation in May 108 he fled a third time and established himself in Cyprus, from where in 107 he invaded northern Syria to assist one of the claimants to the Seleucid empire, while his mother, allying herself with the Jewish king in Palestine, actively aided another Seleucid pretender. ….

[End of quote]


Nor was Cicero a stranger to exile, as we learn at:


Cicero was elected quaestor in 75, praetor in 66 and consul in 63—the youngest man ever to attain that rank without coming from a political family. During his term as consul he thwarted the Catilinian conspiracy to overthrow the Republic. In the aftermath, though, he approved the key conspirators’ summary execution, a breach of Roman law that left him vulnerable to prosecution and sent him into exile.

Cicero: Alliances, Exiles ….


During his exile, Cicero refused overtures from Caesar that might have protected him, preferring political independence to a role in the First Triumvirate. Cicero was away from Rome when civil war between Caesar and Pompey broke out. He aligned himself with Pompey and then faced another exile when Caesar won the war, cautiously returning to Rome to receive the dictator’s pardon. ….

[End of quote]




Continuing with the Encyclopædia Britannica account of Ptolemy, we read of his lengthy sojourn in Cyprus:


After a reconciliation in May 108 [Ptolemy] fled a third time and established himself in Cyprus, from where in 107 he invaded northern Syria to assist one of the claimants to the Seleucid empire, while his mother, allying herself with the Jewish king in Palestine, actively aided another Seleucid pretender. During the protracted war his mother died (101) and Ptolemy X Alexander became the sole ruler of Egypt, while Soter II remained entrenched in Cyprus. ….

[End of quote]


As for Cicero, Ismail Veli has called him “Cicero The Most Famous Governor in Cypriot History!” (


If I was to choose the most famous Governor in Cypriot history I would choose the great Marcus Tullius Cicero ….

In 51 BC and much against his will he was  assigned to Cilicia which was associated to Cyprus. As usual the previous Governor’s considered their post as an opportunity to enrich themselves at the expense of the local people. Arriving in August 51 B.C he remained until the following year until 3rd August 50 B.C. Though not pleased on his post Cicero as usual set about his task with honesty, hard work and aimed at making the lives of the locals much more comfortable. In addition to the corruption, Cilicia was in an unsettled state due to the Parthian wars. His first order was that the locals need not present him with gifts they could ill afford. He also did away with spending on many forms of Roman entertainment. He only accepted invitations to modest dinner parties so as not to force the locals extra spending. He himself restrained from having extravagant dinner parties, only well served and delicious food at the lowest cost possible was on offer. He never ordered anyone to be beaten with rods or stripped of their clothing. His biggest achievement was in fighting the embezzlement of public funds which was at a chronic level. He invited the culprits to hand over the funds on the condition that they would  not be charged and allowed to retain their citizen rights. The effect was that much money was given back to the point that financial stability and prosperity grew. Any chiefs who refused were met with the wrath of the Roman army at Cicero’s disposal. By the time he left Cilicia the people honoured him with the title of ‘Imperator’.

Meanwhile in Cyprus he found the same if not worse problems as he confronted in Cilicia.

He assigned one of his most trusted men Q. Volusius as prefect to help with the task.  The previous Governors had exacted large sums of money from the locals in compensation for not stationing Legionaries on the Island in winter at their expense. Instead they blackmailed the local cities to pay a charge amounting to over 200 Attic talents (one talent was worth 6000 Denarii. The average pay for a citizen was about 1-2 denarii a day). In addition when the city of Salamis needed a loan, Marcus Brutus levied a charge of 48% interest which was crippling the local economy.  Raising loans by provincials  in Rome  was illegal under the Gabinian law (introduced in 67 B.C) Therefore Brutus together with Cato raised it on their behalf. The reason for their exorbitant interest was the excuse that times were volatile and with wars raging in Asia Minor and the Middle East they were at great risk of losing their money. In the end after heavy negotiation the locals were happy to settle for 106 Talents therefore reducing their heavy burden by almost half. Cicero made good the rest from some of the money he had won back from the embezzlers in Cilicia. A Scaptius complained bitterly to M. Brutus that Cicero was so unreasonable that he was not even allowed fifty troopers to have with him in Cyprus, to which Cicero replied that ”Fifty troopers could do no little harm among such gentle folk as the Cypriotes. Spartacus had begun his insurrection with a smaller troop”.

After leaving Cyprus, Cicero retained an interest in Cypriot affairs. In 47 B.C he wrote to C Sextilius Rufus who was quaestor for the Island in that year warmly commending to him all the Cypriotes, especially the Paphians; and suggesting that he would do well to set an example to his successor, instituting reforms in accordance with the law of P.Lentulus and following Cicero’s decisions and policies on the Island.

So ended Cicero’s period of short but effective Governorship of the Roman province of Cyprus. Not many rulers treated the Cypriots with the care and concern as did Cicero. Even if some did I don’t have any doubt that anyone more famous in history can claim to have presided over the people of the Island. ….

[End of quote]


Sack of Athens


An event that occurred at the hands of the Romans in the lifetime of Ptolemy IX, of Cicero. Thus, according to: Encyclopædia Britannica “Ptolemy Soter refused to give aid to the Romans in the course of their war with Pontus, a Black Sea kingdom, and after the Roman sack of Athens in 88 the Egyptian rulers helped rebuild the city, for which commemorative statues of them were erected”.

And, in the case of Cicero (


Roman aristocrats returned to Athens soon after Sulla’s sack, in search of education and high culture. A shipwreck, found a century ago by sponge divers off the island of Antikythera at the southern point of Greece, revealed a cargo of extraordinary statues and other treasure en route for Italy. Excavations of the luxurious villas constructed in the last century BC show the probable destinations of such cargoes. Ancestral mansions in the city had been rebuilt on ever more lavish scales since the sixth century, but from the later second century Roman aristocrats had begun to expand their property portfolios. Cicero was far from the richest of senators, but even he owned eight villas.

[End of quote]

Dan Hanchey may be closer to the truth than he realises when he writes of Cicero’s employment of “unhistorical (or at least not certifiably true) exempla” (





This paper analyzes Cicero’s citations of the not-always-historical past in his theoretical corpus. Examining both the Marian oak in the prologue of De Legibus and Cicero’s overall use of historical references, I suggest that Cicero explicitly employs unhistorical (or at least not certifiably true) exempla, with a view to the internal consistency of the dialogues’ fictional world. By encouraging the reader’s acceptance of such fictional examples, Cicero establishes an intersubjective and empathetic relationship with his audience. Ultimately, Cicero seeks to uphold and use others to confirm his internal world as an alternative to the tense world of Roman politics. ….


[End of quote]



John the Evangelist and Vincent Ferrer

Published April 22, 2017 by amaic


 Damien F. Mackey



Some common factors here are the references to the ‘Angel of Judgment’ of

the Book of Revelation and to an impending terrible judgment.




Fr. Herman B. Kramer has brought some connections between St. John and St. Vincent Ferrer in his captivating study on the Apocalypse, The Book of Destiny (Tan, 1975). According to Fr. Kramer’s interpretation of the Apocalypse, each chapter can be linked literally to an important era of Christian history.

For instance, Revelation chapters 8 and 9 Fr. Kramer aligned with, respectively, the Great Western Schism (C14th-15th AD) and the Protestant Reformation (C16th AD).

Perhaps Fr. Kramer’s lynchpin for all this was his identifying of the Eagle, or angel of judgment, of Revelation 8:13, or 14:6, with St. Vincent Ferrer, OP. (ibid., pp. 208-9):


By a wonderful co-incidence a great saint appears at this stage [the Western Schism] in the history of the Church. His eminence and influence procured for him the distinction of an eagle flying through mid-heaven. This was the Dominican priest, St. Vincent Ferrer. When in 1398 he lay at death’s door with fever, our Lord, St. Francis and St. Dominic appeared to him, miraculously cured him of his fever and commissioned him to preach penance and prepare men for the coming judgments. Preaching in the open space in San Esteban on October 3, 1408 he solemnly declared that he was the angel of the judgment spoken of by St. John in the Apocalypse. The body of a woman was just being carried to St. Paul’s church nearby for burial. St. Vincent ordered the bearers to bring the corpse before him. He adjured the dead to testify whether his claim was true or not. The dead woman came to life and in the hearing of all bore witness to the truth of the saint’s claim and then slept again in death (Fr. Stanislaus Hogan O.P.).


Just as this, St. Vincent Ferrer’s extraordinary miracle, had convinced the Dominican Fathers, his superiors, that he was correct in his claim to be the angel of Apocalypse, so was it all the proof that I needed back in the 1980’s to accept Fr. Kramer’s opinion that Revelation 8 (which includes reference to a warning angel) was fixed to the very time of St. Vincent Ferrer. And so I, quite content with the way Apocalypse had been incorporated into my book, The Five First Saturdays – now up-dated as:


The Five First Saturdays of Our Lady of Fatima


– moved on to consider other things relevant to that book, for example (in regard to the many similarities found between the Book of Esther and the Fatima events) to locate the precise era of Queen Esther, her uncle Mordecai, and their foe Haman. This was in order to provide a solid historical foundation to the whole Esther saga. Instead of my puzzling overmuch anymore about who, or what, might be the seven-headed Beast of Revelation 13:1, I became preoccupied now with trying to discover who in history was “Haman … the persecutor of the Jews” (3:10); that most ambitious and cruel character in Esther who, Hitler-like, had singlemindedly set about to exterminate the entire Jewish race, but was thwarted at the eleventh hour by Queen Esther and Mordecai.

See now, e.g.:


Is the Book of Esther a Real History?


I know that many today will regard all this as quite ridiculous, a complete waste of time. They will insist that one will never succeed in identifying the historical era for Queen Esther because she never actually existed, never sat on the Persian throne at Susa, was only a character of fiction. But my own research has revealed a different trend, as in the case of the Book of Judith – which contemporary exegetes likewise refer to as “historical fiction”. After years of research into the Book of Judith I am convinced, from a detailed comparison of Judith with the neo-Assyrian records, that the story about this Jewish heroine fits snugly into the era of King Hezekiah of Jerusalem, when King Sennacherib of Assyria invaded his kingdom in c.700 BC.

Judith is indeed real history. See e.g. my:


And the Assyrian Will Fall ‘by the Hand of a Woman’



“Nadin went into everlasting darkness”


Providentially, I was invited in the year of 1999 to write a postgraduate thesis on this very same era, that of King Hezekiah.

And I am equally convinced that Esther is true history; though, as with Judith, it has taken some time and intellectual effort to demonstrate this. I only made real progress with Judith when I put aside peripheral details to track down the main incident: the defeat of the massive Assyrian army.


The Book of Revelation


Despite the superficial ingenuity of Fr. Kramer’s interpretation, it does not – on closer scrutiny – match itself appropriately to St. John’s own words. Whereas Fr. Kramer tumbled out, like far flung dice, the events that the Evangelist described, spinning them right down through the centuries, even to our own time, St. John – as we read in his introductory quote above – was clearly talking about an early fulfilment of the events that Jesus Christ had revealed to him. See my:

Book of Revelation Theme: The Bride and the Reject

As noted in that article, I am greatly indebted to the insights of Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry on this subject.

There is a pronounced dichotomy here between the standard interpretations of Revelation and the actual words of the author. St. John said emphatically that these events were to happen “soon”; that is, soon for St. John’s era and generation of the C1st AD. That St. John meant that soon-ness literally (indeed he repeats it in various ways) is going to become more and more obvious in the course of this book. Thus a literal fulfilment of Revelation 8 in St. Vincent Ferrer’s time, almost a millennium and a half after St. John, as Fr. Kramer had proposed, would not seem to be compatible with St. John’s “soon”.

This does not at all shake St. Vincent’s testimony. The bull of canonization compares him to an “angel flying through mid-heaven”. The breviary uses similar language. St. Vincent could well have been the apocalyptical angel of judgment in the sense that Our Lord said of St. John the Baptist that “… he, if you will believe Me, is the Elijah who was to return” (Matthew 11:14); even though St. John the Baptist had point blank told the priests and Levites who asked him, ‘Are you Elijah?’ … ‘I am not’ (John 1:21). The Baptist ‘was’ Elijah in the sense that he came “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17).




God has apparently created ‘types’; a classical example being the one that we have just looked at of St. John the Baptist being an Elijah type.

According to Pope Pius XI, St. Thomas Aquinas is somewhat reminiscent of the Old Testament patriarch Joseph, saviour of Egypt. See my:


Joseph of Egypt and St. Thomas Aquinas


That Pope hinted at this in his encyclical, “Studiorum Ducem” (29 June, 1923), when he wrote:


Accordingly, just as it was said to the Egyptians of old in time of famine: Go to Joseph, so that they should receive a supply of corn from him to nourish their bodies, so We now say to all such as are desirous of the truth: Go to Thomas, and ask him to give you from his ample store the food of substantial doctrine wherewith to nourish your souls unto eternal life.


This passage became the inspiration for me to write an earlier article, Go To Thomas”, leading me to discover various unexpected but striking parallels between the lives of St. Thomas and Joseph.

And the intuitive reader will be able to discern many others types as well of holy men and women down through the ages.

Now St. Vincent Ferrer could likewise, as with the Baptist, have come so much “in the spirit and power of” a holy predecessor (angel or human) as to be identifiable with, yet not literally, that predecessor. As we are going to see, St. Vincent certainly shared a common vocation with St. John the Evangelist inasmuch as he foretold a pending judgment that he insisted would occur soon. Moreover, his soon-ness has been just as misunderstood and misinterpreted as has the Evangelist’s.

In St. Vincent’s case, the matter of typology is further complicated by the difficulty of deciding whether his type is the Eagle/angel of Revelation 8 or Revelation 14; a difficulty that Fr. Kramer obviously has at least – just as he also seems to stumble over the fact that the Dominican saint was, like the Evangelist, utterly convinced that the judgments he foretold were to be fulfilled very soon (op. cit., p. 209):


The above testimony [of the miracle] is accepted by all biographers of St. Vincent as a proof of his claim. But they make his reference to the Apocalypse indicate chapter XIV. 6, for they say he often chose it as his text, ‘Fear God, and give Him honor, for the day of His judgment is at hand’. They do not prove that he pronounced himself that particular angel. And he seems to have had only the general revelation that he was appointed “the angel of the judgment”.

By designating him the angel of chapter XIV.6, the commentators run into inexplicable difficulties. For St. Vincent emphatically and repeatedly asserted that the day of Wrath was to come “soon, very soon, within a short time”, cito, bene cito et valde breviter. St. John announced that the judgment was to come very quickly (Apoc. III. II), which meant that it would begin to operate soon. Since St. Vincent uttered these prophecies, five centuries have elapsed, and the end of the world and last judgment have not come. Some try to explain it by saying that the saint meant the particular judgment; but that is meaningless. Others contend that he predicted the approach of the last judgment conditionally, as Jonas predicted the destruction of Nineveh …. But these are all conjectures of biographers. St. Vincent did not aver that he was the angel of chapter XIV. or that the General Judgment was very near.


Fr. Kramer, after writing at some length in this rather tortuous vein, goes on to wonder whether St. Vincent might not have been entirely correct about his own apocalyptical identification, because he certainly estimated wrongly in another major matter (ibid., p. 211):


Now that St. Vincent himself might have been mistaken about the place assigned to him in the apocalyptic prophecies need not appear strange. He adhered to the anti-pope, Benedict XIII, and sincerely believed him to be the legitimate pontiff. This was a matter in which his human judgment gave the decision. And this judgment can easily err. So also, since it was not explicitly revealed to him what angel of the Apocalypse he was, he may have drawn the mistaken conclusion that it was the one of chapter XIV. 6. However, it has not been proven that he claimed to be that angel or even thought he was. This latter angel has the commission to preach to EVERY “nation and tribe, and tongue, and people”. St. Vincent, even though his fame spread over it all, so that he was like “one flying through mid-heaven”, personally reached only a small part of Christendom.


Fr. Kramer’s entanglements here only reinforce me in my decision to consider St. Vincent as, at best, an apocalyptical type only.

Confusion is exacerbated by failure to recognise that the judgment about which St. John was referring was intended for that generation (c. 30-70 AD), culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem (70 AD), and that it equates with the “coming” that Our Lord and the Apostles frequently referred to in regard to the generation that had crucified Him: a “coming” in judgment. Not to recognise this is to make a mockery of Our Lord’s clear words and of other New Testament prophecies. It also takes away the concreteness intended by Our Lord. When, prior to his Passion, He had placed before Him by “some people” the examples of (i) those slain by Pilate’s Roman troops, and (ii) others killed by a falling tower, He had insisted: ‘Unless you do penance you will all perish as they did [that is, by a violent death]’ (Luke 13:1-5). Whilst this statement is also open to spiritual interpretation, it should immediately be understood in the concrete sense, that this is exactly what was going to happen physically to that generation of Jews if they did not have a change of heart within the allotted period of mercy.

At the end of the 40 years of probation thousands upon thousands of Jews did die violent deaths at the hands of the Roman troops, with towers likewise falling upon them, as well as missiles, stones and fire.

The same sort of warnings applied apparently to St. Vincent Ferrer’s generation. And they apply also to ours. The Vatican II era has been an era of Divine mercy extended to a wicked generation; but it also portends an Advent, or Coming of Christ. Will the early Third Millennium witness the emergence of a new apocalyptical ‘angel’ to proclaim ‘cito, bene cito et valde breviter’?