Among the “Successors” of Alexander the Great, it was specifically Ptolemy Soter who had captured and then ruled Jerusalem. He had done this not so much by personal military valor, but a combination of trickery, coercion and inducement. It nevertheless created a precedent for Antony to follow in his designated role as the Roman Ptolemy Soter. Antony in fact took Jerusalem in 37 BC (or thereabouts) using Roman troops and through direct material support to his regional alter ego Herod.
As in Ptolemy’s time, Jerusalem fell on a holy day (one involving a fast) - not necessarily also on the Sabbath as in Ptolemy’s day, but probably in a sabbatical year. As with Ptolemy, Herod made use of “pleadings, threats and the judicious use of force,” not so much to gain cooperation of the Jews of Jerusalem, but to ensure that the Roman army left him something and someone to be king over! Although the account of Josephus explicitly compares the capture of Jerusalem by Herod to a similarly bloody one exactly 27 years earlier (“to the day”) under Pompey, he also clearly adapts various details from Ptolemy’s much more restrained conquest, and depicts Herod as the one exercising that restraint.
Immediately after subjecting Jerusalem, Herod further humbled the Jews by appointing a new High Priest that was marginally qualified, if at all, due to his obscure pedigree and previous status as a foreign captive. Next, Herod baited the Jews by agreeing (ostensibly upon the urging of his “Hasmonean” wife Mariamne) to unceremoniously remove his unpopular choice in favor of the last remaining “Hasmonean” prince. The reversal of a Herod decision was immediately and hugely popular, but in this case Messianic fervor was whipped up so that it could just as abruptly be crushed. After the Jews had become enamored with the tall and handsome young prince, he was carelessly killed in a silly water sport. Strangely, the Herodian court was in as big a hurry to remove this youngest surviving “full-blooded” Hasmonean as they had been to install him in the first place. They were evidently even willing to lie about his age (pass him off as several years older) to make this happen. But, why?
Josephus mentions the age of High Priest Aristobulus (III)/Jonathan three times. He was said to have been 16 years old when his Hasmonean kin insisted that he be appointed High Priest in Jerusalem. At the age of 17 he presided as High Priest at an important Jewish festival and performed the duties flawlessly. However, the supposedly jealous Herod had him murdered just short of his 18th birthday. Josephus makes the curious remark that Jonathan was tall for his age, which is an illogical attribute for a nearly adult male of 17. Most males have reached their final height by then. Such a statement would have made far more sense for a male of age 12, which is about how old Caesarion would have been in 36 BC – the generally accepted year of Jonathan’s drowning at the hands of Herod’s Gallic goons.
The staged murder of Alexander IV (the eldest son of Alexander the Great) occurred when he was about 13 or 14 years old and is considered to have happened in the same year (209 BC) as the “birth” of Ptolemy II Philadelphius. Likewise, the birth of a new Philadelphius is generally placed in the same year (36 BC) as the death of the last Hasmonean High Priest. It seems that in order to fulfill the applicable Ptolemaic tradition, there was a need to eliminate one of the main identities of Caesarion, the eldest son of Julius Caesar, and at an early age. Due to the circumstances it was not quite yet convenient to jettison the name of Caesarion. However, the Hasmonean alias of Caesarion would have been every bit as prestigious, if not more so. And doing so at this particular time also served other purposes, as discussed above.
Note: The chronologies of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Centuries BC are not fully precise, but the intent of the de facto Roman royal family to reproduce Ptolemaic history is still clear (regardless of what years it actually happened).
Even as one manifestation of Caesarion was being removed from the world stage, another one was being created. When the Donations of Alexandria were being made (34 BC), Caesarion was almost exactly the same age as Alexander IV when his kingly career was transformed though identity “shape-shifting.” There had been a lengthy delay of around 13 to 14 years between the birth of Alexander IV and his “rebirth” as Ptolemy II Philadelphius, the son of Ptolemy Soter. Similarly, there was nearly 14 years delay between the birth of Caesarion around 47 BC and the announcement through the Donations of Alexandria of his “rebirth(s)” in 34 BC. This appears to have been quite intentional.
The almost exclusive promotion of Caesarion is surprising. Judging by his Hasmonean description, Caesarion was “tall, handsome and regal in bearing, even as the kings of old.” He was what everybody wanted in a future king and was being given every opportunity and advantage to make that hope his destiny. According to the Donations, Caesarion stood to inherit the choicest regions of the Near East under four separate identities. As Caesarion he was heir to Egypt. As Alexander Helios he was heir of Media and Parthia/Persia. As Drusus he was heir in Rome. And as Philadelphius he was heir in Syria and Cilicia, as well. However, he still only had the status of heir apparent. He was not yet the official successor. That required the establishment of a natural dynasty of his own. Yet, of the two princes, Tiberius was slightly less inbred with the leading princess, Cleopatra Selene/Julia the Younger, and therefore more likely to be fertile with her. He also had a gentle disposition, which is more consistent with what we know about the highly venerated Ptolemy II Philadelphius. Tiberius, like the second son of Alexander the Great, was much neglected, but would be a significant player in the royal drama to come.
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