The following is an excerpt (#9 of 20) from:
"Jesus Among the Julio-Claudians"
copyright 2017 Charles N. Pope
Octavius (Augustus) as the New Antiochus
As the oldest prince of his royal generation, Octavius, the future Caesar Augustus, would have naturally been typecast as the new Antiochus, who had been the oldest prince in the royal generation following that of Alexander the Great. Antiochus was adopted as the heir of King Seleucus, and eventually became successor to the most prestigious throne of the day despite not having a royal son of his own. (The Ptolemaic throne would not rival the Seleucid for some time.)
Prior to the “death” of Julius Caesar in 44 BC, Octavius (the former Ptolemy XIII) had already been paired with the senior princesses, namely Berenice IV (Roman: Fulvia, “Dumb Blondie”) and Cleopatra VII (Roman: Scribonia, “Lady of Letters/Scholarly”). Finally, the youngest princess, Arsinoe IV, was married to Octavius in 42 BC under the name Clodia Pulchra (“Lame Beauty”), but after two years they too proved to be an infertile couple and the union was dissolved in order to give Cleopatra another chance (and also to allow her eldest daughter to be recognized as heiress in Rome). After another two years, Cleopatra stepped aside and allowed Octavius to remarry Arsinoe under the name of Livia Drusilla. This was done, not just to honor the wifely preference of Octavius, but to legitimize the two eldest royal princes (Caesarion and Tiberius) as potential successors to Augustus in Rome (and as a safeguard in the event that Augustus would be unable to produce a royal son of his own).
If Arsinoe and Drusilla were one and the same, then Cleopatra VII obviously had not put her kid sister Arsinoe to death. In fact, they obviously were reenacting earlier Ptolemaic history in which the first queen named Arsinoe escaped from a temple of Artemis (where she too had taken refuge) by dressing in rags and allowing her own servant girl to be sacrificed in her place. Any aristocrat worth their salt would have known about this precedent and understood that Arsinoe was only forfeiting her Egyptian identity (even as everyone else was required to do at the time) and not her actual life. Moreover, multi-lingual aristocrats would have easily recognized that the Roman name Drusilla and Greek name Arsinoe were largely synonymous (both denote “strength”).
Note: In a witty poetic retort to Antony, Octavius made it quite clear that he wasn’t the least bit interested in any further couplings with Fulvia, i.e., the former Berenice IV, whose biological clock was striking midnight.
After failing to produce an heir by any of the eligible royal females (Berenice IV, Cleopatra VII or Arsinoe IV), Octavius was obliged to accept heirs produced for him. This was the royal way. Surprisingly, though Tiberius was the elder of these two princes, it was the younger who was first established as heir. Caesarion, who was "reborn" as Drusus, was actually older than Tiberius and of higher birth in a royal sense. The birth order had to be switched in Rome out of necessity, but it didn’t change their relative ranking as princes. The imposition upon Octavius of two male heirs was also done in repetition (“fulfillment”) of yet another Ptolemaic precedent. In the absence of a true son, Antiochus I had first accepted Prince Seleucus as his heir. Prince Seleucus was later suppressed (as Caesarion/Drusus would be) in favor of a second heir, Antiochus II. Similarly, Tiberius would ultimately replace Drusus as successor.
Note: In Heroes of the Hellenistic Age it was shown that Prince Seleucus was also known as Ptolemy Epigone (“The Heir”) and was a natural son of Alexander the Great.
Unbeknownst to the common Roman, Drusus and Julia would have been the ideal/desired dynastic match from the start. However, when Julia reached a marriageable age (of around 14 years old), Drusus was still (officially, not actually) five months her junior, and therefore not even close to marriageable age for a Roman male. Therefore, Caesarion had to marry Julia under a different assumed Roman name, that of Marcus Claudius Marcellus. As husband of Julia, Marcellus projected the imperious bearing of a king and was even considered heir apparent during the life-threatening illness of Augustus during that time. However, after about two years (25 BC – 23 BC), Marcellus and Julia were unable to have any children and the marriage was terminated with the claimed death of Marcellus from unspecified causes. Nevertheless, these two monarchs in the making, who were once even regaled as Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios, simply remarried (around 22 BC) under different names. Julia was also known as Antonia Major and Caesarion had assumed the identity of the domineering Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (son of the Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, i.e., Julius Caesar, who had scripted the Battle of Actium and set the royal house in order before his actual death).
Note: Other scenarios/identifications (associations between royal and Roman figures) are certainly possible, but the above are the most likely ones given the royal pecking order as it is currently understood.
Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, as the surname implies, was both red-bearded and barbarous. He was a rude, crude dude and performed his acts with complete impunity. He regularly insulted Roman dignitaries. He thrilled and scandalized Rome with reckless chariot racing, by hosting animal shows and staging ultra-violent gladiatorial events. He also required both knights and married women to participate in a raw form of stage-acting called the pantomime. At this point in Roman history, Ahenobarbus had become a stock role. A prince assigned this name was expected to be a hot-tempered, rough and ready character that championed simple (rather than sumptuous) living, was basic (rather than eloquent) in speech, and catered to populist fervor for games and hedonistic entertainments. It appears to have been a role that the young Caesarion relished.
After Marcellus was removed as “son-in-law” of Caesar, the very jealous magnate Marcus Agrippa (former Ptolemy XIV, slightly younger brother of Ptolemy XIII/Octavius) promptly took his place as the new husband of Julia. Any sons of Marcus Agrippa by Julia would have been eligible for succession. However, the marriage also provided a covering for Julia to bear children to Octavius as well as other princes, such as the former Ptolemy Philadelphius. Julia was not the biological daughter of Augustus. She was the much vaunted (and still living) Cleopatra Selene, daughter of Cleopatra VII. She was also the best hope of Octavius (and every other prince) to establish their kingly legacy. Octavius (now the formidable Caesar Augustus) was possessive of Julia and able to justify it based on patriarchal Roman culture. Nevertheless, Julia was not beholden to him and motivated to produce royal children by as many qualified males as possible. The later Roman Emperor, Caligula, shockingly claimed that Augustus and Julia were not only sexual partners, but also the parents of his own mother Agrippina the Elder. Ironically, this may be the reason why Augustus was held in such regard in Christian tradition. He had not only sired the monster Caligula, but more importantly, was part of the bloodline of a Roman prince also known as Jesus.
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