The following is an excerpt (#18 of 20) from:
"Jesus Among the Julio-Claudians"
copyright 2017 Charles N. Pope
James and John on Thrones Beside Jesus
The Roman Jesus (Marcus Junius Silanus Torquatus) had three royal full-brothers, i.e., the putative sons of Germanicus (actual sons of Caesarion/Drusus I) by Agrippina the Elder. This would have been a rarity in any period. In the Gospels, Mary mother of Jesus is actually credited with four named sons in addition to Jesus. James brother of Jesus would logically correspond to Nero (a.k.a. Titus Flavius Sabinus); Joses brother of Jesus to Drusus III (Vespasian); and Judas brother of Jesus to Caligula. The identity of the fourth brother, called Simon, is not as obvious, but likely represented either Paul (Simon Magus) or Simon Peter. Like Jesus, both Paul and Peter would have been true sons of Caesarion/Drusus II (“Joseph”), even if they were not also the biological sons of Agrippina.
The infamous Caligula may have become alienated from his older brothers, and it is possible (though not likely) that he was literally killed for taking himself too seriously in the role of a Roman Akhenaten. Caligula was still in his 20’s when his tenure as Imperator abruptly ended. However, unlike other contemporary royal males, an apostolic identity is not readily discernible for this brother/”disciple” of Christ. In contrast, the Gospels suggest that the other two full-brothers of Jesus, called James and Joses or, variously, James and John (the “sons of Zebedee”) remained supporters of Jesus after his elevation to the status of Great King. Considering that each of them were credited with two sons of their own, their continued allegiance is remarkable and the Gospels also indicate that it had been maintained with appropriate inducements/rewards.
In the Gospels, the Sons of Zebedee approach Jesus and brazenly ask to sit on thrones to his left and right when he entered into his expected inheritance. It can be deduced that Jesus, upon succeeding Caesarion/Drusus (and Julius Caesar before him) as Great King, commissioned John (Drusus III, putative second son of Germanicus) to rule over Rome (under the name of Vespasian) and James (Nero, putative eldest son of Germanicus) with the Parthian throne (under the assumed name of Vologases). Sandwiched in between these two powers was the seemingly lessor kingdom of Armenia, which Jesus ruled under the name of Tigranes (II). Such an arrangement would not have been based on sound judgement if it were not for the fact that Jesus (under the alias Kujula Kadphises) also held an even more dominant throne as successor to Jihonika (Caesarion/Drusus I) over the mighty Kushan Empire to the east of Parthia. In Gospel parlance, James and John were sitting on thrones to the “left and right” of Jesus. Whether this was in relation to the throne of Jesus at Chalcis, Armenia, Kushan Bactria/India or Han Dynasty China is somewhat immaterial. In a global/geographical sense, Rome and Parthia could be considered to the “west/right” and the other to the “east/left” with respect to the central and superior throne of Christ.
Note: It is not entirely clear whether Jesus/Aristobulus succeeded Herod of Chalcis as king of Chalcis. It may be that he “humbly” allowed this distinction to pass directly to his eldest son and heir, also named Aristobulus.
By 66 BC, Torquatus/Jesus was long established as Great King of a world-wide royal franchise. By then, he would have also been able to claim fulfillment of the outstanding Ptolemaic roles of Ptolemy IV, Ptolemy V and Ptolemy VI (or at least a share of their fulfillment). It is a staggering realization that Torquatus (Aristobulus of Chalcis) and his father Drusus I (Antipater of Jerusalem) - two figures entirely outside of our modern consciousness - were the bosses of both Rome and Jerusalem throughout most of the Julio-Claudian/Herodian Period, and neither found it necessary to assume the title of Emperor or King in either capital! It was not necessary for a Great King to be recognized as the king of every kingdom, and particularly not lessor kingdoms. As it turns out, neither Julio-Claudian Rome nor Herodian Israel was the most important region during that time period. The basis of royal power continued to remain much further to the east. And, this is one reason why the two immediate successors of Julius Caesar, those being Caesarion and Torquatus/Aristobulus, did not see fit to claim kingship in Rome or Jerusalem directly.
The “Year of Four Emperors” that resulted in Vespasian coming to power in Rome can now be recognized as a scripted replay of the far older “Who Was King, Who Was Not King?” scenario. There had been such an episode in the Ptolemaic Period, therefore it was considered necessary to include one in the Julio-Claudian Dynasty as well. The repeatedly altered will of Herod the Great (as “Ceraunus”) created a type of Herodian fulfillment of the precedent. However, the end of the reign of Nero (as a type of Roman Heracles) provided an appropriate juncture for the Roman version. Galba, who has already been associated with the Apostle Paul, was the first of the four ephemeral emperors. He could finally boast in more than just his humility. Galba also put forward a somewhat younger prince, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Frugi Licinianus (born c. 38 AD), as his adopted son and designated successor in the Roman Principate.
Purportedly, feeling betrayed by his revolutionary partner Galba’s decision to adopt Piso and make him successor (rather than himself), Otho immediately supplanted both Galba and Piso by exploiting Galba’s unpopularity among the military and populace. However, this maneuver incited the jealousy of another magnate, Vitellius, who promptly invaded Italy with the legions under his command in Germany. As the older brother of Vespasian, Titus Flavius Sabinus may have also been allowed a cameo appearance as Roman Emperor under the name of Vitellius. Rather than embroil Rome in a protracted civil war, we are told (by Cassius Dio) that Otho nobly deferred to Vitellius and thereby lay down his life for the good of the many. This chivalrous behavior, of course, served to associate him with Aristobulus the son an heir of Aristobulus (Jesus), born in the same year (32 AD) as Otho.
It is quite probable that the four emperors of the Year of Four Emperors represented two sets of full-brothers, with Piso Frugi and Salvius Otho (Josephus/Agrippa III and Aristobulus) being one set and Vitellius and Vespasian (Nero and Drusus III) being the other. Piso was very close in age to Josephus/Agrippa III. Seneca also gave Josephus the epithet "episemos," meaning prominent, but connoting “son of Piso.” In effect, the younger princes (Frugi and Otho), although of higher rank, allowed the elder princes (Vitellius and Vespasian) to have their turn to rule before claiming it for themselves. Alternatively, Galba may have been prematurely placing Titus son of Vespasian forward as successor. Both Titus son of Vespasian and Josephus/Agrippa III (as Nerva) later became emperors of Rome in their own right. Galba was using the election of Piso Frugi as a deliberate (but also contrived/staged) provocation in order to propel the drama forward. It also may have served to “prophesy” the future succession within the royal family or to signal that Paul was transferring his claim to the foremost collateral line to the younger son of Jesus (or, variously, the older son of John the Beloved/ Vespasian).
Note: Otho/Otto is a name that became very prominent again in later Roman/ European history.
Caesarion had become seriously conflicted (primarily due to his selfish and controlling nature) over the decision to succeed (or not to succeed) Herod the Great as King of the Jews, directly. With much vacillation, he ultimately deferred to his eldest son Archelaus (Roman Germanicus) rather than taking that throne himself. Caesarion’s leadership style in Rome, which took the form of the ogre Sejanus, was even more unstable, unsubtle and disturbing. Caesarion obsessed about everything. In stark contrast, Jesus of the Gospels advocates striving for and worrying about nothing. This was perhaps more in line with the true spirit of Antiochus III, or should we say, the true spirit of Ptolemy IV, who had everything handed to him on a silver platter.
The real-life Jesus nobly declined a token reign of his own in Rome, and instead allowed his two sons to experience that honor (in preparation for even greater responsibilities). He was also contented with the children of a single wife, but then again, he had no reason to despair of a male heir. He also allowed the sons of his rivals, such as Titus son of Vespasian and Agrippa II son of Agrippa I, to have their own day in the sun. Easy come, easy go! In other words, Jesus was more liberal than most (including his own father) in delegating authority (“sharing the glory and wealth”) with his royal brethren.
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