Berenice of Cilicia, also known as Julia Berenice and sometimes spelled Bernice (Greek : Βερενίκη, Bereníkē; 28 – after 81), was a Jewish client queen of the Roman Empire during the second half of the 1st century. Berenice was a member of the Herodian Dynasty that ruled the Roman province of Judaea between 39 BCE and 92 CE. She was the daughter of King Herod Agrippa I and a sister of King Herod Agrippa II.
What little is known about her life and background comes mostly from the early historian Flavius Josephus, who detailed a history of the Jewish people and wrote an account of the Jewish Rebellion of 67. Suetonius, Tacitus, Dio Cassius, Aurelius Victor and Juvenal, also tell about her. She is also mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (25:13, 23; 26:30). However, it is for her tumultuous love life that she is primarily known from the Renaissance. Her reputation was based on the bias of the Romans to the Eastern princesses, like Cleopatra or later Zenobia. After a number of failed marriages throughout the 40s, she spent much of the remainder of her life at the court of her brother Herod Agrippa II, amidst rumors the two were carrying on an incestuous relationship. During the First Jewish-Roman War, she began a love affair with the future emperor Titus Flavius Vespasianus. However, her unpopularity among the Romans compelled Titus to dismiss her on his accession as emperor in 79. When he died two years later, she disappeared from the historical record.
Berenice was born in 28to Herod Agrippa and Cypros, as granddaughter to Aristobulus IV and great-granddaughter to Herod the Great. Her elder brother was Agrippa II (b. 27), and her younger sisters were Mariamne (b. 34) and Drusilla (b. 38). According to Josephus, there was also a younger brother called Drusus, who died before his teens. Her family constituted part of what is known as the Herodian Dynasty, who ruled the Judaea Province between 39 BCE and 92 CE.
Josephus records three short-lived marriages in Berenice's life, the first which took place sometime between 41 and 43, to Marcus Julius Alexander, brother of Tiberius Julius Alexander and son of Alexander the Alabarch of Alexandria.On his early death in 44, she was married to her father's brother, Herod of Chalcis, with whom she had two sons, Berenicianus and Hyrcanus. After her husband died in 48, she lived with her brother Agrippa for several years and then married Polemon II of Pontus, king of Cilicia, whom she subsequently deserted. According to Josephus, Berenice requested this marriage to dispel rumors that she and her brother were carrying on an incestuous relationship, with Polemon being persuaded to this union mostly on account of her wealth. However the marriage did not last and she soon returned to the court of her brother. Josephus was not the only ancient writer to suggest incestuous relations between Berenice and Agrippa. Juvenal, in his sixth satire, outright claims that they were lovers. Whether this was based on truth remains unknown. Berenice indeed spent much of her life at the court of Agrippa, and by all accounts shared almost equal power. Popular rumors may also have been fueled by the fact that Agrippa himself never married during his lifetime.
Like her brother, Berenice was a client ruler of the parts of the Roman Empire that lie in the present-day Israel. The Acts of the Apostles records that during this time, Paul the Apostle appeared before their court at Caesarea.
In 64 emperor Nero appointed Gessius Florus as procurator of the Judaea Province. During his administration, the Jews were systematically discriminated against in favour of the Greek population of the region.Tensions quickly rose to civil unrest when Florus plundered the treasury of the Temple of Jerusalem under the guise of imperial taxes. Following riots, the instigators were arrested and crucified by the Romans. Appalled at the treatment of her countrymen, Berenice travelled to Jerusalem in 66 to personally petition Florus to spare the Jews. Not only did he refuse to comply with her requests, Berenice herself was nearly killed during skirmishes in the city. Likewise a plea for assistance to the legate of Syria, Cestius Gallus, met with no response.
To prevent Jewish violence from further escalating, Agrippa assembled the populace and delivered a tearful speech to the crowd in the company of his sister,but the Jews alienated their sympathies when the insurgents burned down their palaces. They fled the city to Galilee where they later gave themselves up to the Romans. Meanwhile, Cestius Gallus moved into the region with the Twelfth legion, but was unable to restore order and suffered defeat at the battle of Beth-Horon, forcing the Romans to retreat from Jerusalem.
Emperor Nero then appointed Vespasian to put down the rebellion; he landed in Judaea with Fifth and Tenth legions in 67.He was later joined at Ptolemais by his son Titus, who brought with him the Fifteenth legion. With a strength of 60,000 professional soldiers, the Romans quickly swept across Galilee and by 69 marched on Jerusalem.
It was during this time that Berenice met and fell in love with Titus, who was eleven years her junior. —when the Roman Empire saw the quick succession of the emperors Galba, Otho and Vitellius —Berenice reportedly used all her wealth and influence to support Vespasian on his campaign to become emperor. When Vespasian was declared emperor on 21 December 69, Titus was left in Judaea to finish putting down the rebellion. The war ended in 70 with the destruction of the Second Temple and the sack of Jerusalem, with approximately 1 million dead, and 97,000 taken captive by the Romans. Triumphant, Titus returned to Rome to assist his father in the government, while Berenice stayed behind in Judaea.The Herodians sided with the Flavians during the conflict, and later in 69, the Year of the Four Emperors
It took four years until they reunited, when she and Agrippa came to Rome in 75. The reasons for this long absence are unclear, but have been linked to possible opposition to her presence by Gaius Licinius Mucianus, a political ally of emperor Vespasian who died sometime between 72 and 78.Agrippa was given the rank of praetor, while Berenice resumed her relationship with Titus, living with him at the palace and reportedly acting in every respect as his wife. The ancient historian Cassius Dio writes that Berenice was at the height of her power during this time, and if it can be any indication as to how influential she was, Quintilian records an anecdote in his Institutio Oratoria where, to his astonishment, he found himself pleading a case on Berenice's behalf where she herself presided as the judge. The Roman populace however perceived the Eastern Queen as an intrusive outsider, and when the pair was publicly denounced by Cynics in the theatre, Titus caved in to the pressure and sent her away.
Upon the accession of Titus as emperor in 79, she returned to Rome, but was quickly dismissed amidst a number of popular measures of Titus to restore his reputation with the populace.It is possible that he intended to send for her at a more convenient time. However, after reigning barely two years as emperor, he suddenly died on 13 September 81.
It is not known what happened to Berenice after her final dismissal from Rome.Her brother Agrippa died around 92, and with him the Herodian Dynasty came to an end.
In modern history, her aspirations as a potential empress of Rome have led to her being described as a 'miniature Cleopatra'.
From the 17th century to contemporary times, there has been a long tradition of works of art (novels, dramas, operas, etc.) devoted to or featuring Berenice and especially her affair with the Roman Emperor Titus.The list includes:
Titus Flavius Josephus, born Yosef ben Matityahu, was a first-century Romano-Jewish historian who was born in Jerusalem—then part of Roman Judea—to a father of priestly descent and a mother who claimed royal ancestry.
Titus was Roman emperor from 79 to 81. A member of the Flavian dynasty, Titus succeeded his father Vespasian upon his death, thus becoming the first Roman emperor to come to the throne after his own biological father.
Herod Agrippa, also known as Herod or Agrippa I, was a King of Judea from 41 to 44 AD. He was the last ruler with the royal title reigning over Judea and the father of Herod Agrippa II, the last king from the Herodian dynasty. The grandson of Herod the Great and son of Aristobulus IV and Berenice, He is the king named Herod in the Acts of the Apostles 12:1: "Herod (Agrippa)".
Herod Agrippa II officially named Marcus Julius Agrippa and sometimes shortened to Agrippa, was the eighth and last ruler from the Herodian dynasty. He was the fifth member of this dynasty to bear the title of king, but he reigned over territories outside of Judea only as a Roman client. Agrippa was overthrown by his Jewish subjects in 66 and supported the Roman side in the First Jewish–Roman War.
Herodias was a princess of the Herodian dynasty of Judaea during the time of the Roman Empire.
The First Jewish–Roman War, sometimes called the Great Revolt, or The Jewish War, was the first of three major rebellions by the Jews against the Roman Empire, fought in Roman-controlled Judea, resulting in the destruction of Jewish towns, the displacement of its people and the appropriation of land for Roman military use, besides the destruction of the Jewish Temple and polity.
Tiberius Julius Alexander was an equestrian governor and general in the Roman Empire. Born into a wealthy Jewish family of Alexandria but abandoning or neglecting the Jewish religion, he rose to become procurator of Judea under Claudius. While Prefect of Egypt (66–69), he employed his legions against the Alexandrian Jews in a brutal response to ethnic violence, and was instrumental in the Emperor Vespasian's rise to power. In 70, he participated in the Siege of Jerusalem as Titus' second-in-command. He became the most powerful Jew of his age, and is ranked as one of the most prominent Jews in military history.
The Jewish–Roman wars were a series of large-scale revolts by the Jews of the Eastern Mediterranean against the Roman Empire between 66 and 135 CE. While the First Jewish–Roman War and the Bar Kokhba revolt were nationalist rebellions, striving to restore an independent Judean state, the Kitos War was more of an ethno-religious conflict, mostly fought outside Judea Province. Hence, some sources use the term Jewish-Roman Wars to refer only to the First Jewish–Roman War and the Bar Kokhba revolt, while others include the Kitos War as one of the Jewish–Roman wars.
The Roman province of Judea, sometimes spelled in its original Latin forms of Iudæa or Iudaea to distinguish it from the geographical region of Judea, incorporated the regions of Judea, Samaria and Idumea, and extended over parts of the former regions of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms of Judea. It was named after Herod Archelaus's Tetrarchy of Judea, but the Roman province encompassed a much larger territory. The name "Judea" was derived from the Kingdom of Judah of the 6th century BCE.
Herod of Chalcis, also known as Herod V, listed by the Jewish Encyclopedia as Herod II, was a son of Aristobulus IV, and the grandson of Herod the Great, Roman client king of Chalcis. He was the brother of Herod Agrippa I and Herodias.
The Herodian dynasty was a royal dynasty of Idumaean (Edomite) descent, ruling the Herodian Kingdom and later the Herodian Tetrarchy, as vassals of the Roman Empire. The Herodian dynasty began with Herod the Great, who assumed the throne of Judea, with Roman support, bringing down the century long Hasmonean Kingdom. His kingdom lasted until his death in 4 BCE, when it was divided between his sons as a Tetrarchy, which lasted for about 10 years. Most of those tetrarchies, including Judea proper, were incorporated into Judaea Province from 6 CE, though limited Herodian de facto kingship continued until Agrippa I's death in 44 CE and nominal title of kingship continued until 92 CE, when the last Herodian monarch, Agrippa II, died and Rome assumed full power over his de jure domain.
Drusilla was a daughter of Herod Agrippa and thus sister to Berenice, Mariamne and Herod Agrippa II. She perished in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.
Mariamne I, also called Mariamne the Hasmonean, was a Hasmonean princess and the second wife of Herod the Great. She was known for her great beauty, as was her brother Aristobulus III. Herod's fear of his rivals, the Hasmoneans, led him to execute all of the prominent members of the family, including Mariamne.
Salome I was the sister of Herod the Great and the mother of Berenice by her husband Costobarus, governor of Idumea. She was a nominal queen regnant of the toparchy of Iamnia, Azotus, Phasaelis from 4 BCE.
The Herodian Tetrarchy was formed following the death of Herod the Great in 4 BCE, when his kingdom was divided between his sons Herod Archelaus as ethnarch, Herod Antipas and Philip as tetrarchs in inheritance, while Herod's sister Salome I shortly ruled a toparchy of Jamnia. Upon the deposition of Herod Archelaus in 6 CE, his territories were transformed into a Roman province. With the death of Salome I in 10 CE, her domain was also incorporated into the province. However, other parts of the Herodian Tetrarchy continued to function under Herodians. Thus, Philip the Tetrarch ruled Batanea, with Trachonitis, as well as Auranitis until 34 CE, while Herod Antipas ruled Galilee and Perea until 39 CE. The last notable Herodian ruler with some level of independence was Agrippa I, who was even granted the Judea province, though with his death in 44 CE, the provincial status of Judea was restored for good.
Herodian coinage are coins minted and issued by the Herodian Dynasty, Jews of Idumean descent who ruled the province of Judaea between 37 BC–92 AD. The dynasty was founded by Herod the Great who was the son of Antipater, a powerful official under the Hasmonean King Hyrcanus II.
Costobarus was an associate of Herod the Great and second husband of Herod's sister Salome I. He was also known as Costobar.
Gaius Julius Alexander Berenicianus was a Cilician Prince and second-born son to King Gaius Julius Alexander and Queen Julia Iotapa of Cetis. His eldest brother was Gaius Julius Agrippa and his younger sister was Julia Iotapa.
Alexander the Alabarch was an Alexandrian Jewish aristocrat. His brother was the exegete and philosopher Philo of Alexandria.
The Herodian kingdom of Judea was a client state of the Roman Republic from 37 BCE, when Herod the Great was appointed "King of the Jews" by the Roman Senate. When Herod died in 4 BCE, the kingdom was divided among his sons into the Herodian Tetrarchy.
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