Tiberius Julius Balbillus

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Tiberius Julius Balbillus [1] also known as Julius Balbillus [2] and Aurelius Julius Balbillus [3] (flourished second half of the 2nd century and the first half of the 3rd century) was an Emesene aristocrat from the Emesene dynasty in Roman Syria who served as a priest of the cult of Elagabalus (Latinized Aramaic name for the Syrian Sun God [4] ) in Rome during the reigns of the Severan emperors Septimius Severus (r. 193–211) and Caracalla (r. 211–217). [5]



Little is known on the origins of Balbillus; he was a direct descendant of the king Antiochus I Theos of Commagene [1] and a relation of the Roman empress Julia Domna [6] and her family. According to surviving inscriptions in Rome, Balbillus was a relation to Titus Julius Balbillus, another priest from the cult of Elagabalus in Rome. [7]

Balbillus is known from inscriptions as priest of Elagabalus in Rome during the reigns of Septimius Severus and Caracalla, [2] which are dated before 218. [8] The temple based in Rome devoted to ancient Syrian deities, including Elagabalus was located in Trastevere. [9] A priest in the cult of Elagabalus was called a sacerdos Solis, [10] while Elagabalus’s cult was called the Sol Invictus Elagabal. [10]

The priesthood of Balbillus, began at an unknown date before the end of the second century. [8] From inscriptions at the temple reveals, that Balbillus enjoyed imperial favour and established good cordial relations with the Vestal Virgins. [11] Prior to the reign of Elagabalus, Balbillus represented the cult of Elagabalus in Rome. [12] He probably catered the ritual needs connected with the cult of Elagabalus for Septimius Severus and Caracalla, which may have arisen among the Emesene members of the Severan household. [12]

From a surviving inscription in Rome dated April 4, 215, Balbillus dedicated an inscription in gratitude to the Vestal Virgin Terentia Flavola for the many services she had rendered him. [7] Despite the fact that Balbillus was a Roman citizen [3] from the Constitutio Antoniniana in 212 Balbillus assumed the Roman nomen Aurelius as after 215, Balbillus was also known as Aurelius Julius Balbillius. [3] After this moment, no more is known on Balbillus.

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  1. 1 2 Temporini, 2, Principat: 9, 2, p. 798
  2. 1 2 Prado, The Emperor Elagabalus: Fact or Fiction?, p. 211
  3. 1 2 3 Wacher, The Roman world, Vol. 2, p. 697
  4. Birley, Septimius Severus: The African Emperor, p. 71
  5. Prado, The Emperor Elagabalus: Fact or Fiction?, p.xxiv
  6. Prado, The Emperor Elagabalus: Fact or Fiction?
  7. 1 2 Halsberghe, The Cult of Sol Invictus, p. 55
  8. 1 2 Halsberghe, The Cult of Sol Invictus, p. 53
  9. Prado, The Emperor Elagabalus: Fact or Fiction?, p. 147
  10. 1 2 Halsberghe, The Cult of Sol Invictus, p. 54
  11. Prado, The Emperor Elagabalus: Fact or Fiction?, pp.147, 220
  12. 1 2 Prado, The Emperor Elagabalus: Fact or Fiction?, p. 220