May 25, 2007

Year-by-Year: 2 BC

Caesar kicks his daughter Julia out of Rome. Quirinius meets with Tiberius on Rhoads. And Aretas the Nabatean offers peace to Israel's new rulers.

In January, 2 BC, the Lord Jesus was 4 years & 7 months old. He was growing up in Nazareth because his parents were worried about Herod’s son, Archelaus.

In mid-March, Joseph & Mary went down to Judea for Passover. Like last year, they left Jesus behind, to stay with family.

This was Archelaus’ third year as ruler of Judea.


Archelaus wanted to restore everything he’d lost in the war after Herod died. He needed to rebuild Jericho and a few palaces, plus re-fill the royal treasuries while he kept paying his new Army.

The Jerusalem Council kept hoping he’d spend a little on the Temple, but it never happened. Their new Ethnarch was a 21 year old who liked throwing parties and planned to stay wealthy. Basically, Archelaus hoarded every drachma and denarius he ever got. And money was extra tight this year, since the Resting Year was still going on.

The Sanhedrin had no extra money to rebuild the Temple Walls. In fact, the priests were still clearing rubble by themselves, for free.

But the priests weren’t the only ones making repairs…


In Galilee, Antipas was rebuilding the Palace of Sepphoris. Antipas’ money was tight, too. His project was also scheduled to take several years.

In the Golan, Philip was still saving money for his future building projects. Worse yet, he had to undo the new name he’d put on Bethsaida, last year.

Late this year, the Tetrarch told the Elders of that city they were not to call themselves “Julias” anymore.

This year, the Emperor exiled his daughter, Julia.


Augustus Caesar stayed very busy this year, in Rome.

In Spring, the Emperor dedicated his new Forum Augustum & Temple of Mars.

Caesar also introduced his second son, Lucius Caesar, into public life. The young man put on his Toga of Manhood just three years after his big brother, Gaius Caesar. Of course, the Senate voted all the same honors to Lucius as they voted to Gaius in 5 BC.

Gaius himself was heading for Europe, later this year. Augustus wanted him to practice being in command of the Danube Legions during a peaceful year.

Young Gaius & Lucius were the pride of all Rome. Then their mother Julia finally got caught in adultery.

Before Summer, Augustus found out about Julia’s wild parties and the Senators she’d been with. Augustus banished or killed all the Romans who’d slept with his daughter. He even thought about killing her, too.

Augustus himself was a seasoned adulterer. But he refused to forgive Julia, publicly condemned her and openly wished she would kill herself.

The Emperor couldn’t decide what to do, so he locked her up in the Palace for a long time.

Meanwhile, he wrote up divorce papers in Tiberius’ name and sent copies to his step-son, on Rhoads.


Tiberius started his fifth year on the Island living quietly, like before. By mid-summer, he’d heard about Julia. Then he got the papers from Augustus.

Secretly, Tiberius was thrilled to be divorced from Julia. But he knew it was his duty to try and help his wife. So, partly from duty and partly just for show, Tiberius began writing letters to the Emperor, asking him to forgive Julia.

Of course, Tiberius had to find people heading to Rome, to carry his letters. But that was no problem, because Tiberius usually had lots of visitors.

In those years, whenever powerful Romans were sailing to the East, most would stop at Rhoads to pay their respects to Tiberius.

One such visitor this year, around August, was the Proconsul P. Sulpicius Quirinius.

Now, this is really important! Whatever Tiberius & Quirinius talked about on Rhoads, this summer, it must have gone really well.

From this point forward, Tiberius begins to develop a lifelong respect and gratitude towards Quirinius.

Pay close attention to Quirinius, the next couple of years.


Now, when Quirinius left Rhoads, he took one of Tiberius’ letters with him. The Emperor’s step-son told his new friend he might have to deliver the letter to his mother, Livia.

Back in Rome, Augustus was so angry and ashamed of Julia that he spent a long time alone. The Emperor stayed in the Palace for months and refused to meet with anyone at all. Naturally, this was still going on when Quirinius arrived.

The Proconsul took Tiberius’ letter to Augustus’ wife, as suggested. And Livia herself was happy to make her own connection with Quirinius.

Livia gave Tiberius’ latest letter to her husband, but the Emperor refused to forgive Julia. Augustus did cheer up a bit, however, when Livia told him Quirinius was back.

Augustus was excited about the Homanadensian War. He’d been planning it for 23 years, and now it was won. The Emperor not only needed some good news, he’d been hoping for a chance to throw a victory parade in the new Forum.

So Augustus came out of seclusion to celebrate Quirinius’ hard-fought victory. This was Caesar’s first chance to celebrate a War Victory in his new Martian Temple.

A modest parade wound thru the city, ending up at the Temple of Mars in the new Forum. Quirinius gave his scepter and crown to the idol, and Augustus promised to put up a bronze statue of the Proconsul.

With such honors, plus newfound favor from the whole Imperial family, Quirinius was on the rise.

We really ought to follow the rest of his career with great interest.


Before October, Augustus finally decided what to do with Julia. The Emperor sent her to live under guard on the small island of Pandataria.

Augustus’ first wife, Scribonia, chose to share her daughter Julia’s exile. The guards did not allow either woman to drink wine or have male visitors.

Caesar never uttered Julia’s name again. To the end of his life, he only called her a boil and an ulcer.


One last thing, before we move past 2 BC. Aretas the Nabatean was no longer King. But he wanted to get his crown back!

Aretas had decided to take Varus’ advice. This Arab Ruler was going to show Augustus he could make peace with his Jewish neighbors.

All year long, Aretas made efforts to please the Three Rulers of Israel. Nabatean messengers brought letters and expensive gifts to Archelaus, Anipas and Philip.

Now, Aretas didn’t get very far with Archelaus. The Ethnarch of the Jews had the most to forgive, since the Arabs had burned down two cities in his territory. Still, several valuable presents really helped the young Ethnarch with his money problems. Soon, Archelaus agreed to make a new, peaceful start between South Israel and Nabatea.

In the North, Aretas’ messengers paid only modest attention to Philip. The truth is, all Nabateans were still bitter about 20 BC, and secretly disputed over half of Philip’s whole territory.

But Philip was no fool. He knew more than half the people in his Eastern regions were Nabatean Arabs. Plus, he knew the history! The youngest Tetrarch figured he was lucky to have Aretas even asking for peace at all. So Philip quickly agreed.
This just left Antipas, in Galilee.

As it happened, the Nabatean messengers did much better in Galilee, than they did in Judea or the Golan.

In fact, their dealings with Antipas were going so well, there was talk of a possible marriage alliance!

Soon enough, Antipas was inviting Aretas himself to come up for a visit.

And the rest of that story is best told next year, in 1 BC…


Next Chapter: 1 BC

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