June 22, 2007

Year-by-Year: 5 AD

Caesar warns Archelaus. Tiberius conquers West Germany.

In January, 5 AD, Jesus was 10 years & 7 months old.

In April, Joseph & Mary went up to Jerusalem for Passover. As usual, Jesus stayed in Nazareth.

Plenty of other boys were making the pilgrimage, by his age. At this point, people in Nazareth were starting to wonder why Joseph wouldn’t take him along. But Joseph stuck to his plan – avoiding Archelaus.

Jesus turned eleven on May 27th of 5 AD. He kept getting bigger and more mature. He kept learning how to live as a man.

He kept on getting to know his Father, as a man.


Just before Passover, Archelaus celebrated his 9th year as ruler of Judea, Idumea & Samaria.

Actually, it was only the start of his 9th year, but the Jews in Judea were hoping to make it his last.

Some wealthy Jerusalemites had come up with a plan.

In fact, the Jews were so eager to get rid of Archelaus, they even asked the Samaritans for help.
The plan was simple. The Jews & Samaritans simply made a list. They wrote down everything Archelaus had done, and not done, that was abusive. And when the young Ethnarch refused (or failed) to deal with their complaints, they went to Caesar!

But most of that took place over the winter, since late last year.

This year, as soon as sailing season came, a group of Jews & Samaritans left (together!) for Italy.


Meanwhile, there was a small disaster in Rome.

Earthquakes hit just before the spring thaw. The city’s emergency levies were damaged. And when the River hit flood levels, the whole city was covered in water for seven days.

Part of the city’s extra grain supply was ruined. And that started a food shortage that won’t end this year.

But worse than food, was the money shortage.[1]

This year, Augustus realized he had a major, long-term money problem. Actually, it was an Army problem.

Well, actually, it was a how-to-keep-retired-soldiers-happy problem.[2]

This year, Caesar decided to pay every retiring soldier a large retirement bonus.[3] The Emperor announced this in Rome, and sent the news to all the Legions.

Then Augustus went into the Senate and said they had to come up with a way to fill the retirement fund, from now on! But the Senate went the rest of the year with no solution to the problem. So, naturally, the Emperor had to fix this problem too, by himself.
Caesar began a serious hunt for extra revenue.


Soon after that, the Jews & Samaritans came to Rome to complain about Archelaus.

Around early summer, Caesar saw the Jewish & Samaritan leaders. The Emperor heard their complaints, and their evidence. And he promised to deal with it.

The Jews left, thinking about justice.

But Augustus – at least partly – was thinking about money! Still, Caesar had to be fair to a son of his old friend, King Herod.

After some days, Augustus wrote Archelaus a letter. The letter warned the Jewish leader to be more moderate in dealing with his people.[4]

Six weeks later, back in Israel, Archelaus got the letter. But he didn’t exactly do what it said.

Now, when the Jewish & Samaritan leaders came home, they tried to see Archelaus. They also tried to find out whether Caesar had sent any letters.

But Archelaus just kept feasting with his friends.

The selfish young Ethnarch was trying to ignore the whole thing. And it worked for a while, since the Jews didn’t know for sure whether Caesar had sent any orders or not. But the secret is going to get out…

Oh, but not till next year… of course.


For now, let’s back up to early spring again.

Some time before Rome flooded, Tiberius left to go back to Germany. The General rode thru partly thawed Alpine passes to reach his troops in Northern Europe.

Last year, Rome conquered several tribes in short order. So this year, other tribes were lining up to surrender.[5] By mid-summer, Rome’s new border – for the first time in history – was the Elbe River in Central Germany.

By then, the Roman Fleet had sailed around Europe to the North Sea, and met Tiberius on the Elbe.[6] So now the Fleet and the Legions moved south together, up the River. Northwest Germany was falling quickly into line, and Tiberius’ forces took whatever they needed from the countryside. But the farther Tiberius’ Legions marched up river, the closer they came to the fierce barbarian tribes of Bohemia, known as “the Marcomanni”![7]

Tiberius had no doubt this was going to be a challenge. The General knew the Marcomanni (and their leader Maroboduus) were going to be the toughest barbarians he’d ever fought in Germany. And the mission was critical.[8]

So – like a good Roman General – Tiberius quit early, before winter… to spend time making a plan!

Once a dozen Legions had camped on three sides of Bohemia[9], Tiberius rode back to Rome for the winter. Caesar’s new heir still (desperately) needed political face-time, in the city.

Again, the General had to play the part of Emperor-to-be.


Tiberius’ plan was brilliant, but too much overkill.

Twelve Legions were surely enough to conquer Bohemia. But it left Illyricum vacant.

Suddenly, barbarian tribes in Pannonia and Dalmatia looked around and noticed Rome’s army was gone!

By next Spring, revolt breaks out all over the Balkans!


One last piece of news, for 5 AD.

In July, a Proconsul named M. Plautius Silvanus stepped down as Governor of Asia and went East to Govern Galatia. And by Autumn, Plautius and his two Legions (VII & ___) start planning for war against the Isaurian Tribes, east of Pisidia.[10]


So much war, in this so called “Peace of Rome”.[11]

Ongoing war in Germany, the brink of war in Illyricum, new plans for war in Galatia…

And soon, a new revolt in Israel.

Next Year Book: 6 AD!

Begin Footnotes:

[1] Yes, it’s worse – if you’re the Emperor! Think about it. Run short on food, and some poor people starve, leave, or get run out of the city. But run short on money, and your unpaid Legions might get mean ideas!

[2] Well, actually-actually, it was a too-many-years-of-peace problem! See, in times of war, an Army lives off the conquered land and newly claimed plunder. Then the Army (generally) gets disbanded, or paid with land in the newly conquered area. But in times of peace, the Army wants cash payments! So by this time, in 5 AD, Rome was running out of new lands to conquer. The last decade of conflicts hadn’t resulted in any new conquests, and that was before Germany revolted! So Augustus had finally come to the point where a retirement fund was the only viable permanent option.

[3] The bonus actually equaled more than 20 years worth of regular pay!

[4] The letter must have been specific on certain points, but we have no idea what they were, precisely.

[5] This year, Rome “conquered” the tribes of the Cauchi, the Langobardi, the Semnones and the Hermunduri. Most of the encounters were surrenders or pre-emptive peace entreaties.

[6] Julius Caesar had visited England, but no Roman ships had sailed as far as Denmark, until now.

[7] Bohemia is a wide stretch of land between the upper Elbe and the Danube – basically everything between modern Prague & Vienna. The Romans originally named it after the Boii tribe, who had long since moved on.

[8] The Romans needed Bohemia badly. It was the middle ground between their territories in Northern and Eastern Europe, and the first easily passable land route beyond the Alps. The conquest of Bohemia would streamline Roman communications and military transportation across Central Europe. Essentially, it was the last piece of territory on Augustus’ personal “need-it” list!

[9] Tiberius camped his German Legions north of Bohemia, and left them under the command of Saturninus (G.S. not L.V.) with instructions to march on Bohemia at a certain time, come Spring. Saturninus had cooperation from the Hermunduri tribes to march into Bohemia from the West. As for the South, Tiberius called on the Legions in Raetia (below Bohemia, across the Danube) and organized them with similar instructions. Finally, Tiberius sent word for the Illyrican Legions to move from their normal posts (? – where - ?) to Carnuntum, on the Danube (just east of modern Vienna). Come spring, the General was planning to lead the Illyrican Legions into Bohemia himself, from the Southeast.

[10] The Isaurians were mentioned in the 3 BC Year Book. Their territory was close to the Homanadensian region Quirinius conquered that year. But since then, evidently, they proved they needed defeating, as well.

[11] To be fair, the “peace” was mainly felt around the Mediterranean, far from the frontier. Still, it’s fair to note that, since 9 BC, we haven’t seen a year without a war. The “Pax Romana” was far from universal!

June 17, 2007

Year-by-Year: 4 AD

Gaius finally dies, and Augustus adopts Tiberius as his heir.

In January, 4 AD, Jesus was 9 years and 7 months old.

In mid-March, Joseph & Mary went up to Jerusalem for Passover. And yes, once again, they left Jesus behind! This is the seventh year in a row that Joseph kept the boy as far away as possible from Archelaus.[1]


At some point this year, Archelaus divorced his wife Marriamme and married his former sister-in-law, Glaphyra![2]

Of course, the Jews were outraged[3], but they couldn’t do anything about it. Archelaus had only broken the laws of Moses – not Caesar. And Augustus was the only one who could punish Judea’s young ruler.

Still, the Jews were determined to get rid of their selfish young Ethnarch[4].

And by next year, they’re going to come up with a plan.


That’s all the news from Israel, for 4 AD.

Now, as for the rest of the Empire...


On February 21st, Gaius Caesar died in Limyra, on the southern coast of Asia Minor. The Emperor’s chosen Heir up till now, Gaius was 22 years old.

Augustus got the news about a month later. The Emperor arranged his grandson’s funeral, but he didn’t have much time to mourn.

Early that spring, Germany rebelled.[5]

Needless to say, this was a stressful year for the 65 year old Emperor. With a war in Europe, and without an Heir, Caesar still had people in the city begging him to bring his daughter back from exile! Augustus dealt with the Julia issue quickly.[6] But the rest took some time.
It took three months, from the news about Gaius, for Caesar to pick a new Heir. And finally, on June 27th, he made his decision official.

Augustus legally adopted his step-son Tiberius – mainly because he had no choice.[7] With Parthia & Armenia a virtual loss, since last year, the Emperor needed his second-best General of all-time to step up in a major way.[8]

But the Emperor required Tiberius to adopt the son of his absolute best General of all-time, Drusus! So Tiberius’ nephew, Germanicus, became his legal son, and the next in line for Caesar’s throne. Germanicus had just turned 19, and all of Rome knew the young man was destined to be a great General and leader.[9]

Finally, as a fallback, Caesar adopted Julia’s last son, Posthumous.[10] But Posthumous was just turning 15 this year. And besides his age, he was a little “off”.

The adoption of Posthumous didn’t mean much, but Germanicus was a clear message from Augustus to Tiberius. And a humbling one.[11]

Tiberius knew Caesar didn’t want him, but had to take him. And Tiberius knew the Emperor wanted his brother’s kid to take over as soon as possible.

Once again, Augustus gave Tiberius a rival less than half his age!

But at least Tiberius had the upper hand, for now…


As soon as everything was legal, Augustus sent Tiberius straight into Germany.

For the rest of the year, the General (now Emperor-to-be) led ___ Legions (…numbers…) into Northwest Germany.[12] Crossing the Rhine River, Tiberius’ forces almost reached the Elbe before winter.[13]

The old General was re-conquering the lands his brother, Drusus, claimed. But Tiberius had not been here before, except the day he watched his brother die. (See 9 BC.)

When the Legions set up their winter-quarters, their General rode back to Italy. Roads thru the Alps were nearly blocked with snow, but Tiberius had nothing left to do in Germany, until Spring.

On the other hand, he felt the urgent need to be near his new father, Augustus. Not to mention, he needed to be seen around the city, in his new status & position.

So, wisely, Tiberius spent the winter in Rome.


By the way, we can’t forget Quirinius!

The Proconsul was the one who brought Gaius’ body back from the East – early this year, as soon as sailing was possible. And then, Quirinius took himself a young bride at a spring wedding!

It had been arranged last year (partly by Livia) and now Quirinius married the young woman, Amelia Lepida.

Lepida had been engaged to Caesar’s ‘son’, Lucius. But those days were over.
Livia’s son was in line for the Empire, now.

Next Year Book: 5 AD

Footnotes to 4 AD:
[1] This was Archelaus’ 8th Passover as ruler of Judea, so we call 4 AD his 8th year of rule.

[2] This is the only time Marriamme’s name appears, in history. We don’t know when he met or married her, or why she just happens to have the same name as two of Archelaus’ step-mothers! Glaphyra, on the other hand, was mentioned in the Year Book to 7 BC. Her father was the ‘other’ Archelaus – the King of Cappadoica – and her husband was the ‘real’ Alexander, the son of Herod killed on false charges of treason. Since his death, Glaphyra married a North African King (Juba II, of Mauritania) who either divorced or widowed her. She went back to Cappadoica, but must have visited Judea, because Josephus tells us the Herodian Ethnarch had great affection for her.

[3] Mosaic Law says a single man must marry his brother’s widow if she is childless, but must not marry her if she is already a mother. The Jews were outraged because Glaphyra had children by Alexander – at least one that we know of. At this point, the boy is living in Cappadoica. And in 60 AD, Glaphyra’s grandson, due to his Cappadoican blood, is going to be one of the Emperor Nero’s candidates for the throne of Armenia!

[4] This is as good a time as any to review Archelaus’ accomplishments, as Ethnarch. (We don’t know what year they go in.) He rebuilt his father’s Army, several Palaces, and the city of Jericho. He diverted a stream to make a new city, named Archelais, after himself. He appointed a 2nd high priest, Jesus son of See, to replace Eleazar son of Boethus. He swelled the royal treasuries (that had been nearly empty after 4 BC), partly by ignoring the Year of Rest (twice; Simon the Essene pointed out he took a harvest every single year.) But his biggest sin was probably that of omission – of not helping the Jews rebuild the Temple, while he was spending so much on himself. In short, Archelaus’ selfishness is probably the main reason he’s about to get deposed (see 5 and 6 AD).

[5] Actually, there had been a series of incidents in Germany since 1 AD, but the details are complicated. At any rate, events picked this year to break out into a full-scale war, and it was a major reason why Augustus “yielded” to the choice of Tiberius as heir. (Dio 55.13.1a)
[6] As a compromise, Augustus let Julia move from her small island to Rhegium, on the toe of Italy. This spring, Julia also sent her father her opinion on who he should pick as his next heir.

[7] The new uprising in Germany was a major factor. So were the constant persuasive efforts of Livia. But Caesar expressed his reluctance when he added to the adoption papers, “This I do for reasons of state.”

[8] In a cut-your-losses kind of a year, Augustus had to figure the East was the East, and would probably keep to itself, at least beyond the Euphrates. But Caesar knew the Empire could not afford to neglect (and thus to encourage) the aggressive activities of barbarians so close to the Alps. Security in Europe was paramount.

[9] Germanicus was the son of Drusus and Antonia (See 9 BC). His father was a great General, beloved by the people of Rome, and his mother was the daughter of Augustus’ own sister (Octavia) and Mark Antony! So to put that in common terms… Germanicus was Antony’s Grandson, Augustus’ Grand-nephew, and Julius Caesar’s Great-Grand-nephew! The young man was a true Caesar by blood, and now also in name. (After the adoptions, the 19 year old “Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus” was renamed Germanicus Julius Caesar.)

[10] Younger brother of Gaius & Lucius, Posthumous was born to Julia in 12 BC, right after his father Agrippa died (see background in the Year Book to 7 BC). At this time, he was Caesar’s only living male descendant.

[11] On top of everything just mentioned, Tiberius had to disinherit his own natural son, Drusus (named, of course, after the brother Tiberius loved), in order to legally make Germanicus his sole heir.

But not long after this offense, the young Drusus was appeased by a betrothal with Livilla, who was Germanicus’ sister (thus, also Caesar’s grand-neice, etc). Of course, that’s the same Livilla who was just widowed from Gaius, this February! (So, in a sense, Livia took a bride away from Augustus’ grandson, to give to her own grandson! But the Empress couldn’t do anything about Germanicus… yet!)
[12] One of Tiberius’ lower Generals, for this entire campaign, is the Proconsul Gaius Sentius Saturninus – the same man who conducted Israel’s census from 8 to 7 BC! Saturninus fights with Tiberius next year..

By the way, we should mention at this point, there was another Saturninus (of no known relation) who went to Syria this year, as Governor. The Proconsul L.Volusius Saturninus was appointed by Caesar, some time after Gaius resigned (last autumn) and got there this summer. He does nothing noteworthy, except we’ll mention his name again when he gets replaced by Quirinius in 6 AD.

The only reason to mention this is because we’re keeping a list of the Governors in Syria. But don’t get confused – the Saturninus we care about is Gaius Sentius – the one who’s now in Germany!

[13] Rome’s Legions defeated several tribes in just a few months of fighting: the Canninefates, the Attuarii, the Bructeri and the Cherusci. But that last tribe – the Cherusci – will come back to fight again, before long..

June 13, 2007

Year-by-Year: 3 AD

Gaius clings to life in the East while Tiberius bides his time in Rome.

In January, 3 AD, Jesus was 8 years and 7 months old.

In the last days of March, Joseph & Mary went up to Jerusalem for Passover. But, for the sixth year in a row, Joseph is simply not taking any chances! He made a plan, in 4 BC, to keep Jesus away from Archelaus in Jerusalem. And he means to stick with it.

By the way, this April, Archelaus celebrates his 7th Passover in charge of Judea, marking his 7th year as ruler.

His time wasn’t going to be long.


Not much happened this year, except a stubborn wound refused to heal completely.

Somewhere in Armenia, the Emperor’s Heir was having trouble keeping up his strength. All winter long, he’d stayed near the Legions at the siege of Artagira. And then finally, around spring, the city gave in.

The Romans captured Addon, the Armenian rebel leader. They proclaimed Ariobarzanes the rightful King of Armenia . And the three Syrian Legions marched back to Syria, proclaiming Gaius “Imperator” along with Augustus.

But Gaius’ wound from last Autumn had gotten infected, over the winter. So now he was wounded and seriously ill. Some days, the pain even made it hard to think straight.

And it was in that state, some time after the siege, that Gaius made a huge decision.

He said he didn’t want to go back to Rome.

Gaius was getting some strange advice from certain advisors. Now, we don’t know which ones for sure. We don’t know if Quirinius agreed with their advice. But the end result was this odd decision.

Gaius wrote to Augustus and asked permission to retire in Syria, as a private citizen.


In Rome, the letter made Caesar grieve all over again, less than a year after Lucius’ death. The Emperor took Gaius’ request to the Senate and thought about it for a long time.

After a while, the Emperor wrote back. Augustus begged Gaius to come back to Italy before deciding what he wanted to do for sure.


Caesar’s letter reached his grandson by Autumn. And right away, Gaius dropped all his duties as Governor and left Antioch.

Of course, being so ill, he couldn’t travel very far, very quickly. Before sailing season ended this year, Gaius only managed to make it as far as Limyra, in Lycia.
The ship had to winter there , and the plan was to reach Italy as soon as possible, the next Spring.

But Gaius isn’t going to stay alive until spring.


We already mentioned that Amelia Lepida got engaged (long-distance) sometime this year, to Quirinius. The former bride-to-be of Lucius Caesar is now set to marry the advisor who oversaw the downfall of Gaius.

Livia did her wifely duties to comfort Augustus. The Emperess also tried to keep Tiberius’ name in play as much as possible. Not just around Rome, but especially the Palace!

But the 44 year old Tiberius didn’t do a single thing this year worth mentioning. Partly, he’d gotten used to doing nothing. But mainly, he just wasn’t stupid!
Right now, there was nothing he needed to do…

Late in 3 AD, Tiberius is only months away from being next-in-line for the Imperial Throne!

Year-by-Year: 2 AD

Quirinius advises Gaius. Tiberius gets back to Rome. And Caesar’s grandsons each face a fatal disaster.

In January, 2 AD, Jesus was 7 years and 7 months old.

In mid-April, Joseph & Mary went up to Jerusalem for Passover. This is the fifth year Jesus stays in Galilee by himself, because of Joseph’s feelings about Judea.

Archelaus was even calling himself “Herod” now. So Joseph made absolutely sure he couldn’t finish what his daddy tried to do – by killing Jesus!

By the way, this is Archelaus’ sixth Passover over Judea. So 2 AD is the 6th year of his rule.


The big events this year are all about Tiberius and his two step-sons, the Emperor’s heirs.

So let’s jump right into the action!


Gaius wintered in Antioch without a chief advisor for some time.

He’d made peace with Tigranes in Syria, and with Phrataces at the Euphrates, last year. So neither Armenia or Parthia was a threat, anymore. Since there wasn’t a war going on, Augustus let Gaius go awhile on his own.

And then war broke out, all over again!

By late winter, Tigranes died, fighting barbarians on his far-eastern border. Gaius sent the news to Augustus, and waited for instructions.

In Rome, Caesar got the news at the onset of Spring. Quickly, the Emperor picked a replacement King for Armenia, and a new advisor for Gaius. The new King was a Mede named Ariobarzanes. And the new advisor was a Proconsul who’d recently won a difficult war in the East, in Galatia!

Publius Sulpicius Quirinius sailed from Italy as soon as the weather was safe enough. He made it to Antioch, Syria by the end of May.

And so Quirinius introduced himself to Gaius Caesar.

By that time there was a new rebellion going on in Armenia. The Emperor’s instructions were for Gaius & Quirinius to march into Media and get Ariobarzanes (who’d spent time in Rome, with Augustus, at one time). Then, they had to march the Mede into Armenia and stay long enough to make sure the Armenians were going to support their new King.

Simple as mud, it was sure to fail.

What Augustus didn’t realize is that the Armenians would rebel as soon as they heard the new King was a Mede.

And Gaius was bound for disaster.

But before all that happened – before Gaius & Quirinius left Syria – the new chief advisor had news for his commander, young Caesar.


Quirinius had stopped on Rhoads, before he made it to Syria. And he’d seen Tiberius, there.

Somehow, Quirinius convinced Gaius that his stepfather was willing to live quietly in Rome. He told Gaius the things Tiberius admitted to Augustus (last year). And he advised the young Caesar that Lollius had probably made up the worst rumors, about the Exile.

Whatever finally did it, Gaius said okay.

The Emperor’s condition had been met. Tiberius could go home. And Quirinius suggested the young man should put it in writing to Augustus, before they marched East, into war.

This is NOT a small thing. And it’s thanks to Quirinius.

But exactly what happened next… is still a mystery!


Gaius & Quirinius marched into Media. They found Ariobarzanes and brought him along. They got to Armenia and announced he was King.

Then everything went crazy!

The Armenians revolted. A man named Addon became their leader, and wound up inside a city named Artagira. Then Gaius’ Legions besieged Artagira, with Addon inside it.
And here is the hard-to-believe part.

During the siege, Addon invited Gaius to come close to the wall and talk.
Gaius must not have known what an awful idea that was. Or else, maybe, he got some bad advice…

The Emperor-in-training went up to see Addon. The rebel king took out a hidden sword. And Gaius barely escaped, with a major wound.

The wound was large, bad, and nearly fatal. It was the kind of wound that takes a long time to heal, and threatens your life the whole time, until it heals.

Clearly, Gaius made a very bad decision.

It’s a real mystery how Quirinius ever let Gaius go up to that wall…


Meanwhile, at about the same time as Gaius got wounded, Livia was welcoming Tiberius back into Rome.

The Emperor’s step-son promised to stay out of public life. He moved to a smaller home, kept mostly to himself, and spent time with his natural son, Drusus, and his personal astrologer, Thrasyllus.

Shortly after Tiberius’ return, sad news came to Rome... but not about Gaius!

Augustus had sent his other grandson, Lucius, on a mission to Spain. The ship had stopped at Massilia, on the way. At that port, Lucius came down with a sudden, mysterious illness. And then he died.

It was shortly after this shocking news that Rome found out about Gaius, too. And since it all happened so close to Tiberius’ homecoming, people just naturally began to talk.

There were lots of rumors that Livia had something to do with it. But no one was ever quite able to prove it.

We only know one thing for sure, that Livia did this year.


Before winter, the Emperess of Rome paid a visit to the family of a poor, sad teenage girl.

The girl’s name was Amelia Lepida. She was sad because her husband-to-be had just died in Massilia, on his way to Spain! And since Livia had helped Augustus arrange the betrothal between Amelia & Lucius, it was Livia who felt bound to go offer comfort to the family, when Lucius died that Autumn.

By the way, Livia did encourage the family to find a new husband for young Amelia. And early next year, they’ll settle on someone. Actually, with Livia’s help, they’re going to pick a man who wasn’t even in Rome to meet the girl, when he agreed.

By early next year, Amelia Lepida is going to become engaged… to the Proconsul Quirinius!

Year-by-Year: 1 AD

Gaius restores Nabatea and marches to Parthia.

First things first. No, Jesus wasn’t born in 1 BC, but people used to think he was. The man who created our BC/AD calendar system was a bit off. He thought the Lord was born on December 25 of a certain year, so he called it 1 BC and made the next month 1 AD. (There is no “Year Zero”.) For the record, the man’s name was Dionysius Exiguus and he did his work in the year we now call “525 AD”.

Jesus was actually born in 7 BC.

(Click on that link, or stay here to see what happened in 1 AD.)


In January, 1 AD, Jesus was 6 years and 7 months old.

In late March, Joseph & Mary went up to Jerusalem for Passover. For the fourth straight year, Joseph left Jesus in Galilee, because he feared Archelaus.

This was the fifth Passover Archelaus ruled over Judea. His rule was about the same this year, as before. The Ethnarch kept on filling his treasuries, and paid no respects to his people.

The Jews were getting more and more irritated with their rich young Herodian. Archelaus didn’t know it yet, but his days in power were just about half-over!


Archelaus’ brother, Herod-Antipas, was doing well in Galilee. At the start of 1 AD, Antipas was waiting to hear from Rome about his treaty with Aretas.

In Arabia, the former King Aretas was waiting to see if he would get his crown and Kingdom back.

And hundreds of miles north of those two, in Antioch, Syria, young Gaius Caesar was just getting ready to deliver that news.

Here’s how it happened…


After Augustus told Gaius to wait in Syria, the Emperor’s prediction came true. (See 1 BC.)
Very early this year, Parthian Messengers came to Rome with a letter from King Phrataces. The letter basically told Caesar to leave them alone and let them control Armenia.[1]

Naturally, Augustus didn’t back down. The Emperor wrote back and told Phrataces to give up his crown and get out of Armenia!

Then Augustus sent a new letter to Gaius in Syria.

Caesar knew Phrataces was afraid of their Legions.[2] And the Emperor was pretty sure he could win this war with letters... but it was going to take a while.[3] So Augustus told Gaius to go on down to Arabia.

Then, six weeks later, Gaius got that letter.


By March 1st, the Emperor’s Grandson was riding south towards Northern Arabia.

Gaius met with Aretas in Petra and gave the good news.[4] The nineteen year old Emperor-in-training stayed just long enough to make a good, firm impression. Then Gaius took the Legion Varus had placed there (in 3 BC) and marched it away from Nabatea.

Along the way, Gaius let the Legion keep marching north while he took a side trip thru Israel.
Gaius saw Herod-Archelaus in Jerusalem and Herod-Antipas in Galilee.[5] The heir of Augustus was still on his coming out tour.[6] Plus, Gaius gave Antipas the same news Aretas got, about their treaty.

Now Antipas knew he was really engaged.[7]

And Archelaus knew his brother had passed him, in Caesar’s eyes. But this year, Archelaus also learned that the Emperor could be forgiving to a bad client king!

It wasn’t really the kind of lesson Archelaus needed.[8]


Please note: Archelaus is a few years from getting himself into major trouble. So we’ll have lots more to say about him, before long.

But Aretas & Antipas are now ruling wisely and peacefully. And naturally, that means they don’t show up much in the history, for a while.[9]

The alliance between Nabatea and Galilee is going to last right up until the days of John the Baptist.

We’ll hear a bit more about Antipas, before then.

But nothing else about Aretas, until 28 AD.


While Gaius was busy in Nabatea and Israel, the Roman and Parthian Messengers were still carrying letters!

Before spring, King Phrataces had gotten Caesar’s letter. He sent a proud, defiant reply. But a part of him was starting to worry…

Phrataces began to realize the Nobles in his country didn’t want a war with Rome. And his ally in Armenia, King Tigranes, actually sent a letter to Caesar asking for peace![10]

Caesar wrote back and told Tigranes to visit Gaius in Syria. But Caesar didn’t write back to Phrataces… and that silence turned out to be louder than war drums!

By mid-summer, Phrataces sent new Messengers, to ask for peace.[11]

And by autumn, Gaius marched all three Syrian Legions to their border with Parthia. They were going to have a peace ceremony there, on the Euphrates River.

But the young Caesar got a big surprise, during the event.

Gaius & Phrataces had a gourmet luncheon on the Euphrates.[12] At some point, the young Parthian shocked his new ally with evidence of a Roman traitor! The King accused Gaius’ chief advisor, Marcus Lollius, of taking bribes to turn against his fellow Romans.

So on the way back to Antioch, Gaius put Lollius out of his inner circle. And a few days later, Lollius killed himself.[13]

Which does two important things to our story…

First, the young Caesar needs a new chief advisor, while he winters in Antioch. And second, Lollius couldn’t lie to Gaius about Tiberius, anymore! (More on that, soon.)

Just remember – the fate of an Empire can turn on one death. Or two, in this case.

But we won’t see that second death until next year…


Before we leave 1 AD[14], let’s check on Tiberius.

The Exile kept writing letters to Augustus, begging the Emperor to let him come back to Rome. Tiberius was so desperate, he even confessed the true reason he’d left in 6 BC. He told Caesar it was only to get out of Gaius & Lucius’ way, so no one would think he resented them.

Augustus never backed down. But after a while, Caesar finally told Tiberius he could come home if and only if Gaius personally said it was okay.

Now, at this time, Augustus and Tiberius both knew Gaius didn’t want his step-father around.

But they didn’t know how much Lollius had been a factor, in Gaius’ feelings. And they didn’t yet imagine just how quickly the young Emperor-in-training might be able to change his mind!


One major player has yet to be mentioned, this year.


As Augustus’ wife and Tiberius’ mother, the Emperess kept herself well informed of everything. With pillow-talk from the Emperor and letters from the Exile, Livia knew just what those two were saying to each other.[15]

So this year, she finally heard what would save her son.

Before the end of 1 AD, the Emperess Julia-Livia found out there was only one thing keeping Tiberius from coming back to Rome. And Gaius was that thing!

But that’s not to say Livia could do anything about it…

Or could she?

Next Year Book: 2 AD!
Footnotes to 1 AD:

[1] Phrataces offensively addressed the Emperor only as “Caesar”. He defended Parthian actions in Armenia and demanded Augustus send his four half-brothers back home. (He saw them as threats - see 1 BC notes.)

[2] Clearly! Otherwise, he wouldn’t have bothered sending messengers and trying to act tough!

[3] Parthia was a 7-8 week trip, for a Roman messenger. And the Parthians probably went even slower (not being able to trade horses thru Roman territory, like Augustus’ men could do). So when Augustus sends this letter, he knows it’s going to be nearly four months, at least, before he gets Phrataces’ official response. Add to that another six weeks to notify Gaius of the results, and the Emperor had only two options – either keep his young heir sitting idle in Antioch for five or six months – or he could tell Gaius to get the southern mission out of the way as quickly as possible. Since we know Gaius winds up having a busy Autumn, these letter-sending months must have run something like January to June, or possibly March to August at the latest.

[4] Thanks to Aretas’ new peace treaty with Herod-Antipas, Nabatea was reinstated as an independent “Client-Kingdom”. Aretas was allowed to reclaim the title of King and to resume minting coins with his picture on them. Gaius also must have stressed Rome’s expectation of peaceful interaction with their Jewish neighbors. And with that, it is at this point that the Nabateans cease to be “subjects” of the Roman Empire. (See Strabo 16.4.21 and Bowersock’s Roman Arabia, Chapter Four.

[5] By about this time, both men were using Herod’s name on their coins as a title of respect.

[6] Gaius may have fancied himself as following the footsteps of Alexander the Great (touring the whole East in a couple of years). Augustus later (in a letter) specifically complimented Gaius for refraining from offering sacrifices at Jerusalem – a task no Roman commander would stoop to, but which Alexander had done, famously, on his first and only visit to the Jews’ Holy City.

[7] Betrothed, that is, to Aretas’ pre-pubescent daughter. (See 1 BC.)

[8] Archelaus should have noticed that the Emperor might have enough space now, in Syria, to annex a new kingdom – now that he’d un-annexed Nabatea!

[9] The wedding between Antipas and the Nabatean Princess happens some time in the next several years. We don’t know just when, and it doesn’t really matter. He’s going to take a new wife in 27 AD, and she’ll run out on him in 28 AD. Meanwhile, Aretas the King goes on, after 1 AD, to lead his people into their own very prosperous Golden Age for several years, that last even after the divorce. (See Bowersock’s Roman Arabia.)

[10] Tigranes didn’t write to Rome at all until he saw that Caesar wasn’t backing down. And about that time, he suddenly decided to switch back to his old alliance!

[11] The Parthian King backed off the tough-talk, dropped his demands, and promised to stay out of Armenia!

[12] They dined in three courses, in three locations: an island in the river, then once again on each riverbank. One of the Roman officers present at this event was the ancient author Vellius Paterculus. By the way, Phrataces and Gaius were very close in age.
[13] We don’t know whether Lollius killed himself, or it was reported that way, or it was made to look that way.

[14] Let’s also mention, briefly, there was a small outbreak in Germany this year, and the Danube Legions dealt with it, to some extent. But Caesar couldn’t commit much effort to it, because of Parthia & Armenia.

[15] Livia also learned this year, after Tiberius did, of the threat that was made somewhere in Asia, by Gaius’ dinner guest. The threat was made nearly a year before they heard about it, but it sounded recent. For this and other reasons (Suet.2.13), this was the year Tiberius & Livia both became desperately concerned about his safety.

June 10, 2007

Year-by-Year: NOTE

Note: the AD-BC Calendar has no "Year Zero". That means basic math is "off by one" when calculating the age of something, from BC to AD. So, if you're counting... just count carefully!

June 2, 2007

Year-by-Year: 1 BC

Aretas plots with Antipas in Galilee. Parthia stirs Armenia to revolt. And Caesar sends young Gaius to settle it all!

In January, 1 BC, Jesus was 5 years and 7 months old.

In early April, Joseph & Mary went up to Jerusalem for Passover. For the third time, Joseph left Jesus behind in Nazareth, to keep him away from Archelaus.


That month, Archelaus marked his 4th Passover as ruler of Southern Israel.

This year, the 21 year old Ethnarch kept his Army busy, rebuilding Jericho and creating a new village named after himself. He also grew the size of his treasuries, and kept on feasting with his friends.

But still, Archelaus refused to give the Jews two shekels for the Temple rebuilding project.

Eventually, that stingy nature is going to catch up with the young Prince... but not just yet.


Archelaus’ brother, Antipas, was starting his 4th year as Tetrarch of Galilee . His rebuilding project was still going slowly, at Sepphoris. But at least his own Palace was completely rebuilt, which was handy!

Late last year, Antipas hosted Aretas the Nabatean, for a peace summit. The former king was still trying to get his crown back, by making peace with Israel. And sometime over the winter, Aretas struck a major deal with Antipas!

Now, at this time Aretas was about 28 years old and Antipas was just 19. But Antipas wasn’t married yet, while Aretas had a daughter who was almost 10. Of course, the timing wasn’t perfect, but the benefits were clear.

Both Aretas & Antipas knew that Augustus loved weddings! In fact, Caesar really liked setting up marriages between the Royal Families around the Empire.

So they made it official. Antipas signed a treaty with Aretas, setting a certain number of years for the engagement period. And Aretas gave Antipas costly gifts, as an early wedding present. But even then, the treaty wasn’t official until Augustus approved it.

Now, all that happened over the Winter. So it was still early in 1 BC when Nabatean & Galilean messengers left for Rome, going overland to get there before Spring.

In Rome, Caesar saw the ambassadors right away. But he wasn’t sure Aretas’ punishment had lasted long enough.

The Emperor told the ambassadors he’d have to think about it for a while, and also wait to see if Aretas could behave for just a while longer. Then Augustus told the messengers to sail home, and promised to send word by next year.

Meanwhile, the Tetrarch and his future father-in-law waited to get Caesar’s decision.

Suddenly, Caesar had much bigger problems…


By early Spring, Augustus heard about a revolt in Armenia. The Armenian King, Tigranes III, had joined sides with King Prataces (& his mother, Queen Musa) in the nearby Kingdom of Parthia.

All details aside, Caesar took it as a threat to Roman Authority, and he had to do something about it! But Augustus felt like his options were slim…

First of all, the Emperor himself was too old to go (now age 63). And Tiberius, of course, had refused to go in 6 BC. Augustus couldn’t put himself in a begging position, to ask Tiberius to come back.

The only person Caesar felt like he could send was his 18 year old grandson, Gaius. So the Emperor called his heir back from Europe.


Once in Rome, Gaius married his 13 year old cousin, Livilla, to gain the status of a married man. Then Augustus was legally able to give Gaius the special powers he needed, for his mission.

Actually, Gaius had two missions. Caesar was now sending Gaius to North Arabia, to restore the Kingdom of Nabatea. But Augustus told his son the Arabian Mission was less important, and could wait awhile.

The Emperor also chose advisors for Gaius, the main one being Marcus Lollius. Finally, Caesar told his son to visit important cities in Greece and Asia, along the way. (Augustus figured a future Emperor needs to see the lands he’s going to rule, at least once!)

It was already summer when Gaius & Lollius finally sailed away from Italy, with their team. They stopped at Athens and sailed around the Agean Sea.

By July, they were touring the Islands of Chios & Samos… which was just a quick sail up from Rhoads.


Of course, Gaius’ step-dad was still living on Rhoads. But this summer, Tiberius was facing a personal crisis!

When the Emperor banished Julia, last year, Tiberius figured it was time to worry about his own neck. Now the man who had exiled himself wanted to go home. So this spring, as soon as boats could sail, Tiberius started writing letters to Caesar asking for permission to sail back to Rome.

The real crisis was that his Tribunican Power was set to expire on July 1st. Even though Tiberius lived quietly in exile, his personal staff, soldiers and bodyguards kept him secure. But all that was about to expire! So Tiberius was worried he might not be safe anymore.

Back in Rome, the Emperor got Tiberius’ letters. But Augustus was still furious at his step-son for Rhoads and the Armenians! Augustus sent back that since Tiberius had abandoned his family once, he should give up trying to see them again!

Tiberius was no longer self-exiled. He was now officially stranded!

And then, right after his powers had fully expired, Tiberius heard that Gaius was nearby.

The Exile’s only hope was to win over his son. So Tiberius sailed up to Samos, to pay his respects.


On Samos, Young Caesar was cold to his step-father.

Tiberius didn’t know that Lollius, Gaius’ advisor, was telling lies about him. Lollius even spread a rumor that Tiberius was plotting to start a revolt with his former Legions.

Tiberius bowed at his step-son’s feet, begging him to believe in his good-will. But Gaius stayed distant, at best.

The Exile sailed back to Rhoads totally humiliated, and much worse off than before.
Gaius’ team traveled onward. And one night, at dinner, one of his men stood up and told Gaius, “Just say the word, and I’ll sail to Rhoads, and bring back the head of the Exile!”

Gaius passed on the offer. But next year this story is going to get back to Tiberius!

Actually, the only thing that saved Tiberius’ neck, this year, was his Mom! Caesar’s wife, Livia, begged her husband to give her son some kind of help. And finally, Augustus agreed to make Tiberius the official ambassador to Rhoads.

It was nonsense, of course. But it gave Tiberius a small staff and a few bodyguards. And it gave his mother a story she could tell around Rome, to save face.

Livia was still trying to maintain what was left of Tiberius’ reputation, in Rome.


Meanwhile, Gaius kept moving East, and made it to Antioch, Syria, before Winter.
When he got there, a letter was waiting from Caesar.

Augustus was secretly worried about Gaius’ safety, and hoped the Parthians might back down without a fight.

As it happened, Phrataces sent messengers to Rome the moment he heard that Gaius was on his way. And then Augustus wrote and told his grandson to wait.

The Emperor was going to try and force a surrender… by mail!

So Gaius settled into Antioch and waited there... until the year 1 AD.

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