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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